Friday, 17 February 2012

Lingana - The Complete adventure

Location :
The pinnacle of Lingana is located in between the two grand forts of Shivaji's Swarajya – Raigad & Torna – on mainline of Sahyadri. The nearest well known villages/towns are Velhe (base of Torna) and Mahad. Most of the trekkers travel to either of the location and then to one of the nearest villages of the fort like Lingana-machi, Singapur, Mohari etc.

About Fort:
Water Tank on side
The fort was built by King Shivaji in 1648 after he defeated Chandrarao More. The main purpose was to secure central Konkan against Sidis. As the shape of the fort pinnacle resembles to shape of Shivalinga, it was named as Lingana. The height of the top is about 2969 feet with respect to the sea level. During its ancient days, the fort used to house hardcore prisoners. These prisoners were made to climb the fort with the help of ladders and subsequently the ladders were removed once they reached the top. As it is not possible to climb or descend the fort without proper aids, the prisoners used to die either of hunger/thirst or a fatal injury.
Although History of Lingana is not as glorious as the major forts like Sinhagad or Rajgad, we get few references that put some light on it. According to the treaty of Purandar, Raigad and Lingana were retained by Shivaji Maharaj.
Records say that Lingana was maintained and looked after till 1786 regularly, from treasury of Raigad.
View from bottom
Finally when British took over the Maratha Empire in 1818, they captured and destroyed the Fort so that no one will be able to capture it back or stay on it. Thereafter the plight of this great monument has become sad. Nobody dared to climb it after that for more than a century.

Today many rock climbers look at Lingana as an excellent place for technical rock climbing in Sahyadri.

How to go?
Path 1 – From Mahad :
Most of the trekkers coming from Mumbai come by this way. One can reach Mahad by ST buses or Railway. From Mahad, we need to take a bus to Panne Villege. From here we can reach the village on plateau called Lingana-machi. Then there is 1 hr slippery walk that leads us to base of the Pinnacle.

Singapur village from plateau
Path 2 – From Pune :
The trekkers coming from Pune have to find their way to Torna. Lingana lies along the small path going around Torna towards Raigad. Most of the trekkers coming from Rajgad/Torna to Raigad come by this way. They either find Singapur or Mohari village in between. From these villages it is about 1 hr walk upto plateau of Railingi. Then through the Gully near plateau called as 'Boratyachi Nal' we come to the base of the pinnacle.

Difficulty : Veeeeeeery Difficult.

Best Time to Visit:
The whole trek, which is mostly rock climbing is best done during winters or early summers. So it is suggested to go during November to February/March Period.

Places to watch :
The place is paradise for rock climbers. This is technically toughest natural rock climb in Sahyadris. You need ropes, carabiners, tape slings and other rock climbing material. When one comes here the basic thing to watch is rocks. So watch everything around , Where to keep your next toe, where to keep your next palm. If you get time to look away from rock the see the things around. The view of the plateau of Rilingi is awesome from the cave on fort. In some places we can still see some broken fortification, but is really hard to recognize different from other rocks. In distant places you can easily see Raigad, Torna and Rajgad forts.

Our Story:
Till this time, no trek group from Pune had arranged the full climb to Lingana for wannabe
climbers. The explorers group once again (first was AMK) gave me the chance to go for a trek where I thought I will never be able to go.

I had always heard, 'Trek to Lingana is toughest trek in Sahyadris', and with the madness I achieved after AMK trek, I decided to jump right in. The organizer asked us to practice our palm grip and arm strength for the trek(of course stamina was prerequisite). So,I was practicing by climbing trees or small waterfalls. Unfortunately while doing so I hurt my ankle 2 weeks before the trek. Now the only thing which I could do was taking care of my leg & pray to god for fast recovery. The trek was on 4th and 5th February 2012. By this time I was almost recovered but still not 100%.
Boratyachi Nal

Plateau of Railingi from Lingana Cave
Our group was 15 people. As this was the first time the group was organizing the trek, two of the main climbers went ahead on previous day to fix the rope for first stage of climb and take all the instruments up to the cave and save some time on actual climb. On 4th February we left Pune early evening around 4 o'clock. The path chosen was Pune-Velhe-Mohari. After a short snack break at Velhe, we reached Mohari village at about 8 O'clock. As we had to start the trek early in the morning, after having our dinner and some chat, we went to find our sleeping bags.

