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Family trek to Kumara Parvatha

What: A two day trek to Kumara Parvatha from Kukke Subramanya temple.
When: 23rd and 24th December 2018
Who: 31 people, including 14 children, of which 4 are aged 7 or 8 years.
Distance:

  1. 1.5 km to the start of trail.
  2. 4.4 km till Bhattara Mane, 675m elevation gain
  3. 5.5 km from Bhattara Mane till Kumara Parvatha peak with a gain of about 870m elevation gain.
The distance will vary a bit based on how one selects the trail - some small steep sections had easier and longer alternate trails.

How I started trekking

I had never written a blog on trekking. So, I will include a long journey to my treks and our family trekkers group.

I had climbed a few small hills in my childhood on the cheiraoba (Meitei new year which is usually either lunar calendar new year or the nakshatra calendar new year around start of spring). But we never considered those as treks. Fast forward to college and then job. My Trigent office took us to Antara Gange caves, which seemed like a trek or team outing. The thought of exploring and trekking never came in my mind. Then came marriage and kid. In December 2005, my wife's office colleagues organized a morning outing which I didn't really know what it was. We climbed a big stone hill with a temple at the top. It was called Shiva Ganga. My daughter Numisha was just about to be 2 years in a week. She had so much stamina to climb up that she teased the big boys and girls from wife's office about their huffs and puffs. Yes, she was very clear and sharp at her English speaking at that age :-)

Numisha at the top of Shiva Ganga.

Numisha, Sv and myself at Shiva Ganga.

Nobody mentioned it as trek. I thought, we were just visiting the temple at a small rock that had no plant or whatsoever.

Around 2006, my wife, Sv (Senthilvadivu) bought a small tent from the US. I didn't have any plan of using it at any point of time. Then in January 2007, Rajesh, my room-mate in bachelor days, was advised to test his knee after a surgery for ligament tear. Doctor suggested a small trek. I was still very naive about the idea. But we chose a full moon night on 30th June as the day. Myself, my brother Chitaranjan, Rajesh, his college mate Meiappan, my office colleague Sudarshan and his school mate Chinmay went to Skandagiri by car and hiked the hill from a non-existent trail by looking out here and there and aiming for the peak in the night! We had used my tent and Rajesh's tent.
My first formal "trek" Skandagiri

Myself and Rajesh at Skandagiri peak.

We didn't really think that we were going to go crazy about treks. Then, Sv's office colleagues in Texas Instruments came up with a trek plan to Skandagiri in 2008. This time, we took Numisha too to Skandagiri. This gave an idea of taking children to treks.


Meanwhile, I still pursued a few big treks to Kudremukh, Mulayanagiri, etc. along with friends. It didn't really work out well as we were unprepared and we didn't have the same level of passion and seriousness of the wilderness.

Keeping up the idea of taking children to treks, Rajesh and I planned another Skandagiri night trek with Numisha and his daughter Nikitha, who is 7 months younger to Numisha.
Numisha and Nikitha camping just before the Skandagiri peak in November 2009.

I was still unhappy from my earlier unfinished treks to Kudremukh and Mulayanagiri. So, I went on to do Kudremukh and Kumara Parvatha without friends, by joining the BMC treks. I did them comfortably and I realized that I love them. Soon, we did family treks with ladies of the house too to nearby hills such as Nandi hills and Turahalli forest. Numisha went on to do the strenuous Villiangiri hills when she was exactly 10.

Trekking took a backseat for a while as second child kept Rajesh busy. A couple of years later, I too got second kid. As soon as Sangavi turned two, we again went to Nandi hill trek with his two kids and my two kids and the mothers.

Numisha, Nikitha, Sangavi, Nithilan, Sv and myself on Nandi trek in July 2013.

Mothers on the same Nandi trek

I think, it was in this Nandi trek that Meiappan brought a big gang of his apartment people for the Nandi trek in two mini buses. We couldn't sync up fully as their group was late and slower.

