Friday 19 August 2011

Kabbaladurga - Night Trek

70km from Bangalore and 20km from Kanakapura, Kabbaladurga is visited by devotees during day to worship at the temple on top. This monolithic rocky mountain is precipitous at a height of 980m (3234ft) overlooking the village and a few other mountains nearby. To find the route to this sleepy village where you will spot a cattle shed in front of every house, turn right from Kanakapura main road where the left turn takes you to Muthathi. Kabbaladurga temple is famous among the locals and you can use the Indian GPS ( stop and ask anyone on the road).

Bangalore Mountaineering Club was organizing a night trek to Kabbaladurga peak on Aug 6th, thanks to Saurav for forwarding this information. There were two other colleagues from GE who joined in this trek, the total headcount was 14. They charge Rs 800 per head and includes transport, breakfast, sleeping bags. You can find more details of such treks and long weekend trips -

On Saturday night, we headed to the pick-up point near Lifestyle showroom on Richmond road. There were a few other waiting for the bus that starts from Wind Tunnel Road. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of girls who turned up for a trek. Krishna from BMC and others picked us and the vehicle was heading to Kanakapura through the torn apart roads by Namma Metro project. We reached the base at 12midnight and it was a half-moon night. Krishna briefed us about the plans and gave us our sleeping bags to carry with us. Megha and I realized that we forgot to pack our torch (such an insult) and it was going to be a tough job to hike up without a torch. Plan was to reach the top in two hours and stay (sleep) until 6am and descend. The group reached the first steep ascent and everyone was sleepy and gasping for breath. Following Yogesh's torch light, we were leading the group mostly. Whenever we were doubtful about the route further, we used to wait for Krishna.

The climb is very steep and there is no clear path to provide grip. The locals have carved a few tiny steps just enough to place half of your foot on the most precariously steep rocks. There are electric poles on the way and you need to watch those cables while climbing up. Sometimes using all your legs and hands and climbing up like a monkey is recommended. Try to avoid the slippery parts of the rock where the water sweeps down as it provides no friction. Without a torch light it was too dangerous to take any step.

In two hours with a few breaks gulping water and waiting for others we reached the peak by 2am. It was drizzling a bit and rain cuts were handy. The peak was very cold and mercury levels were reading 14 degree Celsius. Moreover the wind was very strong and you would feel you will fly off if you don't hold to something. Megha was so excited as she was the first one to reach even before me. Once Krishna reached the peak with the tail end at 3am, he walked around the bushes to collect firewood to set a campfire. We were walking on the edges of the mountain through fog and it was a wonderful experience. Krishna asked if anyone smoked in the group and Saurav was running to him thinking Krishna is offering a cigarette. Krishna was asking for a matchbox or lighter. I was glad to find that none of the group members were into smoking.

Lighting up the fire was another Herculean task and none had a lighter or matchstick except a girl who had kept it for lighting up a few candles for her friend's birthday. Krishna, with the help of others trying out paper, plastic, dry grass etc lit up a the firewood and that provided a cozy warm feeling amidst the thick fog and wind. Then he started the 'Mafia' game which put a few of us to sleep and other s to continue the game until day break. The wind gathered more momentum and I felt I would be flying with the sleeping bag. Luckily it was not raining, we were sleeping on the rocks without a tent. Packing myself maximum into the comfort of the sleeping bag I slept until 6am and morning rush to watch the clouds floating woke me up. It was heaven on earth!!! You will feel like floating along with those cotton like clouds…

Reality struck me when Krishna asked us to pack up the sleeping bags and start descending. Descent was even more difficult as at many parts of the trek you will have to descend vertically without any grip or anything to hold. Sitting and sliding down on your bums is the easiest way to tackle this and always remember to lean against the rock instead of the air which can't support your heavy body. In 45 min, against the expected 2 hrs we reached the base. After freshening up we waited for others while trying to catch up with a power nap inside the vehicle. By 9:30 am we were in Kanakapura munching a much rewarding breakfast and we were home by 11am. Looking forward to more such organized treks by BMC.

