Tada Mountain Climb (Attempt 1), April 19-20

Wednesday, May 14, 2008
We had an AWESOME trek this weekend. 15 participants including:
3 from CISCO: myself, Sreedhar, Sheethal
4 existing trekkers: Nagi, Vivek, Ramya (who came in from Bangalore!), John
8 new joiners: Sandeep (bikers club), Chandru Ragu, Ragu (Sheethal's brother), Mahalingam (youngest member), Prashanta, Sankaran, Divya, Chiru

Not sure how to call this trek - "Ombattu Gudde part 1" came to my mind several times as I/we tracked through some pretty dense and steep terrain without a clear path. This one definitely gives a good idea of things to come at OG (planned in month of May). A real trek in its true sense.

Starting From Chennai to TADA
From the start of the trek, we felt that it was going to be different from the previous treks to TADA, as we were planning to climb the hill by an unexplored path. We were not sure of path and none of our trek members had been there before. With a small hope of getting help from the locals at Tada, we started our trek to TADA to reach mountain top.

15 people from different walks of life, most of whom were new to each other, assembled at Koyambedu to start the well planned trek to TADA. We started with one Scorpio, four bikes (Enfield, avenger, Fiero, victor). Picking up started from Perungudi, and one Scorpio with three bikes started towards TADA, while Sreedhar with one bike went to central station to receive the participant from Bangalore (Ramya). Our journey started quite early and travel was fast, in comparison to the previous trek.

Breakfast at TADA
We reached TADA well before schedule. As other people started moving towards the hotel for having breakfast and packing up lunch, the other bike also reached in time. We had breakfast and packed the lunch for Saturday afternoon. It was exactly 20Kms from the TADA to reach the base camp of the TADA waterfalls. Where you can park our vehicles and start trekking. We were at the check post of the TADA mountains by 8:45am. From here we became a little late in convincing the people and making them to adjust to our rates.

Discussion with Local Forest people
We had to spend a lot of time to console the forest guards at the check post for our overnight stay there and also to guard our vehicles during the night. They did not get convinced. So we thought of parking our vehicle near by the huts there. From there on, we drove through the rough and sandy pebble road. The ride was bumpy, which made it difficult for the bikers. So, people on bikes had to follow the trial made by the Scorpio which went ahead. The people staying nearby the huts were afraid that they will get any problem to safe guard cars if they agree without forest people permission. So Sreedhar and Sandeep had to go back to the check post and speak to the guards there to guard our vehicles during the night.

In the meantime we drove to the parking space with the Scorpio and remaining bikes. We were waiting for Sreedhar and Sandeep to return from check post. In the mean time Peter distributed two bottles of water, cuppa mania noodles/ready to eat rice packets to each member. John helped the new trekking people to roll their sleeping mats and tie them to their backpacks. After Sandeep and Sreedhar came back, we started our trek into the forest. We had to cross a small stream in the beginning. John was searching for butterflies and other reptiles to catch some stills with his camera. The weather was hot, but bearable since it was windy. After walking for some more distance we got to see the Shiva temple.

To first water stream (6ft)
Near the Shiva temple, there was a water stream which was around 6 ft deep. Everybody jumped into water as it was a welcome place to be, as it was getting hotter. Some trekkers swam, some tried to swim, some were just trying to float. We spent almost an hour playing and swimming in the cold water. We started climbing the hills immediately after coming out of water. There we had some confusion to go to the right or take regular path to reach the top of the TADA moutains. At last we decided to go in the regular path to reach the water fall and then thought of climbing the mountain in the late afternoon to avoid the heat.

To second Water stream (20ft)
We started walking towards the main water falls for TADA called "Seethalam". Though the weather was hot we did not feel it because of cold water bath. By the time we all dried up, we reached covered areas. This time we took the other path to reach the main waterfalls (Seethalam). The road was rocky and lots of boulders were there. Some stones were submerged in the water. The water was so clear that we could see the stones. We had to jump from one rock to another and there was also a wooden log to climb one of the rocks. Before reaching Seethalam, there was one more small water stream flowing between the boulders and it was looking like a tiny waterfalls. We took a break there, while Peter and Sandeep went ahead of the group to explore a possibly entry path to climb the hills surrounding the Tada valley.

They found a steep path at the right side above the waterfalls. They returned to the group after 30 minutes climb to confirm the existence of an upwards trail. We thought we can continue our trail after a refreshing swim and enjoying our packed lunch then we started climbing a huge boulder to reach the Seethalam. Peter, Sandeep and Sreedhar helped other trekkers to climb this rock. After climbing up, there were big boulders and again all of us started jumping from one boulder to another. We reached the main waterfalls, and all jumped into the very cold and deep pond. Peter went to fill the empty water bottles straight from the falls. The water from the falls was warm. Then, it was time for some photos. Water was colder than previous streams and as usual very clear.

It was then time for lunch and this time we had to be wary of the monkeys that were eyeing our food packets. After lunch, few took rest (Sreedhar slept off!) and some others jumped into the water again. Few crossed on Peter's back. Peter and Sandeep held a rope at two sides of the pond so that people who could not swim, were able to easily wade along. Water was really chill and everyone was shivering. After crossing some distance we could see waterfalls. We swam back and continued our ascent to the top.

Exploring path to top of the mountain
We started climbing the uphill at 1530 Hrs. We didn’t know the path, we had to explore the way in order to reach the top. We climbed over rocks, steep inclines and some patches with dense vegetation. We used a 15m long rope to cover some of the very steep and tricky stretches. As usual, even though most people were new to each other, the team quickly bonded and helped each other to overcome any obstacles along the trail. After some initial bare rock terrain we entered the forest and proceeded along a narrow path. We struggled for three hours to reach a small waterfall. This was also a dead-end with 10 meters of vertical rock...

At this spot the trail seemed to end so we went out to discover how to proceed further. Sandeep and Vivek climbed up the steep hill to the left of the waterfall. Peter crossed the dry (water flowing underground) mountain stream below the waterfall in search for the missing path and proceeded along a less clear horizontal, slowly ascending trail till he reached above the dense vegetation. Next, one had to conquer a 50 meter high nearly 90 degree steep stretch of rock formation (which was present along the entire mountain like a natural defense making it very difficult to climb higher) above which there was a large open, less steep area covered by long grass and sprinkled with rocks.

This was an ideal spot to set up the camp. So he came back to guide the group. we filled our water bottles in that small stream which was flowing across our way. Meanwhile Sandeep and Vivek also found a short way (but difficult) to reach the top of the mountain. As there were girls with us and Peter's exploration seemed to be easier and as it was getting dark we followed Peter’s path which took around 90 minutes. The sunset on one side and the rise of the almost full moon on the other side of the horizon was a grand sight to watch. At last we reached to a open place and we decided to camp there as it was open place. It took a while to find a place which was (1) flat, (2) sufficient large for 15 to sleep and (3) were we could clear the rocks to have a comfortable sleep.

But the ground was rocky and would not allow us to sleep. It took few minutes to clean the small stones which are hidden in the grass. At last we make our night camp base little clear and then using our torches, flattened the wild grass and spread our sleeping mats there. It was dark by the time we settled down there and most of the trekkers were tired by then. Peter and Nagi went further up and checked for better places to camp and also to find water to cook our food. As they failed in finding water we decided to eat bread and jam for the night and sleep (also we were not so hungry). The wind had also stopped and night set in.

It was the night before full moon and so there was a lot of natural light, making it easy for us to spread out sleeping mats, lie on the sleeping bags (it was too hot to get into it), pass around some snacks, bread and jam to eat. Some trekkers who were very tired slept off early. While others had a wonderful time playing UNO with 10 members in the shade of a tree under the full moon which rose above the hills. All of us slept peacefully under the stars, and were thankfully not disturbed by any insects, snakes or other small animals.

Descent of the hill
The next morning, people woke up one by one from around 6 am, and around 7 am we were ready for further trek up the hill. With no water sources nearby Peter decided to go back to the waterfall of the previous day with 12 empty bottles in my back pack to resupply so we could resume the trek. As he was unable to find back the trail of the previous day he proceeded through the dense forest, thorny bushes and sliding along steep downhill slopes trying to locate the waterfall. After some time he felt he was completely lost in the middle of nowhere under dense forest cover with no clear view. The steep hills on both sides of the Tada valley also prevented his GPS from getting a proper satellite signal. Finally, after holding the GPS horizontally near an open patch he was able to get a satellite lock and noticed that I had reached 100 meters below the waterfall.

So he climbed up along the steep river climbing over huge boulders to reach the bottom of the falls again. After refilling the bottles he resumed the climb up the hill along the steep right side of the waterfall reaching close to his physical limits carrying 15 liters on his back climbing along an 80 degree slope with rocks so vertical and big that it was very difficult to climb up. He never sweat or burned more calories in his entire life then during those 15 minute uphill climb. He would need to drink 5 liters of water during the rest of the day to restore his body reserves. He finally reached on top again near the grassy open area after which it took him another 20 minutes to locate the group again.

There was a debate among the trekkers, to decide if we have to go further up and conquer the mountain top or come back to the base and do some cooking. There were 5 votes for the former and so started with the ascent first. However, after climbing for about 10 mins, the ascent was called off as it was very steep and the stones on the path were loose and also we didn’t know the way to go down and yet to explore the path. At last we decided to go back to the downhill and started moving down. Also the hot sun does matter which we thought it will be difficult to climb down as we have to explore the path.

After climbing down to the North for a while we reached a 90 degree vertical edge beyond which we could not proceed further so we took a deviation west along the hill. As Sandeep, Mahalingam and Sreedhar were leading the path to explore, Peter, Vivek and Raghu were helping the other to get down. The path we took was probably one of dried up water lanes, as the stones were highly polished and slippery too. There was also some stretches where there were thorny bushes on both sides. It took us only about 80 mins to come down. And we directly reached the 6 feet water pond near Shiva temple. All the trek members were happy to see the base camp so soon. As everyone was tired Peter, Nagi and others started cooking as Raghu, John and others went to bring the pure water from the water lane.

Cooking and swimming
Peter and few others made Cuppa Noodles, ready to eat rice, soup, and even sweet Kesari. After having our breakfast and getting freshened up, we all went back to the pond where we had spent an hour swimming the previous day. The cold water was a welcome change again, as it was getting hot in the afternoon. We spent almost 2 hours in the pond, playing and swimming and relaxing.

We started our return to the vehicles in the hot sun, on the sandy trail to the 1st pond and spent an hour there, sitting in the water with our feet being nibbled by the doctor-fishes. It was very amusing to see most of the trekkers giggle and laugh as they felt a tickling sensation when the fish nibbled their feet. Sreedhar seemed to be the favorite with the fish, who enjoyed maximum attention from them. Sandeep tried his best to coax the fish to come to his feet to but was not very successful.

There was a small forest fire, when we were at the pond and so we made a move from there to avoid the flying ash. We walked back to the parking place, and got into the Scorpio and the bikes. As we have to settle money with the forest locals, we though not to waste time and Sreedhar with Mahalingam went to check post and settled the deal. By that time all others reached check post. We had a photo session (girls on the bikes) and started moving towards Chennai. There was a function going on in the "Oneness temple" along the road. The "Oneness temple" was decorated and there were many cars for the opening ceremony.

Back to chennai
At Tada town, we stopped for cool drinks and everyone chose from lemon juice and badam milk. Most of them had 2 glasses of juices as we were all extremely thirsty. On our on the way back to Chennai, we stopped at a dhaba on NH5 for lunch. As we were very hungry and we wanted to eat non veg. As it was past lunch time we did not get the food we wanted instead we adjusted with what was provided. The food however was excellent and we were keep on ordering things. We ate around 90 rottis and the curries tasted amazing. Thanks to Sandeep for finding the place.

After late lunch we resumed our return along NH5. This time there is a small change. Sreedhar took the Scorpio to drive rest of the road to Chennai while Peter took the bike (500cc Enfield). Near RedHills we stopped and climbed up to the RedHills lake but we were a little late for the Sunset. We stayed back on the bank of the lake for half an hour and form there dispersed to respective homes in different directions. Ramya had to catch train to Bangalore so Sreedhar, Sheetal and Raghavendra went to send her off. While Peter and Sandeep helped others to reach their homes.

At the end it was very good trip with an incomplete mission. Hope to reach the mountain top next time find the source of the Tada waterfalls. Hope we can do it time.

Story written by Prashansa, Sheethal and Sreedhar

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