March 26, 2014

Kumara Parvatha Trek- A Tall Climb...!!

Kumara Parvatha (KP) is the second highest peak in Coorg, fifth highest in Karnataka and the trek to its summit is considered one of the toughest in western ghats. Also known as Pushpagiri, KP at 1712 meters is the highest peak in Pushpagiri wildlife sanctuary which spreads over the borders of Coorg and Dakshina Kannada districts. It has two trek routes- one from Coorg (Somwarpet) and the other from Kukke subrahmanya. The trek is a total of 22 kms while entering from somwarpet and exiting via kukke. The trek route cuts through grasslands, forest patches and massive rocks, as expansive vistas of green carpets spread out.

What happens when someone who is not a frequent trekker and does not have any commendable previous experience of trekking decides to conquer KP without any proper preparations usually taken before an arduous trek? Add a wrong attire and a sagging heavy shoulder bag, and the trek becomes a gruelling one.
From now on that 'someone' stands corrected as 'I'.

The tiny bus stand of Somwarpet had just woken up as the group alighted from the bus. A couple of shops were open and after the morning ablutions we headed to one of those small shops which served hot idlis and dosas. Gobbled down a few idlis and washed it down with a hot coffee before meeting our trek guide. The group ambled back into the vehicle and then a short drive past small villages and vast paddy fields led to Beedhalli, where we disembarked. The trek was to begin from Beedhalli, where all we could see was a lonely house, a couple of stray calves and the road meandering along the paddy fields. There was nobody around except for us. After distributing the tents and food onto different hands we followed our trek leader along a narrow path that cut across a paddy field. It was a small group of 11 members and Santosh (organiser) and myself were the ones to trod behind. The first frame of greenery arose before us, as hills and trees sprung up from nowhere. The narrow path across the field led to a small forest patch and suddenly the openness of the paddy fields with the beaming sun gave way to shades and gradients. The path wasn't well defined, but we just needed to follow the person ahead of us. With long stumps for support we trudged forward and soon there was more greenery and hills all around. We made our way through the frail forest path with knee high bushes all along. The forest patch cleared up after a while and we were knocking the doors of the forest office for the permission and passes.

First glimpse of greenery and forest
The real trek was only about to begin and I could already feel the weight on my shoulders. While on a trek, common sense says carry minimum requirements. In addition to the fact that my shoulder bag was not a proper backpack, I carried a 1500 page guide book (Did I think my guide wouldn't know the trek route?), a few travel magazines (Did I imagine that I could snooze off under a tree with the magazines providing a shade while on the trek?) and an extra jean pants in addition to the one I was already wearing (Does anybody wear a jean on a trek?).

As Santosh and our guide completed the formalities at the forest office, we trekkers walked to a stream that flowed just ahead. Water was only ankle deep and we had to cross it to trek further. We played in the waters for a while and captured the absolutely serene surroundings. The water slithered over slippery round pebbles and made its way deep into the dark green forest as the sun's rays seeped through the canopy and glistened the beautiful stream making an idyllic setting. There is a broken bridge above the stream which was used by trekkers and forest officers sometime back. Now all begin the trek by wading across the stream.

The stream we cut across
The formalities finished in a while and then we moved forward into deeper greenery. Sun rays very rarely seeped through the thick canopy as we walked over the thick foliage that had covered the forest trail. We went past many massive tree trunks which lay by the side. The undulating forest landscape looked beautiful with trees, entwined roots over the ground, fallen leaves, trunks, very little sunlight and the meandering trail to KP. We went past many moss gathered stones which defined the path feebly and the small trickling streams which were on the verge of being completely dry very soon. Monsoons were over and the for the gleeful crowd, the place was devoid of any leeches. It was stoned pathway at many places.

Lovely foliage
The meandering trail to KP

The weight of the books and clothes on my shoulder pulled me down many a time. Not undertaking any prior preparation for this arduous trek slowly crept in as I could feel the tiredness and fell way behind the group. Though we did take very short breaks in between, the bag and the jeans wasn't helping. I had my first cramps on my left leg shortly. I sat down, had a few sprays and was back on my feet. Struggling, I trudged forward and had taken only a few steps when cramps caught my other leg too. I needed rest and sat down for a while with a couple of them from the group. After the rest, I was back on my feet and we walked quicker to catch up with the group that went ahead. The pain waned slowly and we walked deeper into the forest.

