On the hilltop of Naneghat

Summer’s ending; monsoon is on the cusp of breaking rains. This period of transience is just a delight to trek, where the clouds cover the sky but aren’t showering; an abrupt cool breeze gives you relief. In such weather a night trek to Naneghat was arranged by Small Steps Adventures.

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Naneghat from the base

 

Naneghat is a mountain pass in Sahyadri ranges of Maharashtra near Junnar, Pune district; it draws its name from the tradition that a coin needed to be submitted to pass this route during Satvahana reign (source Wikipedia).It was kind of tollbooth.

We started our journey from Kalyan at 5.00 pm and reached the base of the hill at around 6.30 pm. Our group was of 23 trekkers, some new, some old, some friends and some known. What breaks the ice? As I always say, a small introduction session. With it we started moving forward as Small Steps adventures trek leaders took their position now along with volunteers, Oh yes their team is growing. Moving forward catching up with friends and other trek mates, surrounded by trees on all sides and a distant view of pinnacle was visible.

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Starting the trek

It had started becoming dark and torches were lit; it was full moon and the visibility was quite good. Even though it was end of summer temperature was high and we were drenched in sweat while trekking, taking halts to hydrate ourselves frequently. Halfway up the trek the rocky patch had started, it was a waterfall route. There are few water tanks on the route some are dry and some are filled. One of the great things about the forts in history has been the architectural planning. It has been a subject of study and can be applied into modern times.
After few hours of trekking we reached a narrow passage between two rocky structures having caves within them. This narrow passage way had its own beauty, it was kind of like opening to a new world. The caves can be used to reside but we had planned to stay on the top in tents.

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Moonlight through narrow passage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Narrow Passage in daylight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some villagers live on the top and they have their own farms. Actually the top can be reached directly through vehicle from Junnar highway, but what fun that would be? Few of us went ahead with villagers to locate the place of camping. Rest stayed back near the cave for some time.

As we reached the top it is a flat surface extending long. Suddenly cool breeze had started flowing; we were drenched in sweat and the blowing wind made us feel colder. The temperature at the top was nothing like at the base, it was cool out here, we were all exhausted by the trek, but this cool weather re-energized us. We refreshed ourselves at the villager’s place and had dinner. The hot dinner served made us remember our home.

After dinner the trek leaders started pitching tents and also made others learn how to do it. This was a perfect camping night, The starry sky and full moon, cool breeze, it all seemed heavenly especially the moonlight stroll on the top felt like should have been never ending. Done with the pitching tent some went immediate to sleep but others were still in jaunty mood. So we all sat together and played the traditional all-time favourite game of ‘antakshri’; well what more can give joy to just sing songs till late night. Late night at around 1.45 am the trek leaders called for everyone to rest as we had to start descend early next morning. But again few of us weren’t in the mood to sleep actually including trek leaders. Staying up more lately we were just conversing and gazing around the charismatic view in moonlight.

 

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Moonlight Camping at Naneghat

The surrounding ranges were also visible the pinnacles of them looked like castles built around. Well,

Such a beautiful nature it is,
Rising up high.
These mountains are mansions of the sky.
We rested a while gazing into night,
filled with stars and full moon,
eclipsing when the dark clouds of rains moved.
These moments speak to us silently
without words but wisdom of nature’s simplicity.

Naneghat is famous for star gazing; people often come here to observe stars through telescopes.

The words above depicted the early morning scene only changing the fact that instead of moon the sun was in the sky and clouds were sometimes eclipsing it. The dawn had broken but the nature was same only now more illuminated by sunlight.

Naneghat has become a sightseeing place, there is already construction going on railings are being fit on the edges.

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Early Morning

 

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Sights at naneghat

We wrapped our tents, freshened up had a nice delicious breakfast; got set and ready to descend back. Well photos here and photos there; clicks here and clicks there; selfies from this and that angle follows the trait of every trek. Done with the photos we arrived at the cave, from here then moved downwards. We had decided to descend before noon as it could get very hot then. So everyone just descended on the same trail of climbing, following the trek leaders. We were already feeling the heat now, and again were drenched in sweat.

