After the last quick day trek, I felt it was time to try something a bit longer. Luckily for me, Bangalore Mountaineering Club (BMC) was organizing a trek to Kumara Parvatha. Since this was a two day trek, the plan was to leave on Friday night. As usual, I joined up at my Domlur pick up point. This time round there were around 25 odd people on the trek. We started pretty much on time, for which I was glad, because it started pouring soon after. Thanks to the rains, two of our fellow adventurers who were to come from Mysore, had a mini-trek of their own before we picked them up. Finally at about midnight we left Bangalore.
But before I get into the rest of the story, here is a bit about the mountain. Kumara Parvatha is a mountain that is about 13-15 Km away from the town of Subramanya, which is about 230 km from Bangalore. Subramanya is situated at the foothills of western ghats in Dakshin Kannad district, famous for the Kukke Subramanya temple. Kumara Parvatha is considered (arguably, and I’ll come to that a bit later) by many to be one of the more strenuous treks in Karnataka. The mountain stands at about a height of 1732m and is one of the tallest peaks in the region. The mountain is situated in the Pushpagiri wildlife sanctuary and to trek there one needs to take permission from the forest department.
Now back to the rest of the tale. We reached the town at about 6:00 in the morning on Saturday as planned. The organizers had arranged for some rooms at the town, which we used to get rid of the fatigue of the long bus journey. After the initial briefing, we made our way to the main town and had a quick breakfast at one of restaurants there. After breakfast we began trekking at about 8:00 am.
The trekking route to Kumara Parvatha could be called a two stage route. The first stage goes from the village to a mid-way point called Bhattara Mane, where hungry trekkers can find a meal and some shelter. The second stage route goes over several hills to finally reach Kumara Parvatha. The first stage is approximately 6km long, and the first one odd km is merely a walk to the outskirts of the town. This trail starts at the temple and goes behind it. After reaching the outskirts of the town, the trail goes steadily uphill (40-45 degree gradient) for about 4 km, until it finally reaches some grasslands where the trail continues for about 1 km till Bhattara Mane.
Having started at about 30 minutes later than we had planned, we covered the first 1 km in record time. After which the steep climb through the jungle began. The trail was quite beautiful, passing through dense jungle, snaking steadily upwards. A lot of people spent some time to admire the beauty of the trail. However, while doing so they didn’t notice the friendly jungle hop-ons – Leeches!!
Since it hadn’t rained in about a week here, the organizers were sure we would not encounter many leeches. And to a very large extent they were correct. A few leeches did bite people (including moi) but it was nothing as yet that would justify leech infested jungles that I’d been expecting. I managed to clamber through the jungle and reach the grasslands with only one semi-bite from a leech.
Once we were out of the jungle and into the sunlight we could finally admire the view (without worrying about leeches). And boy was it magnificent!!
We could see hills and mountains for miles around. Considering that we were only halfway up, the promise of the view from the top of Kumara Parvatha, was enough to re-energize my legs and propel me on to Bhattara Mane. (Tired legs because I hadn’t bargained on lugging around a sleeping bag as well, don’t think anyone of us had)
At Bhattara Mane, we took a much needed break and took stock of the havoc that the leeches had wrecked on our legs. After washing our legs etc, we had a quick lunch. The lunch was a simple meal of sambhar and rice along with buttermilk. Post lunch we began the second phase of our trek. Most of us left our bags at house and trekked with just a bottle of water or small backpack. I left some of the stuff I had carried back and the sleeping bag, since I needed a bag to hold the water so that I’d be free to take pictures. However, as I learned later on, this wasn’t such an great idea. (Of course, the others learned as well that leaving everything behind wasn’t all that great either)
The second phase of the trek goes up the hill behind Bhattara Mane and down through the forest check post. Before the check post there are some observation platforms where one can view the arduous climb ahead through cloud covered mountains (and silently mutter: what have I gotten myself into?)
