Friday, April 04, 2014

Alang – Madan Trek – 15 & 16 March, 2014 – Part 1 – Madan

This time I missed the trek to Kothaligad (Peth Fort) with my regular Weekend Trekkers group on 08 March, 2014 since I wasn't available on that day. But I wanted to do a trek in March and hence I called up Nilesh Patil who heads a renowned trekking group, Trek Mates India (TMI) since they were organising the Alang-Madan Trek on 15 and 16 March, 2014 which is considered to be the toughest trek in Maharashtra.

When I called up Nilesh, he asked me about my weight first. I was taken a little aback by his question but told him that my weight was 85 Kgs. He then explained to me that while climbing the 70 feet rock patch on Alang, they have to literally pull up people since it's almost a flat rock patch with very minimal holds and hence they require the participant's weight to be under 75 Kgs (80 Kgs max.). He also asked me whether I was a regular trekker to which I replied positively. Since I didn't want to miss this trek, I urged him to speak with his team mate, Manoj Kalwar who knows about my trekking experience and has even accompanied me during our Sarasgad trek last year. I then called up Manoj immediately  and asked him to speak to Nilesh about me which he promptly did. Nilesh agreed to take me along and I was delighted. I still can't thank Manoj enough for his help. You will come to know why after you read my trek experience below.

We were to meet at Thane railway station to catch the last Kasara local train at 1:09 am on Saturday morning. So, I packed my bag and met up with my fellow trekkers at the station. Nilesh joined us at Kalwa and a few others including six female members joined us later. It was great to know that even females wanted to attempt this trek since I was under the impression that only male members would register for this trek. The moment Nilesh joined us, everyone started singing songs to pass the time. The train halted at Titwala station for a long time and finally we reached Kasara station at 3:55 am, an hour behind schedule.

Waiting at Thane Railway Station for the last 1:09 am Kasara local trainSinging songs in the Kasara local train to pass our time

The train halted at Titwala station for a long timeReached Kasara Railway Station at 3:55 am

Two jeeps were waiting for us outside the station. We got into them and  halted at Baba Da Dhaba on the Mumbai-Nasik National Highway to have tea/coffee.

Drinking Tea/Coffee at Baba Da Dhaba on the Mumbai-Nasik National HighwayThe jeeps in which we travelled to the base village Ambewadi

Later on, we reached the base village, Ambewadi (in Igatpuri) at about 5:00 am. We refreshed ourselves at our local contact Laakhan's house and took a short nap on the front-yard till 6:15 am. Everyone got up and got ready. Nilesh distributed some food material amongst us for us to carry along (he had asked us to keep space vacant in our bags for 1 to 1.5 Kgs of material). My bag was actually over-weight and I had to remove a few things to make it lighter – a lesson well learnt!

Taking a short nap at AmbewadiGetting ready for the trek

We started our introduction round at about 6:45 am. Along with the introduction, each one of us was asked to talk about our trekking, rock climbing and rappelling experiences. Nliesh then pointed towards Alang and Madan and explained about how to go about the trek. He showed us a white rock patch on Alang and told us that we had to reach a cave below the white patch, keep our bags in the cave, traverse around Alang along the right hand side of the cave, reach the col between Alang and Madan, climb the steps on Madan, climb the 40 feet rock patch on Madan to reach the top, come back to the cave after rappelling down the 40 feet rock patch, take our bags, climb a 25 feet rock patch on the left hand side of the cave to reach the white rock patch, climb a tough 70 feet rock patch beside the white rock patch and a few dangerous steps to reach the top of Alang, stay in a cave on Alang and descend the next day morning. It's said that the British had blown off the steps that were in place of these rock patches to prevent freedom fighters from accessing these strategic forts.

Our introduction roundOur team lead Nilesh Patil explaining about the trek

Laakhan arranged for two guides. One of them, Kailash, was to do a free climb of the two rock patches on Alang and Madan. We were all very keen to watch him do that. Nilesh handed over a packet of Puranpolis to each one of us. I was thinking why would anyone eat something so sweet early in the morning. But then Nilesh explained the logic. Jaggery is an instant energy provider and since the Puranpolis were stuffed with jaggery, they would give us that extra energy shot when required during our trek.

We started our trek at 7:15 am with the guides in the lead. The Sun was beautifully rising behind Kalsubai, the tallest peak in Maharashtra (Alang and Madan are a part of the Kalsubai range of mountains). We walked on the village tar road for about 10 minutes and then took a left turn to go on the Alang trail.

The rays of the rising sun piercing the clouds above KalsubaiWe walk on a tar road for about 10 minutes in the beginning

A close-up of Alang & Madan - the white rock patch on Alang is clearly visibleGolden Sunrise over Kalsubai

After about half an hour of walk, we started climbing a hill. We were to reach its top, follow a traverse patch and then climb again to reach Alang.

We had to climb this hill before climbing AlangClimbing the hill before Alang

At about 8:35 am, we reached a small water cistern where we refreshed ourselves and refilled our bottles with clear drinking water from the cistern (it's advisable to carry at least 5 litres of water for this trek and drink it very conservatively). We wouldn't have found the cistern without the help of our guides because it's off the trail and a bit hidden. At 9:00 am, we came across a stone carving of Lord Hanuman. Our guide Kailash offered a coconut and incense sticks to the lord to get His blessings.

Prashant filling his water bottle at the water cisternHanuman Mandir on our way - our guides worshipped the deity before moving on

We continued to go uphill and reached the first flight of steps carved in stone at 9:40 am. At 10:15 am, we reached the cave below the white rock patch that we had seen from the base village.

