Mission Harishchandra Gad New Route Exploration – Unknown Sahyadri Exploration

– An initiative by Arun Sawant Sir!
Date: 25 -27 January, 2013
Mission: It has 2 Dimensions which are;

1. Explore new Route to reach Harishchandra Gad through the highest Col in the region starting from village ‘Thitabi’

2. Explore and descend from a new route i.e. from the extreme left end of Konkan Kada near Shendi Pinnacle and get into Rohidas Col and reach the base i.e. ‘Thitabi’
Expedition team’s brief Profile:
1. Arun Sawant Sir, Group Leader: Arun Sir is one of the most experienced and a respected figure in the Trekking community and is a pioneer of many Adventure Camps in Maharashtra like Konkan-kada Rappelling, Malshej Waterfall, Sandhan Valley, Duke’s Nose, Lingana, Naneghat, Plus Valley and many more. He had started by visiting Sahyadri’s famous locations by exploring new routes. He has done N Number of explorations to mention a few are Sandhan Valley Exploration, Plus valley Exploration, Kulang Gad to Madan Gad New Short cut Route Exploration, Exploration of the deepest Valley in Sahyadri, Katribai Ghal & reopening of 100 year old  route etc. Besides this, he has done a number of Cave Explorations, Rock Climbing Expeditions, Himalayan Expeditions & Trekking. And the most amazing fact is that he was the First Person to rappel down Konkan Kada.
2. Prakash Kelshekar Sir, Co Leader: Prakash Sir is a renowned figure in the Mountaineering industry. He has attended Judge Courses and Seminars organized by IMF (Indian Mountaineering Foundation) and by ICC/FFME in France. He has remained Judge for most of the prestigious competitions in India and abroad and has also remained as a Faculty for Judge course.   
(In order to put the above in better words would be: Arun Sir and Prakash Sir’s individual mountaineering experience is of 30 yrs i.e. equivalent to our age J)
3. Siddharth Varadkar, Team Mate: An IT professional, an experienced Climber, Cyclist, Athlete and all the possible adventure sports freak, was a part of Arun Sawant’s “Kulang Gad to Madan Gad New Shortcut Route Exploration Expedition, March 2012”. He has participated in many Races in India & abroad, successfully completed “Ironman Triathlon”, Standard Chartered Marathon, etc
4. Shailendra Chavan, Team Mate: An Electronics Engineer by Profession, an avid Trekker, done with more than 100 Treks that includes climbs at Lingana, Kartik, Kakadraichi Lingi, etc.
5. Shrinivas Gokhale, Team Mate: Rookie is the Word! Has flair for Treks. New to climbing & rappelling, was a part of Arun Sawant’s “Kulang Gad to Madan Gad New Shortcut Route Exploration Expedition, March 2012”
“Unknown Sahyadri Exploration” is an Arun Sawant Sir’s initiative. As mentioned above, he keeps doing Expeditions to the common places in Sahyadri range through uncommon ways or routes.
I happened to call Arun Sir and asked him to give me a chance to be a part of his upcoming Exploration Expedition, if any.
He replied, “Why not? You can come if you can walk in the mountains like you walk on roads, if you can eat and drink whatever food and water is available, if you can carry 15-20 kgs on your shoulders all the time. There will be many rock patches to climb, dense forest, scree, etc. The route we are going to take is absolutely unknown hence; sometimes we will be kind of ‘lost’ and have to wander in the Jungle without water also. So, if you think you can do all this then you are welcome but, once you decide to come then don’t back out!”
A big question mark on my face. It seems to be the toughest exploration otherwise Arun Sir wouldn’t have stressed so much on these points as I have already done “Kulang Gad to Madan Gad New Shortcut Route Exploration Expedition, March 2012” so I was aware what exactly Arun Sir needs from a participant. Next day I called up Arun Sir and confirmed my participation.

When it comes to Trekking, Arun Sir always prefers personal vehicle. The reason (s) being;

1. You save a lot of time in travelling, 
2. No need to wait for our “efficient” public transport buses or trains
3. You can travel as per your convenience,   
4. You can save lot of Energy that can be used for actual trekking activity,

5. You have your reserved place so you can take a nice power nap on the way,
6. Stop if you are hungry, want to take some snaps, etc. 
7. So, next day you are fresh for Work….
Unending reasons….  
As decided, we left Mumbai on Thursday Night i.e. ,24th January, 2013, I boarded at Thane at around 23.15 hrs. We were a total 4 people from Mumbai i.e. Arun Sir, Prakash Sir, Siddharth and me. The 5th person Shailendra was supposed to come from Pune.
Around 02.15 hrs we reached a small village ‘Thitabi’. This village is the base of Malshej Ghat. We parked our car in front of Sable Mama’s house and settled down in his frontyard. Shailendra was already there. We had a small chat and by 02.30 hrs we preferred getting into our Sleeping Bags. 

