Gaumukh – the snout of the Gangotri Glacier, and the source of river Ganga or the Ganges, deep inside the Gangotri National Park in Uttarakhand. It once resembled the snout of a cow, which explains the name “Gaumukh” or “Gomukh” (which is what the word means in local parlance).
Alarmingly, the glacier has receded 1ish km in the last few decades. The picture may not give an idea, but it is huge, like really huge. A barricade and a signboard put up a few metres before this spot further explains how fragile the region is. And not just that, getting too close is quite risky. There are loose boulders and gravel all around, everything looks uncertain. In fact a few minutes after I clicked this picture, a huge chunk of ice (somewhere on the far left in the picture) came crashing down. And honestly it was quite scary.
The landscape is stunningly beautiful, and if you are lucky some exquisite wildlife can be seen here, including the elusive the Blue sheep or bharal , ibex, musk deer, and so many others. We saw herds of mountain goats and bharals a few times. Bharals are quite shy though. Check out this tiny clip of the bharals or the blue sheep, perched high on the rocky cliffs inside the Gangotri National Park. This was on the Day1 of trekking, some time right after we walked through the park’s entrance.
My most favourite encounters are the ones with Himalayan marmot. They are super cute. One needs to be highly responsible and ensure that they aren’t disturbing or intimidating the wildlife – even in general – but more so here as the ecosystem here is extremely fragile.
The alpine choughs pecking around the campsite was a regular scene for the first few days, until we gained altitude and the landscape became more barren and snow covered. They were in great numbers especially around the first campsite.
I remember seeing the alpine chough or the yellow-billed chough first time in Ladakh many years ago. I was curious about this interesting cousin of the crow that I kept seeing on so many treks thereafter. Over the years I learned more about them, learned the name, about its other cousin (the one with red beak), observed them curiously, saw them more closely each time I trekked in the Himalayan mountains. This picture of alpine chough is courtesy a fellow trekker.
The Gangotri Tapovan trek actually needs detailed posts, one for each day, one for each campsite. Maybe I’ll try and write about them soon.