After excessive traveling in the holidays I was experiencing withdrawal symptoms on my return to Bangalore. My feet were itching to run to the hills. A birding trip to Bannerghatta and a short trip to Skandagiri did little to quell this urge. It was time to bring out the big guns.
They don’t come much bigger than Kumara Parvata. Situated in the Western Ghats border between Dakshina Kannada and Kodagu districts, 230km from Bangalore, Kumara Parvata is the third highest peak in Karnataka and is reputed to be one of the harder treks in the state, especially in the monsoon.
The trip was to be conducted by Bangalore Mountaineering Club (Bad choice, but more on that later). We left Bangalore on the night of Friday, 20th August. After a bumpy ride in the tempo-travler we reached the base village, Subbramanya at about 7am freshened up and started our ascent.
The group consisted of 28 individuals, a good mix of veterans and first-timers. I started off rather quickly, even with a large camera and inconvenient backpack weighing me down. The group fragmented, a bunch of us leading and a large group of stragglers following the way. About a kilometer in the leech onslaught began. This was my first experience with leeches.
The forest was dense and weather extremely humid. The climb wasn’t all that steep but exhausting nonetheless. No significant wildlife sightings to report apart from a bright yellow toad. At the three kilometer mark we were exhausted, the sun rose higher and the leeches had their fill. The lead pack had broken up into 2 groups. Ours, the trailing group consisted of myself, Vinay, Vijay and Sam.
Things changed dramatically within the next kilometer with the forests opening into grassy meadows and a drop in humidity. The fatigue disappeared and was replaced with new vigour. We dropped our pace further to enjoy the environs. The stragglers were still a kilometer away and so I happily began snapping away.
We arrived at Bhattramane, The Bhat’s house, in about 3 hours. This was kind of a base-camp for trekkers heading to the peak. The priests staying here provide meals and a place to stay for traveling parties for a nominal rate.
We rested here for about an hour, had lunch and then set off to conquer the peak. It was about 2pm when we left. We decided to ascend quickly unsure about the duration required to reach the peak. I had no intention to be lost in these hills after nightfall.
About a kilometer into the ascent the rain-gods awoke. KP was engulfed by a raging storm. So much for photography, hell, I don’t even own a waterproof camera case. Oblivious to the perils in store we carried onwards.
A few brave pioneers among us began setting the pace. Myself, Partha, Chaitra and Vinay tried catching up but our efforts were futile. After traversing almost 3 hours and 7 kilometers along zig-zag pathways through montane grasslands we couldn’t see a sole ahead or behind us. The fact we were standing well within the storm clouds didn’t assist our efforts. Suddenly in the distance the ‘false peak’ of KP became visible. I thought to myself, its a start, but we had no idea how much further the real peak was. Ten minutes and one emergency chocolate break later we had ascended the false peak and could see the true one. I was relieved to see it could be reached within 10 minutes.
By this point our brave pioneers Arif, Sam and Harsha had already began their descent and egged us forwards. And forwards we went right to the very tip of the peak. I so wanted to scream. I opened my mouth but my vocal chords betrayed me and I was left there shivering. Visibility here was a mere 5 meters but peering into the cloud from the edge of the cliff was a heavenly experience.
Thus KP was conquered and it was time to move on to newer challenges, the first one being getting back to Bhattramane before sundown. Fortunately it was only 5pm. We ambled down the slope at a gentle pace greeting the stragglers along the way. A long conversation and a few falls on my ass and we were almost there. But alas, trouble reared its ugly head and horns too. The bulls of Bhattramane were obstructing our path and seemed pretty pissed at our presence. At this point the sun had begun setting and the rains were stronger than ever. My specs kept getting fogged and in this light I am almost blind without them. Taking a steep detour off the path into the valley we finally made it by 7pm. Phew.
In my exhaustion I’d completely ignored the leech menace. Only on spotting the bloodstains in my clothes did I realise the number of bites I’d suffered. We dried ourselves up, enjoyed a nice warm dinner and were off to sleep in our sleeping bags.
Morning brought renewed enthusiasm to the camp. A warm cup of tea and we begun descending back to Subbramanya. The descent was swift, almost uneventful. I kept staring at the grassy meadows, valleys and dense forests wondering when I’ll see them next.
A quick bite in Subbramanya and we were back in the tempo-travler. This time I made sure I got the window, the drive till Sakleshpur is a treat.
Geographical Co-ordinates: 12°40′N 75°41′E