The three mountains(forts) of Alang, Madan and Kulang are considered to be the toughest places in the sahyadris for trekking. This is due to the natural wall like formations of the hills with most steep routes, a lot of edge traversing and vertical rock patches to climb on. A perfect mixture for an awesome trek.
It was in my checklist from December 2012 when Diyanat posted the event in GHAC, but I got a chance to make it in January 2014. It was Rama Raju who approached me to assist him and maddy for the AMK project on the republic day extended weekend. Hosting the Indian national flag at the top of Madan was another motivation for me not to let go of that amazing opportunity. Finally an amazing team was formed that included climbers Anubha, Devender, Jamila, photographer and great trekker Rama Raju, trekkers Kapale, Uday kiran, Maddy, Ismat, beginners yet tough guys Shiva and Shravani.
We started from Hyderabad on 23rd January 2014, Thursday night and reached Kalyan on 24th noon where Shravani joined the team.The idea was to complete the trek in an economical way so public transport was the only option. But public transport comes with a price of varied modes of transport and long journeys, yet you get to visit so many more places and localites expressions watching you carrying big backpacks and ropes are like a bliss. So we took the train to igatpuri and got chalaaned for traveling in sleeper on general tickets, then a bus to ghoti, then a tempo to the base village of ambewadi. The tempo ride at the roof top without the roof was the starting of the adventure of the trip. We reached ambewadi at 6 pm in the evening. Nobody of us knew the route or the area around, so to avoid the trouble of finding/making the route in the night we decided to take a local guy along till the base of the climb just to show the route.
We thought we would go to the base of the hill and camp for the first day and then next day early morning start the trek to the top. But due to the lack of route information we ended up on the end of the alang trek route just near the climb at 9.30 pm. The route was mostly steep uphill climbs and traversing along the very narrow paths. Due to night we were not able ot see where are we going and how much did we cover. The guy was also pretty fast which made us trek a lot faster. So at the end of the day we were there in the cave below the alang rock patches. We cooked our dinner which was maggie and then off to sleep. As it was january it was pretty cold out there, and I wanted to show my bondness by giving my sleeping bag to rama raju. I thought after the past treks of nalichivaat and kumaraparvata it was very easy to sleep just like that in the open, so I had cut a deal with Rama raju that he will bring his camera instead of sleeping bag and I will give my sleeping bag to him. Yeah amazing photographs are anyday more important than a comfortable sleep. One can sleep after the trek too, but cant get photos. So, the fight in the night with the cold was worth the experience.
Second day started with boiled chana for breakfast and then the two rock patches of alang. The first patch was an easy one and the second patch is a vertical 40 ft climb with a 10-15 ft base ground and then a vertical fall again of 900 feet. This patch does require good experience of lead climbing as the route is bolted and requires rope work to climb on. This was the first time I tried lead climbing and realized that its not a kids play, needs a lot of practice and experience. Anubha finally made the first accent and set up the rope on the whole route. I was the second to climb on and with my poor climbing abilities I somehow used the rope for support and managed to go up with only a single fall . It took some time for everybody to come up as it was a time consuming job. While everyone was climbing rama raju was busy taking photographs of the climbers. Finally at 1 pm we were there at the alang top. The dip in a pool was a nice resort to the scorching heat, after roaming all around the alang fort we started back by 3pm to the cave we stayed. We reached the cave by 5 pm and it seemed the end of the day, as the next camping spot was the top of madan which would take 4 more hours. So we had a fun night near the cave with bonfire, delicious dinner, and the ritual of ghost stories. So there was another cold night to pass ahead, but this time I placed myself strategically to avoid the cold breeze flowing.
The third day was a long day where we had to climb madan and then climb kulang to camp at the top of kulang. So we started the day quite early to reach the madan rock patch after the narrow steps.Madan is to the west of the alang and they both share the base. The madan climb is a little longer but is a bit inclined and there is no base ground at the bottom, if you are not anchored and you slip, you are gone for life. Again anubha climbed the patch and made it look a piece of cake. Then everyone had the bite of the cake and we were all up in comparatively little time. The only concern about the madan patch is the safety of the climber and the belayers. Do not let too many people come near the climbing area and send people one by one. After the rock patch there is still a lot of edge traversing and steep climbing to reach the top of madan. Being the republic day, We hoisted the flag at the madan top and started back to the base, where we kept our luggage. After having lunch we started the trek to kulang which traverses the madan mountain from behind on the risky edges with vertical drops and rolling stones on the path. After crossing the maddan form behind i.e. north we come to the southern face of kulang base which needs further traverse and the steep slopes make the trek real challenging. This was the only good trekking part of the whole area. After reaching the westernmost part of kulang we meet the original route to kulang from where the route is mostly stairs. We reached the kulang top by 6.30 in the evening, winning race with another group for the better camping spot. There is no dry wood on the top of kulang so all the wood required for cooking needs to be got from the base. Our group split into two, one securing the camping spot, another getting the wood. There are a lot of water cisterns at the top for filling water and also having a dip in them. Nobody was interested in having a dip at that time as it was starting to get cold, and I was injured and didn’t wanted to screw up my injury further as enduro was only one week ahead. The cold breeze at the top of our cave and the views from there were absolutely brilliant and mind freshening. Pink Floyd songs made much sense and feel up there, I was all ”comfortably numb” over there. After spending some time at teh top we returned to the cave and it was time to crash, it was very hard to believe that it was the end of the most amazing trek of my lifetime. At this very moment I can feel the pain of leaving that place, so come this November I would be up again there.
Fourth day was all about returning to the base village and finally returning back to kalyan. From ambewadi , we got another jeep guy till ghoti. Van from ghoti till kasara and then a local to kalyan.
Again the most adventurous ride was the jeep ride till ghoti, with 25 people somehow fitted in the jeep and the awesome romantic songs of devender’s choice made the ambiance like no place else. Only thing we missed in the trip was a water body to swim/bath after the trek, couldn’t do much about it as we didn’t had our own private vehicle. The sugarcane juice guy at ghoti was also impressed by devender’s streak of about 10 juices and jammy’s sugarcane eating style. The bhel and vada pav at kasara local staion are the things to die for after a trek. From kalyan another general ticket travel to pune completed our wish for all kinds of travel in the trip. I stayed back in pune while everybody else took the train back to Hyderabad.
Picture Credits : Rama Raju
Trek : Alang Madan Kulang
Area: Igatpuri, sahyadris, Maharashtra
Base village : Ambevadi
Camping spots: Alang caves, Alang Top, Madan Top, kulang top, Ambewadi
Trek route : Ambewadi -> Alang caves -> Alang top -> Alang caves -> Madan base -> madan top -> madan base -> kulang base -> kulang top-> kulang base -> ambewadi
Nearest town : ghoti, can be reached from igatpuri or directly kasara.