|Elevation||5,490 m (18,012 ft)|
|Location||Uttarkashi district, Garhwal division, Uttarakhand, India|
|Range||Garhwal Himalaya, Greater Himalayas|
Auden's Col is a high altitude mountain pass connecting Rudugaira valley and Bhilangna valley. It is situated at 5,490 metres (18,010 ft) elevation and connects the ridge coming from Gangotri III (6580 m) peak on the north-west and the ridge coming from Jogin I (6465 m) on the east, and also binds a glacier coming from Jogin I on the north side of Rudugaira valley, and deadly Khatling glacier on the south side of Bhilangna valley.
Rudra ganga stream or Rudragairu (gairu means deep) or Rudugaira gad drains Rudugaira glacier and eventually flows into Bhagirathi (Ganga) river near Gangotri, and Bhilangna river originates from Khatling glacier and meets Bhagirathi near Old Tehri.
The pass is named after John Bicknell Auden of the Geological Survey of India, who first discovered it in 1935 and crossed it in 1939. Mr Harish Kapadia and Mr Romesh Bhattacharjee from the Himalayan Club repeated Auden's explorations in the late eighties.
Auden's Col is arguably one of the most dangerous passes in Garhwal Himalaya as the pass and the Khatling glacier are heavily infested with crevasses. Also, by crossing Auden's Col and then Mayali Pass, one can trek from Gangotri to Kedarnath, both among holiest Hindu temples.
Trekking route, schedule, and plan depends on a trekker's ability, experience, as well as prevailing weather condition. Since the trek is strenuous and dangerous, it is advisable to secure, well in advance, services of a guide who has first-hand knowledge of the trek, and possibly has done it several times. A typical route plan in good weather condition is as following.
Reaching Gangotri (3050 m) : There are train, bus, car/taxi services from New Delhi or Dehradun to Haridwar / Rishikesh. From Rishikesh, taxis and buses are available to go to Gangotri via Uttarkashi. Uttarkashi is the last point to purchase food provisions. Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, one of the best mountaineering schools in India, is conveniently located in Uttarkashi and is good place to rent various trekking and mountaineering equipment. If one needs to hire guide and high altitude porters, Uttarkashi is the last (and the best) possible point to do so on the way to Gangotri. Forest permissions needed for the trek can be obtained either at Uttarkashi or Gangotri. It is a good idea to spend a day in Gangotri doing acclimatization trek.
Gangotri—Nala Camp (3760 m) : It is gradual beautiful climb through pine and birch forests, and Nala campsite is by the Rudragaira river. First glimpse of the Gangotri III peak.
Nala Camp—Rudugaira Base Camp (4350 m) : Birch forests give way to green meadows. There are steep climbs and rock fall zones and a river crossing on the way to Rudugaira Base Camp site. Camp site offers views of Rudugaira peak, Gangotri I, Gangotri II, Gangotri III, and Jogin I.
Rudugaira Base Camp—Gangotri Group Base Camp (4500 m) : It is nice, short and gradual climb through moraine. The camp site offers closer views of Gangotri peaks. On a clear day, it is possible to get first glimpse of Auden's Col.
Gangotri Group Base Camp—Auden's Col Base Camp (4720 m) : Again gradual climb on moraine and ridge through a valley surrounded by Gangotri and Jogin peaks, with glacier flowing on the right. Auden's Col becomes clearly visible and increasingly prominent.
Auden's Col Base Camp—Auden's Col Advanced Base Camp (4975 m) : More of gradual climb on moraine and ridge. Camp site is situated at the end of the ridge where glaciers on left and right merge, right before the ice field leading to the Col.
Cross Auden's Col (5490 m), to Khatling Glacier Camp (5000 m) : This is the longest and hardest part. It is better to start really early, preferably by 5:00am, as snow plodding becomes difficult as sun comes up. Approach to Col is littered with crevasses, so team must be roped. On a clear day, Rabbit Ears are clearly visible, and magnificent views are on offer at the pass. Descend to Khalting side is steep, initially scree and then ice, and might require rappelling. At the base of the descent, a 1–2-metre-wide crevasse runs end to end, and there are a couple of snow bridges. After descend, it is a long roped walk through crevasse infested Khatling glacier. At Khatling Glacier Camp site, there is a small patch of stones, but camping on glacier ice is also possible. Camp site also offers amazing views of virgin unknown pass and valley on the west side.
Cross waterfall zone to reach Khatling Base camp at Bhilangna river snout (3800 m) : Another difficult day regardless of whether one crosses waterfalls or remaining of Khatling. However, after crossing boulder zone at the Bhilangna river snout, the camp site offers much-needed respite and greenery. Hard part of trek is over now. An alternate is to descend all the way down to Khatling Glacier and keep walking towards its snout. This path is not chosen due to dangerous crevasses and a need to cross over the Ice Wall.
Bhilangna snout—Kharsoli (2880 m) : Green meadows gives way to pine and birch tree forests. Kharsoli is lush green camp site.
Kharsoli—Gangi (2500 m) : Nice walk through dense Deodar tree forests. With shepherds, first sign of civilization appear. There is a Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) operated guest house at Gangi.
Gangi—Ghuttu (1550 m) : Trek ends with a slow descend to Ghuttu village. There is a camp site as well as GMVN guest house. A road connects Ghuttu to Kedarnath highway.
Returning from Ghuttu : Take public transportation or private jeeps to Guptakashi on Kedarnath National Highway 109, which has regular traffic going to Rudraprayag, and further down to Srinagar, Rishikesh, and Haridwar.
Acclimatization and rest days should be added as needed based on weather as well as state of trekkers. Some of the camps on the way to Auden's Col Advanced Base Camp can be skipped, again based on capability and state of trekkers and support staff. There are some instances of teams camping at the top of Auden's Col, but on bad weather day with high wind and snowfall, it can turn highly risky. That is why starting very early on the pass crossing day is highly desirable to get ample time. If there is delay for any reason, it is better to descend to the Khatling side and camp at a suitable place in the vicinity of the base of the pass.
- J B Auden, "A Season's Work in Central Himalaya", Himalayan Journals, Vol. XII, p. 21.
- Harish Kapadia, Across Peaks & Passes in Garhwal Himalaya, p. 210, ISBN 8173870977, Indus Publishing, 1999.
- Raacho, Anshul Chaurasia. "Auden's Col Trek - Gangotri to Kedarnath". Raacho Trekkers. Retrieved 9 July 2021.