The destination was the peak of the highest mountain of the Tadakalpudi Ranges at 2075 feet. The team comprised of Sridhar, Kosstubh, Guhan and me. I was the newbie in the group, the other three knew lay of the land as they had already been to these ranges, although the peak had yet to be conquered.
This time we did things a bit differently. We gave as much time to the preparation as much we gave to the trek. Maybe we even gave more time to the preparation, and trust me that was the one thing that drastically reduced our trek time. Each of us would open up Google Earth & Bhuvan-ISRO and would find out all probable routes for ascent and descent, marked out few spots that looked conducive to camping, found out as many paths and stream beds (which are the highways of the mountains) as we could, and in this way we chartered out three routes that we could follow.
Day 1 : 29th August, 2009
We reached Tadikalpudi just before 5 in the morning, and within 5-10 minutes we were on our way. The aim was to cover as much distance as we could before the sun gets too hot. To get to the base of the ranges we needed to cross fields, a small hillock, some more fields, and ground covered with shrubs & bush – a total distance of around 4 kms. Our plan seemed perfect, since the slope was east-facing, cover as much distance as you can before the temperature rises. What we had not accounted for (and could not have accounted for) was the very high humidity. It had rained heavily the day before and the sun was hot enough at 7:30 to turn the grounds around us into a sauna! Taking multiple breaks we laboured on. I was the worst affected, and was taking frequent breaks. Sridhar, Kosstubh, Guhan helped me with my backpack twice and just kept egging me on. During one of the short breaks, Sridhar said a simple thing which proved really helpful to me for rest of the ascent – time your steps with your breaths. As Kosstubh put it eloquently – “Chhoti, par moti baat“.
The ascent was from around 600 feet to 2000+ feet and and the angle of ascent varied a lot. We started the ascent with a steep climb of 50-60 degrees for about half of the way, and rest of the ascent was a “trivial” matter of hardly 30-40 degrees. Around noon we reached a spot which we had marked as “Ascent Ends” in our route planning. This was at a height of about 1800 feet and the way to peak was now more or less straightforward – if you consider making your path through boulders and thorny bushes and skirting around drops (though not steep, but drops nevertheless) to the valley below and descending down the same valley for some distance to find a better way up as straightforward. When viewed in Google Earth I had felt that once the ascent ends, I would be able to trot to the peak – there were contours till the peak, but the height difference was generally just 100 feet. The path we took till peak just showed me how amateur I am, and how much can a satellite image be trusted. 100 feet from air is hugely different to the actual traversal of those 100 feet on the mountain.
As we were following this route to reach the peak we chanced upon a good clearing with ample shade and breeze. At this place Sridhar, Kosstubh, and Guhan went ahead to one of the lower peaks of the mountain (it has 4 separate peaks, actually view-points would be a better word as peak is the highest point; these 4 separate points are at a much higher elevation than the surrounding area) to reconnoiter the path to the actual peak, while I rested my bones – once again. They returned back with good news that the actual peak was close by, and they had even spied a way down the mountain. They had seen the saddle between two of the view-points/peaks of the mountain, and we had aimed to hit that and walk atop the mountain from there. We mistook some turn, and luckily for us we directly reached the peak that we had intended to walk to from the saddle.
And at 1:40pm, we were atop the world! OK, I’ll stop exaggerating, we were atop the Tadikalpudi Mountain Range. Not a bad achievement at all. The cool breeze atop the mountain was refreshing, but much more refreshing than that was the knowledge that we had achieved what we had set out to do and that too in good time, thanks to the immaculate route planning that we had done. In all we had taken nearly 8 hours to reach the mountain-top.
The peak-conquest was followed by a photo-session, a breather in the sun on one of the rocks that formed the summit, a satisfying lunch, finding a good camping spot, pitching our tent, and simply resting. We sat watching the beautiful sunset, while Guhan kept getting “Sridhared” non-stop.
Each of us had carried 6 liters of water and as the first day ended Guhan, Kosstubh and me were left with only 1ltr, 2ltr, and 1.5ltr of water respectively. It had been a very humid day, and we were sweating almost non-stop throughout. We managed to keep ourselves hydrated, and were relying totally on the stream that we would encounter on the way down. Amongst all this Sridhar was sitting cool with 4 liters of water with him. Where each of us had drank 4-5 liters of water, Sridhar easily managed with 2 liters only!
Day 2 : 30th August, 2009
An event-less night later, we were up before dawn, to summit the next peak, and catch the sunrise. The sun played peek-a-boo behind clouds, but we were able to reach the other peak quite easily. I felt it was even higher than the peak we had conquered on Day-1 afternoon. We were not carrying the GPS at the time to verify the authenticity of what we were feeling, but it was a common feeling among the four of us.
We packed the tent, our belongings, and started the descent along the west face of the mountain at 6:30 am. The descent initially was very steep and within half an hour we had reached 1500 feet. We kept crossing pockets of stagnant water, and we were crisscrossing across the dry stream bed, in search of the manna of life – water. We kept finding water, but not flowing water. Just after 8 we reached a pool with ample flowing water. We refilled our bottles, washed away the accumulated dirt of the past 30 hours, Kosstubh even took a dip, we had a sumptuous breakfast, and were back on our way down the stream towards the village. Now that the stream had ample water, finding our path across the boulders that made the stream bed, and even bordered it was getting trickier. Getting back into the mountains was not an option as the stream was bordered on both sides by thick bushes full of thorns. We kept hopping from one boulder to another, and after what seemed like an eternity (in reality only two hours) we were at the base of the mountain, left the stream, and took a turn into the flat ground filled with shrubs at around 10:30 am.
As soon as we entered the flats, the green top surrounding the stream disappeared and with it the safety we had from the hot merciless sun. Within minutes we were wishing for shade, but shade was hard to come by now as the trees were scarce. We were amidst a maze of fields, and shrub covered grounds and there was no clear path across them to the village. Sridhar went ahead on one of the probable path to see if it was good, while the three of us greedily ate the Glucose. Water reserves were again running low, as we had filled just 1-2 liters extra for the descent (no sense in carrying extra weight) and that meant eating glucose directly without water. We would surely have achieved a Master’s Degree in Water Management had there been any such thing! Sridhar called us from across the field saying he had found the way back. We encountered a well laid dirt path that led us straight to the village. Soon, at about 11:30 am, after enduring the stares of each and every villager (we were as good as aliens to them – people descending from the mountains with backpacks, and strange rolls [sleeping mats] hanging from the bags), we finally reached the railway station.
A very very tiring trek, but a massively successful one too. One to be cherished for a long time 🙂
It helped a lot that we had distributed the responsibilities for the trek management earlier – Guhan handling the finances, Kosstubh and me planning the route, Kosstubh, Guhan and Sridhar handling the food, and Sridhar being the final authority on the path we planned, and everyone pitching in where required.
The total trek distance was nearly 15kms. 7.7 kms in the plains (village to mountain base and mountain base to village), and rest within the mountains.
Another point to note: if you are planning to ever do this trek, please do take appropriate guidance and permissions. The villagers are very suspicious about movements in the hills.
From afar the mountain looks deceptively easy to climb, from Google Earth it feels it is nothing, but one lesson I learned the hard way on this trek was – never ever judge a mountain on how it looks in maps and from afar. Till the time you set your foot on it, you do not know the mountain.