Trek from Gangotri to Gaumukh completed! ("Hike" to Americans; not talking about Klingons here, despite some of these names)
What is it: Gangotri is a town with an important Hindu temple. It's one of the Char Dham pilgrimage sites. I guess it's kind of holy. Gaumukh is the glacier that feeds the Ganges. I guess it's kind of holy too. The trek between them is pretty easy and very pretty.
Description: so it's 18km each way (11.2mi), and the elevation goes from 3400-4255m (11200-13900ft). The first 9 km is an easy walk. Next 5 km is a harder walk. Most people (incl I) stop overnight at the 14km mark, at Bhojbasa. The 4km from Bhojbasa to Gaumukh is mostly easy, but the last 1km is clambering over rocks.
Some pictures so you can see what I'm talking about:
Evening puja at Gangotri temple the night before starting the walk
There were only a couple of shaky log bridges.
(those couple tents and buildings are Bhojbasa)
That's the glacier. It's actually rather smaller than I'd imagine, or at least, what we could see was rather small. I guess it's receded literally kilometers in the last century. I don't know what this means, but it can't be good.
(this might be a good time to mention I take slightly more photos than I blog. They're all up at my picasa site.)
What's foremost in my mind after this trek:
- This might be the first time I've liked hiking better than camping. Usually the hiking is kind of a necessary evil and camping is fun. But this time, the trail was easy and I was really just enjoying walking. Plus:
- Bhojbasa was so cold! It was The Coldest! From about 2pm on, it was nonstop coldsville! I wore all my clothes, climbed under a heavy blanket at 6pm and hardly emerged until sunrise, and still ended up huddled around the cook's kerosene stove trying to keep my hands warm. I slept about half the night, and spent the rest of the night wishing time would pass more quickly, and wondering if I should check what time it is or not. (on the plus side, though, this frozen night did provide one of the most vivid lucid dreams I've ever had.)
- Don't wear barefoot-style walking shoes on a 22-mile mountain trek. Why would you do that.
- I've kinda gone it alone on this Gangotri trip. I mean, I'm friendly and talking with folks, but I was really enjoying hiking by myself. Of course, some of each is good.
- The type of challenge on this trip has been really energizing. Something about the combined cultural, social, and physical challenges has kept me thinking "wake up, you have great things to do!" Everything is novel; every experience is something I want to write down or photograph. I must figure out some way to get this sort of challenge into my everyday life when I settle down again.
- I wear a beanie now. Beanies are cool.