Sunday, March 31, 2013

Auden’s Col (Gangotri-Kedarnath Trek 7.)


1: Trek preparations
2: Arrival in Gangotri
3: Gathering of Motley's Crew
4: Out of Gangotri
5: Beyond Bugyals
6: Trapped over cliffs
7: Auden's Col crossing
8: Trapped in the Khatling Glacier
9: Lucky to be alive
10: Back to the ices
11: Mayali Pass Crossing
12: Arrival in Kedarnath

Day 4
We spend night at a dangerous spot in the middle of the cliffs.
I hear the loud shouts of 1008-Maharaj: Bum Bum Bhole and we woke up.
It appears that he is ok. It is intense cold and air is thin and frigid and snow is not falling anymore. Sky is clear. As I tried to leave my sleeping bag I am instantly stung by the severe cold. We all shout to each other to check if everything is ok. Everything is OK. Snow is not falling and golden morning is appearing at 6AM.
However as I am about to leave by sleeping bag I feel intense cold and I fall to brutal shivering. I feel as I am thrown in the minus 200 degree freezer. In my childhood I had malaria several times and had shivering but this one is unprecedented and I collapse back in my bag. I want to take pills of Dexamethasone and Peracetamol but I am totally dysfunctional and moreover there is no water and everything is frozen. It is such a bad shivering that I feel I am going to freeze and die. Briana is out preparing to make tea and when she checks in the tent and anticipates something is wrong with me. She touches my forehead but no fever yet and she returns. Somehow I find dexa and peracetamol pills and the bottle of raw alcohol, because that is the only liquid I have in my access and take both pills with mouthful of alcohol. My whole body is seems frozen and I feel the burning sensation of alcohol from my mouth to the stomach. In ten minutes chills are gone but I am feeling burning hot now. Briana again peeks in the tent because everybody is out in confusion about what to do. We are stuck on the cliffs in this freezing cold.
She checks again my forehead and cries, “Oh my God.”
She checks my temperature with her ear thermometer and I have 106 degree fever. Everybody is now scared of the situation.

Final Push

They prepare tea and hand me a glass. Gradually medicines work and I find my fever gone. Briana checks and now I have just 102 degree and I come out to assist everybody to make breakfast and I feel normal. We make Utpam with lots of spices, curry-pattas and bear-garlic. It comes up excellent but before we finish up our breakfast it freezes.
With great efforts We pack up everything and look below. Time and again our fingers go numb and blue. Cold air is biting us and as we inhale cold air our chest is becoming cold and we feel a knife is driven into us with each inhale.
Now – how to get down this way or that way?
I and Biswas go around and I find a passable area and I descend some feet. There I find a one rupee coin. So someone was here before and that might be a good news. Somehow I climb down to about 100 feet and now is the puzzle to come to the general area above where Biswas is standing. But I am able to get only to the half of the distance and somehow Biswas comes above me and throws me the rope. It not a straight wall but about 60 degree slope so Biswas brings everybody at that point above me. First our backpacks are lowered and gradually one by one everybody comes down to me. Now we need to untie the rope to reclaim it. Since I came down and know the way so I go up and find the rope and open the knot and return back.
Somehow we all make it to safely to the glacier below and now is the steep climb on the ices to the Auden’s Col that is our next destination. My and Biswas’s hands are bleeding. Baba offers us his gunza cheroot. Briana discovers that half of sole of her shoe front is plucked and hanging. With a string she ties the front of her shoe.

Crevasse near the Auden’s Col
We are facing a scary slope to the Col and we don’t know what to do. In this situation I tell them to prepare another cup of tea as we are standing on the firm and level ground. We make tea with snow.
There we reevaluate our luggage. We all believe that we are carrying too much. Biswas wanted to go to Ghuttu and we ask him to shed some of his luggage here because tomorrow he will be out of the ices but now he decides he will stick with us till Kedarnath. We have too much kerosene and food. We are eating frugally and not cooking much because of the intense cold and exertion. We leave one kerosene container there and many other things. Our backpacks are now about 2 kilo lighter.
We tie ropes with each other and make a chain and begin probing the ice with tent poles and begin walking up towards the ridge. Biswas is ahead of us and Briana is at the last. There comes a grand rock pillar at our right this means we are very close to the top.

