Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mount Kalsubai Trek - Part I - The Climb

I had been to Bhandardara with my friends and their families last weekend. Little did I know that this trip would turn out to be a significant chapter in my life, for I conquered the highest peak in Maharashtra - Mount Kalsubai!

Bhandardara is a serene weekend getaway located about 185 kms from Mumbai (about 137 kms from Thane). It's at its best during the monsoon season when the entire stretch of land is painted in different hues of green. We stayed at the MTDC Resort which is the only resort located on the banks of the Bhandardara Lake (also called as Arthur Lake). We didn't have any plans to go for a trek on Mount Kalsubai till we reached there. After eating our lunch on Friday, 05 August, 2011, we met a local guide - Dadabhau Pawar who promptly agreed to take us on the trek. So we planned to start at 5:30 am the next morning from the resort.

I was supposed to go on the trek along with my friends Pankaj Mokal, Raju Bhilare and Narendra Pawar. However, Narendra had to drop out since he had swollen feet. This was the first ever trek for Pankaj and me. Raju had been on a successful trek to the Shivneri fort about 3 months back.

On Saturday, 06 August, 2011 morning, Pankaj, Raju and I assembled at the resort gate at 5:30 am but Dadabhau managed to reach there only at 6:10 am which is when we started our 10 km drive in Pankaj's car to Bari village located at the base of Mount Kalsubai. My wife had lovingly and thoughtfully packed a first aid kit and water bottles for us.

We reached Bari village at about 6:30 am and parked the car in front of a village shop. Dadabhau knew the shopkeeper very well who in turn agreed to look after the car. We started our trek at 6:35 am. Initially, we walked on the muddy roads of the village, through rice fields and even through a small waterfall where the water was knee-high.

[Note: Click on the snaps to enlarge them]

A dog was accompanying us on our journey and as per Dadabhau, she has even climbed to the summit along with trekkers many a times before.

After about 15 minutes, we started to climb and in about 20 minutes, we reached the Kalsubai Goddess temple which is also called the 'half trek' point though it's located at about quarter the distance of the entire trek.

At this point, Raju called it quits since he was wearing rainy shoes that were constantly slipping on the muddy trail. Pankaj also decided to stay back and accompany Raju. But they encouraged me to continue and offered to wait there till I come back. I really appreciated this gesture of theirs. I took the blessings of the Kalsubai Goddess, bid adieu to my friends and continued on the trek along with Dadabhau. The dog stayed back with my friends.

People say that the Kalsubai trek is not one of the toughest treks since the forest department has built 4 ladders and steps with railings at the steeper points of the trek in order to attract more trekkers to attempt climbing the mountain. Despite these 'amenities', it was always going to be tough for a first time trekker like me, especially when it was raining all the time.

The trail was pretty conspicuous but uphill with a couple of table-tops on the way. Dadabhau was climbing at ease as compared to me though he was wearing rainy chappals and was carrying the water bottles. The views of the mountains, waterfalls and the valley along the way were simply breathtaking and since I had a camera with me, I didn't miss on the opportunity of capturing these amazing natural scenes. There were rice fields as well on the way and as per Dadabhau, the villagers from the nearby villages climb the mountain along with their bullocks to carry out farming in these fields. There was also a small village house beside the fields with a small stall to sell refreshments. However, the stall was not manned at that time.

Dadabhau was constantly encouraging me on the way by saying that there's only 30%/25% distance left to the summit when actually there was more distance left to cover. After taking exactly 3 breaks of 2-3 minutes each and finishing a bottle of water on the way, we reached a well that's about 10-15 minutes from the summit. People say that the water in this well has never gone below 3 feet, but Dadabhau begged to differ. He climbs the mountain at least once every month and he says that he has seen the well go completely dry in summers. There was a small village house beside the well and we could see a villager sitting inside.

The visibility from the well onwards was a bit poorer because of fog and the wind was stronger. There were beautiful flower beds surrounding the trail starting just before the well and filled with small white and blue flowers.

Just ahead of the well, the last of the steps were visible. As we started climbing these steps, we could see the summit silhouetted against the sky because of the fog.

And then there was the final ladder standing on the sharp edged rocks of the summit.

I was so eager to reach the summit that I climbed this ladder real fast. Half way on the ladder, I could see a flag pole standing tall on the summit.

Slowly, the dome of a temple started becoming visible surrounded with railings.

Finally, I reached the summit and I was on top of the world! The feeling of laying foot on the summit and that too alone was heavenly. The entire summit was to myself. It was like as if I had attained Nirvana! My watch was showing 8:50 am, so it took me just about 2:15 hours to climb 1,646 metres (5,400 feet) to reach the summit of the highest peak in the Sahyadri range of the Western Ghats!

...continued in my next post - Mount Kalsubai Trek - Part II - The Summit...


  1. Hi Salil, I recently wrote a blog on Kalsubai Trek for that I used one of your image which was fitting with blog content. If you have any issues with it I'm ready to take it down. Here is the link Stairway to heaven

  2. Hey, Nihar, no problem. Please feel free to use the ladder image. I did read your post and it's well-written. Congrats on scaling the peak! Jai Kalsubai!

  3. Hi Salil,
    how safe is the ladder to climb?
    if 7 or 8 ppl climb in a row,will it impact the ladder?
    i really wanna climb but with precaution as im a beginner.
    can u suggest?

  4. Don't worry, Zia! This was my first trek as well. All the 4 ladders are pretty strong and safe. If you want to be cautious, best is to go 1/2 persons at a time.

  5. Anonymous2:25 pm

    nice pics, inspiring..

    1. Thank you for appreciating the pics!

  6. Good one! I am planning a visit Mt. Kalsubai this month. I hope it is safe this season.

    1. Thank you for the appreciation! Don't worry, it's a safe trek. Wish you all the very best!