Conversing and chit chatting we descended in 3 hours and reached the base at about 11.30 am. We were completely exhausted now and just wanted to sleep. Everyone arrived group by group put our bags in the Jeep and started the return journey.

Small Steps Adventures:
A group formed by 5 (Yogi, Sagar, Ravi, Sushant and Prashant). The purpose of group is to lead adventures activities into the mystic nature and show people the wondrous beauty and thrill.
It has been active since 1 year now and has conducted various events successfully; now has paced to keep events on every weekend.

For more photos, follow the link
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1207373602646906.1073741878.959029294148006&type=3

Technical Details

Base:
Vaishakhare (2 hours from kalyan)

How to reach:
From Kalyan local transport like ST bus is available till base.(not an official stop).Private vehicle is preferable

Height:
Around 2500 ft.

 

 

 

 

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Bhairavgad and Lens

When on a trekking spree, you really don’t care what season it is. I was in office again thinking of what to plan for weekend; rather Sagar my friend from Small Steps had messaged me for the trek of Bhairavgad. It was a difficult trek and heat in this summer is killing. But still when something calms you down and soothes other things don’t matter, so decision made Bhairavgad trek.

I am going to put a different experience in this blog, it is kind of story that I lived on the trekking day.
But before we move to that some information about Bhairavgad.

Bhairavgad is one of the challenging treks in Maharashtra. It is also a fascinating trek. The structure of this fort is different than others that are typically found in Maharashtra. The fort has a geographical dyke structure. The pinnacle of the fort is perfect quadrangle structure. The climb to this pinnacle is tricky.

Reaching the Base Village.

So moving on to my story. We started from kalyan at around 11 pm on 8th of April by jeeps. Reached the base village Moroshi at around 2:00 am in the morning. We were going to start early morning so rested for a while. At around 5.30 am we got up and were ready for the trek. We were around 27. Besides adventure and sightseeing such activities are platform to meet new people, see new faces, get to know each other and hence trek always starts with introductions.

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Bhairavgad trek group

The Start of the trek and lens’s intervention

We started the trek, as we did one of my friend, Sneha gave me her camera bag which had lens in it. She has this DSLR camera. I carried the bag, we all started to walk towards the ascend area. I was just looking at the marvelous ranges of mountains ahead. Something happened than, something moved in the lens bag. I thought some insect might have gone inside. So I tried to open it; and I was in shock. The lens talked. Yes you heard it right, the lens talked it said “What am I doing sitting in the bag when such great distant view is in front of me. Pass me to the camera person.” I said what the hell is wrong with me, did I trek too much. I was feeling fuzzy. So I mixed with group and started chatting with my trek mates.

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Distant view of the fort

As we moved on we arrived at the spot of ascend. The lens again said to me. “Why don’t you pass me to person with camera, I am missing it.” I said “shut up” it was a reflex. But the thing is I realized that I talked back. Now this feels different. Maybe I am sleep deprived. I thought I will just trek and keep the conversation to myself.

 

As we were climbing up; the sky was getting brighter and the light shining on the great ranges around us. The trek is easy to ascend. Aside from the fact that lens talked with me, I was enjoying the trek. Nothing like early morning trail in jungle.; Humans have populated themselves so much that we have forgotten to appreciate the beauty and significance of other species that have equal right on this planet. As I was climbing again it happened “Wow what a great place to be, you know what humans have eyes and eyes capture the images.” I said “yes, I know that being a student of science I understand that much.” Now I just replied I did not care that I was speaking back, I did not want to miss a great trek thinking that some stupid lens of a friend is talking to me.

The lens said “You know where humans store the captured images in brain; in the memory.” I replied “yup that is how it works generally” Lens said “tell me are you also student of technology?” I said “yes very enthusiastic about it” Lens “Do you  know how it functions with us camera and their lenses”
I said “ a person captures the image through lens and then it goes into the memory of that camera; aha I get your point you are separated from the camera; Sorry wait”
So finally I asked “Hey Sneha do you need this lens, you know very nice views out here you might want to us e this one with larger resolution.” She said “Not now re, I am not capturing long shots, maybe when we will reach further ahead or top” I said “ok”. Madness it is when I looked down on the lens in the bag and said “so you are stuck with me for a while then” lens replied “hmm.”