Near the top
Climbing one step at a time we reach at the top in one hour. Many peaks are visible from the top and below us is the dangerous Khatling glacier. Crossing this glacier is considered as the most dangerous part of the trek upto the Col. Air is whistling and push is dangerous. At all sides we can see the snows and white only. Below at the Gangotri side we can see the cliffs where we camped.
Wow so this must be Auden’s Col.
So we made it to the Auden’s Col, there is no doubt about it. We are on a very high ridge with a steep descent at both sides.
Nobody is feeling well at this height and in intense cold and we want to move down immediately. Baba is still not wearing his sunglasses and is not comfortable with the glare. My fever returns and I swallow some snow in my mouth and then take another paracetamol tablet.
We look towards Gangotri side at one last time and prepare ourselves for a long and dangerous descent.
The climb down is through a ravine filled with ice, snow and loose rocks. Very slowly we descend in the worse unstable ravine. Once a while we hear rocks falling but we are lucky. Area above us is dangerously hanging with a danger of stone fall. Finally we reach at the bottom of the ravine and find a deep crevasse. Somehow we find a narrow gap and we jump across it.
Now land is a gently incline on the Khatling glacier. Only problem is the visible and hidden crevasse and we find weather gentle. It is not very cold here. It is 1PM now. We spend lots of time negotiating our way in the ravine. Baba is compaining about his eyes although we gave him glasses but he has no habit of wearing these.
He walked without goggles and is now feeling great stabbing pain in the eyes. He is not getting relief even on closing the eyes and also had a bad night. Now he is not able to open the eyes more than a few seconds.