Day 1 : 25th January, 2013   
Woke up at 06.15 hrs… done with our morning parade. Had tea and breakfast. We asked a villager whom we lovingly called ‘Mama’ to accompany us through the journey and he agreed. We then distributed our climbing equipments like Carabiners, Harness, Decenders, Ropes, Hammer, Pitton pouch, rings, etc. Now our sacks became heavier than earlier with a load of  15-20 kgs. 
Day 1: 25th Jan, 2013: Walking through Moraines

Finally, we started at 08.00 hrs. We walked through the jungle followed by moraines in river bed for around 2.5 hrs and reached at a dead end. Arun Sir, Siddharth and Shailendra went ahead to check if there was any route ahead but, there was nothing except a lose rock patch which could not be climbed. However, there was water dripping from the patch which meant that there was a water pond up. I immediately took out empty bottles and went there. Shailendra and me filled our bottles by keeping a leaf in the course of the water flow to capture water.

In the mean time Prakash Sir chose to explore the left side of the Col and Siddharth and Arun Sir chose the right one. Shailendra and me were waiting and something striked my mind which made me anxious to climb a patch which was right next to the place where Prakash Sir was attempting to ascend. It was through bushes but, I was got some real good holds and within 5-7 minutes I was on the top where Prakash Sir reached after struggling for more than 10-15 minutes because of the thorny bushes and loose rocks. I gave a call to the team that this is the safest route to climb. Arun Sir came to me and said, “You guys go down and get the Sacks. In the mean time I will go ahead to tie the rope to the extreme end of the patch and Prakash Sir will tie the rope to a nearby tree so that we all can cross it with our sacks. 

Arun Sir Went ahead and tied the rope to the extreme end whereas Prakash Sir tied the same to the nearby tree. Shailendra, Siddharth & Me, we carried all 6 sacks and ropes up and one by one walked along with it on that scary horizontal patch.  

Though, this patch was horizontal but, it had a steep scree and the rocks and soil were loose which made it difficult for us and on top of that there were hardly any holds and Sun has started taking toll on us. Finally, one by one we completed the patch. The total time we took to clear this patch was 3 hrs. 

We reached the other side, took another traverse through Karvi bushes and scree and reached a point where I found a pond of fresh water. This water was dripping through the lose rock patch.  I was damn tired and thirsty… I threw my sack and ran towards the pond and literally drank the water like an animal putting my mouth in the water and gulping it…(there were insects in the water so as small fishes and some leaves but, who cares? At that time Bacteria stuff was myth for me ..lolz JN.B. those who drink only Mineral water won’t understand my feelings but a Trekker surely will). We decided to have lunch and for which we had many delicacies like home made Thepale, Puran Poli, Bhaari, Thecha (Chatni) and on top of that we had juicy Oranges. Arun Sir cut the oranges in half and sprinkled with Magic Masala on it…Just delicious… 

We started again at 15.15 hrs making our way through bushes, lose soil and rock. We climbed around 300 feet and while climbing this whatever energy we gained in  the lunch break vaporized in the air. I got a cramp in my left thigh which restricted my speed but, I continued. We took an Orange break around 16.45hrs and again continued our journey. By 17.45 hrs we reached another dead point where a 150-200 feet rock patch was in front of us. Again, we had to search for an alternate route. Arun Sir & Siddharth went ahead to do Route reconnaissance whereas Shailendra and I opted to climb a stretch at the left hand side. The right hand Side was out of question as it would require a climb of an entire 1 Day. Shailendra found a better route ,though challenging but the only route available. Arun Sir and Siddharth found a water pond. They both joined us at the top and also agreed that it was the only route. Sir asked asked us to get more rope, rings, hammer and pitton pouch for bolting. Shailendra and I came down to get the equipments. By that time it was 18.00 hrs. Prakash Sir said,” We have exact 45 minutes with Sunlight, hence instead of crossing this ridge lets call it the next Day! You guys do the bolting and tie the rope.In the mean time I will set the camp site.” We all agreed. Arun Sir, Siddhartha and Shailesh started bolting up whereas I opted to help Prakash Sir to set the camp and Mama on the other hand started gathering fire wood. 

