18:15hrs. We´re half way up the first stage and my cell beeps with a message – ´Debi has a fatal fall. Critical. Call ASAP´. Limited network on the hillock just does not allow the call to fall through. Debashish and a couple of his friends had been to Kerala and were scaling down the Chembra peak that Saturday.evening.We´d just started hiking up Kalsubai. I had met Debi,Roy, Manas and Rahul during one of my regular visits to Hyderabad when I was posted in Pune. They were then backpacking and exploring little known places in the country during their break. A down to earth group and you could easily fall in sync. with them in minutes. Last week Debi called me asking for places to visit in Kerala and I suggested Chembra peak. Little did I know how drastic a turn this would be for them.
Finally at about 19:10hrs I´m able to get the line across to Roy. All that comes from the other end is mumbled talk of what happened.Apparently Debi had lost control while moving downhill, stumbled over a rough patch. and had a scary fall downhill. Sparse medical help was available only after three hours. With major bruises there was very limited scope. Next day 06:25hrs he breathes his last. As the message sinks in, I happen to recollect how unpredictable life is. I´ve always believed nature gives you a second chance. Today I´ve learnt – everything in life has exceptions. May his soul rest in peace.
Post this incident, The Kalsubai trek is not something that I would like to remember but to stick to the ground rule that I would document each and every important event happening in my life, Here it goes.
18 of us from Hyderabad, 12 from Pune and 1 from Mumbai finally decide to head to scale the Kalsubai Peak. I was looking forward to this trek for many reasons – This would be my last trek for some time to come, This would probably be my last visit to Pune and oh yes, Kalsubai is the highest peak in Maharashtra. The Hyderabad team reaches Pune at about 08:00hrs.We board the TT that was arranged by the Pune team and head towards Nasik Phata where we meet them. A brief stop over for lunch at Sangammner and we proceed to Bari.
At about 17:30hrs we start the trek. The first patch seems to be pretty much a simple hike.We reach a plateau in about half an hour. A villager dwelling in a small hut there provides some lemon juice. The weather starts cooling down and in moments you get to smell the fresh smell of rain water seeping into barren soil. And then, comes in the message from Roy. I seem to loose my balance of mind and stop registering all that´s happening around me.For the next one hour or so it´s a somber trek up the peak. I try to maintain my calm by venting all my anger on people who were slow. For the first time ever, I fail miserably in handling my responsibility as a sweep.The hailstorm sets in and it´s almost 19:30 hrs by the time we reach the penultimate plateau.Thankfully the team decides to stay put in the shack there. It gets cold as night sets in.. 31 of us huddle in a 10x20ft shack. Thanks to Bani, we have a tarpaulin sheet to protect us from the hailstorm. In about an hour or so the hailstorm stops. Few folks head up to the peak while the remaining huddle in the shack. I try in vain to distract myself but end up having a quick dinner and crash on the floor. Later, next day morning at about 05:00am, I´m woken up by someone and only then do I realise I´ve slept six hours flat like a log when not one of the remaining 30 people have managed to shut their eyelids in the freezing cold.
Roy´s final news at 06:30 gets on me and I loose my cool once again. I decide to reach the base as early as possible.We reach the base village by 07:30am. The Pune folks decide to head to Bhandardara dam while we head to Pune as we´d to board the Hyderbad exp. scheduled to depart from Pune at 16:30 hrs.We manage to reach well before time and by 05:00hrs next day morning we´re back at hyd.
I´m not someone to fall in for lame superstitions. But this time, Friday the 13th does not seem to have been any favorable to me. I´d better stop misconstruing things and kick back to normalcy.
Route: Pune – Nashik Phata-Chakan-Narayan Gaon-Ale Phata-Sangamner-Akole-Rajur-Bari
Distance: Pune-Sangammner:~140kms; Sangammner-Rajur:~36kms; Rajur-Bari:~15kms
Altitude: ~5400ft. above MSL.
Endurance: Med. | Difficulty : low [Non Monsoon] Med [Monsoon] . Govt. has re-inforced the ladders and climbing up the hill is not really tricky.
Time : Uphill: 2.5 hrs. Downhill: 1.5 hrs
Transport: Preferably arrange a cab. Base village has remote connectivity. ST :Pune-Sangammner, Sangammner – Rajur, Rajur-Bari
Expenses: ~Rs500 [ Private vehicle ]
Stay: Shack on the penultimate plateau. Well with Potable water during Monsoon
Duration: Preferable opt for an Overnight stay.
Best time to visit: Late Monsoon./ Early Summer