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Jungle trail

Ascend to a Plateau and lens’s philosophy

Ascend till a plateau of pinnacle base is pleasant. Trees surrounding us all along; People were enjoying the distant views and of course clicking photos as much as they can. I too took my phone out clicked several pictures, selfies. “ You are boring me look at that range, look how great it looks, look how it is getting curved in the edge rounding itself on the corner at least capture that, even if I am not connected to my camera; you should at least take such photos in your cell phone.” The lens advised rather it sounded like an instruction. I said “yeah ok, I will do that, but stop instructing I know when to click” Lens “Ohh do you really, here I am out and you will get best clicks for the lifetime” I said “Shut up, you are some stupid lens and I am not that into photography also, this is just some clicks I am taking because I like.” The lens “Hey you are stuck with me and I am stuck with you, Life is unfair get used to it.”

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Taking group pics and lens bag hanging around me

 

Well when a lens throws a philosophy what can one do. I moved ahead with my group, I hope that they did not notice me talking to a lens. Few rock patches and we were at the base of pinnacle, the dyke structure that I described earlier. “At least now she will ask for me, you know I am stuck in this bag for so long, I don’t know when the last time clicks were taken through me was?” Lens expressed displeasure. I said “life is unfair you know.” I punched the air for throwing philosophy back at the lens. Stupid huh!!

 

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Ascending the plateau

The pinnacle stands tall on the plateau, the two rock structures are firmly fixed in it. Some geographical disruptions long ago may have caused such structures to form. The plateau also offers all around view of hill ranges; also various types of floras can be found here. We had breakfast here on the plateau, it was getting brighter now, Uneven hill ranges following a trail can be seen from the plateau. These hills, these mountains were the guardians of Maratha Empire. The Maratha’s understood it what significance the nature plays if forming a kingdom hence they used this against the Mughals and Adilshah and rose to prominence of power. “Yes right you must be, Man on earth can only be powerful if he understands importance of nature, rather than destroying it; he should nurture it.” Lens expressed. Me in shock again “now what are you hearing what I am speaking in my mind also.” Lens replied “well you spoke too loudly.” I was amazed.

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The Pinnacle and Geographical dyke struture

 

Ascending to the the Pinnacle’s base and lens’s dialogues

Done with breakfast we moved ahead, for the climb to pinnacle. Lens said “Are you observing the views, you are busy making fun of each other” I said “yes I am; but why does that has to stop me from having fun.” Lens “you won’t understand, it’s a lens perspective.” I said “yes but I am human, I am dynamic, I can do many things at a time.”  Lens replied “Yeah yeah be proud of that dynamism, that is why now a days people are living in concrete jungles and have to find nature to enjoy it, great.” I said “You are an human invention, of human dynamism.” Lens said “Yes but I grabbed the understanding the significance of nature more because I was invented to focus and capture it.” I replied “Every human being is not selfish, many understand the importance; that is why we all are here, rather than spending weekends in parties.” Lens “Yeah Ok so concentrate on views. Humans are so selfish they want everything for themselves. Have you ever looked at these sights selflessly try it from lens’s point of view.”

 

I was like what the hell is going on why I am having discussion with the lens. People had become quiet around me, I thought everyone noticed the madness of me. No the climb had become difficult, one had to climb from either slippery soil, or slippery rocks, well for me rocks were comfortable so I took that route. I don’t know why but I said to the lens “Shut up now for a while otherwise I’ll handover you.” Lens replied “Ok.”