We got up at about 3 o'clock, completed our morning tasks, had a tea and started off towards Lingana at 4 along with a local guide. From Mohari we came to Plateau of Railingi and then started the actual trek. The first part was a gully adjacent to plateau known as 'Boratyachi Nal'. This was just a narrow space between two mountains with many lose rocks. We travelled through this rocky slide of a kilometer or so, in darkness just before dawn. When came at about half the height of plateau, we took a narrow path towards right. Rested a little till daybreak.
After travelling this small path along the mountain we reached at cleft between Lingana & the plateau. Here we equipped ourselves with Tape-Slings and other instruments and started the climb.
The wall - first patch after cave
First part was comparatively easy climb. All ropes tied, almost zero fully vertical steps, so no huge amount of skills were needed. But the difference between previous climbs done and this was now visible. The soil here is eroded at much faster rate as all the existing grass that grows on the mountain slopes is burnt down. Due to this the soil loses its grip and is washed away. This would theoretically makes climb very difficult, but in our case we had rope in our one hand – so all safe.
Overall group was excellent. Although not having much of an experience of rock-climbing, all of us climbed upto the cave in about 1 hour. And this 'us' included one with almost zero experience of rock climbing. So hats off to him! It was about 8.30 – 9 o'clock, when we climbed about 40% of the pinnacle and were having fun around the cave, taking photographs. From this place we get an awesome view of the plateau in front.

The rock next to be climbed was looking like a 50 ft solid walls with some groves & cracks. Now was the time for real climb. The guy with zero experience decided that he wont be able to continue here onward. He stayed in the cave till we came back. It was almost 10 o'clock when first member started for next patch. All patches this point onward were just crazy, with our alpha ahead, fixing up all ropes and we following his footsteps. Sometimes sitting down on narrow edge of pinnacle, looking/learning how the leaders climb the rock without any rope, being thankful to leader/god that we have ropes for our safety. There were 4-5 major and many minor rock patches to go up. After last big rock patch no rope was tied, we just walked on narrow path with huge valley on both sides. The place is terrifying.
With steady and patient movements we climbed the whole pinnacle. All of us sat down with a sigh of relief. From this place we could see real roughness of Sahyadri. The capital of Swarajya – The great Raigad - right in-front of the eyes and the first fort of same Swarajya – Torna – right behind your back, somewhere lying the old capital Rajgad and 3000 ft vally on both side with you standing on a narrow pinnacle of hardly 6-7 ft width. If you can, imagine yourself....
We had many group photos here. Had some rest under bright sunshine of noon (Thinking, somebody should plant a big tree here). Then our leaders gave us required instructions for rappelling down. The return journey started.

First few just reached on top
The rappelling wasn't the regular style where you have complete vertical wall under your legs and you can go weee down the heights but you have to constantly change your direction of movement according to the next rock. It was practically semi-rappelling – some times your legs supported on the wall in front and some times on the rock grove below. This was something new..

When we reached back to the cave at 3, everyone was sun-baked finding their water bottles. After a while in cool shade, we took out our packed lunch and hastily finished. Then some sat chatting, some having nice afternoon time nap as always. Meanwhile leaders brought down ropes and instruments. Then after everybody had lunch, packed their water-bottles, rappelling of 450 ft started at about 5 o'clock.

the crew
This part was done in two stages. First a run down of 150 ft then remaining 300 ft. This part was actually proved worse than our expectations. As we climbed up this in about an hour, we thought we will go down by 7 o'clock. Unfortunately it didn't happen. The people which were beginners went first after the leader. And it took huge amount of time to teach rappelling on such a difficult surface. Hence the actual rappelling drifted till night time. Hardly 2-3 guys were reached to the base by 7 o'clock. And after this time the real disaster begin. Now the people which were used to rappelling started to take more time as vision was really limited (though there was moonlight). Besides the last man had to round up all the ropes and stuff while coming down – that was also a considerable challenge. Meantime the leaders who were already at the base took the people there to the top of the plateau in small groups. At least they were able to rest in peace there. I don't know if I was lucky or unlucky to stay as the last one of the participants to come down, but one for sure it was a great experience to see how the last guy rounds up all the instruments.

By the time I came down it was past 9.30. I came down, had almost a liter or so of water, and sat down on the ground till the last one came down. The group remaining was 5 people – 3 of the leaders, me and one more of the participants. We rounded all the ropes, tied them properly. Each one carried at least one rope along with the backpack and left the base at about 10.20. Walking around the plateau, climbing back the 'Boratyachi nal' was awesome. All of us came non stop through this part within 40 minutes or so.

Rappelling down
We just came up. No sooner we had touched our a**es to the ground, the leader said, “Hay we need to move fast, I don't think anybody will serve you food at any hotel nearby after 12 o'clock”. Hell! Once again we got up and started running towards the vehicles kept in the village. It was past 12 o'clock when we actually sat in the car and return journey started. Of course no hotel on the road was open. Some guys had some food left with them. We shared it as much as possible. Had a great nap in the car and finally reached Pune at 3.30 in morning of 6th. Somehow reached home by 4 and slept immediately.

This was the most amazing experience of trek I had till the date. It included long sprints, exhilarating rock climb, rappelling in both harsh sunlight and soothing moonlight, night run along the edge of valley and through the gully – what more does a trekker wants? [Yeh, next day holiday.. unfortunately it was once again 9 o'clock office]