Monday, June 30, 2014

Tadiyandamol Trek (Itenerary we followed)


I know it's a bit late to write this, but let me write anyway. Again, as always, the following is the account of the travel plan we followed. There might be better/other transport modes for the same. I'll try to point them out at appropriate stages best to my knowledge.
Cheers!

Bangalore to Virjapet:
We hired an Innova from Bangalore to Virajpet. This cost us 12 per km along with the driver charges. I believe that you can reach the trekking route by going to Medikeri and travelling towards Kakabbe. Hence, in case you are planning to use public transport, your best bet would be Medikeri.

Virajpet:

A small town with a few lodges. This is where we stayed for a few hours before getting ready for the trek. We had reached the place by 4am and we occupied the rooms till 8am. This cost us 200 per room (The rooms here are surprisingly costly for a small town). From here, we took the Kakabbe route. Travelling for about half an hour from Virajpet, you reach a couple of hairpin turns moving up the slopes (Well depicted here). Immediately after these hairpin turns is the trekking start point.

Once you get down you simply follow the tar road (Do not take any diversion in the beginning. We took an initial diversion to the left and this resulted in an unwanted detour). This road is motor-able till you reach the "Aramane" (Palace). Although the tar road continues from this wooden palace for around 2 km, there is no place to park your vehicle apart from the aforementioned palace.
The wooden palace.

The premises were open but the place doors in itself were closed.
The trekking route is just besides the palace towards the left. Just cross the open field and hit the road. The route is not steep. It's a gradual ascent. You can find water source in the form of a running stream along this route.

The route to the top.
The route is pretty easy to follow. There are no major diversions as such. Except for the one below. Take the left route. (The one that keeps climbing).

A fork. Take the left route that takes you higher up. Not sure where the right one goes.
The route is easy to follow and is not difficult till you reach the big rock. This happens to be the first possible campsite. This rock is a large boulder which is pretty easily to locate. (Unfortunately I do not have a pic of this rock). I have seen some blogs recommend that you camp at the big rock for the night and wake up early to reach the top. My take? Don't! The peak is a good 2-3 hours from here. There are absolutely no views or anything to do near this rock and it would be a waste of a night for sure!

The route keeps giving glances of the actual peak.
The mountain ahead is the end of the easy walk.
This pic was taken from a far off distance. The shola forests are visible in the pic.
The route taken is visible in this pic. The faint line on the left middle part of the pic is the route.

The easy route is till the big rock. The route after this is the only strenuous part of the trek. Immediately after the big rock, the route climbs up and we cross a few small hills (They seemed to be limestone ones). These hills are easy to climb. However, they still are a climb and since the route keeps climbing, it might be wise to not overexert oneself here. The route through the shola forest is more like climbing a set of stairs. The roots of the trees make up a staircase of sorts and the route is steep. However, it is not difficult for people in good physical shape.
A much more clearer picture of the route. The route winding out of the shola forest is visible. This pic was taken at the false peak.
After the shola forest, the route opens up to a grassland of sorts. This continues to a climb to a false peak. There appeared to be a camping spot of sorts on this false peak. We found this place too exposed to the winds to camp.
The false peak. Just at the place where I was standing taking the pic, there seemed to be a place where people had camped before. Too exposed in my opinion.
The first false peak is seen in this pic. This pic was taken at the second false peak.
After this false peak, there is a gradual climb up to the second false peak (the real peak is very near to this second false peak. Hence, there is not much left to do after this).
Campsite pic taken from the peak. The false peak is visible in the background.
The campsite is a small one. If there are multiple teams there, I'm not sure there is space for all. As visible in the above pic, we could pitch in two of our tents. The fall on one of the sides is quite steep. Hence, caution wont hurt. The campsite is in a way protected from winds by the small set of shrubs and trees on one side and the two peaks on either side. The other side is a steep drop.

The views around are quite astounding.
This was all the sunset we could get. After this the clouds moved in.
The steep drops around the campsite.
From the peak down to the valley. There's a different route visible from this peak (not visible in the pic).
 The evening quickly brought in clouds and the visibility dropped quickly. Not sure if this is the norm on this peak (I've been there only once). The night was cold and the next morning was clouded enough to make us wait for a strong sun to give us some direction. In short, make sure you have some form of warm clothing.