Rajesh's family shifted to Chennai. Meiappan and I continued many treks to Nandi with many other families. That was when we started gathering a Family Trekkers group.

I had wanted to take Numisha to bigger treks for a long time. I wanted to wait till Sangavi grows up a bit to join bigger treks and I was running out of time as Numisha would soon become busy with higher standard studies. So, we did Mulayanagiri, Kudremukh, Kodachadri, Tadiandamol outside Bangalore and to Chopta, Deoriatal, Chandrashila in Uttarkhand (UK)

Kumara Parvatha plan

I kept telling Sv that Kumara Parvatha is a decent trek that can test one's strength. I kept this as the final trek. I left the planning to Meiappan. The trekking season just got over when he checked first time with the forest office. So, we waited. Finally, we decided to do this on Christmas/New Year vacation time as we always did in the past. Fixed the dates as leaving Saturday night, the 22nd December, climb the Sunday morning till Bhattara Mane, eat lunch and camp early. Climb the peak early Monday morning, descend and eat brunch at Bhattara Mane again and descend to base. That was the plan.

We announced the plan to family trekkers group around two months before the date. We also announced to the folks who did the UK trek. The commitment I asked was 2 hours of moderate to intense workout per week, minimum 6 weeks till the event. Focus more on quadriceps and core muscles.

Soon, Bala (Balakrishnan) with wife Annapoorni and sons Nishant and Gautham, Vela (Thanigaivelan) with son Siddarth, Ramanathan with son Vikram and Shunmu (Shunmugasundaram) with family (all from my CIT CSE) and Kiran from ECE confirmed. Rajesh and Krithiga with children Nikitha and Nithilan confirmed. Kalpana and her daughter Nishka confirmed. Chidu (Chidambaran) with son Vedant, Yogesh with daughter Shreya confirmed. Nirmalesh confirmed later without his daughter Anvita.

Training plan

The run up to the trek is also equally fun part with various discussions, puns, pranks and teasers of the workout, the task, the mountain, the shopping and so on.

As the days passed, we created a separate whatsapp group for this trek so that we could discuss specific exercises and logistics. As the days passed, Shunmu dropped out as his daughter was not ready. Chidu brought in Sujay from his office. Kiran brought in his cousin (Girish). Yogesh and his daughter Shreya dropped out due to Yogesh work related travel date clash. To fill the vacancy, we tried getting more people even outside the family trekkers group. I got Putta Narasimha (from my cycling team Cleated Warriors) along with his son Kushal on board. Last minute, Chidu brought his first son Vaibhav and another boy from his apartment, Adiyanth.

Meiappan mostly drove the workout initiatives posting the count down days and the workouts he did, thus intimidating others to do the same. Kiran upped the game by posting his superman workouts such as 75 push ups, planks, air squats, abs crunches, etc. The rest of the folks did mostly air squats while Sv did mostly yoga. Ram, Vela, Bala and I were training for marathon in January. So, we never bothered about the workouts for the trek. Chidu cycles to work (25 km one way), which itself exceeds the needed workout quota. Rajesh has knee problem. So, I recommended only heel raises plus some weight reduction. Kalpana was also advised by doctor not to do any hike or run or anything that strains the knee. So, she was prepared to stay back at the base or at Bhattara Mane. Jana and Sv had done Great Malnad Challenge the last week of October. So, Jana was relying on continuing the similar level of fitness.

In the last 4 weeks in the run up to the day, I wanted to see how the children had been preparing. So, I called all children to Agara lake and ask them to run 5 km without stop/walk. I asked the same test for other kids in Chennai or elsewhere in Bangalore who couldn't come to Agara lake. Nishka and Kayal (Meiappan's daughter) besides Sangavi turned up in the lake . Nishka and Kayal struggled to run continuously, but they could do so in the next weekend. Vendant could come only one weekend and I hardly had a chance to see his fitness level. Bala's kids, Nishant and Gautham, couldn't come as they were out of station. Later, they joined the run, but far behind in the preparedness for something as strenuous as Kumara Parvatha. Annapoorni, Sv, Jana, Meis also ran or jogged. Bala was ensuring to push Gautham. I was ensuring to push the rest of the kids. Kalpana also jogged whatever she could. We followed it up the next weekend again. Bala's sons improved too. We couldn't meet the last weekend before the event as Bala went out for 30k race and Sangavi got fever. Otherwise, overall, we were almost ready.