We set the Camp Site. By 18.25 hrs  Arun Sir, Siddharth and Shailendra came back and took bath one by one. Later, Arun Sir and I set the fire and made coffee post that Prakash Sir and I started preparing for our dinner like chopping vegetables, onions, peas, beans, etc. Arun Sir is indeed a great cook. He can cook anything quickly which tastes fabulous. He made awesome Soup and Pulav on which we literally hogged. We were listening to nice Gazals by Ghulam Ali, Malkauns by Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. The Moon came up in the sky and I played “Ugawala Chandra Punawecha” song. We discussed many topics while preparing and having delicious dinner.  At the end Siddhartah, Shailesh and me washed all the cooking pots and called it a day. Everyone was asleep by 22.30 hrs
Day 2: 26th January, 2013

Wake up call in the Morning at 06.30 hrs, did our morning parade, had our breakfast (Tea, Thepale, Biscuits) cooked Egg Burji for lunch and packed our sacks and started our trek with great determination. Our challenge was crossing the horizontal rock patch. It looked easyto us but it actually took 3.5 hours for us to finish. In this kind of expedition even small patches become difficult when you have a load of 25-30 kgs to carry on your shoulders. Arun Sir went first and tied the rope to a tree at the end and told us to come bare feet in order to get a good grip on the rock. There was no space to keep our feet on that patch. Max space was 2-3 inches and the rock was not that firm. Though we were harnessed the fear of falling always exists. Siddharth went 2nd. Prakash Sir looked at me, ”You are next! Stand here and have a look at the patch you are going to cross! Make your mind! Don’t think of anything else! Take a deep breath and listen what I am telling you and follow my instructions precisely. If something goes wrong don’t panic, just follow our instructions!” I am a newbie to climbing sports hence, fear was there in my mind. But, I followed the instructions given by Prakash Sir and Arun Sir. To my surprise I took, 13 minutes to cross the ridge. Yeeee…… What a relief and sense of achievement! Eventually, everyone came and I welcomed them with Cadbury chocolate for the successful completion of the Patch J. We had water, Orange Half Cut and revitalized ourselves and left the place at 11.30 hrs 

Again, making our way through huge boulders at 12.37 hrs we reached a small pond of water and halted again. Had a Water with Glucon D “Jaan mein Jaan laane ke liye” J Again started walking.

In the next half an hour we reached a Y Junction where 1 route went left and the other to the right. Arun Sir and Shailendra went left and we  4 went right. It turned out that Arun Sir’s route was correct so we walked down and met them. It was 13.45 hrs and we decided to have a Lunch break – We had Egg Burji(except me), Thepale, Bhakari and Puran Poli.
From there, we started at around 14.30 hrs climbing again. The Col seemed to be endless. Now came the time for rock patches where we had to tie the rope for support. In that way we crossed a least of 5-6 rock patches within a height ranging between 15-20 feet. It’s was like climbing the patch and ascending the Col. That was so tiring. By 18.10 hrs we hit a climbing point which proved to be a lot more interesting. There was a small cave and on the top of that a huge boulder was kind of fixed. The only access was to pass through the gap / hole between the rock patch and the huge boulder. ‘Chimney climb’ was the only option (Couldn’t take pictures of this place since, we have to move fast) Arun Sir went first and was searching for a place where rope could be tied to pull sacks and we could climb up. In the mean time Prakash Sir and I reached a hole and I asked Prakash Sir to give me support if needed. He gave me the consent and I attempted the risk and in the next 5-7 minutes I passed through it. Arun Sir came with the rope and moved ahead and I pulled up 3 Sacks and decided to move ahead since Arun Sir wanted the rope. By that time it was 18.40 hrs that meant hardly 15-20 minutes left. I did my best to reach the top the earliest before the sunlight broke down but was able to reach post that only and reached by 19.10 hrs. Arun Sir advised that everyone should come because it was dark then and we had to move together and make our way through Karvi Jungle and the scree. By 19.45 hrs everyone came. We all were totally exhausted and were trying to get our breather. There was no place to sit even for more than 2 people at a time. Had a little water. 
Finally, by 20.00 hrs we all gained our breaths and Arun Sir led us in the Jungle by chopping Karvi bushes with his Koyata(Chopper) to make the way. We hardly had 3- ltrs of water left with us, so not feasible to stay there hence  we had to move out. (In such cases it all depends upon the team members how they take these kind of challenges. And I am proud to say that we were the perfect team.) We kept pushing ourselves for the next 45 minutes through those dense Karvi bushes and saw a patch on the right hand side. Arun Sir and I climbed to try our luck if we could get a shortcut to reach the top and to our delight we reached the top in the next 10 minutes…..Hurrrraayyy….
We gave a call to everyone and informed them about the climb. We all reached the top at 21.00 hrs. Thus, we have climbed the highest Col in the range to reach Harishchandra Gad successfully. We decided to celebrate this moment with Water (keeping 1 ltr as a reserve) and an Orange Cut J.
You must be wondering What is this “Orange Half Cut”? – It is nothing but, an Orange that is cut in precise 2 halves and is sprinkled with Magic Chat Masala ans Salt. Oranges really energized us. (To all my readers, I will suggest whenever you do a have Orange try and cut it horizontally and srinkle some chat masala or salt and eat. It tastes amazing.)

