Night trek to Kalsubai-The highest peak in Maharashtra

Life is better in Hiking Boots”

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                     Kalsubai is a mountain in the Western Ghats  located in the Indian State of Maharashtra.. Its summit situated at an elevation of 1646 metres (5400 feet) is the highest point  in Maharashtra which earns it the much glorified title of the “Everest of Maharashtra”. The vastly spread out backwaters of Bhandardara attracts one’s attention from the top. To the north of the mountain range forts such as Ramsej, Harihargad, Brahmagiri, Anjaneri, Ghargad, Bahula, Tringalwadi, Kavnai can be seen. To the east one can spot Aundha, Vishramgad, Bitangad, to the west Alang, Madangad, Kulang, Ratangad (south west) and to the south Prabalgadgad, Ghanchakkar, Harishchandragad can be seen.

                            The mountain range lies within the Kalsubai Harishchandragad Wildlife Sanctuary. Kalsubai Harishchandragad Wildlife Sanctuary spreads from Kalasubai to Harischandragad in Akole tehsil of Ahmednagar district. This area is part of Sahyadri hill ranges. The Kalsubai Sanctuary is acutely rugged and hilly area; difficult and an absolute challenge to trekkers. Kalasubai is the highest peak of the Sahyadris on the Western Ghats in Maharashtra. It is also a heaven for nature lovers. The wildlife found here include the Leopard, Jungle cat, Palm civet, Fox, Wild Boar, Barking Deer, Sambar, Hare, and Bats. The main attractions at the sanctuary are the Indian Giant Squirrel and Porcupine. The main reptilian species found in this sanctuary are the Monitor Lizard, Fan-Throated Lizard, Turtles and a variety of snakes. Among the birds one can spot water birds such as White Necked Storks, Black Ibis, Herons, Egrets, Cormorants, Water hens. Kalsubai  is visited throughout the year by avid trekkers, Kalsubai temple devotees and wildlife enthusiasts alike.There are many stories regarding naming of the peak. One of the folklores is  that a woman named kalsu bai was punished by the villagers and forced to leave the village, that woman climbed this mountain and started living on it and died there. The peak was hence named after her.

                                    Partying at New year’s Eve is what I have been doing over the years and got tired.In 2015 for a change I wanted to be with nature and recharge my mind, body and soul.( also 2016 and this year)You can also do so instead of partying go in the wilds and come back rejuvinated.

While checking my mails I found one  from Mumbai Travellers for a Night Trek to Kalsubai. Nothing was more appealing than watching the sunrise on the first day of the year from the highest peak of Maharashtra and I promptly booked a place for myself. By now I was quite comfortable going solo on treks and trips with totally unknown people.

                                 According to the itinerary we were to assemble at Kasara railway station at 9 pm.I reached Thane station at 6pm to take the 7pm Kasara local.I was patiently waiting for the train to arrive and  was nervous seeing a huge crowd near the ladies compartment as I was not a frequent traveller by local trains , but  assured myself that  I will be able to board the train.On arrival of the train I could not get anywhere near the compartment  and so could not board the train.The next train was  at 8pm . I  was disheartened as I thought I have missed the trek as they had specified that those who  miss the train would miss the trek.With a lot of apprehension I called up the Trek leader to inform him that I have missed the train and  to my relief  learnt that 10 more guys of the group had also  missed the train. The trek leader  advised  me to take the next train and assured me that they  would wait for me at the station. Another trekker called me up and told me she would now take the train from Kalyan as it would be easier to get in from there .Since I was not very familiar with the route and was  not sure on which platform the other train would arrive, and whether there would be enough time to catch the next kasara local so I  decided to stay  put in Thane station. I had misjudged that the crowd would be less but to my dismay the crowd increased maybe because of new year eve, Mumbaikars were all heading to the getaways around Mumbai like Igatpuri Bhandardra etc.

                       I observed the First class compartments not so crowded, and after some quick thinking  decided to board the first class compartment to avoid missing this train . I was able to board the train comfortably and after kalyan the compartment got reasonably empty and I was again anxious as it was close to 9pm. But  to my relief, I met another lady who  was also alighting at Kasara.We got chatting, she looked like a local of Kasara and enquired if I was visiting someone. On learning that I was going to climb a mountain, she was very amused and wondered as to why would I do so !  🙂 As she was tired returning back from work, she soon fell asleep.

                       We reached Kasara at 10 pm and to my relief I located the  trek leader  waiting for us. After confirming that all the  trekkers had reached ,we boarded the waiting jeeps which took us to the base village Bari.I was surprised to learn that  there were exactly 100 trekkers.We squatted on the floor and were served with vegetable biriyani which tasted good. After dinner, we  assembled at a nearby temple and the customary intro round commenced beginning with the founders of Mumbai Travellers and the trek leaders.Our group consisted of guys from varied disciplines and there were quite a few CAs and Engineeers .