The hazy morning which made us wait till the the fog cleared for our decent.
Not much of a sunrise, yet, beautiful to witness.
We started back by around 7.30 am. The route is exactly the same one that is taken while climbing up. The only tricky part we thought was from the peak till the first false peak. We had heavy backbacks (more than 12kg) and getting a good grip on the loose dirt was tricky. We chose the longer grassier route which provided better foothold. Going down, as expected is way more faster.

All in all, Tadiyandamol is a good trek that can be classified as easy. The real climb is only during the last part of the trek and it isn't a long climb either. The views from the top are astounding and this one is a must for a weekend trek.

Note:

  • We trekked during peak of the dry season and we found no leeches. From what I've read and heard, rainy season and immediately after it, one can find a lot of leeches.
  • The route is very well marked. No need for any guide. 
  • There is no real threat of any kind in this trek. Hence this could be a very interesting introductory trek for beginners.
  • Some people do this as a day trek and return back.
  • The campsite is relatively clean. There is a bit of thrash. Please keep the route free of plastic and paper. Leave it in a good condition. 

Stok kangri trek details. (Based on the itinerary we followed)

This post is to written with an intention to help those who want to attempt Stok Kangri trek. (Stok Kangri reaches an altitude of 6153m)

There are two routes that I know of (both the starting points are to be reached from Leh):

  • Option one (The shorter route)
    Stok Kangri village --> Changma --> Monkormo --> Base camp --> Summit.
    This is a shorter route and takes around 2-3 days. From Leh, one has to hire a taxi or share a transport with others and get to the Stok village. From here, the route is well marked. The first campsite after Stok village is Changma. Changma can be reached in around 3 hours. Most of the trekkers continue to Monkormo camp. This is a larger campsite. From Changma, Monkormo is another 3 hours. There is a lot of altitude gain and one has to be careful regarding acclimatization while on this route. Most trekkers either camp at Monkormo for the night or continue to the base camp which is around 2 hours from Monkormo. If you reach Monkormo late in the afternoon, it is better to rest at this campsite. The walk up to the base camp can be tiring due to the altitude gain.
    Base camp is around an altitude of 14,700 feet. Unless one is well acclimatized, it is advised to camp at Monkormo for one night and spend another night at Stok base camp before attempting the summit. 
  • Option two (The longer route)
    Shang --> Shang Phu --> Gangpoche --> Monkormo --> Base camp --> Summit.
    This is a much longer route. The advantage though is the acclimatization factor. This route takes you through two very high passes (~16000 ft). This allows for proper acclimatization by the time you reach Monkormo. The route is marked but it is advisable to get a local guide. The route requires a bit of scrambling every now and then but nothing which is not manageable. Since this is a longer route, it might take around 4 days to reach Monkormo. Thereby, solo trekking or trekking with friends has the additional burden of managing the supplies. One more problem with this route is the lack of human settlements. The only one we found was at Gangpoche. Gangpoche has a cafe (Mitra cafe) and this is the only place where you can get some supplies. Be advised, this is not an easy route. In fact, some of the terrain here is tougher than the one you would find on the shorter route.
Difficulties involved in both the routes:
  • There are a lot of moraines and streams to cross. These streams can swell up due to rains or due to the snow melting upstream.
  • The climbs along the way are taxing (especially on the second longer route).
  • The water from the streams might not be clear. This is because the water carries a lot of sediments from up the mountains. This can lead to some problems with respect to drinking water. 
  • The supplies you get in the cafes are overpriced.
The climb:
The final climb from the stok base camp to the peak is one of the toughest part of the trek. Usually the final climb starts early in the morning or late night. (i.e some start around 11pm, some start by 2am). This allows for the climb to be done on firm snow. The climb starts with a climb up to a ridge next to the base camp. From here, the route winds on the slopes of a mountain and reaches the glacier. After crossing the glacier, there is a zig zag route up the slope of the Stok mountain to the ridge of the mountain and to the peak. The route is straight forward and you mostly will meet a few teams attempting the summit. The easiest thing is to hire a guide from base camp or to hook up with the larger expeditions. (yes, the climb is considered an expedition due to the difficulties and the altitude involved).
The climb to the summit is not dangerous but is difficult after crossing the glacier. The problem is the altitude. The thin air makes breathing pretty difficult. The climb can take around 6-8 hours depending on the fitness level of the group. The ideal scenario would be to reach the peak by 7 a.m and start the walk back down to the base camp by 8 a.m. The climb down to the base camp usually takes around 3 hours. The ideal thing to do is to rest for the night at the base camp and start off to Stok village the next morning. (The longer route is not used while returning). The return to Stok village is around 4 hours.

