What comes to your mind when I say Planet Earth? For me, it’s the grandeur, the massive scale of our planet. Specially when in the high mountains, it’s a realization of how we as humans are such a tiny part of this grand planet called Earth but instead of that we have such a huge footprint on our planet.
The great white glaciers, the massive snow covered fields, sudden changing weather, tall mountains, up there we are always at the mercy of nature, instead the sad truth is that nature is at the mercy of us humans. Our planet is dying, and it’s up to us to save it from ourselves.
In January 2017, I started planning for one of the best and most intense expeditions I have ever been on. The 3 pass trek which takes us across Patangini Dhar, Auden’s Col and Mayali pass (all passes above 5000 meters).
The overall journey of about 150 km, covered in a span of 12-13 trek days, taking us across the Gangotri valley towards Kedarnath. It was indeed way too intense, wherein we have faced fierce snow blizzards during our base camp days.
As soon as we reached the base of Auden’s Col, we were engrossed by one such blizzard where winds were blazing fast and snow didn’t stop for almost 6-7 hours. The team from Raacho Trekkers helped pitch our tents during those insane times and made us comfortable with some hot soup.
If you have a seasoned experience of trekking in the mountains, keen on exploring the tougher higher routes of extreme Himalayas, this expedition is one for you. I definitely wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who is a newbie or has less experience in the mountains.
Emerald green Himalayan lake – Kedartal
Our trek towards Kedartal was full of moraine and those sliding rocks, but the beauty that lie right in front of us was the mighty Himalayan mountains. Anywhere you go, Bhrigupanth and Thalaysagar were peeping on to you, as if they are more eager to see us than we are.
I recently came across those internet memes of mountains talking about we don’t call anyone these humans just pretend to be cool, but those moments on our trek towards Kedartal were really as if these mountains were inviting you. The power of attraction that these mountains possess is nothing less than the so-called calling of mountains.
Kedartal is definitely one of the most beautiful glacial lakes I have ever seen.
Its massiveness, its emerald charm, its space sharing with the mightiest snow covered peaks like Thalaysagar and Bhrigupanth, everything about it can leave you in awe of this lake.
As it was our acclimatization day, we got the whole day to spend with this beauty, and that’s exactly what we did. Imagine taking a quick nap right besides this lake while soaking the Himalayan sun. The feeling was mesmerising, and I feel this picture can do that poetic justice with the feeling.
We all are missing the mountains. I have been in the city for quite a long time now with itchy feet and empty pockets. But it’s pictures and memories like these which keep me motivated to head on to big expeditions soon.
I was scrolling through my expedition photos from 2017 and came across this one taken en-route Kedartal on the journey to scale Auden’s Col. Where Thalaysagar and Bhrigupanth and peeking into the frame.
The pristine beauty of this emerald lake always leaves me in awe whenever I see any of its picture in my stock.
Sharing this frame with the green glacial lake Kedartal, are the mighty Bhrigupanth (on top left) and Thalay Sagar (on top right) peaks.
Our team member standing atop a rock, basking the stupendous beauty of Gangotri Himalayas.
Kedartal is a huge glacial lake at the base of Thalaysagar, one of the mighty peaks of the Himalayas, a crazy climb as well. The fresh water lake situated above 4000mtrs in the upper reaches of Himalayas looks so green when viewed from the top. It’s that emerald green colour that caught my eyes, and I was completely mesmerized by its charm.
I have recently seen a documentary by a couple of Russian mountaineers who have scaled this massive peak of Thalaysagar from its most difficult fully exposed face. I was wondering the whole time when I saw the peak right in front of my eyes that how did they really manage to climb that face.
It was our acclimatisation day at the campsite which is a few kilometres down the lakeside, and so headed up to the lake to enjoy these gigantic views. The emerald green water of the lake with Thalaysagar peeking at you from all angles is such an overwhelming experience.