Now, our destination was well within the reach and was hardly 1.5 hrs away from the place where we were sitting. The whole area was lit with moon light. To our left hand side we could see Joga dam’s water, while in front of us we could see vehicle lights in Malshej Ghat, etc. It was cold out there. We had our teeth clattering but, the determination to reach our destination made us forget the cold and we continued…

 We walked a few minutes and saw a camp fire at Harishchandra Gad’s top near the Mandir and we could see some tents also. Seemed like there was a huge crowd in different groups. We reached there by 22.10 hrs. The place seemed as if there is a fun fair (JATRA). A minimum of 100-150 people were there. Later, we came to know that Konkan Kada Rappelling Camp was in procession…The reason for the crowd. Most of the crowd was of young people who had come from many different places. Some of them were shouting as if someone is hitting them with a cane, some of them were playing songs loud on their mobile phones and on top of that some idiots were putting on fire crackers…absolutely insane people. We decided to fill our water bottles in a hidden water cistern shown by Arun Sir. Then instead of staying there we decided to move towards Konkan Kada. After half an hour walk we reached Bajrang’s Hotel and asked them if they could arrange some Daal-Rice (Varan – Bhaat). We settled down in the front yard of their small Hotel and they served us with Rice and Daal cum soup and Sabji. Wow! After walking for entire day we were having a food. The day had proved to be a lot tiring. Later, the night became colder and windy too. Surely, the temperature would have reached 8 degrees. I was awake till 00.30 hrs writing my notes on our Expedition. Finally, Shailendra put off the lights, I guess around 01.00 hrs. Couldn’t sleep well that night as it was windy and too cold. 
Day 3: 27th January, 2013
Woke up around 06.45 hrs, did our morning parade. Till that time people had started flowing down to Konkan Kada. We had a Tea at Bajrang’s hotel and had Thepale for breakfast and finally, moved out by 07.45 hrs and reached Konkan Kada to see the rappelling event and after a small photo shoot we left to our rappelling point at the extreme left end of Konkan Kada. Arun Sir and Prakash Sir did Route reconnaissance of the place where another event could be conducted or the route could be explored. A small photo shoot of that event took us about an hour. 
Finally, we reached the point around 10.00 AM. We decided to rappel and settle on a ledge which was approx 70 feet down from the point where we were standing. We again did a rappelling of another 300 feet to reach the scree down. Arun Sir went first and settled on the ledge, followed by Siddharth, Shailendra, Me and Prakash Sir. By 11.00 hrs we were all there. We settled there for a while. Released other ropes and lowered down Shailendra with his sack and Walkie Talkie. He reached safely. He was followed by Arun Sir ,then Siddharth, Me and the last man was Prakash Sir.
We walked down several feet through the col and reached another dead drop point at 12.30 PM We decided to take a break for a while and had Orange Cut and Water and Tilgul laddoo. 
Coordinates were: N: 1923060, E: 07346174, Altitude: 3383 Feet.
We moved from 2nd rappelling point at 12.53 sharp , descended a few more feet and again there was a drop of 50 feet to which tied the rope and rappelled down. Now, we had a clear view of Shendi Pinnacle and we could see the route to Rohidas also. (Arun Sir has memories of Shendi Pinnacle since, it was his first lead climb in 1980’s and again he successfully conquered in 1996). Again, we decided to lower down Shailendra and once he reaches down we all rappelled down. This patch was approx 250 feet.
Coordinates were: N: 1922.986, E: 07346156, Altitude: 3122 feet  
Finally, we all rappelled down to Shendi level around 14.30 hrs. Arun Sir captured some awesome snaps keeping us in the background of Shendi Pinnacle. Shailendra & Me coiled the ropes individually and tied the knot as per the norms set by Arun Sir and Prakash Sir J
After coiling we left the place at 14.45 hrs. We had along a long way with us to travel again. We entered the Jungle again with a steep scree and through untouched forest. After an hour, our way through the Jungle travel got over and the route again led us in the river bed and moranines. Each and every time we had to face huge boulders and steep scree to get the access to next level. At around 17.00 hrs Siddharth met up with an accident and a big stone fell on his ankle. Prakash Sir and me, we both ran towards Siddharth and saw the stone size and checked if any other loose stone was present. After a quick analysis we lifted the stone and his ankle was released. We gave him some water. But, he like an Iron Man, refused to take rest and said, “Let’s tie up a crape bandage quickly and move on because my leg is going to swell and it’s going t be dark also.” Arun Sir tied a bandage on his foot. We had a little water and the last Half orange cut. 
Now, we only had half a liter of water with everyone and we were kind of assured that there are rare chances of getting water on the way. We still had 3-4 hrs to reach down if we were on right track. 
Now, Prakash Sir and I led the group to identify the easier route that Siddharth could take so that his leg won’t hurt more. At 17.50 hrs Prakash Sir saw a water pool on the way and we literally jumped with a Joy. We had ample water and filled our water bottles. We were kind of rejuvenated. We took of our torches and head lamps and started our last walk.
Here on, We found water at regular intervals. It was totally dark by 18.40 hrs but, we kept walking…walking and walking. By 19.30 hrs we reached a big water pool which was on our right hand side. Arun Sir and I saw a proper route beyond that pool that would take us to our base village ‘Thitabi’. 20 minutes later i.e. at 19.50 hrs, we reached a small house and called for the House owner. A woman came out and she was happy to show us the way to the village. Finally, after walking for another 40-45 min through the fields we saw lights at Thitabi Village and 20.30 hrs we reached Sabale Mama’s house and took off our sacks.
We had a Tea at Sabale Mama’s house and departed to Mumbai by 21.30 hrs to reach Home.

