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Trek through Auden's Col

A Trek from Gangotri to Ghuttu
via Auden's col

Sitting at Camp IV at a height of 5200 meters I was thinking about the past few days and also what lay in store for us. Our main objective was another 200 meters above us and we were camping right between two massive crevasses seen from far away as we climbed to the Auden's col. I reached Gangotri along with Dewan, a few days back with the intention of doing the trek from Gangotri to Kedarnath, which I have not visited so far. At Uttarkashi a youngster landed literally on our lap in the jeep we had taken to reach Gangotri. He was going to Gangotri with the intention of trekking with his friends who he thought had reached the place before him. Well we could not find his friends and he enquired whether he could come with us on our acc walk towards Gaumukh. He had been to Kagbhusandi lake and had paid Rs.1200/- per day to a guide for a three day trek. Seeing his enthu I could not say no to him and so he came along the trek. In the end Sidhu had a three day walk to Tapovan and back to Gangotri for Rs.714/-. He wanted to give the Auden's col also a try which I refused and we saw him off to Uttarkashi next day early morning. We waited for Dorjee to reach Gangotri along with other members and our porters. He did arrive next day with only Rawatji and three porters as one member could not join us. I looked around for the Guide which he was supposed to get along from Uttarkashi and calmly he replied that he could not get the Guide. For the third year in row my plan to do the Auden's col trek seemed to peter out. However, he told that the Guide should reach by evening as he had spoken with the concerned person at Uttarkashi. No guide was seen till next day and the phone calls to people at Uttarkashi were always assuring about his arrival. Finally we decided to leave Gangotri next day having waited for the guide for one full day. The promised guide did not come next day also and by 0900 hrs we moved out with the plan to see what Auden's col was all about and if possible do it. As we reached GMVN's TRH my cell rang and I was told that the guide was all set to leave Uttarkashi. He moved out without the guide with the intention of sending Bhimu back for getting him next day. The trek started on a very uncertain note.

The trail moved on the left bank of Bhagirthi upto the power house and then moved along the Rudugaira gad on its right bank. It straight way started to climb up through the jungle and after a hour or so became a good trail easy to follow. It went down to the river and we crossed over to the left bank over a log bridge setup by the bakriwala's. The trail was moving up and it was tiring being the first day with full loads. Slowly we kept moving up through a fairly good trail and soon encountered the first bakriwala. He told us that we still had some distance to cover and roughly showed us the patch of ground which had red bushes. Our hearts sank a bit but this was what we had asked for ourselves and so we kept moving without much fuss. The path went through the water streams coming from right and after that we were at the flat ground. It seemed to be a good camping place and we started the kitchen first and also established our Camp I without much delay. Food was given to Bhimu who was was to return back to Gangotri to bring up the guide and the items we had left behind thinking that we will be returning the same way. We sat for food only after Bhimu who went down immediately had vanished from our site. He went with great speed and was at Gangotri within two hours. It was good at the camp and we relaxed after food. It was decided to camp there itself next day also for Bhimu to come up along with the guide. Bhimu, guide and another porter reached the camp by afternoon. The guide was a man of 50 years age with lot's of air about himself.

A bakriwala camp was just ahead of our camp. We sat at the camp and started a small fire to keep away the cold. The guide started telling stories of the dead and the rescues he had carried out single handedly. Rawatji got quite depressed with these stories. Suddenly, I saw a big stone moving down towards the group sitting around the fire and I shouted stone stone and everyone moved a bit in reaction. The stone passed through the group just missing Rawatji's leg. The sheep's were moving towards the camp and they had kicked up the stone which came towards us. We realised our folly in setting up the camp at this place. However, did not shift as this was the problem till the time sheep's were moving high above the camp. Another stone came but stopped short of the camp. We sat looking up till the sheep's had moved away. The kitchen items and our complete stock of kerosene were next to our tents inside the stone structures made for kitchens in the mountains. We covered it for saving the items from rain. I was sleeping just next to the tent door and had closed only the mesh fly. Suddenly I woke up and saw a dog seating next to our kitchen damp. We had be told that dogs were used taking away eatables and so we had moved the things inside, except few. I shouted and threw a stone at him and the dog ran away. I went out of the tent and threw stones in the direction the dog had gone. After that I fell asleep. Next day morning we realised that the dogs had tried to take away the suji packet and one full kerosene can was lying some 10 meters away from the dump. Well, no dog would have done it and had we lost so much kerosene our trek would have be over in next few days. In all likely hood the bakriwala's had tried to steal the kerosene and as I woke up the thief ran away and did not dare to come back again.

