The simplest reason to trek through mountains is to get to the other side. My journeys were directed at no such thing. India’s western Himalaya stretch from the Indus to the Nepalese border - a distance of perhaps 750 kilometres as the crow flies. I wanted to travel along the ranges, staying as close to the high peaks as I could.
The border between Tibet and India is a British invention, imposed secretly on Tibet while China was in eclipse. India and China went to war over it in 1962. South of the international border there's another border - India's "Inner Line. " It divides Indians and plagues travellers.
A towering wall of rock and tumbled ice blocks ithe valley. At its base there is s a huddle of stone buildings, immeasurably tiny. This is Kedarnath. The temple is dedicated to the god Shiva. Some of the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi are scattered nearby.
Granite crags pressed the township tight against the Bhagirathi River. Cold shadow rose up the valley like canal water behind a lock gate. The Bhagirathi is just one of a a skein of Himalayan streams that join to become the River Ganges. They run as wild as a woman's hair across the mountains because this where the river goddess Ganga fell to earth.
A wide sheet of water slides quietly out from beneath the glacier, complete and self-possessed as a newly hatched crocodile. This is Gaumukh, the main source of the Ganga - the River Ganges. Without Ganga, India could scarcely exist.
We were at the edge of a wide green meadow at the foot of Shivling. The Gangotri Glacier was below us and there was a wall of rubble behind us where a side glacier tumbled down from a cirque of granite peaks
Tungnath is the place where Shiva’s arms emerged from the earth after his underground flight from the Pandava brothers. It's the highest temple in India, standing 3680m above sea level on the mountain ridge dividing the Alaknanda River from the Mandakini.