Equipments

I like a bit of rough experience with nature when it comes to trekking. So, I was against booking a room to freshen up. Still, Sv insisted that we book the rooms as ladies may not be comfortable. Meiappan booked the food at Bhattara Mane. I tried convincing the group that we don't need tents. But later I agreed for tents for only women and children. Then everyone wanted the tents experience.  We decided that only strong men will carry the tents and the rest should carry water, sleeping bag, and extra clothes on their own. We also rented out sleeping bags to meet the missing numbers. The rest of the equipment list were very basic. We borrowed two tents from Arun and Deepak. Yogesh also lent his two sleeping bags. Thanks guys.

I booked a 33 seater bus and 6 basic rooms for Sunday morning freshen up. Rs. 700 per room in Anugraha lodge, each room accommodating roughly 2 adults and two children.

The travel

The bus arrived a bit late, but was within acceptable time frame. We reached Kukke Subramanya at 5:45 AM. Checked into the hotel and plan was to finish everything and check out by 9:30 AM and start the trek. Surprisingly, we were all ready to checkout by 7:30 AM. A few folks took time to return from temple and thus took extra time. Putta started negotiating with the bus driver and inquired the traffic police about the possibility of taking the bus till the start of the trail. Finally, we boarded the bus and proceeded towards the start of the trail. Later, we came to know that the road was blocked for buses. So, we headed back to the temple parking again. We packed up the sleeping bags, and tents. We realized that one sleeping bag, which I borrowed from Arun, was missing. We left the parking lot exactly at 9:20 AM. Sv, myself, Chidu, Putta, Ram, Vela, Kiran, Girish and Nirmalesh carried the tents.

The trek

All the children except for Gautham and Kushal carried their own stuffs which include sleeping bags (most of them), water and any extra clothes or jackets, flash lights, first aid kit, etc.


 The walk to the start of trail. Nishka (7), Kayal (10), Sangavi (about to be 8)

We walked for about 1.5 km and reached the start of the trail. We took a group photo which couldn't cover everyone.
Just entering the trail


We were greeted by dense forest. Walked in complete shade and mud trail with a lot of tree roots crisscrossing the path.
Tree roots on the trail in some stretch at the start

We walked briskly. The front was led mostly by a group of kids guarded by one of the adults all the time. I tried to cover end to end clicking photos though I would eventually lose the most front and most behind group.
 
Annapoorni, Nishant (10), Jana, Ram, Vikram (11), Vela and Krithiga

Sid (13), Kayal, Numisha (about to be 15), Nikitha (14) and Nishka

Sid and Nithilan (10)

As we approached Bhattara Mane, about 1 km before, we were about to exit the forest and come under direct sun. There we regrouped the first few packs, ate some snacks mostly ladu prepared by Sv and potato chips (left over from my eating in the hotel in the morning) brought by Meis.

Soon, Ram led the restless kids to Bhattara Mane, our lunch stop and stop for the day. First group would have reached at around 12 noon. They left their bag packs at the Mane and retraced the trail to greet us. I was somewhere in the middle pack, walking with Vaibhav. Reached Mane at 12:20 PM.


Bhattara Mane palm groove ahead. One trail descending on the left leads to it while the straight trail bypasses it.

Stopping at Bhattara Mane

Nishka giving a hard blow at dandelion 

The palm groove around Bhattara Mane is a calm place to walk around



The place had rich number of butter flies

We waited for Meis to bring the tail of the group. He had ordered the lunch in his name and the host wanted to see everyone before we could start eating. Most of the food was over except for anna saru (rice with sambar). The sambar had some potatos which I fished out. No other vegetables were found. We were hungry. So, we all ate well. Most of us had butter milk too. I showered in the tap water that was flowing all the time from the spring. Some of us took nap here.