Saturday 6 August 2011

Skandagiri- neighbor of Nandi Hills



If you have been to Nandi Hills, you must have seen an equally tall rocky mountain towards the northwest of Nandi Hills. Skandagiri, 4500ft (1364m) tall stands majestic with no motorable roads to its peak. If you are a human being with medium fitness, you can reach the peak without much exertion in 2-3 hours. Skandagiri is best climbed in the evening if you are prepared to stay overnight. A tent, sleeping bag and food supplies are necessary to spend your night on the top and watch the magnificent sunrise with the clouds below your feet. You might be surprised to see vendors selling you firewood, noodles, eggs and bread on top of Skandagiri on a full moon night and don't be surprised if you are welcomed by hundreds of trekkers who reached before you to spend the night on the sprawling peak of Skandagiri.

Megha and I decided to visit Nandi Hills and Skandagiri on a Saturday morning. After tackling choc-a-bloc Bangalore traffic and riding past BIAL airport, we reached the left turn to Nandi Hills at 10am. Welcomed by farmers selling grapes along this road and amused at the residential projects by Prestige estates, we reached a T junction. Take a left turn and you will head to Nandi Hills. Instead turn right and drive until you reach another T-junction near ancient Bhoganandeeshwara temple. A left turn and head to Muddenahalli - birthplace of visionary Sir M. S. Visweshwarayya whose architectural works of art consist of Vidhana Soudha and Brindavan Gardens. You can not miss the obvious sign board to take the left turn to this tiny village. Passing a school, we reached another junction with a few shops and we had a sumptuous breakfast for meager Rs 18 - 4 idlis, 2 dal vada, 1 tea. Turn right at this junction and drive another 2km, you will reach the base of Skandagiri. Make sure you don't park your vehicle in a private plot. Sometimes, you will bump against guides offering their help for Rs 100 or so, which may not be a big help unless you are trekking in the night.

 On a pleasant cloudy morning with occassional drizzling, we were in high spirits to ignore Skandagiri and to try to climb another rocky mountain next to Skandagiri. This mountain did not have a clear trekking route and half-way we decided to surrender and come down to the base. There was a vendor who gave us timely energy with salt/chilies spreaded cucumber slices. She asked for biscuits or chocolates, but all we had were oranges and she was more than happy to grab two of them. The climb to the peak is not so easy but you will not run out of breath if you go at a constant pace. There are no vertical climbing phases which test your cardio fitness. Breath-taking light and shade views of the green mountains to the east side and well-laid rectangular paddy fields to the west side will make you stop and look through your lens or binoculars to capture those spectacular view.

Some parts of this trek are through 10 feet high bushes and this will give you a feel of walking through a dense forest with scanty sunlight. The last 30 min is quiet steep and you will think every 10min that you have reached the peak. On the peak, there is a stone structure which provides shelter to the vendors from rains and winds. We could reach the peak in 90min, the temperature at the peak was 17C, lower than 10 compared to the base, thanks to the breeze and thick clouds. After being on the top munching lunch and resting, we started our descent. The knee-trembling descent was not faster and took 90min to reach the parking. On the way, a very old man asked for food and we gave him the last two oranges left with us.


After tea and biscuit, we headed to Nandi Hills to reach there before 6pm, the ticket counter closes. The sunset was not seen as the clouds were dark and thick blanketing the sun but provided some magnificent views of crepuscular rays. It was chilly weather there but the tranquility is spoiled by the crowd and rush of vehicles.At Nandi Hills, you can stay at Nehru Nilaya, the Horticultural Guest House (08156-250901, r Rs 350-1500) with a restaurant. But if you have a group of friends and camping gear, staying on top of Skandagiri can not be compared. On the way back, we did the obligatory purchase of farm fresh grapes from a small boy for Rs 45/kg. For a day's outing Skandagiri and surrounding village offers a lot to see. Around October, you will find silk farming on the road sides and it is amusing to watch those silk worms and cocoons.