Exploring the Enchanting Beauty of Auden’s Col Trek 2023 – Senthilkumar Rajendran, PGDIM 2009

Auden’s Col, a magnificent mountain pass nestled in the heart of the Himalayas, has long been a cherished destination for trekkers and mountaineers seeking a true communion with nature’s grandeur. This article will take you on a journey through the captivating landscapes and challenging terrains of Auden’s Col, an experience contributed by Senthilkumar Rajendran, a passionate adventurer and nature enthusiast. From the snow-capped peaks to the awe-inspiring glaciers, join us as we delve into the enthralling world of Auden’s Col, where beauty and adventure converge in perfect harmony.

“Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.”

Mission Auden’s Col, Yes,  that’s what brought 10 trekkers from different parts of India together. We all have been lusting to climb Auden’s col for years and we decided to make this dream come true this year.

Auden’s Col is a significant journey among high-altitude trekkers, It has an elevation of 5242m which separates the Jogil and Gangotri’s three peaks. It also connects Rudragaira and Bhilenga valley. The journey lies between huge glaciers namely Khatling and Jogil. The pass was discovered by John Bicknell Auden, a Geologist and explorer. He was the first to cross the pass from Rudragairas side and descended to Kedarnath (one of the Jyotirlinga and Char-Dham destinations) in 1939. Hence it’s called Auden’s col.

Auden’s Col is one of the toughest and riskiest high-altitude treks in India. It’s at approx 18000 ft and the journey to reach there involves steep climbs, high ridges, slippery stones, huge crevasses, knee-deep snow, and unpredictable and challenging weather. Auden’s Col is only for seasoned high-altitude trekkers who enjoy being outside their comfort zone by not just reaching a high-altitude summit but also the journey which involves high-intensity testing of one’s body, mind, emotion and spirit.

Should one embark on this journey, fully aware of the inherent risks and dangers? Is enduring the discomfort truly justified, and if so, for what purpose? These questions may linger in the minds of many. Yet, what price is too high to pay for the breathtaking spectacle of mountains? The opportunity to be enveloped by their grandeur, to savor the silence, to hear one’s own breath, and to feel every heartbeat amidst the majestic peaks, ultimately anchoring oneself and embracing humility.

Gathering at Gangotri, where our trek commenced, our plan involved conquering the three passes and descending to Kedarnath. Despite being informed of a 30% possibility of a storm, we chose to proceed, knowing that mountain weather is unpredictable, and conditions can change dramatically, for better or worse.

On Day 1, we commenced our ascent from Gangotri, making our way to Bhoj Kharak (3415m), a steep climb that served as an excellent warm-up for the adventures ahead. Day 2 led us to Kedar Kharak (4270m), and on Day 3, we reached the renowned Kedartal Lake (4760m), a place of historical significance in Indian literature, now frozen in its splendor. Captivated by the scene of a frozen lake embraced by majestic mountains, we relished the moment, capturing its beauty through photographs and cherishing the experience.

As we became aware of the worsening weather conditions with an increased chance of a storm, we knew the only option was to quicken our pace and cross the pass. Fortunately, our bodies had acclimatized well, and we were in excellent health, so we decided to combine the distances of Day 4 and Day 5. With an early start before sunrise, our ambitious plan was to traverse Patangiri Dhar (5085m) and reach the Dubba campsite in Rudugaira Valley. Despite it being a long and grueling 11-hour trek, we persisted and pushed through the super-challenging terrain, and in the end, it was undeniably worth every effort.

After camping at Rudugaira Valley to acclimatize before reaching Auden Col, we spent a joyous day singing, dancing, and bonding, sharing personal stories from school days to work experiences, which brought us great fulfillment through human connection. However, by 4 pm, the snowfall intensified, posing new challenges for our journey. We decided to observe the situation until 8:30 pm, but the weather worsened further, pushing us to make a critical decision. While the line between risk and danger may seem narrow, it holds significant importance. The weather had shifted into the danger zone, particularly concerning the treacherous Khatling glaciers and the increased risk of encountering high snow levels and crevasses.

The senior Sherpa’s advice to avoid challenging both the mountains and the weather with our will resonated deeply, leading us to choose retreat. Instead, we opted to complete the journey by reaching Kedarnath (3530m) through an alternative route, steering clear of the perilous Khatling glaciers.

Kedarnath is truly an awe-inspiring place that one must visit. The beauty of the shrine nestled amidst the flowing river and enveloped by the snow-clad Himalayas is nothing short of majestic. Our stay in a tent right next to the shrine allowed us to witness the breathtaking morning sunrise, which draped the entire mountains in a golden glow. Words fall short in describing the profound experience of being in Kedarnath. The overwhelming vibe could be attributed to its geographical presence at such a high altitude, the spiritual power of the Jyotirlinga, the captivating stories surrounding this place, or perhaps it’s the sum total of all these elements combined. Nonetheless, Kedarnath’s essence can only be truly understood and appreciated through personal experience.

The day proved to be one of the most unforgettable in our lives. Brimming with boundless energy, there was no trace of tiredness among us. Throughout the trek, I found myself overwhelmed multiple times, particularly when we arrived at Kedarnath. The experience left an indelible mark on my heart.

As we descended to the base, I felt a sense of heaviness, but I kept reminding myself that the awe-inspiring presence of Annapurna made the journey worthwhile.

“Travel opens your heart, broadens your mind, and fills your life with stories to tell.”