Glacier Video - A Trek to Gaumukh,
Source of the Mighty Ganges.
Himalayan Pilgrimage Part II
The Himalayan mountain range is about fifteen
hundred miles in length, extending along
the northern frontiers of Pakistan, India,
China, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan. The width
of the Himalayas varies from one hundred
and fifty to two hundred miles. The average
height of the northernmost part of this range
is twenty-thousand feet. Here lie some of
the highest peaks in the world, like Everest
(29,028 ft), Annapurna (26,504 ft), Dhaulagiri
(26,810 ft) and Nanda Deva (25,645 ft). These
towering giants have attracted some of the
best climbers and adventurers of modern time,
however one out of every ten persons who
challenges the Himalayas forfeits their life.
source of the mighty Ganges (Ganga) River
lies far to the north of the office buildings
and industrial parks of New Delhi in the
Garwal Range of the Himalayas. The first
scheduled stop is Hardwar and Rishikesh,
one hundred and twenty miles from Delhi.
Himalayan foothills, known as the Vindhya
Hills, meet the plains of India in the holy
city of Hardwar, the doorway into the "Land
of the Gods." The name
'Hardwar' itself is derived from the combination
of two Sanskrit words, hari, which
means 'God' and dwara, which means
'the doorway.' Hardwar literally means, 'the
doorway to God-realization.'
the Ganges runs strong and clean, as
refreshing as any mountain stream anywhere
in the world. Pilgrims generally bathe in
the waters of the Ganges during the early
morning hours. And throughout India it is
a common practice that no one will take
a bath at home when a river is nearby.
A chilly dip in the holy river at Hardwar
reminds one of its origin from the Ganges
glacier. From Hardwar it is only
fifteen miles to Rishikesh, the location
of numerous yoga schools and ashramas
and five days travel to the Ganges Glacier.
the way is Devaprayag, the confluence
of the two main tributaries of the Ganges
River. Here, the deep blue waters of the
Alakananda-Ganga come down the valley from
the Badarinatha mountains to meet the waters
of the Bhagiratha, which shine like a silver
ribbon from heaven.
From here it is a tortuous hundred miles or
so on treacherous mountain roads to Lanka
the last stop by vehicle before embarking
on the trek to Gangotri and Gaumukh. In Lanka
accomodations are spartan, an old army tent
and no bath available.
Lanka it is an arduous ten mile trek
through beautiful forests to Gangotri
at an altitude of ten thousand feet.
The temperature drops significantly from
a warm eighty-five degrees in the valleys
to a cool forty degrees in the highlands.
Here at the base of the glacier valley,
the Ganga surges forward, plunging forty
feet into a deep and narrow ravine.
trail continues at a steep incline up
the northern side of the valley with
the river far below to the right, at
times the path is only ten inches wide
with a drop of ten thousand feet. All
around are the awesome towering snow-capped
peaks of the Bhagiratha mountain range.
Indeed, one feels the insignificance
and helplessness of mankind in comparison
to these mighty mountains. These last
fourteen miles to the rivers source
are long indeed due to the
steepness of the climb and the thinness
of the air.
Glacier at 14,500 feet elevation
stands three hundred feet in height and covers
the entire width of the river valley.
At it's base in a tiny cave
called Gaumukh the mighty river begins as
a small stream. Behind this magnificent
wall of ice, the peaks of Sudarshan Parbat,
Sri Kailash and Mana Parbat rise steeply,
crowning the sacred river like temple
These mountains are said to be the abodes
of the Gods, which no human being should
try to enter. This experience certainly brings
to mind the saying that 'God is great and
man is but a visitor in this world.'
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