Friday, 9 June 2017

Auden's col trek 2017


Auden’s Col (5490 meters/18010 ft.) is a high altitude pass connecting Gangotri with Kedarnath and the pass is named after John Bicknell Auden. This pass is covered by Gangotri III and Jogin peak in the north-west and east respectively. It also has few glaciers from Jogin I on the north side and deadly Khatling glaciers on the other side (south) which leads to Kedarnath/Guttu.
Auden's Col from Gangotri Base camp ridge
This trek route is less known to all of us and last proper blog in internet was for 2015 trek. We find the reason when we reached Gangotri base camp and approached for Auden base camp. There are no routes to cross the ridge coming from Gangotri III. And trek became an expedition cum climbing. Unfortunately we did not have climbing equipment to negotiate Gangotri III. Connecting Snow Bridge between Gangotri III ridge and Jogin glaciers were washed out by avalanche. We stayed there for 2 days to find route to reach to Auden and finally came back with lot of learning for life.

Reaching to Gangotri and Auden Route:
We flew from Kolkata to Dehradun via Delhi. From Dehradun one needs to go to Uttarkashi on the 1st day and then to Gangotri on the next day. 
Big Boys coming out from Aircraft
India's Highest Dam & one of the world's highest Tehri
Uttarkashi - as we look from our hotel room
Journey started - en-route to Gangotri from Uttarkashi
Gangotri Market from our hotel, temple is on the other side
Now a days all trekking starting from Gangotri needs forest dept permission and you can do it either from Uttarkashi or from Gangotri. Gangotri office working hours is 8-10 in the morning and 5-7 in the evening and also has head count limitations per day.
Gangotri temple
Gangotri temple opens on mid-May (on the occasion of ‘akshaytithiya’) and pilgrims are occupied the place for Ganga bath and puja. You can visit Surya Kund and Gauri Kund near Gangotri.
Gauri Kund
Surya Kund
Following was our trek plan:
Day 1: Gangotri (3050 m) to Nala camp (3760 m)
Day 2: Nala Camp to Rudugaira Base Camp (4350 m)
Day 3: Rudugaira Base Camp to Gangotri Group Base Camp (4500 m)
Day 4: GGBC to Auden’s camp – But actually route closed and returned to GGBC
Day 5: GGBC to Nala camp
Day 6: Nala camp to Gangotri

Our team, guide and crew members:
Myself, Arindam, Abhijit and Kanchan all are well experienced in 16000 ft+ trekking. Our guide was Bal Bahadur (Mob: 09411399316) and he has lot of peak climb experience. He is almost 60 years of age but still capable of walking 8-10 km on high altitude. Though he did not bring required equipment to negotiate peak and glaciers and caused us problem near Auden base camp. We also had 4 porters (Siva, ) who are relatively new to this route and altitude.

Trek Details:

Day 1: Gangotri to Nala camp:
We were super excited in the morning as this might become our best trek till date. We all started early in the morning around 8:40 AM. Today we have a gradual climb through pine, bhoj and birch forests keeping Rudragaira River in the right. After 2 hours of eye shooting walk through lush green field we had to cross the river via a man maid small bridge. Now we have the river in our left till we reach the Nala camp site in the afternoon around 2:40 PM.
Trek started
Bhoj Tree forest
Rhododendron
video

