Per head cost: 600 INR (incl. travelling Mumbai-Mumbai, dinner, breakfast, tea, snacks etc for all 4 days)
Route: Dadar (Mumbai)-Ghoti (Igatpuri)-Ambewadi-Alang-Madan-Kulang-Ambewadi-Kasara-Dadar
Madan rock-patch technical grade: 4+ to 5- (easy for climber, hard for a first timer)
Alang rock-patch technical grade: 5a (easy for climber, hard for first timer)
Alang-gad, Madangad and Kulang-gad (अलंग, मदन, कुलंग) or AMK are considered as the toughest hill-forts in the whole Sahyadri mountain ranges. Necessary climbing skills, rope-work and working knowledge of equipment handling is required for climbing Madan and Alang forts.
AMK is not for first time trekkers or any picnic people. It is advisable to have working climbing knowledge (if not for you, its better for your teammates safety). But I am sure climbers, trekkers and even first time people will enjoy reading this article. I have tried to cover basic terminology, fundamentals here. This article is not responsible for mistakes you make.
We started from Ambewadi, crossing the houses, dodging the fields, keeping Alang in front. The small hill needs to be climbed (not fully) and later traversing to Alang mountain (left to right). The stone-cut steps marks the steep climb about to follow. After 2 hours from start, the trail bifurcates, left to Alang and right to Madan.
The trail to Madan is prominent and there are no sub-trails and hence no chance of losing the trail. The stone-cut steps along the steep walls of the fort makes this an adventurous trek.
The plan was to climb and explore Madan first and come back to Alang for the night. On the way towards Alang-Madan col, there is a wide area where we kept our heavy-luggage. We took necessary climbing equipment and some food and water with us. At the Alang-Madan col the route bifurcates and the one on right goes to Madangad. The trail is prominent and there are no sub-trails and hence no chance of losing the trail. After the col, the trail is narrow and dangerous, exposing valley on right side. We did not have to fix rope at the over-exposed traverse as there was no need for it. Everyone comfortably crossed the traverse. Still, if there be necessity of support, there are bolts fixed to attach rope (and it is recommended). This is usually the place where the picnic-obsessed, selfie-crazy people click pictures. The trail continues to traverse along the fort and stops at the foot of the rock-wall. The dogs followed us till the the rock-patch.
Climbing Madangad: It was my first ever lead-climbing in India on a bolted route and second overall (first was outside India, in Stockholm). The chemistry inside brain is totally different when lead-climbing and when climbing top-rope route. Also, this time, I wasn't climbing for myself but was climbing on behalf of our group, with a responsibility of rope-work.
|Entering Madan fort|
The trail to the top is also equally exposed and needs to be crossed with caution. Some parts are exposed to valley, scree adding to its difficulty. The view of Ghatghar dam (घाटघर धरण) was a beauty. The horse-shoe shaped plateau of Alang fort could be seen from here. Some additional info- the virgin rock-wall of Alang from the Alang-Madan col was successfully climbed by Suraj Malusare in early 2016, mission led by Isolation zone under Arun Sawant sir.
Exploring Madangad: Topmost point of Madan-fort is at an altitude of 1495 mtr from sea level. The top of Madangad is smaller in comparison to the other two forts. The water is available and the cave can be used for camping at night.
After a short water and snack break we geared-up for rappelling down rock-wall and climbing Alang. The rappelling down took us about same time, including rope-coiling and packup. Manoj acknowledged that the traverse of Madangad was not as difficult as people portray in their photos. He added that alertness was necessary though.
This is Pable kaka. We as kids, remember trekking in the forests, remote forts back then, holding on to their hands, following their footsteps.. the Bhimashankar ladder route in monsoon, Mahuli in 1st std, Manikgad in 2nd std, Chandoli treks (now banned for trekking or camping) and many more.
|Water cistern on Madan fort|
|Madan descend- Started getting dark|
|Last steps to Alang top|
|Another Cave on Alang top|
|Manoj rappelling down Alang patch|
The first traverse reminded me of much easier traverse between Kalavantin-Prabalgad in Panvel. Another similarity is the bee-hives along the trail.
Bees: The location of bees (as of 2017) were majorly along the cliff of Madangad, along the Kulang traverse. There are previously known cases where some picnic groups were attacked due to poor organizing by their picnic organizer (bees get easily agitated by deodorants, skin-creams, sun-screen lotions etc) Trekkers usually know how to handle such situations, so no worries. These bees were different that the normal bees. In our local Marathi language, we call them आग्या माश्या. The honey from these hives is very hot for our body. Their size is big and the sting is more painful than the sting of smaller bee. Their defense strategies are also unique.
After the traverse of Madan, the prominent hindrance at one ridge of mountain is scree. At this one specific point along the slope, the recent rise of picnic crowd has tremendously degraded the trail. The love for nature, trekking, history is slowly decreasing due to these picnic groups, who mainly focus on maximizing their profits at the expense of these mountains :(Scrambling along the slopes and traversing along the small pinnacles, trail met the mountain of Kulang. It was a heavenly feeling crossing the narrow cols between the Kulang mountain and the adjoining pinnacles. This is where Ganpat Kaka decided to leave us (we again met him after 2 days in Ambewadi at his home). The valley gradually descends to Ambewadi. We continued along the Kulang traverse. It was roughly 5.15 PM when we reached the point (ridge) where the main Kulang trail from Kulangwadi meets this traverse from Madangad.
The trail following this junction was fairly exposed and with heavy backpacks, it was utmost important to balance ourselves on the narrow edges. Route is indeed dangerous but manageable with caution. The dogs were jumping in-between our legs which was both fun and scary. With the Sun setting on the other side of the mountain, it had started to get dark. The swallows swooped pasWe were walking non-stop with the only plan to reach Kulang without using torch lights. But what seemed to be less possible looked quite doable. We entered the fort at 6.15 PM. It was again a day without proper lunch. Dinner for today was khichadi.
|Kalsubai, Alang, Madan all in one pic|
|Disfigured lord-Ganesha carving near water tanks|
|Remnants of a palace|
|Climbing down the steps of Kulang fort|