Arranging supplies:
If you choose the first (shorter option), which most of the solo trekkers or trekkers without guides do, you will get the supplies along at Changma, Monokormo and base camp. These places have a cafe (Mitra cafe) which happen to provide the essentials for the trek (food, water and others, albeit overpriced).
If you are along the longer route, you better go with a trekking group. The problem is with the duration of the trek. Since it's pretty long and the options of getting supplies are less, carrying everything might not work out for solo trekkers (or a group of friends). Plan very carefully while on the longer route.

Permits:
There is no legal permit required for Indians to climb the mountain. Though a permit for foreigners is required. I'm not entirely sure of the permit for non Indians and the procedure to obtain the same. 

Fitness required:
There are two major hurdles on this trek:
  • Longer days.
  • Higher altitude.
Hence, a strong lung capacity is a must.

PS: I trekked this route with Indiahikes. The final climb got cancelled due to heavy snowfall and we had to return to Leh. But four of us started off the very next day from Leh using the shorter route and did the climb. We had hired a guide from base camp to make the climb. In our second attempt we did the trek from stok village to stok peak and way back in around 36 hours (Not at all advisable). We were able to take the risk as we were acclimatized and had already spent two nights at base camp when we were with Indiahikes group.

A few pics taken along the way:
















Monday, December 16, 2013

Technology - so where are we going with this?

To start with, this post is a result of a blog that I read today.

My story of technology began with a mobile phone that I bought during my engineering days. It was a basic handset which I bought using my scholarship money. I almost exclusively used it for messaging. My incoming/outgoing calls were minimal. In a sense, the mobile phone was used for emergency purposes or to chat with a few friends who happened to own a mobile. I used this phone for a good 4 years before I switched to a slightly advanced mobile handset. This wasn't a big leap. The next change was a bigger leap. A touch screen mobile. A smartphone.

To be fair, the term smartphone doesn't make much of a dent in the current society. Almost every other person owns one. But the real question is, does one use a smartphone to the fullest potential? Most of us don't. But there are a few of us who use a substantial percentage of the features provided. Unfortunately, I fall in that "few" category. 

So coming back to the blog I was referring to. Meeting neighbors, meeting relatives et al. Honestly, even before I owned a mobile, I never used to do that. I know I fall in a rare category. But I have to agree to one thing: before, my days after coming back home were occupied by reading books or playing volleyball. Now, it's more about changing TV channels and checking my mobile for twitter updates or checking whatsapp for group messages. And yes, the occasional facebook updates as well. Now that's not the most worrying thing(for me). The most worrying thing I see is when I travel by public transport. I rarely see anyone who is not looking at his/her smartphone! Now that scares me. For me, that's an indication our lives are being bound to things which aren't really going to help us to become better human beings. I agree, I'm a culprit too. Either to escape the boredom, or just because we can't live without, we end up staring at a screen which keeps us updated about what others are doing or where the world is headed towards. So what do we gain from all of this information? Actually, very little. 

We come to know about what the world is up to. But do we ever think about where we are going? Mostly not. Our human interactions have reduced. When we do meet, we talk about phones, latest trends in technology et al. When we aren't checking our phones, we are on laptops watching youtube videos or uploading photos on facebook or checking tweets. 

