Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Kumara Parvata - A dream trekking experience!!

I got a message from friend Bharath in early January that he is planning for a trekking trip to Kumara Parvata, near Kukke Subrahmanya in the Western Ghats of Karnataka. After initial shock hearing 10 hours of travel overnight, and then trekking 20 to 30 KM, then returning another 10 hours overnight, I said.. sorry boss.. I don't think my body can take that now.

Then he insisted after a couple of days. Change in plans.. Only 7 hours of trip. He ended up making me sign up for this. And I should really thank him for this wonderful attempt. Because, this was one of the best treks of my life!!

See the pics and watch the videos.. you will know what I mean!

In a nut shell, we had to travel from Bengaluru to Somwarpete in Kodagu district, and then to Beeda Halli where the forest office's gate is there for trekking the Pushpagiri mountain range. Kumara Parvata is the highest peak in the Pushpagiri forest range. There are two ways to climb to Kumara Parvata (Kumara, is the name of Lord Shiva's second son Subrahmanya or Murugan or Kartikeya - Parvata means Mountain or peak). One from the popular temple destination of Kukke Subrahmanya which is in the Dakshina Kannada district. The other, the easier option is what we took, from Kodagu district. Most importantly, don't try all by yourself. Take someone who has done this before. This is NOT for beginners or even mid level trekkers. Take my suggestion very seriously, as we had 3 in our team who had climbed among themselves, a total of 25 times!
Indicative route map - image courtesy coorg.xyz
Once we reached the area near Beeda Halli by 4.30 AM, we had nice Uppittu at a home stay. After freshening up and eating plenty of carbohydrates, we prayed at the age old Shiva temple near the forest office gate. Our enthusiasm and energy levels at a peak level just before the start.
Thanks to Lokesh Raju for this excellent pic
Then carefully analyzing the path of our trek. Playing with nice puppies at the gate. Sending our TT driver away by road to get to Subrahmanya while we reach there either in the night, or next day.

The highest peak Kumara Parvata is about 5617 feet above sea level. Shesha Parvata is at 5086 feet. With two massive peaks above 5000 feet to conquer, the biggest advantage of climbing up from Kodagu district (Beedara Halli) is that we only have to climb 712 meters or about 2336 feet. The distance is approximately 7 KM. If you try the climb from Kukke Subrahmanya, which is in Dakshina Kannada district, your climb would be at least 15 KM in distance and 1600 Meters (5250 feet) of climb. So you are talking about half the elevation to climb if you go from east to west, instead of the other way, as the steep descent of the mighty western ghats is visible on the western side. Send your vehicle with driver to the other side (3 hours by road). Either way, without fail carry a sleeping bag, at least 5 liters of water per person, good carbohydrate food and a tent to stay overnight in chilly windy peaks. Do NOT try a single day trekathon (2 of our guys did it) from sun rise to sun set, unless you are a very experienced climber with very little weight to carry on your back. Stay overnight at one of the marked peaks or areas.
Image courtesy: vishwanaths.wordpress.com

The first hour was lots of fun. Singing, photographing and loving the early morning stay in some of the thickest rain forest ranges of the planet. Bliss.

After another hour, it started getting tiring. Here is some video commentary from that position.

After 3 hours, we were really cursing, why did we take such heavy tents.. But the scenery was amazing.. rest and watch after every few minutes.

The climb from the east is essentially 3 hours through thick forests, then 2 big boulders to climb (you have to crawl, if you are not experienced), and then just 10 minutes from the peak, you will see this saffron flag welcoming you to the holy peak!

Here is how you climb one of the two big boulders. It's not for beginners, I repeat! And also, no children allowed on this trekking trail. So only adults in good health, who can climb for hours, in good mountain climbing shoes should get here. There is absolutely no help anywhere in sight, if you need it during emergencies. Try to avoid rainy seasons as it rains very heavily here. These are some of the tallest and wettest peaks in India outside the Himalayan range.

After 4.5 hours, 2100+ feet of climb across 7 KM, we finally made it before noon to the great Kumara Parvata peak. Lots of joy there.. Jai Shri Ram slogans, pooja at the small Shiva temples, photographs, discussions and fun time. In short, YES WE DID IT moments :) We ended up showing the small forest office 7 KM away, from where we made it to this majestic point.

With all euphoria of conquering the sacred Kumara Parvata's peak, we headed west now. Next stop Shesha Parvata, just 45 minutes away. On the peak of Shesha Parvata, with Kumara Parvata (KP) and Siddhara Betta (un-conquerable) backdrop, we had our lunch.

Isn't this a dream spot for the packed chapati and dry subzi lunch?

And my heart close to my mouth when some of our guys are trying things too risky with over 4000 feet of steep fall at the edges!

Along with height, this was also the peak of our energy levels.. From now on-wards, the real difficulty starts. Climbing down over 15 KM, finding a place to camp and rest for the night, and managing the steep climb down amidst some of the harshest conditions.. It is REALLY tough!