We explored and walked till the forest office to find the camping site.
The ground ahead (behind the trees) is the camping site. On the right (not in pic) is the forest office.

Evening snacks time as we set up the tents.

Some of us took naps here again. I also napped for about half an hour. Kids were playing all the time. By evening, we headed to the first view point near the forest office.

Vaibhav (15) at the view point in the evening

Putta and son (Kushal, 8) flying at the view point.


The gracious five

Kids attempt a jump at the view point

Chidu with sons and Adiyanth (14)

We headed back to camp site before dark. Meis had requested for an early dinner. Putta and Chidu were negotiating with the forest officer (Abhinash) for an early start at 4 AM. He agreed for a 4:30 AM start "unofficially" at our polite request with a warning that we stayed together as group all the time and not make noises in the dark. Our intention was to get a glimpse from the peak at sunrise. We gave our names, contact numbers and ID card details.

Rajesh, Kalpana and Vaibhav chose to stay back as it would be risky to ascend 5.2 km and then descend the whole 8.5 km the same day. Their staying back also simplified our logistics of starting in the morning as we didn't have to worry about leaving any item behind. We planned to just wake up and leave. No plans of morning duties - no brushing or loo unless urgently required. We already filled water in the night itself.

We had dinner and ready to sleep. It was near full moon night, but the sky was not clear enough. Meiappan was disappointed at not seeing the stars. We managed the tent allocation in spite of one missing tent. Most of us slept nicely. Sv and I decided to sleep outside with sleeping bags. It was not cold. It was in fact pleasant. Those who needed to use the loo went to forest office before the crowd woke up. We all helped each other to get ready by 4:30 AM with a bit of shouting and pushing. We woke up the forest officer and got the fee receipt. Bags were checked for plastic. We all had re-usable bottles and boxes for snacks. So, we didn't have to pay any deposit which people collect after bringing back the plastics on the return. He also gave three "Clean Mountain" bags to collect any plastics on the way. We never got to use them as the trail was very clean.

My estimate for the peak was about 2 to 2 and a half hours at brisk hike. We were already 4:45 AM by the time the briefing was done by the forest officer. We had enough flash lights besides the near full moon light. We still had to be careful with the steps as the rocks on the way were not that visible. I was driving the pace from behind. Kayal had slight fever and she had continuous nightmares in her sleep. She was doing good initially, but slowly started falling off. I asked Meiappan to take care of her while she still kept up with the group of Nishka and Sangavi.

As we walked further, we could see a patch of trees on the right and we could hear water stream in the dark. The stream sounded decent amount of flow.

After some distance, the lead group shouted that the trail was descending towards right, instead of ascending. Putta shouted from behind that there is only one trail and asked them to proceed. As I reached the descending point after a couple of minutes, I saw the ascending trail on the left. So, I called everyone to turn back and follow me. Later, I would realize that the descending trail was for Kallina Mantapa (stone hut), which I could see on the return in day light.

Some kids were asking for a break, which I agreed at kallina mantapa which never came as we missed. We soon reached the Shesha Parvatha, the peak before we entered dense forest again. The last km to the Shesha Parvatha was very windy as we crept up gorges. We had to spend extra effort to keep up the pace.

The trail also became more tricky with loose mud and gravel.
The tricky trail with loose mud

At day break. The green bag was provided by Forest Officer and is labelled "Clean Mountain"

Ramanathan with Vikram and Sid. View of the valley down a deep cliff.


Finally we reached Shesha Parvatha with amazing view of fast moving fogs. It was just day break, but the sun was still elusive.

The foggy and windy morning at Shesha Parvatha

With heavy wind and fog, it was a bit chill, but not that bad. Most of us managed with just light clothing.


