Wednesday, June 14, 2023

THREE pass trek to HALF PASS trek - Auden's Col to Darwa Pass


So the usual culprits planned yet another Himalayan Adventure, this time to cross the Auden's Col (pass) en route from Gangotri to Kedarnath, with the classic route having 3 passes . With >half of the 5 man team being practicing Doctors, one pass (Patangini Dhar) was excluded from the plan right during planning itself, to reduce total duration of the expedition by 3 days.

So Dr. Prasanna, Vilas & Ajay from Mumbai & Dr Gautham & I from Mangalore, got together at Dehradun on 27th May Saturday. We got together at Ashirwad Hospital Dehradun, and enjoyed the hospitality of my Senior Colleague, Dr Rakesh Kalra. 

Reached Uttarkashi same evening, and Gangotri (9,600 ft above MSL) the next day.

Completed Darshan & other obligations by the Bhagirathi riverside & at the temple. Unique atmosphere, which regulars will find 'as usual' 

Inviting views from the hotel room itself next morning. 

Next day on May 29th post Breakfast, we went for a height gain of 1,500 ft towards Kedar Tal, and got some amazing views of Gangotri town and towards Tapovan. 

On Tuesday May 30th, we set off finally on our route for Auden's Col, with Nala Camp to be the first halt at 11,400ft 


As we crossed the treeline, the bright sky began to dominate... 



And finally, after 4 hours and a climb of about 2,000ft we reached out campsite at 11,500ft, above the tree line and right next to the Nalla. 

we ended the day with a bright clear sky, hoping the weather Gods would continue to smile on us... 

But alas! The clip below shows the situation when we looked out of our tents next morning... 

This year was an unusual season in the Himalayas, winter set in late and continued late. We planned the Auden's col expedition in May end, hoping to cross the Khatling glacier while the crevasses were still covered with Snow. Alternative is to do the trek in September end, when the snow has melted and all crevasses are wide open - but you need to manoeuvre across them with greater effort. 

Not in our wildest dreams did we expect Nature to dish out a third scenario to us. Too much snow, which makes it difficult to move ahead. With 6-10" snow at 11,500 ft, we were bound to hit knee deep OR more snow at 14-16,000 feet, where we would have set up higher camps! What to talk of the 18,000ft at Auden's col!!!

Looking at the snowfall & white out, we prayed that Nature guide us on the right path.

Our eventual decision to abandon the entire Auden's col plan was proved right, when later that night we saw a team descending down into our camp in the darkness. They were stuck at the Rudugaira Base camp (our next camp at 14,500) since 3 days, and their tents got blown away & broken by the snow blizzard the previous night. 

Imagine their desperation to descend at night, rather than wait till daylight next morning! We helped them with warm tent, food and liquids. 

Though next morning was bright & clear, we stuck to our plan to submit before Nature - our decision to abandon stayed, and we descended back to Gangotri after a photoshoot.   


Back in Gangotri with almost another 2 weeks of trekking 'remaining', we decided to plan an alternative route - Via Dodital to Yamonotri... if not Kedarnath, then another Dham was beckoning us!!! 

However, Ajay & Vilas had to leave back to Mumbai due to some unexpected events back home. 

So Prasanna, Gautham & I set out once again... 

We came down to Uttarkashi from Gangotri next day on June 2nd, Friday... and went into the Mountains once again to begin the fresh route, along the banks of the Assiganga river - we would be following this tributary of the Bhagirathi right upto it's source high in the mountains - the Dodital lake at ~10,000 ft. 

After a 2 hour drive through narrow winding roads with steep cliffs, we reached village Agoda, the starting point of our walk. With mules in place of porters on this route, we set off for our first camp - Bevra @ 6,800 ft about an hour away. 

Borrowing some warmth from local villager at Bevra

Full Moon - light bouncing off our roof top! 

We set off the next morning... 

...with some amazing landscapes on the way....

Our next camp at Manjhi @ 8,6000ft had picture postcard scenes all around... 

Rest of the day was spent in capturing some amazing images... 


The next day began with the eagerness to reach a 'high' point in our trek - Dodital (Dondital, the place where DondiRaja aka Bhagwan Ganapati was born/created by Devi Parvati, as per the Puranas)

And finally.... Dodital! 

Considered the birthplace of Ganesha, Dodital Lake is surrounded by mountains on >3 sides and has a temple dedicated to Ganesha in one corner. 



The next morning, we set forth to our highest camp on this route, Darwa Pass at 11,800ft. We climbed 2,000+ feet in 3 hours to reach the camp site, after some enchanting views of the Lake below and surrounding mountain peaks! 

 Notice how the landscape changes, as we went above the treeline.... 

And finally, we reached the top - Darwa Pass!

But yet again, greeted by Snowfall on arrival... 

And some amazing scenes all around... 

The later day gave us some amazing scenes, during a pause in the snowfall when the skies too cleared out.... 

Man's best friend.... even at 12,000 ft.... 

Listen to the wind howling in the clip below, even when the skies are otherwise clear! 

Not surprisingly, the next morning greeted us with snowfall, and with that washed away our hopes of going ahead. The only way to proceed was to go back the way we came! 

After a quick breakfast, we descended down - and reached Dodital 2000ft below in just more than an hour!

We descended 5000ft in one single day, what took us three days to climb!

After a camp at Bevra, next day we walked an hour to Agoda, and took a vehicle back to Uttarkashi to conclude our trek.  

View of Sangam in Uttarkashi, where Assi Ganga from Dodital joins the Bhagirathi coming from Gangotri.

We took a 6hr cab ride to reach Janki Chatti, the base of Yamunotri by that night. 

Next morning 4am, we took the 5km trail up to Yamunotri to finish darshan at 6am

That ended our memorable adventure, with twists and turns. What began with a consideration to cross three passes, we concluded without crossing even one... and just reaching a new/alternative pass. That's the reality of Himalayan adventures, once a trekker begins to enjoy the serene environs regardless of the destination, the outcome will always be pleasant. 

Mountains will always remain, stay safe to come back another time!  

Though we had loved ones waiting back home, we silently made plans of our next visit back to 'Devbhoomi'! 

Har Har Mahadev