Monday, 7 March 2016

Harishchandragad- Through The Daunting Gorge (Nali Chi Vaat)

Some risks in life are worth taking. Some fears are worth facing. Some trails are worth following. And, all peaks worth climbing. Because, the view from top is worth all risks, fears, perturbations and pain.

Harishchandragad. Mention of the name evokes muddled responses and few of the first things that come to one’s mind are the mighty Konkankada (Konkan Cliff), the 5 feet tall Kedareshwar Shivalingam and the many routes to climb to the top.

I have already mentioned about Harishchandragad in delineation in my previous post. You may like to read through about the architecture, facts and history here

Harishchandragad is a hill fort famous for it’s accessibility via multiiple routes, the most daunting one being Nali Chi Vaat. The literal translation of Nali Chi Vaat is “The Gorge Path” where “Nali” in Marathi means “Gorge” and “Vaat” means “Path”.

Nali Chi Vaat is the toughest route to climb Harishchandragad. The name itself is sufficient enough to scare the living daylights out of someone, let alone going through pictures. The entire route is a rocky terrain with a combination of small to colossal rocks of heterogeneous geology.  The climb is almost 80 degrees steep with 4 rock patches to be covered in all. On top of everything, the rocks are loose, even the biggest of them can come tumbling down any moment. The smaller ones form heavy talus which makes the trail more treacherous. Hence, one has to measure his / her steps before trying to get proper foot and hand holds.

The Ascent- Via Nali Chi Vaat
With winter at it’s peak, we decide on going for another adventurous trek to Harishchandragad - ascent via Nali Chi Vaat and descent via Rajmarg aka Junnar Darwaza, the two most thrilling routes.

Christmas night, 25 souls bitten by adventure bug, start their journey from Mumbai towards Belpada, the base village in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, India.

Vikram Singh led the trek.

We reached Belpada around 3:00 AM. The intensity of the wind with supremely chilled temperatures made everyone shiver. We took a nap till 6:00 AM and were ready to start for the trek by 7:00 AM post breakfast and tea, followed by the introduction round.

Ayush and Mahesh turned up to be the surprise elements, first time trekkers opting for HCG via Nali Chi Vaat as their life’s very first trek. A grand salute awaited them.

Ayush and Mahesh- The First Time trekkers

We were informed that the entire trek would take around 6- 7 hours to complete.
We had a smooth start. The first patch, 30 feet high, climbed with the help of safety ropes tied as bowline knots around our waists. The first patch was done without any hitch.

The 1st Rock Patch

The second patch was most menacing since the entire patch had free rocks. We were fore-warned by Vikram about the same. The trick was to maintain distance between each other while climbing and the call of “watch-outs” to save your trekmates from being hurt by the rocks falling off. Well, I wasn’t among the lucky ones to be spared. While I was waiting for my other trekker mates to move ahead, a rock came tumbling down and within fraction of seconds, before I could move away, it hit my leg just above my ankle and BAM… a loud scream escaped my throat. After a quick first-aid and a few minutes of rest, I was once again ready for the climb. One more climbing patch completed.  The Nali ends after this patch.

The 2nd Rock Patch

The 2nd Climb

The Helping Hand

The third patch was traverse through the forest with complete package of scree and talus. A smaller climbing patch towards the end and we reach the plateau. Lunch break after completing the third patch. A much needed long break.

The 3rd Patch

3rd Patch Completed

The last and final leg of the ascent comprises of ascent through the forest for 40 odd minutes.

Mission Accomplished

The Mighty Konkankada

Walking- hopping- climbing- crossing- escaping falls- panting- resting and repeating, we finally completed our trek and reached Konkankada an hour earlier than the time that Vikram had anticipated at the start of our trek. Refreshed at Bhaskar Dada’s lair and went back to Konkankada to view the sunset.

The Spectators, The Melting Sun and The Mighty Konkankada

Sitting on the Konkankada, facing the valley with fiercely chilled air brushing against the face and to see the sun melting beyond the horizon, splashing colors across the breadth of the sky is the most beatific view one could experience. I turned speechless and could not help myself from drowning in my thoughts. 

Waiting for the sun to go down

The Sunset

Post dinner, some of us decided to get cozy inside the tents and the rest went ahead to enjoy the bonfire on Konkankada. Vikram showed the Konkan Darwaja route. Coming back to Konkankada, everyone settled around the bonfire to keep away from freezing. Countless mind boggling spooky tales were the major attraction of the night.