I am very glad that I was a part of this wonderful expedition team with experienced people like Arun Sawant Sir, Prakash Kelshekar Sir, Siddharth Waradkar and Shailendra Chavan to explore the highest Col to reach Harishchandra Gad and again explored a new rappelling route from Konkan Kada near Shendi pinnacle to reach Rohidas Col and base village ‘Thitabi’. 
I would like to mention here to all the readers that “I am neither a climber nor a rappeller but, with the instructions of Prakash Sir and Bamboo from Arun Sir! J  There is still a long, long way to go.
Last but not the least I would like to thank Arun Sir for allowing me to join this Expedition and wonderful snaps. I would also, thank Prakash Sir and Arun Sir both for their expertise and suggestions towards enhancing our (specially my) performance. There is lot to learn from this people. Thanks to Siddharth and Shailesh for their helping hand, snaps and their wonderful company. 

In Arun Sir’s word “These is the toughest Route that we successfully explored so far!” I guess that says all.  

Really an Awesome experience! J  
Looking forward to the next Exploration now……!!!            

Following are some pics for the Readers to sum up our Expedition!
1. The picture taken from Thitabi Village where New Col that we explored and climbed for 2 days is pointed with green arrow. Rest of the picture is self explanatory;
2. The picture taken on the way through in the Col of ROhidas where you can see new rappelling route, Shendi pinnacle;
and the Expedition Team: 
From Left: Shrinivas Gokhale, Prakash Kelshekar Sir, Arun Sawant Sir, Shailendra Chavan & Siddhartha Waradkar

More pictures can be viewed on following links:
        2.  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152471092275554.946442.822590553&type=3
 For additional details on Expedition please feel free to contact Arun Sawant on +91 98694 74343
Shrinivas Gokhale
2nd February, 2013

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