Finally Auden’s Col is visible
Due to intense descend our legs are trembling and time to time they collapse. We all are falling down without any indication or prediction and it is the time to stop today’s walk. We find a Clearwater brook and decide to make our camp there. Finally we are camping at a good place.
It is just 3PM and we set up our tents and arrange kitchen. We can see ice and rocks falling on the mountains. I place my ear on the ground and I can hear the glacier moving and scrapping the ground slowly. Nature is at its work. This Glacier makes up the Bhelanga River that meet Ganges at Tehri town but now it enters in the Tehri Dam Lake near Ghanshali.
We start making tea and find Biswas’s condensed milk can is rock solid and frozen. We make lemon, ginger and bay-leaf tea.
We all have a low fever of some sort and we avoid taking bath in the bubbling brook, water is freezing cold but weather is now bearably cold at this time. I go to the brook to wash myself up because for the two days we were either drenched with sweat or feeling cold. Biswas also comes there and we are just two.
Now I feel like taking a bath in the river so I wear my loincloth and put water on me with my cupped hands so to take bath with the minimum water. We all have already washed our socks and clothes. Our shoes are drying under the sun.
Biswas asks me, “May I ask you some question if you won’t fee bad?”
I know exactly about what he wants to talk about, I say, “Of-course you may ask me anything.”
“I see your relation with Briana is as of a friend, am I right?”
“Yes you are very much right.”
“Do you mind if I make some efforts to get closer to her? I like her. I am a pharmacist and she is a surgeon and we have a lot in common.”
Briana mentioned to me that Biswas is making some comic efforts to please her. Then I also began observing it. He was combing his hairs at each half hour and was applying colon several times a day. He was looking at his face in the small pocket mirror several times. Moreover he was shaving his face everyday in the freezing colds. It all was very amusing to me as well Briana.
I reply to Biswas, “Man, go for it and I will help you anyway possible. Initially we loved each other but I didn’t commit and then love turned into just bare friendship.”
“But I am a committing kind of a man. I will commit at the first opportunity. I always commit.”
“Yeah Man, I know it. I also know that because of her you joined us on this expedition otherwise you never had any trust in me.” – I was making all the efforts to suppress my laugher.
“Well Praveen, it appears that you are an antaryami. I admit that I never trusted you but came with you folks anyway in the anticipation that worse come worse we will get stuck in the mountains ……… and I will bring you back because I have the maps of that region before the Auden’s Col area.”
Smilingly I said, “I know Man – in Gangotri you felt that there were good chances that we will get lost and getting lost would serve double advantage for you to be a hero to rescue her and then she was to curse me and hate me for putting her life in jeopardize. You are an experienced mountaineer and went to Mount Everest till the half way.”
He replies, “In a way you are correct but I didn’t think about the things this far. I am joining you to Kedarnath for this sole objective.”
View from the Auden's Col
Khatling Glacier
I begin liking Biswas for his truth telling habit and his mind is very simple and subtle. He is a pure Sagittarius and cannot lie. His problem is that he can only look at the big picture and looking at small details is out of his character. Neither I want to impose any restriction on him in any regard. Only thing I doubt is that his efforts are not working and actually Briana is a bit annoyed and wants to stay away from him.
He pleads, “So you will be helping me?”
“Yes sure.”
“But why?”
“In Punjabi we say: Jodian jag thodian – means it is rare to find a marriage full of love. So if you happen to love each other then it is sacred thing for me to do is to step aside.”
Then I see Briana coming towards us and as she sees me taking bath she starts shouting at me and returns. She forbade me to take bath or go near water because my fever is now not responding to paracetamol.
Biswas is done shaving and I use his razor and do my own shaving because my beard is biting me.
When returning I tell to Biswas, “Too bad that we made it to the Col and we are right over the Khatling Glacier, tomorrow we will be touching Bugyals.”
“Why too bad?”
“You missed the chance to rescue her but I can push her in some crevasse and you can rescue her.”
He laughs.
To amuse myself I say to him, “By the way you never asked me about how I met Briana at the first place.”
He asks, “How? But I always assumed that you met in England or America somewhere.”
“Form Dodital to Hanumanchatti, I carried her backpack and she fell in love with me.”
He says, “But I cannot carry her backpack here, mine own is like an elephant.”
I admitted, “Your backpack is humongous.”
“Yeah, but I am also carrying many lifesaving things for all of us.”
What I didn’t tell him that half of my backpack weight is Briana’s stuff. I am carrying her extra pair of shoes, one pair I already gave to Baba because his feet are small. I am carrying her two light jackets whereas I gave away my own light jackets and all spare clothes to Ashram volunteers. To reduce my weight further, I gave away some provisions also. When we begun from Gangotri, my backpack weighted 27 kilos and her was 22. Now our backpacks are about 22 and 18 kilos respectively because we discarded many things in the morning to reduce our luggage. Biswas’s backpack is now near 30 kilos now because he brought lots of things and didn’t discard much except 2 liters of kerosene.