We had to crawl over a small rock and climb further before breaking at a clearing to have our packed lunch. Vistas opened up before us and only then did we realise how high we were and how far we had climbed. Hills covered in green canopy and distant valleys spread before us as we gazed for a while before satiating our hunger. Though I did not have any further cramps, the pain on my shoulder was slowly got the better of me. Santosh pointed out that, the bag I had was not a proper backpack and that could be the reason for the pain. I just nodded at my ignorance. It had been more than three hours since we began the trek and we had covered less than half the distance before the break. After the long lunch break, we trekked further up, collected water that trickled through the cracks in rocks, and enjoyed the vistas that opened up intermittently between the foliage. Animal presence is a rarity on the trek but we did spot a few elephant droppings on the way. Our guide passed on the information that elephants are sometimes found wandering in the night through the corridor which we had cut across.

Magnificent vistas from where we stopped for lunch
Our tired legs trudged forward through the thick canopy for long and after a while the greenery disappeared and what lay ahead of us was a massive black rock at forty five degrees. It was a tough climb with that heavy load on my back. Crawled, clambered and scrambled my way up the rock with a little help from my guide. However, the spectacular views from the top more than made up for the tough climb. We rested for a while as we took in the vistas and relieved my shoulder off the backpack (or was it a rucksack?). Brown hill tops made their presence felt and peeked through the verdant canopy that spread out like a vast green ocean. The blue sky in the background made for a lovely landscape frame. Shortly we were in for another rock climb, and this a tougher one compared to the earlier. The climb was longer as the rock was a larger one and the small stones and gravel made it a bit precarious. With short breaks, scrambled over the large rock and made my way up with much difficulty. I kept looking down to see the distance I had crawled and that made me skip a beat. It was indeed the toughest part of the climb. All had the much needed rest after that tough climb. I got into lighter pants which helped a lot and my trek mates chorused that I should have done that much earlier. Took off my shoes and my feet were relieved to take in the fresh air. The panoramic vistas from the top were spectacular and for the first time during the trek I felt I had covered a lot of altitude. The fresh air, beautiful vistas, lots of greenery, distant brown hills and the clear blue sky recharged my mind and little bit of my body before we set for the final leg of the climb. 

First rock climb
Vistas after the first rock climb
The second rock climb
We had to encounter one more rock, which was fairly easy before the final stretch which was purely rocky. The final climb too wasn't strenuous and we finally made it to the top of Kumara Parvata. It definitely was a moment of excitement, happiness and contentment on conquering the 1700 meter KP. There is a small shrine on top and the place is pretty much flat surfaced with lots of space for campers. Though we hardly met any trekkers till then, once up, we were in for a surprise as numerous trekkers had made their way up and already set up their tents. There is a small water hole on top from where trekkers can refill their bottles. We were in a hurry to set the tents as the sun was about to set. Few ran to get the bottles refilled while other put up the tent. Post that I wandered around and all I could see were tall peaks, distant valleys, widespread greenery and the orange sky as the sun went down the horizon.

The final leg to the top
Atop KP!

Views from the top of KP
It got dark pretty fast and we had an early dinner after the campfire was set. It got quite cold and windy as we went deeper into the night. People in other tents were awake and singing at the top of their voices as we snuggled into our respective sleeping bags inside the tents. The wind was blowing quite hard and we were quite apprehensive about the tents being blown off and we sleeping staring at the beautiful night sky. Would have been a considerable option if not for the wind. We were also told that though animals are a rarity, it is best advised not to wander around in the dark. It was cold inside the tent despite being inside the sleeping bags and with the constant sound of the wind, it was tough to get some sleep even with the day's tiredness. I suddenly felt something move outside the tent. Must have been a stone or a wood piece that hit the tent because of the wind pressure is what I told myself. However, it kept me intrigued for a few seconds and then my co-trekker inside the tent said,"Niranjan, what was that?". Silence prevailed for a moment and wild thoughts ran through my head before I laughed and said that there must be something that is lurking outside. So that definitely was 'something', but we did not dare open the zip of the tent to check. 