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Ascending towards the rock strucutre

The steep slope here is difficult to climb from both ways; one has to take good grip of legs and hands to climb up. If the grip loses a little also one could slip down; so all of us were concentrating on that. Taking grips, holding each other we managed to climb this patch, and arrived at a small pathway rounding the big rock structure. As I turned back I said to myself “wow what a view from here.” The lens says “yeah it is mesmerizing isn’t it? get me on the camera for this one.” So I asked my friend to put on this lens and take a pic. Finally the lens was put on the camera and few snaps were clicked from it. Again the bag was handed back to me and I was like “Ohh again with me huh!”

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Cold water tank near the rock structure

Here there was a water tank, so we all filled our bottles, as the water tank was in the cave; water was cold. It felt so relieved to drink cold water in hot sunny day. Now the heat was increasing and we all were sweating. Moving ahead we climbed to reach a vertical narrowing going down and again up towards the base of quadrangular pinnacle. Before going there we had to take the help of rope because it was narrow pathway; and also had to wear equipment to insert the rope. So geared up with technical stuff we walked down and reached another base. Here the sun shone directly on us and slowly everyone was arriving. Till then we sat at the base and waited. Sitting in between two giant rock structures, we were gauging how to climb the vertical rock in front of us, of course there was enough space to take grips and even broken steps in some place but still felt thrilling enough to scare some people.

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The Pinnacle from Side view

Lens says “huh seems like would be fun at the top” I said “maybe I’ll keep you here don’t if I could manage you to take up, it is risky, something may happen to you.” Lens says “shut up, I have been here to reach there; it is my goal, my purpose and my life to reach the top.” I said “sounds like me.” It was hot now my trek mates were engaged in discussions ranging from fort’s history to each other’s love life.

Lens says to me “What great structure it is, I could observe it from far away.” I replied “yes you would observe from far away because you are high resolution lens, see the difference between human eyes and you.” Lens says “yeah yeah you invented me but in this trek I have been only used once why bring me if not to use?” I said “You are a precise instrument; that should be used in precise moment, if used on every other occasion what is difference between you and normal lens or camera.”  The lens says “I have fallen in love with this structure and nature. What do you think?” I said “Yeah nature is a wonder, inexplicable beauty; it really makes you feel great, touches soul.” Lens says “Love nature, Love people and Love yourself.” I was like again philosophy, what is in this lens God hiding.

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Way to climb the pinnacle

Climb to Pinnacle and lens’s goal

Finally everyone arrived and one by one we started climbing the pinnacle vertically, with help of broken steps. The climb here is all the way around the edge, so one has to be really careful and always leaning to take support of the rock. This continues till the top. We reached a cave where all the bags we kept all the bags. Then climbed further only one or two people had taken camera with them, I carried the lens. We climbed further ahead and arrived at another Cave, this one was bigger than previous one. As we were climbing the steep rock many trees were covering the path. Finally we reached the top with zig zag climbing; and were standing on the pinnacle.

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Climbing the pinnacle
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Climbing one by one

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Broken steps at some points

Oh what a great feeling it is to reach the top of something!! The lens spoke “come on fast put me on the camera and click some great snaps.” I handed over the lens and my friend clicked the distant mountain ranges, we had arrived on the pinnacle in the noon when sun was in middle of the sky and it was hot out there. But viewing the world from the top soothes you. So we sat here for a while and moved down.

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On the top of the Pinnacle
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On the top in Style

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Climbing, Rappelling down and satisfied lens.

The lens was again handed over to me. We reached down and from appoint just above cave rappelled some 40 feet down to the floor of the cave. Then climbed down the rock by steps again. Now we were all exhausted and tired. Lens said “Wow great view have been captured goals accomplished.” I said “easy your goals are; mine I haven’t even started.” Lens said “Well humans are complicated and they make things complicated; try simple and you’ll achieve whatever you want.” I said “wow seriously what are you lens or a quote diary.” Lens said “whatever you want it to be, I am your invention after all, if you perceive me just a device than I am just a lens, if you perceive me a device that focuses on world and captures it then maybe you could learn more from me.” I was just stunned by that little speech of this lens I just gave thumbs up to it.