The team seemed to be complete and we saw a real chance of completing the trek. Alas, the things were yet to settle down. As I woke up Dorjee informed me that Rawatji wanted to leave as he was not feeling good. He further informed that he was not feeling good since the stone which had fallen had missed his leg. Well, there was no point in taking an unwilling person as this will add to the misery of the complete team. Lok Bahadur was made ready to escort Rawatji upto the log bridge and once across the bridge he was to return back. We said our byes and Rawatji departed. The guide volunteered to come up with Lok and leaving him there with the load we moved ahead on the trail. The climb started straight away. It was nearly 200 meters climb and then we were in open level ground with the trail moving up at a gentle pace. We reached a big stream coming from our left and the trail had been washed away here and very carefully we crossed it. The climb again started and finally we came out on a green patch of land after a 300 meters climb. Dorjee was finding it tough. We thought of camping here but there was no water. Ahead we could see a big stream coming down the mountain and decided to move there. rest of the team moved ahead and I waited for guide and Lok to come up whom I had seen on the other side of the stream. I went to see how they were climbing and saw the guide falling down, I thought he had just slipped and it was nothing serious. I also move to the next location and we sat there for lunch. The water of the stream was very muddy, but there was no other source of water and we had to use the same. Guide joined us and we setup the camp there itself. Camp II was up in a matter of few minutes and we sat doing our things. Guide sat stitching his sleeping bag. At this place we were alone and so did no have to worry of any thief. Night was spent without any problem.

After breakfast the complete team moved ahead without any problem. The first obstacle to be crossed was the stream from which we had used the water for cooking across it me moved ahead on the trail leading to the base camp for the Gangotri peak. The move was towards the glacier flowing between the Gangotri and Jogin peaks. It involved moving along the ridges and then moving down to again climb another ridge and the going was not tough. We reached the camping ground where lot of rubbish was lying around, which made it clear that we were at the BC of the peaks and this was the condition of the area, which huge climbing teams claim to clear off before they depart the place. It was like an eye sore in such a scenic place where the Gangotri group of peaks shined in all there glory and the fresh snow added to the cleanness of the looks. After this there were other streams to be crossed and a bit of help of each other saw us across them. At the last ridge the climb up was on a scree slope and it gave some problem but soon everyone was up there and enjoying the surroundings. We moved down to the flat open ground full of sand which flew in the strong wind. For a movement it seemed that we were looking at some desert place. A stream flowed slowly on the other side of the plan and we decided to camp on the grassy patch close to water. Camp III was established and when we went to get water for cooking we realised our mistake. The water was so muddy that we could not use it for cooking. A search around the place did not reveal any source of good water. We asked the so called guide as to why we had camped there and it came out that he had not done this trek and long time back he had come from the other side may be as a porter. As the things stood we had to use cloth to filter water to make it some what consumable. Dewan and myself went for a small walk towards the gully where we were to move next day. The trail climbed gently and we reached a spot where a few camping item including a torn tent were lying. It had been used by some team who had to abandon it in hurry. A fox was sighted at this place and it swiftly moved away towards the glacier on seeing us. Few meters away there were snow patches and Dewan decided to fill his water bottle with snow so as to get some clean water. At this point we decided to return having found no water and it was getting cold.

Next day we got up early to take some photos of the golden peaks at sunrise. As the sun came up from behind Patangana dhar the Gangotri peaks one by one started to turn golden though the intensity was not very good. It was very cold and fingers were becoming numb while clicking photos. Breakfast was prepared as we wanted to get across the col today and there was lot of distance to be covered over difficult terrain. The climb down on the other side of the col was a major worry as we had read it to be very bad and requiring rope work.

