10/19/04: Trek to Auli
Ascent 1,540 32,564
Descent 3,660 30,871
We had anticipated a gradual descent from out camp at around 12,000 ft to Auli where we would sleep in a real bed for the first time in two weeks. Instead of taking a lovely rock path that led in to the valley below, Retan pointed upward and we began bush whacking (no trail) up a rocky slope until we gained a serpiginous, slimy half frozen trail on the ridge line. Today we hiked 21 kilometers of some of the most amazing trail I have ever been on.
We followed this trail that wandered above tree line for
several kilometers. As we headed northwest the views of the high
After wandering through the woods for a time we again climbed above tree line. For the next four hours the trail traversed steep hill sides and cliffs. As spectacular as the views of the mountains were they paled in comparison to the exposure on the trail. At times the mountain side was so steep that the trail was burrowed in to the mountain side. There would be cliff hanging overhead and shear drops of several hundred feet below. At one memorable spot on the trail a small slide had occurred leaving a six foot stretch where the trail was about 12 inches wide sloping downward and then dropping off about 200 feet.
I am fairly comfortable with heights from rock climbing, but I was worried that Mo would have some issues. I didn’t need to worry, she just kept her eyes on the trail and hardly slowed down. For a stretch of about 2 miles any step off the 18” wide trail would have been death.
The most spectacular views of the day, and possible of the
trip, occurred when we reached a point on the trek where our direction turned
from north to a more westerly direction. At that point you could not only
To my right, 55 miles as the crow flies and just past Nanda
Devi to the east, is
Straight ahead just over Changabang is
Changabang summit catching the late evening sun
To my left northwest over the four peaks of Chaukhamba is
A short time later we entered the upper slopes of the Auli
ski area. It is one of only two ski resorts in
As we descended we encountered more people. Met a doctor
and his family who were visiting from
As we came on to the ski area proper we could see a tram that came up from Auli to the ski slopes. The tram is a recycles Swiss model that is 4.1 kilometers long. After another hour of descending we came in to a clearing and there was the Cliff Top Lodge. With its white washed walls and red trim roof it looked like a worthy reception back to the comforts of the modern world.
Cliff Top Lodge, Auli
To be honest I have mixed emotions about leaving the trail. During our time trekking I felt part of something unique and special. The rhythm of traveling by foot was becoming very comfortable. As it turned out I didn’t need to stress about being thrown back in to civilizations since the Cliff Top Lodge turned out to be just another unique Indian experience.
Everything in this “resort” had been built in the past 20 years, yet they had managed to maintain much of the feel of the predevelopment era. A gentleman named Jitender Singh described Auli in the late 80’s; “I went to Auli when it was still developing and I was only 16 years old in the late 1980's. There was no lift then, no proper housing, no food. We had to trek back up the slope every time we skied downhill, lived in tents on the snow and cooked our own food.”
Mo and I entered a small 8’ X 10’ lobby on the main floor. No computer check in and reservation system here, just a book and a pen. We then went through a door, past the ski rental shop and climbed six flights of stairs before we were introduced to our room. Incidentally, after having climbed 33,000 ft in two weeks, this felt like the hardest climb yet.
The entire Cliff Top Ski and Snowboard rental shop (Christie Sports eat your heart out)
We entered our two room suite at the resort. The first room was large, about 15 by 25 ft, with a small table and chairs in one corner. The floor covering was a well worn indoor outdoor carpet with a few holes. The air was heavy with mildew and the white walls were covered with the source of the odor. The temperature in the room was a tad colder than our average night time tent temperature. The second room was similar, but it did have a bed and there was a bathroom with a shower adjoining the bedroom.
The first thing we did was to call the front desk to report the heat was off. The clerk informed us that it in deed was on. This was hard to accept since there was no thermostat, no hitter vents and the air temp was about 40F. After some discussion about what constituted heat, they brought a space heater to the room.
Our next task was to wash some clothing since we still had
three days traveling before we got back to
Next, but not least, was what Mo had dreamed of for two weeks and I seriously desired, a hot shower. We could not get hot water, so I called the front desk. The clerk informed me that the showers would be turned on in the morning as usual. For many reasons this didn’t go over big, particularly since we were leaving at six in the morning. They agreed to turn on the shower special for us. An hour later there was still no hot water. We called again, but the clerk did not speak English. I decided that it would be best to just hike down stairs and talk to them in person. I was met by a very friendly fellow who seemed to understand our plight and would provide what was necessary to bath. As I got ready to head back up stairs, he asked “would you like the hot water brought up in a basin or running?”. I thought running would be best.
An hour later still no water. Mo went to the top brass at this point and after explaining that a shower tonight would really really be appreciated, he promised that not only would hot water be delivered running and hot, but that we could enjoy it for a full 30 minutes.
It was the best shower of our lives.
Next was dinner. They brought up dinner in courses and set them up on the table in room #1, the refrigeration unit. As soon as the waiter left we would shuttle the food in to the bedroom, close the door, and sit around the jet heater like it was a camp fire.
Finally it was time to sleep. The bed was so hard and supporting so much wild life (hopefully just flora), that we slept on our back packing mats.
We owe a dept of gratitude to the Cliff Top Lodge for easing us back in to the comforts of modern life. To give them credit though, they did pick a place with great views.
Nandi Devi Masif, (25,645 ft)
10/20/2004: 2100 Glass House on the
“What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger”. We have walked on two foot wide trails with 1,000 foot drop offs. We have climbed over 5,000 ft in a day to an elevation of 16,500 ft in a blizzard. We have slept in a tent for two weeks through snow, rain and cold. We have eaten nothing but home cooked Indian food for three weeks, but all of these pale in comparison for pure adrenaline overload, risk and mind numbing exhaustion compared to our drive from Auli to Rishikesh.