Friday, January 30, 2015

Hiking in Manmad Region -- Part 1 (Katra to Shambhu Mahadev Range)

Year 2015 ushered in with lots of hopes. Personally though 2014 was the most outstanding year in my life, I planned to make 2015 even better. There is no point in sitting on your past laurels; real joy of life is in learning something new each day, stretching your limits, setting some new benchmarks and living the life to the fullest.

Right at the start of year, I hiked on Kailsagad Fort near Mulshi dam and thus crossed my first milestone of hiking on 50 forts since starting my hikes in Feb 2013. With this milestone, I rewarded myself with new DSLR, Canon 70D with 18-135 STM lens. So I was excited to hike with this new gear hoping to better myself as a photographer.

Manmad region forts had kindled a lot of interest when I had witnessed them for the first time while traveling to Dhule for a marriage of my relative. It was the time when I was becoming a regular trekker. Finally the day dawned when I finalized the weekend of (17th and 18th Jan, 2015) to hike on these forts with my other trek buddies - Tushar (my elder brother), Amol Chandurkar (my office colleague), Sameer Kadam and Vishal Raghuvanshi.

Original plan was Katra, Hadbichi Shendi, Ankai and Tankai with a night halt in the temple on Ankai Fort. My cousin Sanjay Amrutkar, who is a well-known trekker arranged for the guide as Katra fort is difficult to locate and its hiking trail is confusing.

"We are waiting in front of Visapur Phata. Please send the guide".
"He is coming in 2 minutes. he will come by bike".
Nivrutti was communicating from Nasik as we reached to Visapur diversion where our guide was supposed to meet us. Nivrutti was supposed to act as our guide but he had to rush to Nasik and he had arranged alternate guide for us to take us to Katra Fort.

Another 10 minutes passed; no sign of our guide.

"Nivrutti, your guy has not yet come."
"Oh sorry. He doesn't have the bike. Please drive through the gate for 4 km and you will come across a square where he would be waiting for you."

This time his instructions were correct and we were greeted by Nivrutti's brother and his friend Ganesh. They greeted us warmly and showed us direction of a temple where they would meet us in next 5 minutes. Following their direction, we proceeded towards the temple.

Before entering the temple, we chatted with few people sitting in front of the temple. After knowing about our purpose of trekking on Katra Fort, they showed us Katra Fort clearly visible from the premises of the temple. (leftmost mountain in the below picture).

After parking our car, we removed our shoes and entered the temple. Temple was really very serene tucked away amidst lot of trees and we felt lucky to be in the temple as we never knew the existence of it and only because of the local guides, we got the opportunity to visit it.

Few photos of the temple and its premises:

My joy knew no bounds when peacocks resting on a small tree in the temple premises flew before my eyes. I hurried to capture the moment in the camera but peacocks were very agile in nature and I could just capture some part of it.

As there was no sign of our guides coming back, we decided to linger in the garden. Butterflies were fluttering across and I managed to click a picture of a butterfly resting on a branch of a tree.

We felt cheated when our guides did not return back even after an hour. We again called Nivrutti and showed our displeasure, took our guides' numbers to talk to them personally and as we finally decided to hike without our guides as their cell phones were not reachable, they came on their bike. They apologized and without wasting any further time, we started following them in our car to go towards the base of Katra Fort - our first hike of the day.

Road for some distance was pretty good but suddenly we needed to ply our car on very uneven dirt road. After a point, it was not possible to take the car further and we decided to park it at that point only and started from our hike from there.

Looking back, "Hadbichi Shedi" (thumb shaped pinnacle) was looking very inviting. Our next plan was to reach to the base of this pinnacle which actually did not materialize as few interesting things happened afterwards.

We came across a small temple on the trail going towards Katra Fort.

Route chosen by our guides did not go directly to the base of the fort. They took us on a trail which was traversing the earlier mountain and leading us to col between the mountain and Katra Fort. Trail was slippery with lot of scree and we had to be careful on every step.

A small rock patch along the way:

Soon the traverse of the earlier mountain ended and we reached to a col between Katra Fort and Shendicha Dongar.

From the col, keeping the fort on the left, we again needed to traverse the trail. After the trail, we came across few rock patches of easy grade which led us to top of the fort.

Few wild flowers along the way:

We came across few caves on our right side but were difficult to reach. Only one of our guides went there to check those out.

While ascending further, we came across few more caves.

View of Hadbichi Shendi and surrounding landscape:

Water cisterns on the fort:

This fort does not have any rich remnants and must have been in use as a watch tower. A colored stone, small cave like opening and a water cistern were only some of the remnants.

After exploring the fort, it was post 2 in the afternoon and we started having the hunger pangs. So we decided to have a packed lunch under a shade near a rock patch before deciding on the next action plan.

" As you have come so far, we will take you on each mountain on this range till Shambhu Mahadev Mountain. We would descend on the opposite side where we have parked our vehicles. We will arrange a vehicle to bring back our parked vehicles" our guides were proposing the new plan as we finished our lunch and their idea excited us even if it meant idea of dropping the plan of hiking to the base of Hadbichi Shendi.

With the revised plan, we proceeded towards the base of "Shendicha Dongar" (this is different from "Hadbichi Shendi" pinnacle), next mountain in the range. Traverse we took this to reach base of "Shendicha Dongar" was narrow and full of scree. Amol had very difficult time but managed with the help of Sameer.

Now, we were at the base of Shendicha Dongar. There was one more traverse to reach on top and it was looking frightening - very narrow and full of scree. In comparison, rock patch to go on top was looking safer; so I urged our guides to take a look at it.