Day 2: Nala Camp to Rudugaira Base Camp:
Today is one of the toughest day of this trek as we have stiff climb through moraine. We have started around 8:30 AM and from the 1st step we start climbing. Sometime the elevation was more than 70 degree up. After almost 5 hours of climb we were able to see the camp site. It was a huge relief. We reached to our camp around 1 PM and the camp site offers closer views of Gangotri and Jogin peaks and also on a clear day, one can get first glimpse of Auden’s Col.
Our camp @ Rudragaira
First glimpse of Auden’s Col
Day 3: Rudugaira Base Camp to Gangotri Group Base Camp:
Compare to previous 2 days, today’s climb is relatively easier and a gradual climb on moraine and ridge through a valley surrounded by Gangotri and Jogin peaks, with glacier flowing on the right. We have started around 9:15 in the morning and reached before 12. Once you climb to the ridge, one can visualize all snow peaks surrounding including clear view of Auden’s col. Today’s journey was with ups and downs with beautiful snow peaks all over. You cannot stop clicking your camera.
On the ridge and Arindam looking at Auden's
Kanchan is crossing crevasses 
Day 4: Gangotri base camp:
Our camp at Gangotri base camp
Our original target was to reach to Auden base camp today and accordingly we started in the morning. But soon after climbing the ridge of Gangotry III, we find the left side route to negotiate Jogin glacier is inaccessible. As per our guide, Mr. Bal Bahadur, there were a snow bridge 2 years ago which is not visible now and most likely washed by an avalanche. Then we tried to negotiate the ridge from different side but unable and returned to Gangotri base camp. We planned to try again on the next day from Jogin side as we do not have enough equipment to go via Gangotri III side. Next day when we start climbing from Jogin side, we found that this route is more deadly than we imagine and full of glaciers and crevasses. This option also did not materialized and we came back to base camp. Finally we planned for a decent as our food was also finishing and there were no good and fresh water near the camp site to drink. Last 2 days we used muddy glacier water and fresh snow to prepare drinking water.
On top of the ridge and looking for Auden's route
Another view of closed road by avalanche
Other side view of Glaciers near Auden base camp
This side route is washed out on an avalanche
Early morning view from Gangotri base camp
Rudragaira side from our Gangotri camp
Source of our drinking water for 2 days - muddy water
Jogin from our campsite
Jogin playing with cloud
Sun ray on top of Gangotri
Some deadly crevasses near GBC
video

Day 5: GGBC to Nala camp:
We start descending with a dishearten mind. We started the day quite late (9:30 AM) as the descending path was known to us. We almost follow the same route and came back to Nala camp around 2:30 PM via Rudragaria.

Day 6: Nala camp to Gangotri:
Unlike all previous day, surprisingly today weather was clear and no rain/snow fall. We start our descend at 9 AM and reached Gangotri at 1:30 PM. Team went back to Uttarkashi for some good food but I stayed in Gangotri GMVN for a quick Gaumukh trip.

Gomukh:
Goumukh is the source of river Ganga and a holly place. From Gangotri to Gomukh, it is 19 KM and you need 2 days to return. The route is via Chirbasa (3600mt) and Bhojwassa (3792 Mt). One needs Uttarkashi District Forest officer approval to head towards Goumukh and everyday only 150 approvals sanctioned. you need to fill up a form and share your photo identity proof xerox. You can get the permission from Uttarkashi or Gangoti.
Gangotri temple ground
From Gangotri to Chirbasa it is 9 KM and takes almost 5 hours. I started at 6:15 AM from Gangotri GMVN Yatri-nibas and reached the check-post (2 km away) around 8 AM. I reached Chirbasa around 10:30 am. 
No Plastic please
Chirbasa is a beautiful place with Debdaru, Farn, Blue pine, Silver far forest.
Chirbasa
Bhojbassa is 5 KM away from Chirbasa and the path is full of risky bolder and loose stone zone. You will find quite a few Himalayan blue sheep here.
Road from Chirbasa to Bhujbasa
Himalayan Blue Sheep
I have reached Bhojbasa at 1:15 PM. There are couple of camp and one GMVN rest house along with Lal Baba Ashram. I stayed at the Ashram and took a quick lunch before I left for Goumukh on the same day.
Me infront of Bhujbasa and Gomukh in far behind
Mt Shivling
I started at 2 for Gomukh which is 4 KM away from Bhusbasa and reached there around 3:45 PM. There were no one and it was snowing. I stayed there for quite some time before I came back to Bhujbasa.
Shiva
Gomukh - moved 1 KM behind in last 70 years
 Next day morning I started early around 6:30 AM and reached Gangotri by 11:30 AM and then to Uttarkashi.
Bhagirathi range
For more snaps, please visit my Flickr account. PFB direct link:


