Auden’s Col Trek

Audens Col Trek

Auden’s Col Trek – Bordering Nepal and Tibet, the regions of Garhwal and Kumaon which together form Uttarakhand, are most famous for their holy sites including the source of India’s most sacred River Ganges which each year receives thousands of pilgrims. Located at the very center of the great Himalayan chain, Garhwal and Kumaon contain a host of 7,000 metre peaks such as Nanda Devi, Kamet and Trishul, and sub 7,000 metre expedition peaks such as the stunning Shivling, as well as over 250 peaks above 5500 metres, and this makes the region a mecca for mountaineers and trekkers. The Garhwal Himalayas are characterized by unsurpassed mountain scenery with soaring ridges, deep valleys and huge glaciers and this trek takes us right into the heart of the area. The word ‘Col’ is a geographical term for a saddle-like depression in a ridge between two peaks. Auden’s Col lies between Gangotri III (6537m) & Jogin I (6465m) and the crossing is one of the finest high altitude treks in the Indian Himalayas. Even in today’s day and age very little is known about this area and every year only a handful of people successfully cross the col.

Trip Duration: 15 days
Grading: Strenuous

Highlights : A stunning high altitude crossing between Gangotri and Kedarnath In the footsteps of explorer, Dr J B Auden. Descent from the Col to the Khatling glacier on fixed rope. Glacier walk on Khatling for two days

Places Visited: Uttarkashi, Gangotri

History: Dr John Bicknel Auden (1903-1991) was an English geologist & explorer and the elder brother of the poet W H Auden. In 1926 he joined the Geological Survey of India, where he remained until he retired in the early 1950s. He travelled extensively in the Karakorams and the Himalayas and did a lot of exploratory work. He completed the survey of the Biafo Glacier in Baltistan and traversed large areas of Nepal to study the effects of the earthquake which caused havoc in Bihar-Nepal in 1934. In 1939, towards the end of a two month long expedition in Garhwal, he tried to save several days of walking by trying to cut across the mountain range at the head of the Rudrugaira valley into the Bhilangana valley to the south, by crossing a pass now known as Auden’s Col. The crossing has not often been repeated after him.

Overview:  We begin by driving up the Bhagirathi valley right till the end of the road at Gangotri. From here we trek south towards the Gangotri range establishing a succession of alpine meadow camps. We spend two days resting at different altitudes to acclimatize before we attempt to cross the col on day 8 of the trip. The descent from the col down to the deeply crevassed Khatling Glacier is almost vertical and is done on fixed ropes. We spend two days and two nights walking down the Khatling glacier and continue along the Bhilangana river flowing out of the glacier. The last three days walk is through dense mixed himalayan forests, grassy meadows, shepherd encampments and some remote villages. There are some dramatic views of the high mountains including Thalaysagar. The trek finishes at Ghuttu where we spend a night at the GMVN Guest House and then drive down to Haridwar past Tehri Dam to board the train back to Delhi.

Quick Itinerary:
Day 00: Board the overnight train to Haridwar
Day 01: Arrive Haridwar and drive to Uttarkashi
Day 02: Drive to Gangotri (3050m)
Day 03: Acclimatisation Day in Gangotri (3050m)
Day 04: Trek from Gangotri to Nalla Camp (3760m)
Day 05: Nalla Camp – Rudrugaira Base Camp (4500m)
Day 06: Acclimatization Day
Day 07: Auden’s Col Base Camp (4800m)
Day 08: Cross Auden’s Col (5400m) & Descend to Khatling Glacier Camp I (5110m)
Day 09: Glacier Walk, Khatling Glacier Camp II (4210m)
Day 10: Exit Khatling Glacier and reach Khatling Cave / Tambakund (3400m)
Day 11/ 08Oct: Contingency day
Day 12/ 09Oct: Khatling Cave – Kharsoli (2880m)
Day 13/ 10Oct: Kharsoli – Gangi (2650m)
Day 14/ 11Oct: Gangi – Ghuttu (1550m)
Day 15/ 12Oct: Ghuttu – Delhi

Please contact us for a detailed itinerary for Audens Col Trek.

Important: This day-to-day schedule should be taken only as a general guide. Although we update our itineraries every year, to take into account such things as: changes to trekking routes and changes in the routing or availability of local transport, it is not possible to guarantee that any of our trips will run exactly according to the proposed itinerary. A variety of factors, including adverse weather conditions and difficulties with transportation, permission hassles for this trek, can lead to enforced changes. The trip leader would make the necessary changes after consultation with guests.