After registering at the forest check post we began the trek upwards. The path snaked up several hills through beautiful landscapes. It was however (contrary to other blog posts) not a gentle climb, and thanks to my backpack (rued almost all the way for having carried it until the end) I found it difficult to keep up. We had begun at about 1:30-2:00 in the afternoon and idea was to summit by 4:30 and then make our way back. After much slow progress, I finally made it to the halfway point called the Mantapa. The Mantapa is a stone structure of sorts, kind of like a stone hut without any walls. It was 3:00 then. Considering that this was the halfway point, me and my fellow “tail-enders” figured that we’d reach up by 4:00 or sooner since there was a peak looming just ahead of us.
However, we soon realized that we were mistaken, sorely mistaken. As soon as we had climbed the peak before us, another one loomed before us. This climbing from one “false” peak to the next, through the quickly gathering clouds, continued till we had scaled what seemed to be the last peak. But since we didn’t see anyone from our group there, we figured we still had some ways to go. A path from this peak went downwards through some dense forest. Since this was the only way forward, we decided to take it.
Enchanted by the dense forest and the light filtering through the branches and playing with the clouds, I stopped to click some quick photographs. And that turned out to be my undoing.
Having not encountered anymore leeches, we were quite complacent. So complacent that we forgot that leeches like dark moist places aka dense forest floors. The forest floor was teeming with leeches !!!
We didn’t notice them until they had clambered on and sunk their jaws into what I hope was a fine “meals-on-wheels” experience for them. After which pandemonium followed. We raced through the forest, walking as fast as the terrain would let us. And just then when things couldn’t get any worse, it started raining.
Thankfully, since we were in the “clouds” I don’t think we got the worst of it. However, it did make rocks quite slippery. We soon reached an uphill climb through some rocks. The rock section soon ended, giving way to the final rock stretch that one needed to climb to summit Kumara Parvatha.
There we found a bunch of our fellow adventurers waiting, some weeding out the numerous leeches, others unsure of how to climb up the slippery stretch. Having seen that the final climb up had just become quite risky, the organizers (who had already reached the top before the rains along with a few other people) sent word to begin climbing down. And so, we did an about turn and began climbing down.
Naturally we had wade through the sea of leeches masquerading as a forest floor and that’s when the leech casualties increased (some people even got bit on the ears). However, we quickly managed to get out of the jungle and after stopping to get rid of leeches we began the downwards trek.
The trek down was equally fascinating and beautiful, however given that the light was quickly fading (and none of us wanted to be caught with the leeches in the dark) we began climbing down quickly. During the climb down, blood oozing out from my numerous leech bites, liberally coated my pants. In spite of having just a handful of bites, my light colored cargoes probably had the most gruesome display of blood in the group.
About halfway down, some distance from the Mantapa, the light finally gave way and it was finally on to torches. That’s when a number of people realized that they didn’t have torches (having left all the bags behind). Then on it was slow going for them, with as many as ten people trailing behind one torch.
I was quite ahead and couldn’t see anyone either behind me or ahead of me – just torches flickering in the dark. Walking in the pitch black night, with just a torch to guide you on a hilly path down was a unique surreal experience.
Pretty soon I was down and after some fumbling in the dark finally made it down to Bhattara Mane. After that it was rest and gruesome task of pulling out leeches by torchlight. As the evening changed to night, the rest of our troupe trickled in. While we were waiting for the food to be served, to my horror I noticed a number of leeches in the main room where we were to sleep. We quickly got rid of them and after the electricity came, made sure that there weren’t any in the room. After a quick dinner of Sambhar and Rice (yes, again), I rolled out my sleeping bag and hit the sack (literally).
Next morning, we woke at about 6:00 in the morning and set off for Subramanya by 8:00. The climb down was un-eventful and pretty soon by 11:00 most of us were back in the vehicles. We left soon after for Bangalore, reaching back by about 08:00 in the evening.
While I’ve heard from several online blogs and other trekking groups that the Kumara Parvatha trek is an arduous one, I’d say it’s not. As long as you pack sensibly and ensure that you haven’t over-packed (like I did) climbing up all the way to the top should be a cinch for anyone in decent shape. All in all, and excellent experience (in spite of not making it 100% to the top) and would love to do this trail again if time and leeches permit.