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Rappelling down
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Climbing and rappelling down

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trekking back to the base village and mystery of lens unresolved

We descended the rock structures and arrived in shadowy area of Jungle and had lunch, everyone was so hungry and thirsty that we just ate all the things that we had packed. After lunch we rested for a while and moved towards the base village. I was around 5.30 pm in the evening where we reached the base village again.

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Journey back to base village

I handed the lens bag back to sneha to put in her bag. I told her that the lens was talking to me. She said yes it does sometimes. I threw a line from harry Potter book “is this real or is it happening in my head.”
She replied with same reply of Albus Dumbledore “Of course it is happening in your head but why can’t it be real.” I just nodded and went to refresh myself.

Back journey

Refreshed and having water melon brought by trek leaders, we were ready for the back journey to Kalyan, where we parted our ways in our own directions.

What an experience it was to trek this fort!
I was in conversation with lens but it does mean that I did not mix with the trekking group, rather this group of trekking was great and I found many new friends here. Everyone was enthusiastic about trekking and each one of us enjoyed it to the fullest.

Technical Details

Region:
Near Malshej Ghar.
Height:
Aprox. 3350 ft.
Base village:
Moroshi

Distance:
From Mumbai approx 150 km (one can reach Kalyan by train and from                                         here private vehicle till base village is preferable; distance around 60                                           kms from kalyan).
From Pune approx 170 km.

How to reach:
Local transport is available till ale phata. But Private vehicle is                                                         preferable to reach the base village.

 

 

 

 

 

Lingana Expedition

Trekking expeditions are adventurous. Some are done for just fun, some are done to explore new things, some are done to view the nature from the top; but some are done to challenge yourself, dare yourself. Such is the trekking expedition of Lingana. Expedition of Lingana personifies trekking; it brings in you the mentality of facing the challenge right up front.  It is one of the toughest treks in Sahyadri’s of Maharashtra.

So here I was in office on Friday in dilemma whether to go for this trek or not. At that time I did not have much idea about Lingana. I came home still in confusion, the bus was going to leave from Panvel at night 11:00 pm. I had my dinner and suddenly decided to go for the trek. It was an impulse that I should do it, anyways being at home on weekend’s is waste of time. So I called trek leader to inform that I am coming.

Packed my bags and left for the trek. The bus came around at 11.30. We were to reach the base village in the morning. Lingana is situated in the Mahad region. We reached the base village on time that is at 5.30 am. The trek was planned accordingly that we would reach the top at about 4:00 pm and descend and reach back to base village at about 8:00 pm in the evening, have dinner there and start the return journey.

Start of trek

So we started the trek at 6:00 am in the morning, it was still dark out there. There is 45 minutes’ walk till the ascend starts. Stream of water was flowing down here. The ascend is easy till a plateau from where the pinnacle is clearly visible. We had the introduction session here, after all we are all here to form connections.

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Lingana maachi, introduction

The pinnacle of Lingana is marvelous it is exactly like the shape of Shiv Linga; hence the name, In Chatrapati Shivaji’s Kingdom it used to be a prison for criminals. The prisoners were taken here and put in caves and left there; the ladders used to be removed so they could not escape, they had to find water and food on their own.

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The pinnacle of Lingana exactly as Shiv Linga.

We climbed further to reach the base of pinnacle. Here we rested for a while and had breakfast. Bread butter, with cheese, mayonnaise sauce and jam is such energizing. Small Steps Adventures had taken support of a technical team of Maharashtra trekkers for the trek. The technical team had taken its guidance from one of famous trekkers of Maharashtra and the person who had climbed the pinnacle without any equipment Hira Pandit Sir.

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Climbing to the base of the Pinnacle

The Climb

So anyways the technical team then went ahead for setting up the climb, the free climber went ahead and clamped the rope. We also geared up with equipment provided like harness, carabiner and figure of 8.

The first patch was fairly simple to climb. The rope was all the time tied to us that passed through our carabiner hence enough precautions and safety was taken.

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The first climbing patch

 

As it was a pinnacle climb we were always on the edge even if the climb was not totally vertical.

The second patch was also not that difficult as one could take grips on rock and climb it. After the 2nd patch there was slippery soil that had to be crossed. I remember this because while climbing this part I caused a lot of soil to erode and disperse which caused team leader to caution me that other people are climbing.