Today again it was not a hassle free start. The extra porter whom Bhimu had hired to carry the left over stuff wanted much more money to come ahead than we were paying the porters Dorjee had brought along with him. This would have led to more problem and as such we did not want him to come any further. He was paid the wages for the four days and he left with his load carrying sling. We distributed the load between the three porters and the team left the camp by 0900 hrs. The walk into the gully was easy and soon we reached the abandoned camp site and just 20 meters from the snow patch we had reached the previous evening a stream of crystal clear water flew. We had just missed the place by a few meters. Any way we had our fill of water and continued moving to wards the pass. The gully ended and we were facing the glacier and across it was the col. There can not be any mistake in figuring the Auden's col as it is the only dip in the ridge joining the Gangotri III and Jogin I peaks. The walk on glacier commenced and carefully we reached the portion where a fast flowing stream cut through the glacier. A slip here could have been very dangerous and so helping each other we crossed it. The guide was far behind. I waited for him to reach the place as others moved ahead. I was getting cold and wanted the guide to cross at the earliest. However, I saw guide sitting down and he started to change his shoes sitting on ice. I kept shouting to him and he moved only after wearing his shoes. In the mean while others had moved quite a bit ahead. Finally the guide crossed the stream and then I rushed to join others. The guide was lagging behind all the time and he had been the last member of the group. We wanted to cross the pass and move to the safety of the lower altitude. While walking on snow it was realised that all the three porters did not have goggles and that was another reason to be on the other side of the col so that we can only move ahead than think of returning the same way. The guide kept on lagging behind and I saw Dewan's hand glove falling on glacier and immediately it went down the glacier slope. Dewan stood there thinking what to do when I reached him. He told me to continue and he waited for the guide to join him. That never happened as guide was very slow and Dewan lost his patience and moved on. The weather also started to turn bad and it was all cloudy. We had reached the big crevasses and saw that guide was nearly an hours walk behind. We were at 5200 meters and there was a climb of 200 meters. And then there was the great fall on the other side which we were to climb down. All this would have required another 2-3 hrs. So by five we would have been on the other side. However, guide could not have been there even by six and no way we could have left him behind on the climb down. The way he was walking we had started to wonder whether he will be able to make it to the place where we were standing. All were getting cold and it was misty. I decided to camp there itself for the safety of the guide and immediately the ground was leveled between the two big crevasses for pitching the tents. Camp IV was established at 5200 meters and every one moved in. The stoves were started and tea was prepared. Another hour latter the guide came in totally exhausted. I gave him a Diamox tablet and told him to sleep. As it was cloudy we did not get chance to do any photography and retired early. We all had good sleep at night.

The apprehension I had if we did not cross the col same day came true next morning. Though the day was bright and clear it we did not break camp early. We had a very late start. As I woke up there were some murmurs from the porters tent. As they had moved without goggles they had red eyes and they were painful. The guide who was not able to keep up with our team was finding the going extremely tough. He decided to leave us. We did not mind that since he was useless to us since the day one as he was the last person on the trail from the team and also did not have any idea of the trek. However, what worried us was that he discouraged the porters also in moving ahead by telling them that the worse was still to come. So the porters complained about the eyes and the heavy loads we had given them and also we had sent one porter back. However, coming to Gangotri for the third time for this trek I did not wish to return back now. Dorjee had been to Khatling from other side and the terrain was known to him. Any way it was a bad situation and so we decided to move ahead alone if the porter did not come and porters could go back with the excess stuff. As we started the rearrangements the porters also showed willingness to come with us. The guide was sent back and we dumped the excess food items and some kerosene and one stove to reduce the load. Some items were taken by three of us and so finally at 1100 hours the team left the Camp IV for the final 200 meters climb. Dewan moved ahead of all and I was behind him. As Dewan reached the top I saw another figure and for a moment I was perplexed. It was a rarely done trek and that also mostly from Gangotri side so who was with Dewan. I climbed further and then saw that there were three people. The were the team of Remo Expeditions company who were doing the recc of the trek before their clients could be brought up. However, seeing the terrain they had decided that the place was not for the clients. Having said the byes we reached the top of the Auden's col by 1145 hours. The loads were kept down and for some time we enjoyed reaching the top. No peaks were visible due to clouds . As we had climbed there was a huge rock pillar to our right and on left was the snow all the way down to the base. We had a view of the Khatling glacier on the other side and decided to move down immediately. Also Dewan was not very comfortable with the glare as he had given his goggles of the porter. I had given my extra pair and Dorjee had given his and was wearing glasses for saving his eyes. There was a small stone slab which had been positioned vertically and after taking photo there we decided to move down. The climb down was through a gully filled with ice and loose stones. Slow with Dorjee leading the way we moved down. It was very bad at places and there was danger of stone fall. It took us long time to negotiate it and in the end there was a huge crevasse which was running parallel to the ridge, which had to be crossed. A jump and we were on the other side. Aha what a relief, we were on a level ground and only care to be taken was of the crevasses. It was very hot on the glacier and as we had wasted lot of time in the morning we only moved till 1500 hrs and setup the camp V near to a channel of water. Now it was Dewan's turn to be in distress. He had moved without goggles throughout the day and was now feeling great piercing pain in the eyes. He could not get relief even on closing the eyes and as such had a bad night. Next day he was not able to open the eyes more than a few seconds. It was a big problem as we were on a glacier with huge crevasses. Only comfort was that we were to move along a gentle slope of the glacier. The camp was wound up with the hope of getting off the glacier by the day's end. The walking was not a problem and we made good progress. The movement by the party a day earlier added to our comfort as we were able to make out the crevasses and the move without any problem.

