TIME: 1 day
IDEAL SEASON: Sep to Feb
LOCATION: Igatpuri region, in the border between Nasik and Ahmadnagar Districts
Beckoning climbers and trekkers from all over Western India is Mount Kalsubai (1,646m), the highest peak in Maharashtra and the Western Ghats. Highest, though, doesn’t mean toughest, and Kalsubai is a trek for anyone who is reasonably fit. A breathtaking vista of shimmering waters and splendid forts awaits you, and making the trek even more exciting are the iron ladders that lead you up precarious paths and the series of pinnacles that lure you into thinking you’ve reached the top. Climb ahead, sip the delicious cool water of a well high up in the mountain, and be assured that the memories of this trek are going to stay with you for a long time.
AN ENDURING SAAS-BAHU SAGA
Kalsubai, according to local legend, was the name of a tormented daughter-in-law who ran away to the top of a hill to escape harassment from her in-laws. She is believed to have disappeared here and the locals built a temple in her memory on the peak’s summit. The hill is named Kalsubai after her.
DISTANCE 10 KM TIME 5-6 HOURS
From behind the bus stop where you get off (there is only one bus stop in Bari), a footpath heads west across a field and joins a dirt road leading into Bari Village proper. Follow this for a kilometre. Just beyond the first section of the village, a path cuts across a stream and some rice paddies and climbs up a spur to disappear into the forest. This is the trail up. Initially, the climb is steep, then levels out onto a flat stretch with a few huts and open fields in 30 mins. Just past the huts, the path enters the courtyard of a temple.
Some interesting stone pillars or lamp posts and carved Nandi bulls are scattered in the courtyard. The trees around the temple make it an ideal oasis where you can take a break before continuing the climb. From here, the trail gets steeper and at three points iron ladders have been installed to assist you through. Walk on behind the temple and climb up westwards to another flat stretch. You’ll encounter some thick lantana bushes before climbing up a spur (30 mins). There are iron ladders fixed at two points and a couple of railings where the path is a little precarious. The second ladder is steep and leads up a rocky gully. From here, the trail is very dusty with lots of scree.
Kalsubai’s trademark is a series of false summits. Huffing and puffing to the top of the ridge, you are crestfallen to find that this is not the summit! About half a kilometre from the top is a small well. Even the fastidious will not be able to resist the cold clean water. From the well, the summit rock is visible and a clear path leads up to an iron ladder that eventually brings you to the top. For the more adventurous, there is one iron chain still in place. This is on the left of the ladder.
A short climb up the rock face will bring you to the top and a small temple dedicated to Devi Kalsubai. The view from the top is the icing on the cake. Right below you is the vast expanse of Arthur Hill Lake or the backwaters of Bhandardara Dam. In the south one can see Ghanchakkar, Katrabai Khind, Ratangad Fort and Khutta Pinnacle while on the right or due west, one can see Alang Fort, Madangad and Kulang. Turning around, in the north-east one can see the shimmering waters of Beal Lake, Aundha, Bitangad and Patta.
Notice the offerings of many coins nailed to the wooden door-frame of the temple. There is no shade on the summit and the temple is not only too small but full of insects. On the return, descend to Bari Village the way you came up but be careful as the scree makes the path rather slippery and the last thing you want is a sprained ankle. On two separate occasions, I have had the unfortunate experience of having to carry someone down to the village because of a badly sprained ankle or torn ligament.
● If you are keen on a long walk, you could descend all the way to Bhandardara Dam. From the well below the summit, follow a trail due south. This stays mostly on the left side of the hill and will bring you down to the MTDC Holiday Resort. Expect to take at least 4 hrs or more.
● An easier extension of your trek could be to walk along the road from Bari to Warangushi and then to Bhandardara (12 km), where, if you wish, you can spend the night at the MTDC Resort. Or from Warangushi, take a left turn and follow the Rajur Road till Randha Falls (14-15 km).
● One can also descend 10 km from the other side of the hill and reach Udhavne Village, from where it’s a 15- 16 km trek to Bhandardara.
By Andre Morris
About the author: Andre Morris taught history at Mumbai’s Wilson College before walking the wild side. He lives in Mumbai but spends half his life in the outdoors – hiking, rock climbing, rafting, canoeing and birdwatching. He also runs Outbound Adventure, an outdoor education and adventure outfit.