Cost Per Person (min 4-6 people on a private trip) Quote – On Request

Is this a trip for you? People wishing to undertake this trip should have a high level of physical fitness, and previous experience of trekking to altitudes of at least 3500m. It is not necessary to have previous experience of technical climbing on snow and ice but you should be aware that during the crossing of the col, fixed rope may be used to safeguard the group while ascending or descending steep slopes and you must be comfortable with a certain degree of exposure to harsh weather conditions. Our trekking pace at altitude is dictated to a great extent by the need to acclimatise which imposes height gain limits on any day. With one or two notable exceptions the trekking day will be around four to six hours. Walking speed is further restricted by the sometimes difficult terrain, especially out of consideration for the porters.

What to expect : Low temperatures & high altitudes are going to be our main concerns on this trip and we must be Adequately prepared to deal with them

Temperatures: Temperatures on the trek will vary from 15-20 degrees to minimum of -10 degrees Celsius. Night time temperatures
would drop below freezing from Day 4-12 and at high camps close to Auden’s Col it could easily go down as low as -10 deg C. The two nights we camp on Khatling Glacier and the night at Auden’s base camp could be excessively cold. It is best to be fully prepared for lower temperatures due to wind chill or the weather turning bad. This trek runs after the monsoon season and the weather at this time is most stable and suited to trekking. However mountains do produce their own weather and some bad weather including rain and snowfall cannot be ruled out.

Altitude: Once we get up to heights above 3000m, altitude starts to become a concern and one must deal with it carefully. Our bodies slowly get used to the lower levels of oxygen in the air and the individuals who have acclimatized properly are able to climb to altitudes as high as Everest without the aid of additional oxygen. This process of adaptation or acclimatization does take time and the most important rule is to gain height slowly. The trip itinerary has been very well thought through and gives everyone plenty of time to get acclimatized for the crossing of the col.
Our trip leaders are widely experienced in these matters and will be able to give you good advice to help minimize any
temporary discomfort that you might experience. If you have suffered serious problems at altitude before, you should seek the advice of your doctor or a specialist. We are always ready to give advice on this subject.

Baggage allowance: You will need two bags for the trip – a main bag and a day pack. Your main bag on the trek will be carried by porters and it should not weigh more than 15 kgs. Your personal climbing gear like climbing boots, harness etc would go in a communal bag and would not form part of this baggage limit. You need to be walking with your day pack which should be large enough to carry your rain proof gear, a light fleece, water, packed lunch, cameras etc. Day packs which give you easy access to your water bottles, and some loops to keep your trekking poles etc are far better than simpler day packs. It’s a good idea to have a slightly larger daypack than a smaller one as you might need to stuff in a lot of extra layers in the bag on the day we cross the col. We start that day quite early and cross the col in the afternoon and hence would be dealing with extremes of temperatures. It is possible to leave a set of clean clothes in the vehicle which drops us at Gangotri to be received at the end of the trek at Ghuttu.

Level of Skills needed: You do not need any technical climbing skills for this trip; good physical & mental fitness is the only pre-requisite. Experience of trekking in the Himalayas or to altitudes of 3500m and above would help.

Pre-trip Conditioning: Good physical conditioning is one of the keys and can make the difference between enjoying an outing and merely enduring it. Being physically ready is more important than years of experience. We suggest that you begin your training program at least two months before the departure. Any form of aerobic training, such as running, cycling, swimming, along with some strength training will help you a lot on the climb. Strength training with a pack is the most valuable thing you can do to prepare yourself. The best method is to go on long hikes or climbs with a heavy pack a couple of times in a week. But since mountains are not easily accessible to most of us, climbing stairs with a heavy backpack is recommended.

Food : We will have fully serviced camps with camp cooks. On the trek, the food is a mixture of local and European all purchased in Garhwal and cooked for us by highly trained trek cooks. Menus vary from Indian fare to Chinese, pasta, cold cuts, sandwiches, eggs etc. The emphasis is on a high carbohydrate and largely vegetarian diet, which we have found to be more easily digestible especially at high altitude. This is a fully inclusive package and all meals are included in the trip price. You might want to carry your favorite snack or power bars with you for the long trekking days. We will provide you safe drinking water throughout the trek – it will be boiled with a dash of iodine. You could bring things which you enjoy eating -chocolates, power bars, dry fruits, candies, other snacks etc. Alcohol is not permitted till we finish the trek at Ghuttu.

First Aid: A comprehensive first aid kit accompanies each trip. All trip leaders have appropriate wilderness first-aid training and are experienced in dealing with a range of medical problems associated with adventure travel. We recommend that you bring your own personal medications and inform us of any medical condition, if you have.

Equipment List: The checklist above covers all essential items needed for the trek. Each one of us will need climbing boots, climbing harness, crampons & gaiters for this trek which will be hired from NIM Uttarkashi. If you have any personal climbing gear you should bring it along.

Documentation & Photograph: Each member will be required to send us personal details along with the scan of passport / photo ID proof (Indians only) and a scan of passport size photographs for various permits.

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