Monday, May 18, 2009

When the going got tough: Katraj-Sinhagarh trek

"Come back", came the shout along with the torch light. No, the light came first because that was when we had thought that someone is following us.

"Why?", shouted back Nandu.

"That path goes to the valley."

Shucks. This was second wrong path that we had taken this night and for the first and only time a trace of fear swept my mind, are we going to fall in front of finish line? Not that falling was an option. Metaphorically as well as grammatically! While the latter would have been obviously more damaging physically, the former would not have been any better since we had to reach Sinhgarh before sunrise and the impending scorching heat.

Earlier we had tried to take a path around a hill, because one of the guys was '90% sure' that it was the right way, only to come back and climb that hill.

We had started from Katraj at about 9.30 and were supposed to walk all night and reach Sinhgarh crossing 13 hills on the way. It was 3 or 3.30, in the morning (or night, how ever you take it.) We had been "walking" for 5 hours now and still there was a debate whether we had 3 hills remaining or 'there is a small 4th one'. The red signal on a tower at Sinhgarh was closer now but it still demanded all the mental and physical strength to reach there.

Earlier we had started with a lot of enthusiasm, easily divided among 'Hyderabad group' and 'Pune group'. Each group having a lot of easy camaraderie among itself. My primary concern at Swargate was food. Are we not going to eat anything 'proper'? Just 3 chocolates and Parle-G-for-genius didn't seem to me such a genius idea after all. Two bottles of water each also seemed somehow insufficient but I understood we can't carry water tankers with us!

The climb had started with a bang, rather a burst from our 'trek leads'. After this unpleasant start, the group was divided meticulously into smaller groups with sweeps and leads and these groups and sweeps and leads got dissolved and lost equally meticulously within first half an hour. There were many teams trekking on that route that night and each had torches and it took us a long time to understand that every torch that we see in that vast expanse might not be one from our group. Actually torches were used for most of the time only for marking presence and signalling to other 'torch bearers', since it was a moon-lit night there was sufficient light for walking.

The first major challenge came at the descent of second hill. It was a near 70 or 80 degree steep incline and lots of tiny pebbles didn't make things any easier. First thing that I did was to keep my camera in the backpack and then did a combination of slow climbing down holding stones and sliding where ever standing was dangerous. To be honest my legs were shivering by the time I got down. We were told that first couple of hills are steep and after crossing this one we thought that we had put the worst behind, but descending kept on being difficult for a major part of the journey. Rathi gave such descents a not-so-pleasing nickname: 'Suicide Point'. The climbing always seemed easy but even before climbing, imagining the descent gave goosebumps!

During the entire journey the glittering Pune city kept us company. Even at 1 the lights didn't seem to dim and someone wondered aloud 'don't these people sleep'? Another element that accompanied us for a major part of the trek was wind. Heavy wind. Quite cold at times and though I was getting quite irritated due to constant howling in ears, it was due to this wind only that we didn't feel the heat or the sweat.

In the last leg of the journey, most of the group was left far behind and there was no trace of even the 'leads'! There were no visible trails and so we decided to do the easier thing: take a crow-flight route to Sinhgarh. Just cross all the hills on the way. This was easier said than done because the first hill to stare us was a nearly 70 degree incline ( We climbed this one in 9 minutes flat!) and by now the moon had moved so we had to climb in near darkness. I decided to hold my torch in mouth (thank heavens, it was a slim Eveready) and use both my hands for climbing faster so that I had enough momentum to move forward. I am still surprised that none of the shrubs scratched my face because almost entire way-up it seemed I was bumping into one!

By the time we reached top of last hill, it was 4.30 and sky had started acquiring whitish shades. Sinhgarh was almost at an arm's length (read 6 km). A small walk (towards a sound that sounded like waterfall) and we reached the Sinhgarh road. After a brief photo session on the vacant road, we walked again for about 3 km to Sinhgarh fort.

I had survived the toughest trek of my life, ready to face tougher ones!


Srikanth Perinkulam said...

You 'walked' me through the hills!:) Katraj Sinhagad will always remain to be one of my best ever treks!

Disturbing to note that the 'lead-sweep' roles didn't work out for whatsoever reason!

Always wanted to do this as a part of a small group sometime.Guess I'll have to wait for one more year since monsoon would soon be setting in this year...

Abhishek said...

With hardly any distance between groups lead-sweep was always going to be difficult. And all the groups were walking at different pace as well..

You are right, it is much better to do this trek in a small group: 5-6 max.

Smita said...

wow!!! that's some trek!!!

You must have felt a sense of achievement and it must have been dangerous as well :-)

Even I wanna go for a trek but have always been in wanting stage but have never done anything for it.

Praveen राठी said...

Hmm.. I didn't have any experience with "such" treks. So considering myself an amateur, I believe we did fairly well. :P
We 6 completed the trek "properly" out of 38 (who started). I was feeling proud at that moment.
Quite a MEMOIR! :)

I wonder when will you get the spelling "Rathee" right.

Abhishek said...

Really Smita. As Praveen mentioned, we were the first guys to finish the trek properly. It was great feeling. As for danger, well I have been through a near death experience so am habitual :D

You can checkout or for more trekking opportunities

Kanupriya said...

God, this sounds TOO adventurous! Climbing with torch in mouth. What if torch wud have fallen down??? :D
Me only gone for small trek trips, longest one I think is my Vaishno Devi trip which we did walking all the way from down to up. But then that journey is comfortable in terms of food & water for sure :)

Abhishek said...

"What if torch wud have fallen down???"

Hmm...good question. Would I have gone down to get it? No. I can't imagine climbing down that steep slope.