A nice rock with a clear view to the valley at the bottom and mountains around at Shesha Parvatha

Gautham (8) being dragged up the Shesha Parvatha by his mom :-)


As we waited for the entire group to regroup, we opened the holige and chenna poda (Oriya sweet brought by Kiran). As the last person arrived, we clicked the last of the pics and proceeded further. The next stretch was again a dense forest.

Putta didn't want to proceed further as he doubted his son's ability. I offered to carry his bag and asked him to lift his son if needed. He never had to carry him as his son kept going on his own.

The last stretch of the forest before Kumara Parvatha peak

After the dense forest, we experienced some loose rocky trail and then a huge steep rock before we reach the peak.

The rocky trail before peak

Girish (Kiran's cousin) joined the group. He carried a lot of classical film songs (Tamil).

Sujay from Chidu's office said he enjoyed the trek and group


A large single piece, steep rock to climb

A tricky rock to climb. Sangavi slipped climbing this. There was an alternative trail on the other side of the rock.

View looking back after climbing the huge steep rock


We reached peak around 8 AM.


At the peak

A personalized pic for everyone at the peak on top of the makeshift temple stones

We spent a lot of time eating, enjoying the view and clicking various photos. Finally, we asked someone to click a group photo for us. We started descending at 9:20 AM.

One group photo at the peak

Return was mostly uneventful. We could enjoy the clearer view a lot better. It was becoming a bit hot too. I had to remind kids to keep hydrating.

I clicked a few pics of the mountains in the bright day light.

Nirmalesh on the descend

Jana, Krithiga and Meiappan trying out an alternate trail on the descend







Kallina Mantapa as we saw on the return


We reached camp site at 11:35 AM, thanks to Nishant, Nithilan and Sangavi who were literally racing ahead of us. Bala and I had to chase them, slow them down by asking them to pose photos, etc. We also filled water at the stream after the Kallina Mantapa.

At the camp site, Rajesh and Kalpana had done the toughest job of packing sleeping bags and tents by removing the messy clothes and by drying them before packing. Kalpana had also kept nice breakfast for the kids. Vaibhav seemed to have had a nice sleep till 10 AM and headed out for a good time with the cat in Bhattara Mane. The children were so active that they started running and playing fight games with sticks. They either forgot that they had trekked the whole morning or they didn't know that they still had to descend further.

We distributed the items to be carried and ready to head to Bhattara Mane for lunch. We had lunch and started descending at 2:25 PM.

I was behind everyone, as guard to Nishka and Sangavi who were doing PPP Perfect Pace Partner as they termed doing slow, steady and non-stop descend. It was hot day. We caught up with the group somewhere half way. The lead was way ahead and must have been out of the trail by 4:15 PM I suppose. I got out by 4:40 PM. There was a discussion of bus coming to pick us up and negotiating with driver. We waited for the last members to come out. People were enjoying fruits that were available at the entrance to trail. Finally the bus refused to come. Some were talking about taking an auto. I refused auto for myself as 1.5 km on flat surface was hardly anything after the arduous trek. I had always included the walk from temple till start of trail as part of the trek. So, I hinted that we all should walk and help anybody who needs with the luggage. Finally we reached the bus. We refilled water bottles from the public drinking water tanks available between temple and parking and headed to the Kumadhara for bathing. After that, we headed for early dinner as kids would fall asleep soon. There was a sudden downpour. Some of us ran. Neo Mysore Cafe was Putta's suggestion and food was nice there. Some used loo for the last time. There is a toilet in the parking ground too. Then, the bus headed back to Bangalore. We reached Bangalore around 3:30 AM.

It was a very fulfilling trek. Everyone did really well though some of us should have ideally done a little more workout. Except for a few harmless falls, it was uneventful. We all had fun.


Here is the log from my GPS watch on the ascend. I forgot to log for about half a km between Bhattara Mane and after camp site.

From Kukke Subramaya till Bhattara Mane : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3249923035


From Bhattara Mane till end of trail on descend (not till temple) : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3249924256


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