After the second patch, there was a small plateau and vertically rounding it off there was a cave and water tank.

The third patch was a difficult climb. The rock was flat and one had to completely depend on rope to climb, I slipped many times here but eventually could climb. Further after climbing one was still on edge and climb further a rock by taking grip.

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The third and most difficult climb.

The fourth patch was also quite difficult one; one had to properly take the grip: one grip on rock and one grip on rope; this climb was totally on hands grip as there was no space for legs to support. Well when you have decided determination is all you need.

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Pinnacle after 4th climbing patch

After this there was a narrow path leading to another climb. This patch the fifth one of climbing was fairly simple one could easily take the help of rock crevices to support palms and legs and climb up

Now the last patch of climbing; the sixth patch. We had ascended on a circular flat surface and ahead was vertical rock to be climbed. The trick here was to first climb from one side and then climb across. Further up on broken steps and one has climbed the top.

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the last climb
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Climbing on the top.

On the Pinnacle’s top.

What a feeling it is to have climbed the pinnacle. Viewing from the top of mountain is something of an inexplicable experience. It was around 5 pm when we reached the top. We could see the sunset. In front of Lingana is Raigad fort, great, big rectangular structure of it can be seen. The sun was setting beyond it into the horizon. As the darkness followed the sunset, millions of stars were visible in the sky. It was so clear that we could even spot satellites encircling.

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View from the top
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Anothe breathtaking view from the top.

The 3 rappelings

Soon the technical team  came collecting all its equipment and rope and started the activity of setting up rappelling. The rappelling anchor has already been fixed into the ground their on the top we rested here, we were tired by climbing for whole day. The first rappeller had gone down and made arrangements. One by one we started rappelling. The descend had 3 rappelling spots, the first one was of about 400 ft. Imagine that. It was already dark and rappelling down the 400 ft rock is actually a thrill, a fear factor exists even if one has worn all the equipment.

One by one we rappelled down. When my turn came it was already midnight. We had to rappel till a point where rope length ended and the next rope was tied with technical knot further ahead on a narrow plateau which had extended itself from the hill like a nose.

After the first rappelling we were sitting on a rock on the edge, then moving further ahead went on plateau. The plateau was narrow with valley on sides. The soil on it slippery. We waited on plateau till everyone rappelled down. It was such a thrill to wait here, as we were on the edge. The wait till morning was like eternal. After that when last person rappelled we had to pull the rope down.

The rope was pulled and the technical team started setting up rope for next rappelling which was immediate. We sitting on edge went ahead and rappelled as soon the set up was complete. This was 150 feet rappelling. After rappelling down we arrived on a big plateau as big as large field. This was relief from sitting on edge to on a flat surface. It was already 5 am

The grass had grown tall till knees here. We found a place under a tree and slept till dawn broke. Then next rappelling of about 70 ft.  Again we went ahead and alighted on a narrow pathway laterally running through the hill. We rested till all others came. There was a cave and tank of water here. We refreshed ourselves from it filled our bottle with it and were ready for descend.

The descend and back hourney

The descend surprisingly was easy, just had to follow a trail of path in woods and grass. After the climb and rappel it was a pleasant experience of descend some relief from constantly being geared up for rappel. We climbed down in about 2 to 3 hours and reached the base village. We freshened ourselves in the pond of water nearby and had lunch in village at villagers home. After the lunch we packed ourselves and sat in the bus back to the city.

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Joyous faces after succesful completion of expedtion

Looking at the pinnacle from down we couldn’t believe that we had climbed and came down successfully.  The technical team that lead us was great, they were experienced and had done this trek many times also the encouragement from Small steps adventures leaders (Sagar and Yogi) helped us complete this trek successfully.

Technical details

Region:                Mahad
Base Village:      Paane
Transport:          ST is available from Mumbai (150 km) and Pune (130 km) till Mahad.
Private vehicle is preferable.

Height:                3000 ft (914mtrs) from sea level.