“For the first time, I realized why our ancestors prayed to a burning ball of gas, and I did the same, religiously.”
19th May, 2019
The white snow ended at the blue sky. One wrong step, I knew, would throw me several meters down into the gorge on my left. I am a Capricorn, and the mountain goat in me refused to accept my quivering confidence as I strode up.
Kedartal Lake, Surface Elevation: 5000 meters.
the pristine lake of Shiva waited patiently somewhere in an unforeseen world.
Mountains are a no man’s land—a kingdom of rocks and snow, created to never be won over but invoke awe and reverence, more so at Gangotri.
Gangotri in Uttarakhand is one of the Char Dhams ( 4 prominent pilgrimage sites in India) from where the trek to Kedartal begins.
Note: Booking done via Bikat Adventures 6 months before the trek.
Cost: 13,700INR + Tax = 15,500INR
Day 1: Bangalore to Dehradun
Fortunately, I got a direct flight from Bangalore to Dehradun. I availed the local cab service that is present right before the airport exit. For Ola services, you have to walk out of the airport area, which I didn’t prefer doing with all my luggage; they don’t let them in.
I stayed at Queen’s Pearl Inn hotel near ISBT (Inter State Bus Terminal), Dehradun. The manager, Mr Anup and his staff were quite hospitable. I extended my stay when my family visited me after the trek. You can contact him directly at 9131865691.
Our Bikat team was to meet at ISBT, Dehradun, the next day, but it got delayed by more than an hour.
Day 2: Dehradun to Gangotri: An 8+2-hour Long Ordeal
A mountain jeep will take you from 1467 ft to 11200 ft in a single day through the most precarious hairpin turns you would have ever seen.* Be quick to change from shorts and shirts to pullovers and pajamas; else the evening cold will freeze you into stuttering every syllable.
Cramps, nausea, fatigue, and chills—if you don’t experience any of these, congratulations on being a superhuman.
It was dark when we reached Gangotri. We waited for our Bikat crew to escort us or inform us about our stay for about half an hour. When it got uncomfortably cold, we started walking towards the market to save our lives. Amidst the hustle and confusion, and after a few phone calls, we wandered through the market to finally reached our hotel. I quickly realized that ours was an all-male group.
It wasn’t a pleasant experience to arrive at the hotel and not even receive a cup of tea or an acknowledgment. We were shown our rooms by a cold hotel manager who informed us that we would have to buy the food when we asked for something warm. A hard and uncomfortable handshake with the then Bikat supervisor made me doubt my decision to go solo for the trek.
Note: Bikat doesn’t take the responsibility of food until you start climbing up the mountain
Bonus: Neither do they intimate you about the last ATM on the way. Please read the terms and conditions carefully. I didn’t and realized I was in trouble—didn’t have enough cash. The nearest one is in Harsil (25km from Gangotri).
Hotel Rooms: I won myself a separate room after blasting the hotel staff when he asked me to share a place with one of the male trekkers. The room was basic, comfortable and cosy.
Restaurants At Gangotri: Packed with people, pickles, and perverts, staff at Restaurant 1 (don’t remember the name, above is the image) show unnecessary interest in you if you are a female. I tried Kirti Lok Restaurant, which was decent, comparatively cheaper, offered good food and great view of river Bhagirathi.
In the refreshing morning light, the atmosphere of this place no less than enchanting. Gangotri is set in the lap of rugged mountains, intertwined beautifully with divinity; all I could do was stand and stare in awe as the world went bustling around me. There were so many ways to absorb it all in, each angle, every direction put the place in a new perspective.
Note: Gangotri has a small corner shop for trekking essentials including pullovers and raincoats, near the bridge that leads to the other side of the ghat. However, the stock is limited and you may not get the right size or color. You may ask the locals for directions.
Day 3: Acclimatization and Acquaintance
As a part of the acclimatization walk, we trekked uphill somewhere near Gangotri. I let a sigh of relief when I came to know that one of the trek leaders was a female. After a brief intro with the leaders, we shared some trek stories and experiences. We stopped at a point to discuss the do’s and don’ts, then move ahead to explore the area.
The evening aarti at the Gangotri temple was a remarkable sight to experience as people gathered in hordes to witness it. We sang together and offered our reverence to the river Ganga, which is known by the name Bhagirathi here.
Later that evening, I offered my last prayers to the Mountain Gods before the trek. It was quiet, there was no soul around, not even the person in the picture—only the rush of the river gave me company. I let the fear of unpredictability spill out right then, uncontrollably and drowned it in the river.
After that, I felt nothing in my head but my body was full of vigor and zeal—had the trek begun then, I would have been prepared to climb the mountains.
Day 4: Trek or Treat
The ascent is steep; you are breathing hard, sweat trickling down your spine, the raging Kedar Ganga on your left, sourced from Kedartal keeps you company. The narrow trail through the tall and sturdy pine trees show you the way. The gorge on your left and the mountain wall that you walk on leave no scope for getting lost.
Our trek leader was fast and brutal when it came to breaks. At few precarious places, infamously known as spider walls (like the one below), he dug the way through the snow (yes, we saw it on the very first day) for us to place our feet affirm. Walking on an incline snow sheet with just enough space to put our feet was by far the trickiest part of the trek.
I had my heart in my mouth watching the porters carry our food and tents while crossing the precarious spider walls. Not as equipped with the gear as we were, these superhumans showed unfathomable strength and endurance. I hoped and prayed for their safety at every tricky turn or climb that we came across.
Camp 1: Bhoj Kharak
We arrived in time, just before it started snowing. Unfortunately, our crew (the people carrying tents and kitchen stuff) were nowhere to be seen. It started snowing and there was no place to take shelter. We heard they started late and went on a different route. It was getting colder with each passing second as the mountain winds howled around us. Our trek leader managed to get some tea from other campers that had set up their tents at the same place.
We were cold and famished, but managed well with our packed lunch of aloo and roti. While some of us cursed and watched, the rest danced in the snow until the tent material was there. We rushed to help the crew pitch tents in the snow-wind-storm. The tea and soup were like a reward for coming that far; the dinner was a feast of butter paneer.
Day 5: Stumped by the Snow Mountains
We had lost the count of the treacherous spider walls—we found one every 200 meters. The vegetation was gone, the air was chilly, but the sun shone like a divine power over us. For the first time, I realized why our ancestors prayed to a burning ball of gas, and I did the same, religiously.
Then, at some point, Thalaysagar came into view. The gigantic, snow-laden mountain, the kind that would give you the feel of an explorer out in the wilderness, the one you would call ‘the holy mountain’, the stunningly, hostile mountain you think people would have died climbing (maybe they did), the God mountain, the Thalaiva of mountains, the Thalaysagar. I can’t forget that moment when I saw its peak light up under the first rays of the sun.
– Know how I escaped a rolling stone half the size of my head
– How I Almost lost my feet to hypothermia and my breath to mountain sickness