With India’s population nearly at a fifth of the world’s headcount, squeezed into 2.4 per cent of its land mass, it is rare to get a true sense of ‘wilderness’ even in the remotest areas of our part of the Himalaya.
The Auden’s Col trek in Garhwal is an exception–a spectacular getaway, with the assurance that it is just you and your (hopefully well-chosen) companions for the nine days it takes to go from Gangotri to Kharsoli.
The Gangotri and Jogin massifs form a formidable wall, separating the Rudugaira Valley from Bhilangna with this small depression in their ridge line, just accessible enough at 18,011 ft to offer a way across.
The journey is spectacular, through alpine forests on the Gangotri side, giving way to high-altitude scrub and vast mountain views, then scree and moraine– all in the span of a few days. Then, after an arduous ascent through a crevasse-cut slope, is the col, affording a breathtaking view of the Khatling Glacier. After an abseil down this mighty glacier, and the chilling experience of traversing it, one comes off on the moraine, down a Tolkienian landscape edged with high cliffs from which waterfalls plunge.
The exit is along the Bhilangna river, surging from the mouth of the Khatling after a couple of days’ walk through dense Himalayan forest. Altogether, this is one of the most isolated and scenic treks in the Himalaya.