Dozed off in a while and woke up at the break of dawn to witness the sunrise. It was cold and hazy outside the tent and I slowly crawled out of it. Trekkers sheepishly gathered as darkness gave way for light and the sky cracked with a splash of orange hue. Undoubtedly the sun's rise made a beautiful frame with the magnificent landscape in the foreground. We dismantled the tents, packed and trekked our way down via Kukke subrahmanya side, another route. This is the route that is normaly taken by most trekkers while trekking KP. The route is also comparatively a longer one. After a photo shoot with other trekkers we began trekking down the rocky stretch. After the initial easy walk, it was a sharp slanting drop which was quite adventurous and slightly risky. The path was almost a right angled one and I precariously made my way down that stretch. Definitely one of the most dangerous stretches on the trek.This was the only rocky path on the way down before it led to the forest patches and open grasslands. However, there were teenage trekkers in slippers and sandals going down rock in minutes. They just whizzed past me as I struggled to take each step. Must be frequent trekkers, I thought.


Down the treacherous stretch
 The last stretch was over big stones and it ended at a small stream where we prepared maggi for our breakfast. That steep walk down did make me quite nervous and I was happy to be back on the forest path. It was back to undulating pathways, greenery, foliage and trees with sunshine seeping through. There were a few climbs and shortly we were in front of Sheesh parvata with majestic views of the low lying valleys and distant hills painted in different shades of green. We ambled along the path and captured the views of magnificent landscape from dizzying heights. There were many rocky protrusions which made for some spectacular vantage points. Spent a considerable amount of time enjoying the vistas and then trekked further. 

Sheesh Parvata

Many of the hills that we saw from the vantage points had to be crossed before we touched Kukke town. The further paths were along the ridges of the hills with 360 degree view of the surrounding hills and valleys. From the ridges the path slowly made its way through grasslands over hill tops from one hill to another. On the way up, we escaped the sun's beat due to the forest cover which was present during most part of the trek. While on the way down we lacked that and got us tired very early into the trek. I spent time capturing the wonderful vistas and lost a lot of time due to this. Santosh urged me reduce the time spent on photography in order to catch up with the group which had gone ahead. I lagged behind during a major part of the trek, due to tiredness, heat and photography. The frequency of my breaks increased and that made it all the more tough to catch with the rest. Kukke town could be seen at a distance, way down between the hills and that seemed like a long long walk past the numerous hills that stood between the town and me. The grasses were almost knee high and I held onto them at a few places where the path seemed a bit tricky. I had run out of water and the sun along with the heavy shoulder bag (I kept cursing it during most part of the trek) took a toll on me. Meanwhile, we crossed path with many trekkers who were on their way down. 

The white spots is Kukke town, the finish point
After a while I saw Mantapa, a stone structure at a distance which is used by many trekkers as a camp site. The place also has a water source and my group waited for me as I made way through the tall grasses. Rested there for a while as I gained back my strength to trudge forward. There were numerous trekkers near the mantapa and the trek ahead was a bit crowded one. The path turned slightly treacherous from mantapa but the tall grasses helped balance myself. Slowly the density of trekkers reduced, my breaks frequency increased and the gradient of the hills came down. I could see my group far ahead as the hills became vast open grasslands for a while with flat paths. That was helpful, but I was quite tired and even the breaks did not help. I reached a vantage point with a few seats where Santosh waited for me while others had just left. The sun was right above and I did not rest for long so as to catch up with the rest. The path further led to a small forest patch and soon we crossed a pond. I was sure we were quite close to Bhat's house, where we were to break for lunch. Bhat is a temple priest who has his house in the middle of nowhere and almost all trekkers take a break and have food at his house for a very nominal amount. I was exhausted by the time I walked into Bhat's house. All that I wanted to do was sit, eat and quench my thirst. I took off my shoes and bag, stretched my legs, washed with some cold water and happily sat down to have lunch with others. That meal was definitely one of the most satiating ones I had ever had. 