They too agreed and one of them was swift and negotiated the rock patch very skillfully. After going up, he confirmed that rock patch was not difficult and everybody could come up. I asked trek mates to wait and I decided to climb first. First step was really difficult where you had to take your foot to the level higher than your waist and with your few fingers in the grove, you had to haul your body up with the full force. It worked for me and I was also up within few minutes. Next turn was that of Amol who being the novice in the field was hesitant and with a lot of plodding and encouragement, he was able to scale the rock patch after a whopping 15 minutes. After Amol. Tushar came up in no time and later Vishal also had to struggle; he struggled more than Amol. Sameer was the last but being short in height, he was not able to reach to hold the grip in the groove and was stuck below for many minutes. Finally, one of our guides descended and pushed him from behind and finally Sameer was up; though he was agitated that he had to take help to negotiate the rock patch. I only consoled that this could happen to anybody and he should not take it to his heart.

Tushar climbing the rock Patch (Photo Courtesy: Sameer Kadam)

As Sameer was coming up from the rock patch, I decided to check where the traverse which we avoided was meeting the mountain and descended on the North side to check it out. As I was checking out, I saw everyone emerging indicating that Sameer was finally up.

We now proceeded towards other mountain in the range where another rock patch was waiting for us.

This rock patch was easier as compared to the previous rock patch.

Looking back, Katra fort was looking intimidating. As we had earlier planned to return from Katra, we were not carrying enough water (though I was carrying 2 litres of water, I was not aware that everybody else was carrying 2 lit of water in total). After a while, all water was finished and our mouth went dry. I was not too amused with trek mates not carrying enough water and reprimanded them for being so careless.

Katra Fort and Shendicha dongar from third mountain in the range:

We had to cross one more mountain which was not at all difficult but dry throats were making the walking little difficult.

Finally we reached near to Shambhu Mahadev mountain where there is a small temple of Shambhu Mahadev.

Growing thirst made us to skip visiting the temple which meant again ascending on the next mountain and descend from the same route. Instead we proceeded towards the gorge between the two mountains from where we were supposed to descend. We were ecstatic when we came to the small stream of water where water was cold, fresh and tasty. You become thirsty and then you realize the value of a single drop of water.

Source of water:

After gulping water, we felt rejuvenated and decided to descend. The gorge from which we were supposed to descend looked frightening and looked impossible to descend. You need to take a small traverse on the right and from where your descend starts. A chain and rope is fixed permanently to descend from a difficult rock patch.

Amol was fully exhausted after the day’s toil and his legs were shaking and he was finding it difficult to descend. But due to sheer will and lack of any other option, he decided to continue and with painstaking effort, he descended the tricky rock patch and all heaved a sigh of relief.

Soon, we joined to the well-marked trail and after that descent was quick. Tushar and Ganesh were far ahead of us. I waited for Amol and Vishal and we descended together. Tushar was already gone to take the car which was parked on the other side of the mountain. Evening was turning into the crimson red as sun was marching rapidly towards West. Gorakshagad, our next target for the next day was looking resplendent in the golden rays of the setting sun.

Legs were tired; there was look of absolute tranquility of everyone’s face. Joy of day’s hard work and feeling of achievement was palpable on everyone’s face. Everyone was engrossed with oneself; talking to the inner self. Vishal was busy in connecting with his fiancee over the phone; Amol was perching on the grass may be reflecting on the day’s hardships and his triumph over the challenges; Sameer and I were still not done with our photography and trying different angles to capture the dying moments of the setting sun.

Soon, Tushar was back with the car. It was a time to say thank you to our guides with whom we shared some thrilling moments.

Ganesh urged us to take a stop at his home for tea and we did not disappoint him. Soon, hot tea was served; Tushar a keen follower of politics soon struck a chord with Ganesh’s father who also seemed interested in politics and we sipped tea hearing their conversation.

Ganesh's home where we enjoyed evening tea:

After showing us the direction of the Gorakshanath temple, we were soon our way towards it. A single light was flickering at the base of Gorakshagad Fort and our car was heading towards it.


  1. दादा, मस्त विस्तृत वर्णन आहे.
    शेंडीच्या डोंगराचा तो पाच मिनिटाचा थरारक Rock Patch चढण्यासाठी आपण केलेली ती धडपड पुन्हा एकदा डोळ्या समोरून गेली.…
    साखळीची वाट तर भारीच होती…

    1. हो ना...रॉक पॅच थरार काही औरच होता..पण एक गोष्ट शिकलो..rope बरोबर असणे आवश्यक आहे..

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Nana! मला 70D घेण्यास प्रोत्साहन दिल्याबद्दल धन्यवाद! कॅमेरा उत्तम असेल तर चांगले फोटो येण्यास मदत होते हे समजले!

  3. Prashant, it is perfect account of thrilling trail with nice photography! What a trail with guides also negotiating it first time! Katara traverse was also dangerous.

  4. दादा तू तर एक भन्नाट भटक्‍या आहेस! हा ट्रेक चांगलाच लक्षात राहील!

  5. Amazing locations... I wish if I could be a part of your team too. I'm not a pro.. But would love to learn from an experienced trekker as you're.

    1. Thanks Mahesh. Please send your details (contact no. etc) at If you are interested, I can invite you for future treks.

  6. खूपच चांगली फोटोग्राफी करतात तुम्ही .

  7. I am trekker & visited over 220 forts, now wishes to go for Katra and Mesna Fort which I was missed previously. No search available on google. I checked with different names & found your Blog. Really a great adventure you explained.Can you explain the exact way of Katra & Mesana Fort & Route.We are going to trek for Ankai, Tankai, Katra & Mesana Forts & wish to complete in 2 days.

    1. It is advisable to take a guide to visit Katra fort. Route is little bit tricky and not easy to find. I had done Gorakshagad fort instead of Mesna; but I heard that Mesna fort has a lot of scree and you need to be careful.