Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Amedikallu – All New Trek Route

Amedikallu is believed to be one of the tougher treks in the Western Ghats. Satyaveer Singh tobe Professor from IISc Bangalore did extensive research and worked out what looked like a perfect cake walk to Amedikallu and adjacent Ridge. The trek was being planned for quite sometime but happened only on 12th June 2009.
The group consisted of 4 including myself off which 2 were amateurs Raghuveer(small Startup), Anand(Cisco), Satya(IISc) and Rohit(TCS).
Amedikallu Amedikallu in the backdrop

Day 1 - Amedikallu Ridge
We reached Kokkada (en route to Dharmasthala), from here hired a jeep to Sheshila (INR 250). From the driver we understood it has been 2 days since we had rains. We began trekking at 0900 hours at a slow pace; we had trouble finding trails leading us to the peak all through.
Amedikallu Large Wood Spider found during the ascent
The monsoon had covered all trails we had to trust our instincts and keep going; leaches too had grown bigger and the blood sucking monsters did what they do best.
Amedikallu Nice looking Parasite on a broken tree trunk
While on the Amedikallu ridge at 16:00 hours dark clouds came crashing and with no place to take shelter we just stood still among the dark monsoon clouds;
Amedikallu First glimpse of Shola grass
with strong winds and limited visibility we just stood still for 2 hours. When the rains subsided we kept looking around hoping to find a suitable campsite as reaching the peak was ruled out.
Amedikallu First signs of Monsoon clouds
We found a boulder which was positioned such that it would cut off strong winds under which we camped for the night.
Amedikallu Time to pack my camera safe inside

Day 2 - New Trail
Next morning we got the most beautiful sight ever imaginable.
Amedikallu First light
The air was pure, clear skies, fluorescent green cover all over with thick fog cover over low lying areas it was just awesome & unforgettable….
Amedikallu A close-up of early morning mist
Without wasting much time we started our ascent to reach the peak. On the way we found a few rare Rock Orchids.
Amedikallu Rock Orchid

The 360degree view peak was truly mind boggling.. We could spot -> KP, Khudremukh Range, Yettina Bhuja Ridge and few other Ranges..
Amedikallu View from Peak over the entire Amedikallu Range
Intermittently the clouds cleared to give even better views and patterns. Yettina Bhuja looked like Saturn with the clouds around it like a ring. We spent close to an hour on the peak. We trekked along the ridge hoping to find a shorter trek route on a different exit.
Amedikallu Yettina Bhuja to the Left & entire Amedikallu Ridge
Here we found 3 fully grown huge Sambars, by then I had packed my camera and was in no position to shoot ‘em. We next entered a thick forested region heading North East only to realise after 30 minutes it was impenetrable and we had to revisit our exit route.

Plan Change
What we decided next was either too stupid or simply the best trek route way back to civilization. This was something we had done no homework at all, we had no navigation equipment like a simple compass.
Amedikallu Our Destination as seen from Amedikallu Peak
We just knew one thing – A river flows heading to the West along the southern side of Amedikallu Valley [river flows in the valley b/w Amedikallu & Yettina Bhuja]. Our gut feel was if we hit this river and stick to the right bank of the river and head towards West we would hit civilization. From the peak we worked out the possible path we take along the ridge.
Amedikallu The steep Ridge that we took to hurry down...
Remember we had no trails to follow nor navigation equipment to ensure we don’t veer off course.

The Steep Descent
To begin with it was shola grass initially with blades of grass cutting through our arms. The combination of sweat (salt) + Sun over bruised arms was quite something to remember. Our calculations went wrong when we hit a cliff and we were forced to revisit our plan. Satya and myself were forced to take lead and shift to an adjacent ridge a few meters away which was at an 80Degree inclination we certainly cheated death here a couple of times. But it was worth what we did, we discovered a new unexplored stream here, the water here tasted distinctly different, it was literally sweet and unforgettable.
Amedikallu Signs of Grasslands almost coming to an end..
We then found an alternate route that would help us go further without having to put the other 2 at risk. However these extras costed us more time than anticipated. Finally the grassland was over by then it was 18:00 hours. Without wasting much time we dragged ourselves through thick forests, Satya, myself cleared the way taking turns as Raghu & Anand had enough and just wanted to end this soon.
Amedikallu Stream in the thick forests; we camped nearby..
Anand ended up puking a couple times and Raghu already had a spinning head. Within no time it started to pour down heavy around 19:15 hours. A Viper?In this thick forest cover we found a couple of snakes who posed for a while in front of my camera. With bad visibility, rains and leeches forced us to camp in the forest again. With food supplies running short and poor time to distance coverage ratio we had to sleep empty stomach, however we did get a couple of sips of lemon juice prepared with Glucon D + 2 lemons [400ml / 4 = about 100 ml per person; no sugar so I used Glucon D]. The campsite was of a different kind – A tree had fallen and cleared a small patch on the forest floor; we had no campfire, we were close to a stream with a lot of bamboo [elephant’s fav. food] and trees that appeared like leopards favourite hunting ground, so I guess we had chosen the right place. We heard and saw some curious creatures creeping in the dark, no guess what it was. Satya and I stayed up whole night ringing a vessel and screaming all night to shoo off nocturnal creatures.

Day 3 - Tough Decisions
Next morning we were just too tired to do anything. We again worked out a new strategy. We had run out of food we had to eat just enough to keep us going, we had a spoon of protein supplement [Whey Protein] + a couple of oat meal + 2 kharoojs + a little bit of MTR ready to eat stuff . Found him while finding our way back trekking from AmedikalluIf we followed the river it would take us to our destination in a winding manner which would be longer, the plan was to cut across by climbing up another mountain range and slide downhill other side to hit the valley down below. The climb down was too steep almost a cliff, I had to take lead and keep the team going.. Finally we hit the valley and the first glimpse of blue skies above and the adjacent Yettina Bhuja mountain ridge slopes. cob webThis was a great relief; it was just 09:00 hours.
Amedikallu We made to the Valley finally!
From here on we stuck to the right bank of the river and kept heading in the westward direction. The stream got bigger and wider here we saw a Manikchand packet indicating we were close to civilization. Soon we hit a pathway which took us back to Sheshila village. On the way we met a localite who took us to his home and served us Chai + Mangoes + Bathing facilities seeing our state.
Sheshila That's Satish's house a localite where we freshened up

This was the best trek ever; I got a chance to use my new monopod to take most of the shots off my camera.
#1 We Discovered a new stream which had a distinctly different taste.
#2 All the while we had a GPS which gave us incorrect Altitude readings which was not of much help.
#3 Since the trek extended into day 3 and no network, people back home ended up panicking
#4 Monsoon treks have always been different and adventurous; if you make it out alive you carry some awesome memories with you.