From a distance, things look easy.

But as you climb down, every step is challenging. It is slippery sand.. odd shaped pebbles and tightly packed odd shaped stones. Every step has to be careful or else you can fall or twist your ankle. Heavy on your knees and this is where you need lots of fluid consumption to keep up your energy and focus.
This was our original camping destination. The Kallu Mantapa (stone structure). But we moved on as water source was not good considering the nearing summer season.

At every few 100 feet, we see a person climbing up from the Kukke side. We ask them.. how far is Bhattara Mane (Bhatta's house, which is the ONLY place where we can get food, water, sleeping place and toilets during the entire trekking stretch). We were told, see that green area after the dry spots.. That's where it is. We were less than "one hour" away each time..

But it took a grueling 4 hours of climb down from the Shesha parvata to get near Bhattara Mane.

With all energy out.. stomach crying for a decent meal.. we set up the camps that we carried with so much difficulty all along. But it was WORTH it! I wouldn't describe much.. but we got at least 10 other tents as company near Bhattara Mane in the night. Talks, games, watching the bright stars from the camp during midnight, enjoying the gossip in a rain forest area.. it was heavenly!!

While waiting for dinner at Bhatta's home, we enjoyed the magnificent sun set.

Then the 90 minutes of wait for dinner was the longest in my life.. it felt like that. But the hot rice, saaru, butter milk and pickle seemed like heaven!!! After a whole day of climb and descent, after conquering nearly 20 KM of a tough stretch across the western ghats, this dinner along with 100 other folks was so tasty and so fulfilling.

Then the night at the camp till 5.30 AM wake up calls. Oh.. did I tell you that we slept not far from the elephant corridor in Karnataka, the state with the largest number of wild elephants in India? :)

All we had to do was trek down another 2 to 3 hours to reach Kukke Subrahmanya temple. Two of our friends already did the trekathon and reached in the evening itself. And the pleasant January chilly morning was ideal for us to trek down. We were well fed in the evening. Our knee pains had vanished with some good sleep.

But climbing down from Bhattara Mane is really scenic. It's tough. It's slippery and steep small rocks with each step, but really enjoyable. (Or maybe we had rest, so it was enjoyable).

After nearly 2 hours, reached the "Bheemana Bande" (Bhima's boulder). It's so awesome that I slept there for a few minutes. Took selfies from all sides. Even if someone charges me a few 1000 Rupees to sleep on it for 20 minutes, I would do that :)

And after a grueling 27 hours and over 25 KM of walking.. and most importantly after climbing up 2500 feet and climbing down nearly 5000 feet, we had done it! We reached the Kukke Subrahmanya side of the trekking path. The end!

Then some nice refreshing time.. Swimming and bathing in Kumara Dhara river.. It's considered a sacred river where your skin gets purified of all diseases.

Then a nice darshan of Subrahmanya Bhagawan at the temple. Tasty food and...

heading back fully refreshed, relaxed in spite of a grueling trek, and thoroughly excited :)

Go do this trek. You have 4 ways to capture Kumara Parvata.
Start from near Somwarpete like we did and end trekking down to Kukke (for this you need someone to take your vehicle on road while you trek).
Start from Kukke and do the trek till Somwarpete area. Again someone needs to drive your vehicle.
Start from Somwarapete and get back the same way. The easiest way!
Start from Kukke and get back to Kukke. This would be the most difficult way. You might need 2 full days, unless you are really a pro in trekking.

No matter which way you pick, carry lots of water, very light luggage, preferably individual tents and not heavy ones like we did, someone experienced with you, some pain killers/ muscle sprays, a small first aid kit, fully charged mobile phones (some areas you get signal) and a refreshed & well hydrated body! Have lots of fun.

160+ Pictures here if you want to browse through. Most have comments detailing the situation:

Some videos if you have time or planning to conquer this really tough mountain range!

After 2 hours of climb, this is where we were:

You can hear me huffing and puffing after a big boulder climb. But I can assure you, if you reach this spot, your adrenaline kick would be so high, you would immediately decide to go back again!

Do you plan on carrying a big camp? Watch this and then decide for yourself :)

And how can our friends miss the opportunity to loudly chant "Jai Shriram" after conquering one of the most difficult peaks in India?

Two small Shiva temples exists on the top of Kumara Parvata.

Commentary from the top of Kumara Parvata.. while enjoying breath taking greenery and peaks.

And, me video taping our ace photographer clicking from top of Kumara Parvata.

And a view of Kumara Parvata and Siddhara betta (impossible to climb), from the top of Shesha Parvata where we had lunch. This Shesha Parvata is visible from the Kukke Subrahmanya temple!

Go for it.. Climb up the Kumara Parvata.. Jai Subrahmanya!!


  1. This blog was well crafted and was very helpful for me sir. Thank you.