The Glaciers’ Breath ll Expedition – The Ganges’ Source

Preparation Notes…and Tea

Stirring through some cakes and balls of tea deciding on the leaves to take on this upcoming venture to the Himalayan Headwaters of the great Ganga, the sacred life giving Ganges River. A 2,527 km river of water that sluices through the Indo-Gangetic Plain and discharges close to 40 thousand cubic metres of water per second (third in the world).

Tea = Fuel

Tea = Fuel. Even in the realm of the glaciers

This journey, beyond all of the stuff needed, beyond fabrics and fixed items of steel and aluminum, begins as so many do: selecting a bunch of dried leaves of camellia sinensis, and deciding which flavours to bring. Two cakes of ancient tree He Kai are stacked and ready, lying flat in their mulberry paper wrappings. A hand made ceramic tea pot and cup sit next to the compacted teas. Pungent with wonderful finishes this tea is tested, true, and entirely needed on long journeys.

Glaciers: Temples of Ice

Known as ‘traveller teas’ these selections of mine are not at all random. They are part need, a little bit of panacea, and part joy. These leaves are mates that will be along side my every step. Desiccated leaves that are an elixir and ritual, I could not imagine a journey without them. Potent and as perfect a fuel as I can hope for, they will nourish the early morning exits from the tent and they will stimulate the entire system in the withering high altitude afternoons.

Every major water source is a journey 'up'

Every major water source is a journey ‘up.

For the upcoming journey Debra Tan of China Water Risk and I will spend a month along with a mountain team of locals traipsing and tracing the great burrowing force of water, the Ganga (Ganges) River to one of its vivid sources. The ‘source’ of the Ganges River, the Bhagarathi River, forms at the base of the Gangotri Glacier at Gomukh at 3,895 metres in the state of Uttarakhand in the Indian Himalaya. We are following up last year’s ascent to the Bara Shigri glacier in Himachal Pradesh, and the Lasermo glaciers west of Leh in Ladakh to explore yet another of the precious bodies of ice. Beginning September 19th of this year, an extraordinary team of locals will join erudite Kapil Negi and us to begin this journey to – in my words at least – the glaciers’ breath. This name came about standing years’ ago at the base of a great body of moraine ice, feeling this powerful and ever present ‘whoosh’ of wind blowing down.

And every journey is lit by a team who provide insight and feel into a landscape.

And every journey is lit by a team who provide insight and feel into a landscape.

The Ganges in all of its names wrests its way out of rock and ice at Gomukh (Mouth of a Cow) in Uttarakhand State, which is our ultimate destination. We will trace and document the river, its watershed, and the souls who live along its barreling corridors to give some texture to this source of so much life.

Many 'sources' of water aren't raging eruptions but rather solid sheets of ice and crumbling moraine.

Many ‘sources’ of water aren’t raging eruptions but rather solid sheets of ice and crumbling moraine and glaciers that few see.

Sources of rivers are rarely seen or acknowledged and it is perhaps more clearly in the sources that one can feel the absolute core vibrancy and life of what is known as पानी – paanee – ‘water’ in Hindi. It is said often in India that “water is life”. This journey is to travel to a source of so much life.

A dried silt bed close to 5000 metres that once held glacial water.

A dried silt bed close to 5000 metres that once held glacial water.

From the ancient city and portal to the Himalayas, Rishikesh, we move to Uttarkashi on the banks of the Bhagirathi River, towards our ultimate destination of the terminus of the Gangotri/Gangautri glacier. This past summer it is reported that a segment of the snout or terminus was obliterated following heavy rains. The source, like all else, is in flux. Our journey will take in this flux and the ever-changing spaces.

Camp will be atop moraine and ice and power will come entirely from the sun.

Camp will be atop moraine and ice and power will come entirely from the sun.

Along with the cakes of tea, aluminum bits, layers of wool and wires of every sort I’ll be shooting with a Samxung Gear360 camera to get as much dimension and dynamism as possible of this changing landscape.

That which feeds, rests on high

That which feeds, rests on high

Tea and curiosity fueled, the journey is as much about simply being there as it will be about retrieving imagery and impressions of the Ganges and its precious people. Meditation caves and the shadows of the nearby Meru and Nanda Devi peaks will mark the lands we pass through on our way to the gushing mouth of the source of the great Ganga.

About JeffFuchs

Bio Having lived for most of the past decade in Asia, Fuchs’ work has centered on indigenous mountain cultures, oral histories with an obsessive interest in tea. His photos and stories have appeared on three continents in award-winning publications Kyoto Journal, TRVL, and Outpost Magazine, as well as The Spanish Expedition Society, The Earth, Silkroad Foundation, The China Post Newspaper, The Toronto Star, The South China Morning Post and Traveler amongst others. Various pieces of his work are part of private collections in Europe, North America and Asia and he serves as the Asian Editor at Large for Canada’s award-winning Outpost magazine. Fuchs is the Wild China Explorer of the Year for 2011 for sustainable exploration of the Himalayan Trade Routes. He recently completed a month long expedition a previously undocumented ancient nomadic salt route at 4,000 metres becoming the first westerner to travel the Tsa’lam ‘salt road’ through Qinghai. Fuchs has written on indigenous perspectives for UNESCO, and has having consulted for National Geographic. Fuchs is a member of the fabled Explorers Club, which supports sustainable exploration and research. Jeff has worked with schools and universities, giving talks on both the importance of oral traditions, tea and mountain cultures. He has spoken to the prestigious Spanish Geographic Society in Madrid on culture and trade through the Himalayas and his sold out talk at the Museum of Nature in Canada focused on the enduring importance of oral narratives and the Himalayan trade routes. His recently released book ‘The Ancient Tea Horse Road’ (Penguin-Viking Publishers) details his 8-month groundbreaking journey traveling and chronicling one of the world’s great trade routes, The Tea Horse Road. Fuchs is the first westerner to have completed the entire route stretching almost six thousand kilometers through the Himalayas a dozen cultures. He makes his home in ‘Shangrila’, northwestern Yunnan upon the eastern extension of the Himalayan range where tea and mountains abound; and where he leads expeditions the award winning ‘Tea Horse Road Journey’ with Wild China along portions of the Ancient Tea Horse Road. To keep fueled up for life Fuchs co-founded JalamTeas which keeps him deep in the green while high in the hills.
This entry was posted in Explorations, Glaciers, Media, Mountains and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *