Friday, December 17, 2010

Trek to Kudremukh

Trek to Kudremukh peak:
11-12th December 2010

It’s been a long time since we were planning for a trek. The extended monsoon season had hampered our plans. We could still manage to do a small trek to Gangadikal, a small peak in Kudremukh range a month back. As the monsoon began to recede we decided to trek one of the tallest peak in Karnataka in fact the second largest, the Kudremukh peak.
The ground work required for the trek started well ahead. We had phone numbers of the forest department for enquiries regarding the trek and stay (had acquired the number during the last visit to Kudremukh). We also came across a person who actually arranges for the entire trek activity. After a discussion with him we decided to go ahead with the plan to trek on 11th December 2010. Many of my colleagues and friends were interested in this activity, and as usual at the end of the mail chain activity many of them pulled out. Finally five people geared up for the trek, which was quite a good number.
Due to the lesser number of participants the vehicle needed to be changed. As usual we contacted our person who arranges vehicles for our trips. However this time the vehicle arrangement turned disastrous and we were left stranded on previous evening of our trek. This was not a good sign for the trip to begin with. The vehicle didn’t turn up for some reason, hence had to arrange for an alternate one. Using our various contacts we finally managed to get one, providing a sigh of relief and ending the frustrations.

Background of the peak:

Kudremukh is a big mountain range that is spread across three district of Karnataka namely Chikmagalur, Dakshin Kannada and Shimoga. These mountain ranges have few of the tallest peaks of Karnataka, making it a trekker’s paradise. Owing to the Naxal Activity, the trekking in these ranges had been closed but was opened again for the nature enthusiasts in the recent years. All the trek routes that are available here have to be completed in a day. No camping is allowed in the national park.

The Trek:

Kudremukh peak is considered to be one the most beautiful range surrounded by huge valleys and greeneries all around. The peak resembles that of a horse head, hence the name Kudremukh (Kudre = horse and mukh = face in the native Kannada language). As per the information received from the guide we would require an average of four hours to climb the peak and another four hours to get down. We would require a minimum of eight hours to conquer the peak. As per our initial plan we had decided to leave early on Friday evening, so that we could reach early morning a start our trek. But the vehicle incidence hinted at toppling our plan, which was our reason for frustration and anger. The alternate vehicle arrangement ate up our precious time and we were finally able to start from Bangalore at 11pm. By now we had lost hope in starting the trek the next day early morning. To add to these problems was the sudden change in weather in Kudremukh, which resulted in few showers on Friday. Rains are not uncommon in these parts, as the monsoon would extend even after the season.
Due to monsoons the roads across Karnataka are indeed in a pretty bad shape. Going by our previous experience, we decided to go via NH 206 (Shimoga road) rather than NH 48 (Hassan road).

The route:
Bangalore – Tumkur –Gubbi – Arsikere – Kadur – Chikmagalur – Aldur – Baalehonnur – Kalasa –Baalegal –Mullodi village(start point of the trek)

We were surprised to have reached the destination at 7:45 am in the morning. All the credits should go to the driver, who after understanding the situation tried his level best to make us reach us on time.

The start point of the trek is at a village named Mullodi. Mullodi is at a distance of 18km from the Kalasa town. One has to travel a distance of 12kms towards Kudremukh from Kalasa to reach a place called Baalegal. One can see a hoarding besides the main road, indicating the start of the trek. From the main road one has to travel another 6kms by walk or can hire a jeep to reach the Mullodi village.

Once we reached Kalasa, we called up our guide Satish about our arrival. He had arranged for a jeep for our pickup from Baalegal to Mullodi. We were still skeptical about our trek plans, but the guide convinced us that it is still possible to complete the trek. We reached Mullodi at around 8:30am. The jeep ride takes about 30-40 minutes to reach Mullodi from the main road.
We freshened up and had breakfast at our guide’s place. We were all set to go by 9:45 am to conquer the peak. The guide had arranged for the afternoon lunch as well. We as usual had packed some snacks and fruits for the journey. The just ended monsoon season helped us in cutting down on the number of water bottles.

The previous experience of leech bites at Gangadikal peak was still fresh in our minds. The problem is not with their bites but rather the itching that continues for an extended period after the trek. I had come across some websites were people were using some kind of socks to prevent the bites. After some search on internet, finally was able to get the leech socks. We were curious to see if this really works on them. The guide also provided us with neem oil mixed with Tobacco powder, which need to be applied to our feet. This combination generates a pungent odor which helps check the leech bites. We decided to go ahead with both these combinations and give it a try.

All five of us along with Arun the guide, started out at 9:45 towards the peak. According to the guide the one way distance to the peak is close to 12km, which made it 24km for a round trip.
The initial part of the trek started off with small uphill and downhill climb, which was rather easy. Totally one would have to cross five streams on the way to the peak. Owing to the winter season, the water levels are easy to tackle.