One of our team mate went towards the base of Thalaysagar and we all thought we should probably head out to see him as the wait got so long that some of us even slept at the lake waiting for him to come back.
Just when we were thinking of moving down as the clouds were building up, one of the teammates wanted to head up to the ridge once and see how far that guy is, and that gave me a perfect opportunity to capture this shot.
The base of Thalaysagar was almost 2 km far as described by the guy who went there, and thus it took so long for him to come back traversing the roundabout. But by the sight of it, the mountain looks so huge from this far that you can touch it right away. Thus, I composed this shot as putting my friend in the picture to establish the right scale with how massive the whole view was.
We waited for 2 days at Patangini Dhar base camp due to the bad weather. The next day, we finally got a clear weather window and managed to dash up the pass quickly in the morning.
After crossing Patangini Dhar, our first pass on the 3 passes trek, we had crossed the huge steep ice slopes to reach down near the base of Auden’s Col and got to witness such small water pools on the way, filled with clear fresh water.
Ever felt like watching down on the whole world?
This is how it looks when you are standing at a Col at 18000 feet.
Infinitely spread white layer of snow. This top patch is the only less inclined part throughout the climb.
The beauty of the world seems unparalleled to anything from such an amazing vantage point. It was probably one of the happiest moment I had, fighting all the hardships to stand at this point called as Auden’s Col.
Start of the climb
The start of the climb before reaching the base of Auden’s Col is almost a flat very long deep snow patch from where one can see the humongous crevasses ahead en-route the Col climb.
Finding the right route on a soft snow surface is as important as our life, any wrong step and someone could have gone way deep into the crevasse, but that’s the charm of such an adventure.
There’s uncertainty in everything that we do but as soon as you go ahead and cross those uncertain patches in life, and turn back to see it, it doesn’t look as impossible as we have thought of it to be. Gather some strength and take the plunge, I am sure when you turn back to see on your life, you will definitely understand it wasn’t that difficult
Rabbit’s ear of the Col
This is how the gigantic Auden’s Col looked from the very top. After successfully reaching the top of the pass, we finally got some breathing time after all the crazy efforts during the last 5-6 hours of climbing straight up to this 18k feet high mountain pass.
With some pictures and selfies as we were about to leave for our descent, a few porters came up from behind us and started walking on the trail with the massive amount of weight. They do look so small in front of the huge mountains, but the efforts they put behind the success of any expedition is nothing less the weight of these mountains. These guys are the real superheroes behind any mountain expedition. Hats off to the porters of our team.
This was the crazy steep drop that one needs to cross to get down from Auden’s Col to Khatling glacier. It was a very steep decline, which is mostly ice, but we had a great snowfall last night because of which we managed by cutting steps in snow and the rope.
This is supposed to be the most dangerous part of the whole route and the trek was yet not over even after this as the deadly Khatling Glacier was waiting for us, one of the longest glaciers. You can see our porters getting down ahead of us on this dramatic slope.
The lake here is named Masar tal, situated at an altitude of above 4000 meters, and it was our campsite for the day. We reached here quite on time as the weather was getting bad and as soon as we reached, we were hit by a hailstorm which quickly converted to a snow storm.
The weather changes every minute at such high altitudes and camping, while gaining altitude, in bad weather is even more dangerous. But then we had an insane long day ahead of it, and we all were well acclimatised so we survived the night and woke up early in the morning for another bright sunny day.
The view of our last campsite gave us a mix of emotions. It was a happy and sad moment indeed. As soon as I saw our campsite from a distance, which was right besides the beautiful Vasuki Taal, it looked nothing less than heaven. And the next thought was that this is going to be our last campsite after such arduous trek for so many days and now the expedition is coming to an end.
We were really happy to be finally coming out of all the pain and struggle that we did for such a long time in those seldom explored lands. But then a small part of me wished to stay back as well. Coming out of the mountains and moving towards the city always becomes a very nostalgic moment.
Photoblog by: Nitish Waila