Khatling Glacier
View of Auden’s Col from our Khatling Glacier Campsite
I explain to him that I never wanted to do this trek. Putting my body in any discomfort is never my theme and I don’t love adventure although fate brings me to these situations. I knew from the beginning that doing this trail is no big deal but I was not happy about it.
He says, “And we made it. Now rest of the way is a routine tracking mission.”
I have heard about some serious dangerous about Khatling glacier and we are just on the edge of it. We have to cross the whole of the glacier. But nature is at the job all the time and different groups encounter different dangers. Who knows what is waiting for us or may be we are lucky and we will find a gentle slope to all the way to the bugyals.
At 4PM sunlight is week and sun is about to go behind the mountain and cold air is beginning to howl. We begin cooking a great dinner. We are carrying a lots of ration and it is the time to be generous with ourselves and give ourselves a favor.
Today’s menu is rice, mixed daal and packed soups. We try to cut onions but they are frozen, ginger and garlic too are frozen. Somehow we crush onions, ginger and garlic for our tadka. After having a grand dinner we take our pots to the river for cleaning.
Secretly I go alone to take a long walk on the Khatling glacier to keep my promise with Biswas so he can make a try on Briana. My other objective is to check for our further route for tomorrow.
May God bless him?
Bum Bum Bhole.
Khatling Glacier
Khatling Glacier
When I return I find Baba and Biswas fighting again and Briana comes running to me.
“You owe me a walk, let’s go.”
“Why are they fighting?”
“I can only guess. Biswas was telling me his life’s story and Baba was interrupting him and then they begin fighting. He shoved Baba and Baba started doing some sort of Shiva Dance the kind we see in the pictures. They both were cursing each other.’
“Wow I missed the Tandav Dance.”
“Let’s get out of here.” She drags me by arm.
Baba shouts at me and orders me to return and I return.
He comes to me and whispers to me that Biswas is after my woman
“यह नासपीटा कम्बखत तुम्हारी लुगाई के पीछे है. मैं गंगोत्री से इसे चेक कर रहा हूँ.”
“पर बाबा यह मेरे लुगाई नहीं है. यह तो मेरी मित्र है.”
Now Baba is very angry at me.
He begins cursing us all.
I am particularly feeling that Baba has a soft spot for Briana because she is taking extra care of him. Last night she was very worried about his blue frozen toes and massaged his feet with my precious raw alcohol to save his toes from gangrene. Baba wears her jacket and shoes (he looks like a joker). At night he uses most of Briana’s clothes to make a cover or cushion for himself. Moreover Briana has promised him to take him to England once he gets his passport.
Khatling Glacier
Khatling Glacier
We escape his wreath and have another walk on the glacier till Briana falls in a crevasse and luckily it is not very deep and I am able to pull her out. Her hand and elbow are bleeding.
We return. Cold is again becoming unbearable and my fever is also rising and I feel a weight on my chest.
Time for a drink and more pills.
Biswas forbids Baba to sleep with him in his tent. In front of him I tell Briana to go in Biswas’s tent and Baba will be sleeping with me and she shouts at me viciously.
I raise my hands to indicate Biswas that I am keeping my promise. Then I whisper to him that if he won’t let Baba to come in his tent the Briana will feel bad. Biswas let’s Baba to come in his tent again.
Since we didn’t wear wet shoes for the rest of the day, our feet are freezing cold. We all find it hard to deal with the cold feet.
At night wind is whistling and hauling and we fear our tent may slip and fall from the ledge into the brook. It was our mistake to camp very near the river.
A very juicy dog fight erupts between Biswas and Baba in the tent.
Briana fears that they may beat each other.
Liquor helps me to fall to sleep.
Rhododendron Ferrungineum
Rhododendron Ferrungineum grows in high reaches of Himalayas. All parts of this plant are poisonous. Cattle herders keep their cattle away from Rhododendron Ferrungineum. A close resembling or rather identical variety is Rhododendron Chrysanthemum of Siberia.
Anytime I am in Himalayas, I make and drink tea of this plant. I have cured many cases of rheumatism with this plant. It works best on right sided problems. Recently I cured several cases of Orchitis (inflamed testicles) when the problem was right sided.
I suggest all people who can identify this dwarf rhododendron (grows at above 9000 feet) to drink tea of this plant at least once.
Khatling Glacier
by William BOERICKE, M.D.
Presented by Médi-T
Rheumatic and gouty symptoms well marked. Rheumatism in the hot season. The modality (worse before a storm) is a true guiding symptom.
Extremities.–Joints swollen. Gouty inflammation of great toe-joint. Rheumatic tearing in all limbs, especially right side; worse, at rest and in stormy weather. Stiffness of neck. Pain in shoulders, arms, wrists; worse when at rest. Pains in bones in spots, and reappear by change of weather. Cannot sleep unless legs are crossed.


  1. so lastly the gang of four has crossed the Auden's Col.congrats for being alive.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...