The Bonfire

All The Masti

The Descent- Via Junnar Darwaza aka Rajmaarg
The Junnar Darwaza was used as the principal entrance to Harishchandragad and hence the name Rajmaarg (The Principal Route). This route had proper stairs carved on the rocks with fortifications. With continuous water flow during the monsoons, the rocks started to loosen up over a period of time which led to discovery of other alternate routes (Pachnai and Khireshwar) to access the hill fort.

The Descent- Rajmaarg- This patch used to be a proper rock carved staircase 

After surviving the super windy and chilly night, we woke up early morning. Done with breakfast and tea, we started off for temple visits and the Kedareshwar Shivalingam. The earlier plan to trek to Taramati Peak was deferred due to time constraint and we started our descent via Rajmaarg. This route is quite steep at the beginning and covered with talus.

The Ghanchakkar Range, The Kalsubai Range (AMK – Kalsubai) and The Ajoba Range are very clearly visible from the top of HCG.

Additionally, the entire Malshej Ghat Range till Bhimashankar can be viewed when descending via Rajmaarg.

Everyone completed the descent without major glitches. Ayush and Mahesh were given the grand salute to have accomplished their goal. Lunch at Khireshwar. The return journey till Khubi Phata was a bumpy and thrilling ride on a tractor back. After having failed to stop any vehicle on the highway, we decided to have a long tea break till our vehicles arrived.

All smiles

One more adventure came to close with all smiles. Thank you all for being a part of such an amazing experience. Re-living the moments while accounting my treks is a wonderful way to time travel. 

  • Ammu, Ranji, Digvijay- Thank you for taking care of me after I injured my leg. 
  • Vinayak, Yogi, Banjara, Kailesh, Hitesh, Arun, Kaustubh, Babaji and Vishal - You guys are real fun. 
  • Digvijay, Yogi and Vaibhav completing rock patches without ropes. (Safety measures were kept in mind. Please don't try to imitate them)
  • Shweta's beeeeeeg and heavy sleeping bag like- 1 BHK terrace
  • Vinayak mimiking Ammu on her "Watch-out" calls was hilarious 
  • Vinayak and I trying to salute the Konkankada with our feet up. We could finally succeed after many failed attempts.
  • The food stall inside Abhishek's bag. I hope he still had some stock left till evening.
  • Arun and Vinayak - Our DJs playing songs on public demand
  • Hitesh's jingalala get up to entertain everyone
  • Ayush completing the trek even after many falls and wardrobe malfunctions (wink) - Kudos my friend
  • The grand roadies salute to Ayush and Mahesh
  • The hilarious and bumpy ride on tractor back

Few GK Points:

Location: Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, India

Base Village: Belpada

Elevation: 1,422 meters (4,665 feet)

Difficulty Level: Medium to Tough

Best time: Best time to trek to HCG via Nali Chi Vaat is November to February because of the fairly low temperature. March to May and September to October are pretty hot and humid and since this route is a longer one, it could turn too tiring with higher levels of dehydration. Monsoons are again not a good time to trek through this route due to heavy water flow. Only expert trekkers can trek through this route during monsoon that too after all safety measures are taken into consideration.

Couple of hacks to survive through:
  • Carry minimum 3 ltrs of water plus ORS / Glucose / Tang
  • Travel light- Try to keep your bags as light as possible
  • Good trekking shoes are a must
  • Start early so that you could watch the sunset from Konkankada
  • Carry warm clothes. It gets fiercely cold atop Konkankada during winters

The Nali Chi Vaat Group

With sheer perseverance, discipline, faith and belief in self one can certainly conquer the unconquerable. At the same time, it also makes us realize the supreme power that nature holds against all odd perceptions that we humans have about subjugating it. 

Dear trekker buddies- Keep Trekking, Keep adventuring and Keep smiling.

Picture Credits- Vinayak, Digvijay, Vaibhav and Kailesh

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  1. Replies
    1. Thank you for your visit Paresh. Glad you liked it )

  2. Loved the way you've shared your experience!! And pic with shoes is classy - Something I always love to do!!

    1. Thanks Raj. That pic with shoes was the most hilarious moment. Everyone kind of started encouraging us. We had to make several attempts before we got the perfect shot.


  3. Wow...that seems like an arduous climb and fun too!

    1. Yes Ami. The climb is too tiring since it is a long un-ending climb. But the moment we reached konkankada and viewed the valley below, each and every moment of the climb seemed worth it.

      Thank you. :)

  4. Adventure and fun! Happy for you guys!( includes gals:) )

  5. Wonderful, Great to read. Beautiful pics.

  6. Wow! Great reading your adventure .. your pics look awesome .. they just take my breath away !

  7. you have started making me Jealous not to take me one of these adventures :) awesome!!!

    1. Ha Ha Ha... Next time you are in India, we are definitely on for some adventure. Just shout out sweetie and I would be there. :)