Soon snow was over and we were on ice and stone mixed ground. Dewan had a tough time and he walked behind me like a blind man. It was the courage shown by Dewan which saved a day for us. By evening we were able to see the terminal moraine and thought of achieving the objective of the day. Alas, it was not supposed to be so. We had been moving to the left of the glacier, not that we had the choice of walking on the right. It was too broken and full of crevasses. As we moved ahead suddenly there seemed to be not route ahead. The glacier had taken a plunge and was broken all over the fall. There was no way to the right and only way seemed was to the left, which also seemed to be vanishing into the rocky slope. There was a big waterfall on the left and as it was evening we thought of spending the night there. A move towards the waterfall brought us to a small patch of flat ground with a small stream. A perfect camping place for our camp VI.

The camp site was perfect and the water of the stream was not very cold and so had good wash and relaxed. Dewan was also recovering and we could see the green after the glacier. Our only problem was to get onto the terminal moraine from our present position. Any way that could be tackled next day. Had good soup followed by good food. Everyone slept well.

As it dawned the realisation of our position also dawned on us. However, Tek Bahadur told us that he had gone down to the flat seen down below ahead of the waterfall and there seemed to be a way out. Had good aloo prantha's in breakfast and wound up a lovely camp. The trail moved behind the waterfall and it was easy going till we reached the point where the trail was under a shallow slanting rock which had to done sitting down. To add to the misery was the path itself. It consisted of slanting rotten rock and was crumbling. All and all it was a dangerous place. More than the climb down the col. Tek Bahadur moved first and covered it without any problem. Dorjee followed. I gave up my sack and moved down sitting. Bhimu followed me and then came Dewan. Lok was the last to cross it. Slightly ahead we encountered another huge waterfall flowing through what seemed to be slippery rock. it was decided to use the rope here as a slip would have be fatal. All wet we crossed this hurdle without much problem. Thereafter it was easy to move onto the terminal moraine and slowly we started to move to the right side, which was reached without much problem. There was a huge landslide here and it took quite sometime to reach the river coming out of Khatling snout. We were now level with the Bhilangna river and moved through the huge boulders where we could not find any place to camp. In distance we saw a vast ground with small bushes and decided to camp there if found suitable. It was good and we camped at the far end. We were now at Chowki and the bear country. Water was close by a it was all very relaxing, though we had lot of distance to cover. As we had wasted lot of time for guide we decided against going to Kedarnath and instead moved towards Ghuttu.

Well as usual the night passed off peacefully and the day dawned cloudy. After breakfast we moved off and were onto a rough trail, which vanished at some places. Soon there were two trails with one moving near to the river and the other high above. We took the upper and Dewan moved onto the lower one. Shit of bear was everywhere on the trail and we shouted for Dewan to join us at the upper trail. While he moved towards us we enjoyed the surrounding and saw the trail moving up towards Kedarnath. The trail was good one and is in regular use. By evening we saw a temple and the camp of bakriwala's next to it. Their ferocious dogs were barking at us till their owners stopped them. We had reached Kharsoli and setup our camp VII next to broken shed and some meat was taken from the bakriwala by giving the rations we no longer required. Next day morning we left the place after the bakriwala's had moved down ahead of us and so had to move on trails full of slush, till the bakriwala's stopped after few kms. The trail moved into jungle and soon we encountered two trails. We choose the upper one which climbed up through thick jungle. Met two boys sitting in the dead of the jungle having food. Well they told us that we were on the right trail and so we carried on and after few kms reached the open ground where there were a few housed constructed between huge rocks. We were at Kalyani. A woman and her kids came out and seeing them we got reminded of the stone age. Soon the two boys we had met at jungle also joined us. It was their home and they had gone to jungle for wood. We spent an hour there having soup and left for Gangi village. Now it was a well used trail and we passed through Deokhri village and then by evening we were at the GMVN's TRH at Gangi. The chowkidar came on hearing about our arrival. We got a place for our self and a place to cook food. It rained and we could see fresh snow on the top of the hills from where we had come.

Now we were on a well laid trail between the villages and so moving was not a problem. reached Reeh village by early afternoon and had good aloo prantha's made by the chowkidar of the TRH and moved off. The village is above the TRH and one does not have to go there to reach the TRH. we took the by pass and were back on the trail towards Ghuttu. The climb down was long and steep at places. It must be quite tiring climbing up. few kms before Ghuttu we stopped at a tea shop to have tea and finally after a kms walk on road reached the bus stop of Ghuttu as it started to rain heavily. Moved out of Ghuttu immediately in a hired Sumo and reached Srinagar via Ghansali. Another taxi took us to Pauri and to the end of an excellent trek.

Auden's Col Photos Part I
Auden's Col Photos Part II
Auden's Col Trek


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Published on: 2007-07-15 (4791 reads)

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