Saturday, 18 March 2017

Mulkarkha Lake - Oct 2016


Mulkarkha lake is one of the less known destination of north Bengal. This lake is situated in the border of East Sikkim and West Bengal. There is one home stay at Mulkarkha village (run by Purnima di and she can plan and arrange your entire trip, NJP to NJP).
From Mulkarkha village it is an easy 30 minutes walk to Mulkarkha lake. This lake is also known as ‘Wishing lake’ and is a holy lake. If the weather is clear, you can get a clear reflection of Mt. Kanchenjunga in the lake water. People mainly cover Lindsey, Mulkarkha, Tagathan, Jhisung in this trek and this is a very easy trek and easily completed in 3-4 days.

Day 1 (NJP to Mulkarkha – car and 2 hours walk)
Our plan was made by Purnima di (owner of Mulkarkha home stay) and she arranged cab for us. When we reached NJP on 8th Oct morning, we find the van waiting for us. We planned to take our breakfast in the hills and without wasting time we moved on.
Beautiful Tista on the way
We reached Rhenock around noon and had our lunch. There was a beautiful local market at Rhenock.
Rhenock market
We reached the end of motorable road around 3:30 PM. Purnima di sent her little nephew to guide us for remaining 2km of non-motorable road. 
End of the motor road and our little guide is here
By the time we reached Mulkarkha home stay it was raining and lot of leach welcome us on the way. But after reaching the homestay the food and hospitality of Purnima di blown away all the hurdle. The beauty of this region is all foods are organic and homegrown.
Mulkarkha Home Stay
Day 2 (Mulkarkha - forced rest day)
Since last day evening it was raining hard and we were forced to cancel our lake visit plan. But staying at room and looking the thunderstorm in hills is just awesome. Moreover, when you have some delicious organic local foods, roasted local chicken along with ‘Tongba’ (traditional and indigenous alcoholic beverage of Limbu people of eastern Nepal) and a group of close friends.
Post rain weather survey
North bengal hills are really romantic after rain
Mulkarkha village after rain
Tongba
Day 3 (Mulkarkha lake and Tagathan)
Today the weather is bit clear and we started for Mulkarkha lake in the morning. When we reached, it was still cloudy and we missed the majestic reflection of world’s 3rd highest peak.
Mukarkha lake

Safikul, Pratul, Mr Guide, Abhijit & Kanchan in front of Mulkarkha Lake
We came back to our home stay around 11 am and took our lunch. After lunch we had some photo session with the beautiful people of Mulkarkha homestay and headed towards Tagathan, our night stay destination for the day.
Purnima di at extreme right and her crew member along with us
The trek route from Mulkarkha to Tagathan is very beautiful and full off green. It took us 3 hours to reach Tagathan from Mulkarkha home stay.
Upper Tagathan

Local Cardamom 

Tagathan village and nice view of Newra valley National Park 

Kanchan taking rest near Tagathan
video



Day 4 (Tagathan to NJP via Jhusing and Lingzey)

Jhusing is also another beautiful place and is about 2 hours walk from Tagathang. The lush green village walk is very eye soothing. The bird chirping and singing in zero pollution area will make you feel heveny.
Hand made fence in Tagathan village

Colorful Tagathan
Tagathan to Jhusing village walk between Cardamom  tree
Jhisung

Jhusing Home Stay
There is a very beautiful Falls named as Serveng falls near Jhusing homestay. One need to walk down hill for 30 minutes to reach the 200 ft high falls.
200 ft high Serveng falls

video

And the most painful part of every tour - Returning
Few information:
Mulkarkha lake (7300 feet) is easy 30-40 mins hiking from Mulkharka village
Tagathan (5900 ft.) is 5 km downhill trek from Mulkarkha lake
Jhusing (5400 ft.) is 3 KM trek from Tagathan and requires 1 hour jungle road trek and 10 mnts road walk to reach.

Most of the people start from Lindsey and then stay at Jhusing and next day at Tagathan then Mulkarkha. This is a uphill trek and our plan was down hill and relatively easy.

Please find more details, snaps and video in following link: