Excellent Write up from Selvakumar Balachandran:
When I saw the mail from Prem announcing the Express Trek (fitness test for DFS), I was wondering whether I should apply or not. I had done only two treks of easy/moderate level with CTC so far. Although I was preparing hard on my fitness and stamina by regularly working out, I was not sure if I could suddenly scale up to the ‘extremely difficult’ nature of this express trek. However, the trek plan of covering 3 peaks (which I haven’t done so far) seemed too interesting to resist that I registered for this trek. Finally when I received the confirmation mail from Prem on Friday, I felt a sense of elation laced with the fear - will I be able to complete this and come out unscathed?
So the D-day finally arrived, I packed up, reached Tidel park @ 8 PM and met Sudhir. Later Masi and Sakthi joined. We then started from Tidel park and met with Prem & group at Guindy. Venkat joined us there and we proceeded towards Poonamalle in 2 cars. The group from Koyambedu joined us at Poonamalle and then we continued driving towards Nagala. On the way, we stopped for a quick dinner (dosa & omelette) @ Tiruvallur and finally reached Nagala at around 1:15 AM on Sunday (15-Jul-2012). We parked the cars in the village and distributed the food items amongst us. We were a group of 18 trekkers in all - we pulled out our torches and embarked on the challenge at around 2 AM.
Prem announced that our plan was to first scale the Southern Peak, followed by the Western Peak, finally the Central Peak and then return back the same point from where we started - And do all this in a day!
Initially the terrain was flat, with lot of thorny shrubs. However, we avoided the trail and took some shortcuts through the shrubs in order to reach the base of the hills faster. However, we lost our way multiple times that Prem had to constantly use the GPS and bring us back on the right path.
We then hit the hills and started the ascent, but by then clouds started gathering and soon a light drizzle started. By around 3 AM, the rains turned heavy and windy but we still continued trekking.
We reached the water point (far from it, it was actually a trickle), chased away the small snake that was cooling itself in the water. Prem suggested that folks who are too tired to stay behind at this point however all of us wanted to continue. Most of us left our bags here under a tree and started the final arduous pitch for the Southern summit that was made more difficult by the heavy rain & wind, steep terrain, loose boulders, etc. We felt cold and started shivering even if we halted for a few minutes so we continued trekking non-stop and at times even started running to generate heat in our bodies. Slowly the night gave way to first light of the dawn and by now, rain was subsiding as well. However, the visibility was still low and there was mist and clouds all around.
By around 7 AM, we reached the Southern peak - it was a bit of an anti-climax as we expected to see sunrise and great views from here but instead could only see an endless sea of clouds. Took some snaps and shared some bread and started our descent.
By now, rains stopped completely however it was still cloudy. Reached the water point, had breakfast (bread) and changed course towards the Nagala West trail. It was a long, steep descent through a rocky trail - we picked pace here and this drained out many of the folks. On the way, we noticed a hut where we stopped for some time and took some group snaps. We continued further and joined the Nagala West trail somewhere near the first pool. Five of the group feeling exhausted decided to quit at this stage - they took the trail towards the West exit whereas the rest of the group (13 folks) continued trekking towards the third pool. On reaching the third pool, most of the folks dived in to refresh themselves but I was too tired for such indulgence so took a short nap instead. Felt intermittent momentary flash of giddiness, however frequently sipped electrol/tang which helped regain my composure. Prem suggested to lie down flat on the ground for a few minutes to allow blood to flow back to the head - this also greatly improved by alertness.
We continued trekking, crossed mini Kutralam, climbed some steep slopes and reached the base of the West peak. Some folks decided to skip the West peak and stayed back at this point. I contemplated skipping as well however the thought of proving myself and the tagline ‘mind over body’ flashed in my mind giving me the sudden boost required. So, joined the group of 6 and started trekking towards the West peak. The weather was balmy as the sun was filtered out by the cloud cover. We reached the West peak by around 10:30 AM.
By now the mist was completely gone, so we had great views of the nearby hills, the plains and water bodies below. Took some snaps and came down for lunch. Most of us had bread for lunch - aval was a dampener as it was too thick to get soaked properly in water; plus we didn’t have sugar as it was with the folks who quit the trek in between. After this welcome break for about 45 min, we geared ourselves for the final leg of the challenge - which is the Central peak.
We continued trekking along the West stream and the water flow started reducing. We reached a point where the stream was almost dry. We took a diversion from the stream and climbed a nearby steep slope. This lead us on to a trail which we followed for some time and finally reached the Central peak at around 3:30 PM.
I felt extremely elated at having scaled all the 3 peaks and thought ‘mission accomplished’ - without ever realizing how difficult it was going to be to get back to the base.
We had a round of self-introductions at the Central peak, took snaps, relaxed for some time and started trekking back to the base. The route we took was too steep so we had to change / reverse course a few times. Prem went ahead to scout for a suitable path for climbing down and found a dry stream. This was an extremely difficult path - very steep, large boulders, thick vegetation, swarm of insects, etc. but this was the only available option as we were losing time- by now, light was starting to fade as well. We all climbed down and followed the dry stream and hit upon a trail. We followed the trail for well over an hour and reached the hut. Few of us took a diversion and went to a nearby stream to fill the water bottles while the rest of the group continued.
By now, it was dark, so we brought out the torches. This was probably the most difficult part of the challenge - body and mind completely exhausted, feeling pain with each step and expecting to see the base of the hill at the next corner but getting disappointed. We also encountered a couple of snakes crawling right next to our path. We continued this way for probably a couple of hours and finally reached the base of the hills at around 7:30 PM.
We all crashed and lay on the ground - sleep overcame us as we had to wait for some of our group members who were trailing behind. We were woken up by dogs barking / fighting for the leftover food but just then the rest of the group emerged from the hills. We took a head count to confirm if all our trekkers have reached - we were 13 in all - Bingo!.
Next we anticipated a short walk to the village / car park but this turned out to be another long walk for close to an hour. Finally we reached the car park, quickly got into our cars and headed towards a Dhaba on the road to Uttukottai. Had chicken, parathas, naan, lassi, etc. for dinner. Finally when paying the bill, we realized that we are 1 member short - Vignesh was missing! Frantically searched in the cars but no trace of him. Prem and Masi decided to go back to Nagala to check on him while the rest of us proceeded to Chennai. After dropping Raghul, Venkat and Sakthi, I reached home at 1 AM on Monday.
It was a big relief when I learnt the next day from Prem that they met Vignesh in the morning. Looks like, he lost his way while walking towards the village / car park - he stopped briefly to change his shoes, missed the group and took a different turn. So, he slept the night at the base of the hills itself and met with Prem/Masi who had camped there overnight. It was a cinematic twist to the climax but with a happy ending!
And most of all, after scaling 3 of the tallest peaks of Nagala, involving 2200 m of total ascent and covering a distance of 43.60 Km in around 18 hours, this was a mission well accomplished!
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