We reach the first flight of steps on AlangThe small cave on Alang where we had to reach

We left our bags in this small cave on Alang and marched towards MadanView of Ambewadi from the small cave on Alang

After refreshing ourselves, we started our traverse around the Alang mountain at 10:30 am. The traverse route was very narrow and from this point onwards there was no room for any error. We could see the steps carved on Madan all along this route. In about 20 minutes, we reached the col between Alang and Madan after which we started our ascend of Madan.

The narrow traverse route on AlangThe staircase on Madan that we were to climb is visible on the right hand side of the mountain

The col between Alang and Madan (as seen from Madan)The staircase on Madan

At 11:10 am, we reached a dangerous spot where there was very little footing available thereby exposing us to the valley below. Nilesh and team tied a rope across this spot and this is where Nilesh did a daring act. He actually stood a little below the spot and guided each and every one of us across it, supporting some of us with his bare hand! At 11:25 am, all of us crossed this spot successfully.

Crossing a Dangerous Spot on Madan

We went around a small bend ahead and reached a flight of steps where we had to wait for our turn to climb the 40 feet rock patch just ahead of these steps. The steps were so narrow that only one person could sit on a single step and we were again exposed to the deep valley below. Though we were feeling sleepy due to lack of sleep in the night, we dared not to doze off on these steps for obvious reasons. It was at this point where we got our first view of the 4,820 feet Kulang mountain along with the Bhavali earthen dam at a far distance behind it. We could see why the Kulang trek is the tallest climb in Maharashtra (base to the top – though Kalsubai is the tallest peak in Maharashtra at 5,400 feet, it's not the tallest climb because the base village Bari itself is at an elevation of 2,400 feet)! The clouds were casting their shadows on the plains below.

The deep exposure to the valley below the dangerous spot on MadanWaiting for our turn to climb the 40 feet rock patch on Madan

View of Kulang Fort with Bhavali Earthern Dam behind itThe passing clouds casting their shadow on the plains

I was on the lowermost steps and hence couldn't witness the free climb of our guide Kailash on the rock patch. After going up, Kailash pulled up the other guide and Nilesh. After reaching the top of the rock patch, Nilesh set up the rope for climbing along with a belay rope that was to be used by the climber for support. We were provided with harnesses and Aniket Thosar, who's a part of the organising team, was helping us secure the harnesses and co-ordinating our climb from the bottom end of the rock patch. Everyone started climbing the rock patch one by one with the trekkers at the bottom cheering every climber. Those who couldn't climb the patch properly were literally pulled up by the local guides. I was one of the last ones to climb the patch. I did put in efforts to climb the rock like a lot of other fellow trekkers except for a couple of points where I couldn't get a grip on the rock and had to be pulled up at these points by the local guides. I was on top at about 1:30 pm, after almost a 2-hour wait, with a few bruises on my hands.

Rashmi climbing the 40 feet rock patch on Madan with help from the local guides and AniketShashank climbing the 40 feet rock patch on Madan with help from the local guides

Once on top of the patch, we could see the U-shaped plateau on top of Alang for the first time. It took us 20 more minutes to reach the top of Madan after climbing another flight of dangerous steps and passing a water tank and a cave. Lot of trekkers spend the night in the cave on Madan. The views from Madan's top were breath-taking with Kalsubai, Sakira, Kirda and Alang peaks on the left, Ghatghar Dam, Ghatghar Konkankada (Konkan-cliff) and Thane district (on the plains) in front and Kulang on the right. After spending about 10-15 minutes at the top, we started our descend.

The U-shaped plateau of Alang visible from MadanMore steps on Madan
  
Cave on MadanKulang peak on the right hand side from Madan's summit
  
Ghatghar Dam, Ghatghar Konkankada (Konkan-cliff) & Thane district (on the plains) visible in front from Madan's summitKalsubai, Sakira, Kirda & Alang peaks on the left hand side from Madan's summit

We filled up drinking water from the cistern on our way down. While going down the steps, we observed a pair of huge vultures flying to their nest on Alang. Again, we had to wait for our rappelling turn and a couple of us even dozed off while waiting. The time was about 2:30 pm and we were feeling hungry. Nilesh had advised us to carry a part of our lunch along (that we had got from home) and have the remaining part once we were back at the cave on Alang. All of us who were waiting shared the food that we were carrying with us.

Anil posing on our way down the steps on MadanShashank & Sanket dozing off while waiting for their rappelling turn

Nilesh was ready at the top of the rock patch with the ropes. In fact, he had tied the main rappelling rope firmly around himself. One by one, we were wearing the harnesses (and hand gloves this time) and Nilesh was guiding us in rappelling down, instructing us to keep our legs straight and apart and look where we were stepping instead of looking up at him. I rappelled down successfully at about 3:15 pm and went down the steps and traverse patch to join the others in the cave on Alang at about 4:00 pm.

Nilesh fastening the harness of Rashmi before she rappelled down the 40 feet rock patch on MadanGoing down the steps after rappelling down the 40 feet rock patch on Madan

Rock Climbing & Rappelling on the 40 Feet Rock Patch on Madan

...continued in my next post - Alang – Madan Trek – 15 & 16 March, 2014 – Part 2 – Alang

Note to Readers: If you like this blog post or if you find the information that I have provided in this blog post useful to you or if you have any query, I will really appreciate if you leave your comment below.

4 comments:

  1. Really Your Blogs were Osum... And your group is really Crazy ...

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for the appreciation, Suresh! :)

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  2. Chief just read your blog and it's beautifully written. What makes this write up even more interesting are the videos.

    ReplyDelete