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Tapovan Trek 2002

TapovanThis was the second consecutive Himalayan Trek which was organized to celebrate the International year of Mountains, 2002. The destination was Tapovan, a land where people used to spend time to evaluate themselves as per Hindu mythology. There are other places like Nandanban, Sunderban, and Gaumukh that make this land spiritual. People call this land as “Deobhumi”. One can get the feeling if really in love with nature as soon you enter the Gangotri valley passing the Chidbasa and Bhojbasa from Gangotri. The valley is one of the most visited place by tourists especially untill Gaumukh and most of the foreigners for Adventure activity like Mountaineering and trekking.  Gangotri glacier is the 2nd longest glacier of Indian Himalaya after Siachen.

Our aim was to visit Tapovan and if possible further ahead to gain more height. In our group total members were six including myself as the Trek leader. Out of other five, three were oldies who were Yoga Teachers and wanted to experiment the effect of high altitude while practicing pranayam. Rest members wanted to be in the Nature, to reach closer to the mother nature. One member out of all was most experienced by age and still wanted to know his limits at the age of 78 years. His name was Mr. Bhaskar Gangal who runs a yoga institute in Mumbai. Another Yoga Teachers, Mr. Pimputkar and Mr. K. D. Patil were accompanying the experimention idea of Mr. Gangal. Two other members were Mr. Aniruddha Tendulkar and Mr. Prakash. 

We left Mumbai by Golden Temple and reached next day to Delhi in the evening. After a decent dinner at New delhi we left for Rishikesh. Then next day early morning after freshening up left Rishikesh for Uttarkashi. We were supposed to reach Bhandari by 9:30am., but as usual we encountered a landslide on the way which was supposed to get clear within few hours. Myself and Aniruddha left our vehicle to cross the landslide to board a local bus which was waiting at the other end of the landslide. Our aim was to reach Uttarkashi and do further arrangements there in advance before others in the team would join us. Unfortunately we reached after our private vehicle as the landslide clearance had made the private vehicle move ahead of our bus. Apart from this our bus had a tire puncture on the way. Anyway we all got to see each other within 30 minutes of time. We stayed in a hotel at Uttarkashi. After lunch we all went for acclimatization walk to Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) which is one of the best mountaineering institute and also where I did all my related-training courses. We visited the souvenir shop and Himalaya Exhibition of NIM. “NIM is really a pride of India” proclaimed Aniruddha after seeing the NIM location.

Next day after purchasing grocery we left Uttarkashi for Gangotri by shared jeep (local transportaion) and stayed in a hotel for one night. Next day I spent some time with porters for load making and then we proceeded our actual trek from Gangotri to Chidbasa (9km). Chidbasa, the name suggest pine family tree “Chid” typically seen in mass in the fall season in the valley from where the Bhagirathi river flows. We established tents for our stay. People were very enthusiastic especially first timers since the experience of such stay is unique in the mountains and with tents and sleeping arrangements using sleeping bag and off course to add to it the cold of the altitude 11500ft. Next day we moved further to Bhojbasa where the birch trees are found, typically called the “bhoj patra” - the bark of the tree (in the olden times people used to write on it). Some people use this for spiritual purpose like “home/haven”. From tourist point of view there are Gadhwal Nigam’s(GMVN) rest house where people can stay at a comfortable cost. From Bhojbasa, Gaumukh can be seen which is actually 4 km ahead. In the afternoon we trekked ahead for acclimatization towards Gaumukh. Next day we rescheduled our plan i.e., instead of height gain we moved our camp closer to Gaumukh. As we moved further and further all of us were excited to see how Tapovan looks like. But it was not good idea to stay at Tapovan due to recent snowfall and given the age factor of the team. I was not sure whether all these people could make it. But since everybody insisted to see Tapovan, i decided to put a time limit to return by 12 noon from wherever to the base camp of Gaumukh. Evening we went up towards Gaumukh to explore the area. We closed our day early due to next day's early morning trek to Tapovan.

Finally the day arrived and we left Gaumukh at around 7:00am. We all imbibed the early morning golden rays of sun which also brightened the Bhagirathi and Shivling peaks. On the way in the beginning I heard the camera clicks. Soon the camera clicks and hush hush conversation slowly stopped and replaced with the clear breathing sounds as the sun went up. I was observing the change of nature colors as well as the faces of all members. The Tapovan climb is little difficult for first timers since after diagonally crossing the Gangotri glaciers above Gaumukh. The last climb of Tapovan is around a gradient of 450. Within considerable time we all had reached the Tapovan plateau.  There was one Moni baba who welcomed us and asked us to visit his small hut, where he spent five years without any talk. After this as per our plan we moved further towards another Shimla baba’s hut. It must be great experience for him since most of his life he had spent here. He welcomed us by saying “Come and see the white snow bed shit spread for all of us by the nature”. I had introduced the oldest members of our group to him. He was happy and invited him once again. He expressed his love by serving tea to all of us. It was unusual for the members since having sip of Tea after the tiresome trek is always enjoyable plus the joy of achieving the height added more to the deliciousness of the tea. The temperature was 8 degree there. One can see Chaturangi Bamak (Glacier) towards the east, Raktawarn Bamak towards the north east, Kirti glacier curve towards the south and Kharchakund, Mandani peak towards the Chokhamba side.  The same route goes towards south at “Khara patthar” which is base camp of Kedardome peak. After spending some time we returned to our Gaumukh camp. Physically everyone was tired with the day hike but happy with their first-time achievement that they had experienced ever. I was very happy to see our team achieving success. In the evening we had a small ceremony to celebrate our so-called victory. I had gifted a token of love to our support team who helped us in achieving the task. After the sweet meal and happy chat we rested in the tent of Gaumukh camp site.

The next day we left Gaumukh camp to return to Gangotri, actually it was a longest trek of entire schedule for the team(18 km). Since it was a return journey nobody objected to cover up. As per everyone's agreement, one of the oldest member rode on a horse since given his age it was a long trek for him after spending almost 8 days trekking for the first time ever. Around 5:00pm everyone reached the hotel. In the evening during dinner we had a chat with NIM principal Col. Ashok Abey.

As per plan my next expedition team was supposed to reach the same day to Uttarkashi. They all arrived the next day to Gangotri from Uttarkashi. The next day all Tapovan trek members except me returned to Rishikesh. They visitied Ganganani (Hot water spring) which is on the way between Gangotri and Uttarkashi.

Written By Rajan Rikame

Photos: Bhojwasa, NandanbanShivling, Kedardome, Bhagirathi, Gangotri Glacier,
For more information click here Rajan Rikame.
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