Where do we go from here is a question that bothers me every time I check a tweet or my whatsapp messages. The reality is, the week long/month long breaks we take once in a year or two doesn't undo the harm we do to ourselves for the rest of the year. Someday, we'll have to find a balance. Hope we are not forced to learn it the hard way.

PS:
This post took around 40 minutes to compose. I checked my phone at least 3 times during this. Replied to 6 tweets. Checked my facebook timeline(Thankfully I'm not that addicted to fb anymore). Replied on whatsapp to two contacts. And of course, the ever running television was blaring out something which I hardly noticed.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Born out of boredom.

Been a long time since I wrote and felt compelled to address some serious social issues. But then, as usual couldn't make much of an inroad into anything and came up with this post.

So this post is all about how socially inept I become sometimes. Especially when at marriages and other social functions which people (some of them at least) tend to enjoy a lot. I'm not judging you guys who enjoy this social functions thing (maybe I am), but instead I'm just airing my views (in fact enforcing them on you) about how and why I feel that some enjoy and some don't. 

Lets begin with those who enjoy. According to me (which the universe will agree is true), those who enjoy are the social butterflies who are pretty famous among their peers. They usually are well dressed, or good looking (or unfortunately both) and who know about it as well. And hence, whenever they end up at a party/marriage/some social bull****, they end up enjoying it to the fullest. They got competition as well, but usually the numbers are less. Hence, there is nothing stopping them from dressing up in their best attire and being the center of attraction.

Now a days, the trends are changing slightly. Although good looks still tend to rule the social events, there's this additional factor of money which has added some spice to the otherwise bland dish. These money makers I'm referring to are not the ugly money pits of our society (politicians, businessmen, goons) but the offshore settlers. These are the geeks who have settled outside and have flourished money-wise. These guys make a good killing at the social events (to be fair to them, many of them despise these events). 

Moving on, we meet the average Joe who's forced to attend these functions due to reasons beyond his grasp. Meet, me! I'm neither good looking nor am I good at dressing up. Once I turned up at a social event in denims and tees while the rest of the crowd was in suits. And to add to it, I'm tall and skinny (my teammates even nicknamed me a scarecrow :-/). I don't earn as much as the other bigwigs and I'm just super average in every aspect of life. Add to it the fact that I'm a moody person and you have the perfect recipe for someone who wants to avoid social gatherings at all costs. I am a perfect specimen of whom not to be if you want to be a social butterfly.

I guess there are a shit load of us who feel the same. Who don't fit in into these social gatherings and want to get out of it at the earliest. For all those brethren O' mine, remember always, that we suck and we will continue to suck. But those social butterflies suck more than us(lets just believe in it OK?). 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Agumbe trek. (Narasimha parvata trek)

All right, after a previous trek, a friend suggested an idea of posting the actual logistics of my next trek. Hence, the following will give you an information regarding trekking to the "Narasimha Parvata" from Agumbe. The itinerary is the one we followed. There are other routes/options available. I'll try to point them out best to my knowledge.
Cheers!

Trek to Narasimha parvata:
From Bangalore to Agumbe:
We  hired an Innova for the six of us. The cost per kilometer was 12 along with the daily allowance for the driver. There is a bus available from Bangalore to Agumbe (KSRTC) which leaves Bangalore around 2230 every day and reaches around 0700. The time taken by a taxi or a personal vehicle is around 6-7 hours based on the number of stops and the quality of driving.
There are two routes to Agumbe:
  • Bangalore to Shimoga to Thirthalli. The route is good till Thirthalli. A small section of the road is bad near to Thirthalli to Agumbe. Buses take this route.
  • Bangalore to Hassan to Chikmagalur to Agumbe. This route is good till Chickmagalur. After this, the road is good but its a complete ghat section which might slow one down.
Agumbe:
Agumbe is the place where the famous Malgudi Days series was shot. The village in itself has nothing interesting to see. There is a hotel, a lodge as well. But the most famous place in Agumbe is "Doddamane". This is where most of the trekkers arrive in the morning. You will have to inform the residents of this house beforehand and they will keep breakfast ready for you. They even prepare packed lunch on request. And yes, the best part is, they do not have fixed price tag. You can give whatever you feel is right.