Mantapa amidst the grasslands

After resting for a while and a photography session later, we were back on our heels. My energy levels were up again and I walked ahead of the group with our guide. Sun was the only concern as it brought the energy down considerably. It was more open lands and slowly the group caught up with me. Most in the group were surprised to see the slow tortoise lead the group for a while. It was not long before they went past me as I took more breaks along the winding paths that entered a forest patch. My tired legs almost gave up as the path took me deeper into the forest. The group was ahead of me and I could hear their sounds and they called out frequently to make sure I followed them. The forest patch turned into a thick one and the gradient got steep as I walked deeper. Even though the sun had not gone down, light had reduced considerably and I was alone for the entire part of this last stretch. Tiredness had the better of me and my legs almost gave up at many places as it was tough to get up after each break. Exhaustion made the stretch seem like the toughest part of the trek. Engulfed with foliage, entwined roots and trees, I felt I was in the middle of a jungle. It was absolute silence as I made my way through the forest with fading light and no soul in the vicinity. It did feel eerie at times. My group was way ahead of me and I had to reach down before it turned totally dark. I did not carry a torch and the last 15 minutes of the trek which seemed like an hour was in almost darkness without any rest. I took each step with immense difficulty and was extremely happy as I heard voices soon. I was close to the finish point. I smiled, was relieved and let out a cry on seeing others wait for me. I had achieved it! I had conquered Kumara Parvata!

The last forest patch
Even though I go on a few treks after this, KP has been the toughest trek I have ever done. There were instances when I had doubts about completing the trek, but am glad that I scrambled, crawled, pulled myself up at many points, overcame exhaustion and conquered it with utmost contentment. The spectacular vistas that the trek offers is breathtakingly beautiful and would leave you spellbound for long.

Signing Note- A body and soul wrenching trek, worth every single sweat...!!

Starting point- Somwarpet (Coorg)
End point- Kukke Subrahmanya (Dakshina Kannada)
Distance- 22 Kms (8 Kms uphill and 14 Kms downhill)
Contact- Santosh Nair (Exotic Expeditions)- 09986450370


  1. Oh my, that was such a difficult trek! I kept on imagining myself in that situation and I am sure I would have given up....though I don't know what would I do if I gave up (would anyone send across a crane?)...and whenever I read of such treks I remember all the horror movies I'd watched. But you are right, the views make up for the difficulties alright. Well done!

    1. Thank you. It was a tough trek but undoubtedly a mind blowing one. A strong mind can definitely help overcome such situations.

  2. Hey superb account... heard about it so much in Bangalore but somehow never did it...

  3. great to read this Niranjan. I've not trekked here yet.

    1. Thanks Shrinidhi. Experience it next time you are in Karnataka.

  4. Felt like I have been there... Thanks for a great post ..Picture perfect!

  5. Great pics! looks like a wow experience :)

  6. Wonderful shots of the place. Nice experience.

  7. This trek has been the stand-out experience in my trekking in the South. The incessant winds on top :) I too trekked up from Somwarpet and down to Kukke.

    1. Definitely one of the best treks in Western Ghats.

  8. that feeling of accomplishing a trek is next to none! can relive those moments of our trek there... have a read here -

    1. Yeah, the feeling of content. Thanks for the share.

  9. Great moments of trekking...

    Nice collection of photos...


  10. Kumaraparvatha stay close to my heart as I started from trekking life from KP. I had been there four times trying various routes and seasons!!

    Not been there for past 7 years. Your post rekindles my experience!!
    No doubt it is a tough and rewarding trek.

    A well written post.

  11. OMG! Very delightful post! Guide book and extra jeans! I am going to read it all again, its funny :) You know? I have been wanting to go for this trek but couldn't. Will definitely go this year. Beautiful photography.

    1. Thanks Kusum. Quite an insensible trekker. Haha. Head there soon. You will love it.

  12. Thanks NIranjan. Very well captured indeed and we can see that you had a blast.

  13. Wonderfully portrayed Niranjan. I hope to get in a trek this year. Been forever since I last hit a trail. Your pictures are calling me to start planning again.

    1. Thank you Anwesha. Get on a trail soon, if possible KP itself.

  14. Ooh! quite a trek, eh?
    Many a lesson, learnt, I see :)
    You had sore feet at the end of it all, alle? I'm sure the vistas and the recollection of this trip made it all worth it.

    Engaging read, Nomad. :)

    1. Absolutely, and a lot of lessons learnt w.r.t trekking. All those aches vanishes once you conquer it and sit in oblivion staring at the wonderful vistas. Thanks, Nambiare.


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