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The Customary Intro Round 

 

          The Mumbai Travelllers were also celebrating their Anniversary.The intro round finished at around 12 am and it was now time to usher in the new year with the customary cake cutting. Two cakes were  cut –  one for the new year and the other for the anniversary celebrations. We enjoyed a small piece of both the cakes and filled up the indemnity bonds. After a brief session of instructions, we set out at about 12.30 AM for the trek which  was  of four hours duration without any break as  we had to reach the summit by 4.am. There were 4 trek leaders which I thought was less for such a big group.

     

                                                                                   The Steep Ladders             

The climb was steep through steps cut into the rocks at a few places and we  reached the  ” First ladder” in a total of four  ladders that lead to the summit of Mount Kalsubai. This ladder is made of steel and crudely welded – a normal steel ladder fixed between boulders. We climbed up the ladder in a single file taking support from its railings. After crossing the first ladder, it was another steep climb through rock-cut stairways to  the “Second ladder.This was a long ladder, akin to climbing a three storey building, the steel steps crudely fabricated and definitely not for the faint-hearted or vertigo phobia trekkers. As the ladder was weak and narrow  it was always a “One Way Climb or Descend” on in a single file. Since we were a group of 100, the pace was slow it being a steep climb and night and one had to be extremely careful as one slip could result in a loss of life.We also had to maintain a safe distance between each trekker in order to avoid any  mishap. Strict Discipline had to be maintained and we all followed the instructions rigidly.Photography was not encouraged. I concentrated so much on the trek that I didn’t take any photographs while trekking. After climbing this ladder it was again a steep climb up rock-cut stairways to the “Third Ladder”.

  

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Playful monkeys at the summit

             There was a steep and very narrow rock cut path with water trickling making it very slippery. I found this stretch to be the most difficult leg. it took us almost an hour to cross the stretch since it could be crossed only one by one in a single file. After this we reached a flat stretch where the organisers had arranged paper lanterns and we were instructed how to open the lantern and a candle was placed inside and then was left free, many of us were successful while others could not manage to do due to the strong winds. soon the sky was dotted with lit lanterns giving a very beautiful sight at night.!The strong winds carried the lanterns higher. After this amazing experience, we commenced our onward journey and  soon  reached a plateau which was to be our halting place.It was cold and windy so we pulled out our warm jackets to get relief from the piercing cold winds.It was around 4 AM in the morning  and the sky was full of stars and looked  like a bejewelled woman .I was awestruck by the sight !! we took off our backpacks and many of us had carried snacks which we shared amongst ourselves. A fellow trekker was familiar with the galaxies and being a clear night, identified a few like  “The Milky Way”or Akashganga and the Sapt Rishimandal.The stars are also clearly visible, the area being pollution free .

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Mesmerising Sunrise

 

                      Soon we found the first flecks of the sun light and  were mesmerised by the scene unfolding before our eyes. This was the best new year gift which I gifted myself.The summit was yet to be reached and after walking through a thorny patch we reached the final ladder to the temple at the summit. It was very steep and many opted out.Though I too felt nervous but  was in no way going to miss the summit.

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The Thorny Bushes

I remembered a quote which was very apt “The best view comes after the hardest climb” which I found to be very apt.I was spellbound by the beautiful view from the summit.The early morning darshan of the temple at the summit  was very peaceful. After paying obeisance to the deity we headed for a breakfast of Maggie and tea which was a difficult task as it was almost impossible to keep the fires burning in the strong winds. After breakfast we started descending at about 10 o’clock in the morning.

 

                                                                                    The Descend

                  The descend was much easier than the ascend though there was lot of pressure on our knees . A trekking pole would be very helpful .We reached Bari around lunch time where we had a simple lunch of dal , rice, roti and a vegetable with papad pickle and salad at the same house we had our dinner the previous night.

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After having lunch outside the Village Home in Bari

                   The jeeps were waiting for us to drop us at the railway station from where I took the 3 0 clock CST local. I had to change train at Thane and was lucky to get a Nerul local and reached home around 6 PM with a sense of achievement and pride.

                                                         “Its your road and yours alone

                                                           Others may walk it with you

                                                           But no one can walk it for you”

                                                                                                                  Rumi

How to get there

  1. Take the Kasara local from a station nearby,there is a train every hour.You can check the schedule if you have the app m-indicator or check the railway timetable

2) You can book a jeep or share one at the railway station to take you to Bari the           base village

Travel tips

  • Wear Track pants or you can wear shorts/jeans too but track pants are more comfortable.Loose fitting T-shirt.
  • Cap,sunglasses/sunscreen
  • Warm jacket with hood to protect yourself from the cold winds.If trekking in the monsoon your rainwear.
  • 2 litres of water, some ready to eat healthy snacks like dry fruits and dates.You can carry energy bars too.Avoid chips and colas.It makes you thirsty and dehydrates you faster.
  • Wear a good pair of shoes with a strong grip.You can buy from decathlon outlets.
  • A trekking Pole will be helpful its not mandatory.
  • A backpack to put all your stuff.

 

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