Doddamane.

Routes to Narasimha parvata:
There are two routes. One from Kigga, one from Agumbe. Both require forest permits. The route from Agumbe side is thickly forested and there are multiple routes. If you are trekking from Agumbe side, you need to catch a transport to a village named Mallandur and start trekking from there. Remember, none of the routes from Agumbe side are well marked. We availed the services of a guide. I am not sure if solo trekking is possible from Agumbe side. The forest can be penetrated only by someone who knows the route. The trails get lost in the thick forest and getting lost here seems highly probable.
A view from Mallandur village.
The easy part of the trail.
Thimappa, the guide. (He has worked with discovery channel for a documentary about king cobras)
Trail broken by fallen tree.
Negotiating the thick forest.
The guide (Thimappa) took us through a very thick jungle to get us to the top of the Barkana falls. From here, you can actually see down the falls. The rocks are super slippery and a slip here make you loose 850 feet in a jiffy.
Barkana falls plummets a staggering 850 feet. (This is at the top of the falls)

After Barkana falls, the trek turns into a steep forest and the route from here till the grasslands is taxing. The humidity held by the forest can sap you. The forest gives way to grasslands after a climb of around 2 hours.The grasslands are a welcome change to the thick forest due to the possibility of cooler winds. The climb doesn't end though. The peak is around an hour and a half from the start of the grasslands.
The high grassland.
Within the clouds.
The climb continues.
The peak:
The peak in itself has very little to do. If lucky the lack of cloud cover will allow for a good view from the top. Most probably, by the time one gets to the peak it'll be around 4pm and time for the later afternoon rains.
Trekker arrive in thick fog.
The campsite:
The campsite is different from the peak. You need to get down to an old building at a lower level. Here, you can actually get access to a water well and a flowing stream. The building has two rooms and possibility is that the room will not be clean enough for anyone to camp inside. By the time we arrived at this site, it was raining heavily. We had to wait for an hour for the weather to clear up before we could pitch in the tents.
The campsite. The building with two rooms. And a few tents.
The night and the morning after:
The night wasn't cold. It didn't rain either. But then, prepare for the worst and assume that it will rain when in the Agumbe region.
The morning was clear. We couldn't really see the sunrise as the clouds at the horizon blocked the view. The view of the distant mountains was a view to behold. Our guide had left the previous evening itself and he had shown us the trail to be followed to reach Kigga. We started off almost immediately. The route for Kigga is very well marked. Some places are slippery due to the fungi on the rocks. Still it's not challenging or dangerous. For us, the walk down to Kigga took around 2 hours.
The view from the campsite.
The western ghats.

We had called up our cab driver while coming down and he was already there. From Kigga, you can go to Sringeri to freshen up and then move towards Bangalore. There are quite a few buses from Sringeri and a booking can be done beforehand. If you have rented a vehicle, the route from Sringeri is straightforward (Again either via Hassan or Shimoga).

Things to keep in mind:
  • Carrying tents is a better option if you plan to stay at the top. Relying on the building to be empty or clean is risky.
  • The forest is a leeches galore. If you are scared of leeches or blood, think twice before attempting the trek.
  • As I've already mentioned, you need to get permit in order to trek to the peak (This is a reserve forest). We gave the guide three photocopies of our ID proofs and he took care of the rest. I'm not sure where exactly can one get the forest permit. You can contact any forest office and get the information.
  • Mobile connectivity is available at the peak and the campsite. You might not get connectivity in between though.
  • If you plan to camp at the top and cook food at the top, make sure you carry some inflammable stuff with you. Most probably the firewood at the top/campsite will be moist and will not catch fire easily. 
  • Make sure you have the mobile number of an ANF official. This being a naxal area, it doesn't hurt to take precautions. 
  • The campsite is clean. There are very few human leftovers. PLEASE KEEP IT CLEAN! Carry the plastic/paper back and do not litter along the way.
  • Thimappa's mobile number: +919483496142
Leeches leeches.