Uttarakhand Crisis: Shikhar’s NRI Gangotri Gaumukh trekking group back to safety

Uttarakhand - Rescue WorkOur Gangotri Tapovan Trek was a memorable experience for six NRI guests from United Kingdom . The group was led by experienced tour escort Passang Sherpa, Shikhar’s kitchen staff who have been working with us over years and the porters. The group started their journey on 11th June, 2013 for the Tapovan Trek along the holy River Bhagirathi.

The group trekked through the entire routes and finally reached Tapovan via the source of the river Ganges- popularly known as Gaumukh (Cow’s mouth) at the base of the Gangotri glacier. An achievement could be seen in the eyes of the group for the trek’s success. On 15th June, it was the last camping night at Chirbasa, before the final decent to Gangotri . All were celebrating and happy unaware of the destruction and crisis that was standing ahead. At 9:30 pm of 15th June, 2013 it started raining in the camp area (and other regions of the Gharwal Himalayas) .

On the morning of 16th June ,tents, clothes, sleeping bags and other equipment were all under water because of the heavy rain. Rocks were falling off the mountains and there was a lot of uncertainty as the group witnessed landslides, unruly sounds and unstoppable rainfall. Passang Sherpa, Shikhar’s experienced mountaineering staff took a call to move the group swiftly from the area and the group started their trek to move down to Gangotri. The routes were destroyed and the streams had become bigger but they had no choice except to trek down to Gangotri. Passang clearly instructed the group that “safety is our main priority” which he learned during his mountaineering course. He clearly gave them the instructions to walk with theirs eyes looking around, not to stand (rest) near the stream and rock fall zones. They also had to cross the streams faster as there were 75% possibilities of floods and more rock falls. The group reached Gangotri and checked in to hotel Manisha Cottage. Hearing the bad news of all roads being blocked and the natural disaster all members of the group felt saddened.

Uttarakhand Rescue WorkOn 17th June, 2013 it was still raining, roads were blocked, thousands of people were stuck in Gangotri, and there was no hope of heading back towards Uttarkashi where the group were scheduled to stay at Shikhar Nature Resort, Uttarkashi . The group also had to change their hotel in Gangotari as Manisha Cottage was on the river banks and it was no longer safer to stay there. The group then moved to Hotel Mandakni.

On 18th June 2013, the group decided to walk from Gangotri to Harsil – where the closet helipad was located (appox. 30 kms). By evening they reached Harsil but could not get helicopter rescue . Since there was a greater need to provide resuce in the Kedarnath area all helicopter were busy in evacuation of that region. The group spent the night in a private hotel in Harsil. All day on 19th June 2013 the group awaited rescue at Harsil.

Uttarakhand CrisisOn 20th June, 2013 when situation recovered a bit the group was a bit relieved. With the help of locals, some mountaineers fixed the rope in danger slide zones with the help of which the group started their trek down to Bhatwari which is approx 40 km. By the evening they reached Bhatwari and stayed in local guest house. The day was really hard for all because it was a long trek and had no proper food to eat.

Next day on 21st June 2013 they trekked to Uttarkashi, approx 30 kms. On 22nd June, 2013, the group was transferred to Dehradoon. Finally, 23rd June, 2013 the day in New Delhi when happiness and contentment could be seen in the eyes of all. Our NRI guests reached back safely and we all in our office in Delhi were happy to have them back safely.

Passang Sherpa says; “I don’t know that how many miles I walked before, hundred of treks I have done in Indian Himalayas but this Tapovan trek, June 2013 is remarkable and unforgettable trek of my life. Disaster of Chardham will always be in the mind’s of those who witnessed this black day and also those who lost their family forever.”

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