Gangotri remains closed due to snow in the winter. The last ritual/puja is performed on Diwali, which occurs either during late october or in early November. It opens mid-April every year the auspicious day of Akshaya Tritiya. This is not only applicable to Gangotri but to all the four dhams (char dham to the initiated traveler) – Yamunatri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath.
Gaumukh, which is the origin of the Ganga, is a glacier. It is situated at a distance of 19 KMS from Gangotri. It is very windy there and as it is situated at a height of approx. 3900-4000 mtrs from sea level, oxygen in the air is deficient. (Oxygen cylinder is available in Gangotri market but personally I do not think, it is needed). One has to walk/trek all through, one can also hire a horse ride up to Bhojwasa (14 Kms from Gangotri). However, the last 5 km is a beautiful trekking route and needs must be covered on foot. The road is okay but strewn with boulders and there are challenges on the way. One needs to cross 4-5 water streams on the way. There are very narrow log-bridges over these streams, barely five inches in width and one has to be very careful when crossing these. There are two landslide-prone zones on the way where stones/boulders come down all the time. Only 150 people are allowed to visit Gaumukh per day. There is forest gate at approx. 1.5KM from Gangotri, it opens at 6.00AM, where one needs to show the travel permission and pay Rs.150/- per person. No plastic bags, bottles etc. are allowed to be taken beyond this point. (One can carry these items after making a security deposit, deposited in this gate office).
You can carry your mobile phones but there will be no connectivity beyond 4-5 kms of trek. The Gaumukh trek is a must for those who love trekking and adventure. If one has the time then, move to Bhojwasa on day one, on day two visit Gaumukh, enjoy the nature and come back to Bhojwasa for the night. Return to Gangotri on day three. While it is more enjoyable to travel in a group and safer, you can also travel alone and enjoy your moments of solitude. Permission for travel/trek to Gaumukh can be obtained from the local forest office at Gangotri (8 – 9 AM in the morning & 6 – 7 PM in the evening).
Some tips for the trek –
- Carry some Chocolates (or other calorie-rich food items) along with other food, water and juices.
- It will be helpful if one walks 4-5 kms everyday for 3-4 weeks prior to this trip.
- Do not return to the base (Gangotri) on the same day. Stay at Bhojwasa (the only place one can stay in the whole route). Otherwise it will be very hectic.
- Take your usual medicines with you, apart from those that may be required in high altitudes.
- Trek with proper shoes.
- Carry Photo Identity Cards and photocopies of the same as that will be required for permission from the forest department.
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