After two kilometers into the trek one would reach a point called Ontimara (Lone Tree). As the name suggests this is a single tree that acts as a reference point as once sees it from higher elevation. The initial part of the trek is mainly through grasslands surrounded by the beautiful peaks and valleys. One has to cross couple of dense vegetation on the way in the initial phase of the journey. If one closely observes the pattern, these dense vegetations (cover of big evergreen trees and undergrowth, also known as Shola forests) and usually in places were one has to go through the valleys. This is a breeding place for the leeches waiting to pounce on humans and suck blood. One has to literally run through this area in order to lessen the number of leech bites. So far our combination for avoiding leech bites was successful.

We were mesmerized by the greenery and the beautiful valleys surrounding us. This would be one of the best experience one can get trekking the place.
The grasslands extended for the initial 4kms of the trek. The terrain was friendly enough and the energy level of the group was good. We took a break at a nearby stream to quench our thirst and replenish the energy. A few minutes’ walk from here one can come across a few tiled houses which belonged to Mr. Lobo, a priest who had stayed here long ago. Few years ago, when there were no restrictions on camping in the night in the forest, people used to use this house for overnight stay. The property is quite huge (close to 90 acres as per the guide and it is under litigation since the place was declared a sanctuary) and one can still see the remains of the plantations and paddy fields at this very location.

After this point the ascent to the peak begins. The altitude slowly picks up. The weather was good since it had rained the previous evening and the chillness was still in the air. One more team of two had started ahead of us. We caught up with them and then decided to climb together to the peak. Due to the recent monsoon activities one can come across lots of streams and waterfalls at different parts of the valley.

This was the first hill we had come across till now, and the ascent was quite steep. The peak opens up to big grassland, providing a spectacular view of the hidden valley. On a clear day one can actually see the Dakshin Kannada district.

From here onwards one need to cross few hills in order to reach the peak of Kudremukh. The initial part of the journey was slow due to photography session and slower pace. We needed to pick up the speed from here in order to make it to the peak at the earliest so that we can have enough daylight for our descent.
From now the pace of the climb had increased. We crossed many hills and Shola forests. At this juncture the peak showed up, generating eagerness in us to reach there. The peak looked so near, yet so far. We reached a stream on the way where we decided to take a short break to quench our thirst. The water over here was freezing cold.

Even though the peak looked so closer from the current position, there is no direct path leading to the peak. One has to climb the adjoining peaks in order to make it to the top. We were thinking of taking an alternate route to reach quickly, but the guide insisted on the normal route since I one shouldn’t miss the view of the entire valley on the way to the top. The entire valley opens up after a few minutes into the walk giving a spectacular view. This moment would definitely mask all the effort that we had put in to reach this very point.

On reaching slightly higher altitude one can see a waterfall falling right into a gorgeous valley below. This was indeed a very beautiful view to watch out for. After some discussions it was decided that we would have our lunch at the very beginning of the falls which we just came across. This waterfall starts as a small stream right in the middle of the Shola forest before plunging into the deep valley. The path leading to it was a very dense jungle. The jungle then opens up into an open space with a small lake at the corner, surrounded trees on all sides. It gives a feeling of being landed in an island. This is the place that one should never miss on the trail.

We reached the place at around 2pm, had tamarind rice packed by our guide. After a break of 45min we started our journey in pursuit of the peak. At this very place one would come across a ruined building, probably a guest house built during the British rule.

We were now near the vicinity of the peak. As usual in any trek the last mile would be the most treacherous one, which was no different here. Finally after crossing the final hurdle we were on top of the peak. We made it to the peak by 3pm. The dream of conquering this peak finally became a reality and one can see the joy on all us on being able to make it to the top without any incidents.

The view of the other side of the peak was indeed spectacular. It was denser and greener. It was a scary situation as the peak given an abrupt ending at one edge opening up a valley hundreds of feet below. The view was short lived since clouds started covering up the valley. We spent close to 30min before heading back.
It was already 3:30 pm and we wanted to be at the base of the hill before the night fall. Also at higher altitudes the weather can change abruptly. Our previous trekking in the very mountain range was a disaster owing to the sudden downpour making it difficult for us to descend. Fortunately the weather looked good and we were hoping that it would hold until we reach the base camp.
The numbers of breaks were reduced during the descent in order to meet the deadline of reaching below before the night fall. We made it to the bottom by around 6:30 pm, just before the night set in. The down climb was completed in about 3hours time.
This was indeed an exhilarating climb to the peak and returning back on the same day. We had covered close to 24km in a single day. The joy of successful completion cannot be described in words; one has to experience it to get a feel of it.
The weather is chilling cold in the evening during this part of the year. A hot bath was a must for freshening up and to tackle the weather.
The brightly lit camp fire to combat cold and a wonderful dinner put the curtains for the evening. There was more in store for us for the coming morning!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment