There is/was so much talk about Ombattu Gudda in the trekking community: its very tough, so many people have got lost conquering it etc., etc., that interested me. It was in January 2007, during Green Route Trek – Sakleshpur, that we heard about Ombattu Gudda. The talk at that time was the finding of three human bodies/skeleton, on the banks of Kempu Hole river. Naturally everyone thought that they had died conquering the Green Route as we have to cross Kempu Hole in one of the trails. But it turned out that they were into Ombattu Gudda range, that too during Monsoon. Three years on, with all the modern maps, devices, it has become easier to conquer these trails. But still one has to do it right!!!
Now Arun gave us that break. Due to some reason, the initial plan by Bangalore ASCENDers (BASC) got postponed to 23rd October weekend which was ideal for us. And the monsoon was still active in that region, which is a bit unusual. After all the usual emails, purchasing of food, all of us met in Majestic. We were seven of us, Arun MS and MB, Conrad, Krishna Murthy, Rakshith, Me and Suman. The entire group was big 23 in size, managed by Mudassar, the founder of BASC.
Saturday, 23rd October, 2010
It was 5 in the morning when we reached Gundya check-post. We had tea in one of the petty shops, which was horrible to say the least. But everyone needed that. Then we started walking on the highway;NH-48 till we had crossed a bridge (On Kempu Hole), to reach the jeep track. Now we got to know why we did not get sleep in the bus as we had a glimpse of the highway, after crores of rupees spent on it to get it repaired, the condition was pathetic. I pity the drivers of heavy vehicles. There was a small house at the start of the jeep track, and we decided to wait there till sunrise. In the meanwhile everyone were busy getting ready, with some repellents for the leeches viz. Zandu Balm (which never worked on l eeches), Tobacco Powder, Salt, Lemon, etc., etc., I decided to do the trek in Sandals. After the makeup to our legs, we had a brief intro session, and by this time it was already 7. I opted to be the “sweeper” of the group, so that no one was left behind, I was given one Walkie-Talkie to communicate with the lead.
The jeep track was straightforward, and within 15min, Arun, MB that is, and me stopped for ablutions. Here we took a long break and the main group went way ahead. They kept pinging us on the Walkie-Talkie telling us to keep to the jeep track. At one place there was an Y fork and as luck would have it we took the wrong way which went directly to a local’s house. Luckily they guided us. After 15min for ablutions and 15min searching the path, we were on right track. The main group kept pinging us on our whereabouts. After some 45min of separation, we joined the main group. During the course we had crossed many streams. After sometime we hit a road block. There was one more Y fork, one led to a dead end and other ended up on the banks of Kabbinale River, which was impossible to cross. It was time to get the GPS out. I switched on my N900, after 5min it gave us the coordinates. This with analyzing the Survey of India maps, told us, the Jeep track ended here and we had to make our own way, along the river till we encounter a split in the Kabbinale River. Initially we were on the path where a stream would have flown during peak monsoon. But after sometime we were on a clear man made track. After an hours trek we reached a spot where we had to cross the Kabbinale River. We decided to have breakfast here. Bread and Jam was on the menu. After a quick bite, some of us decided to take a dip . The water here was calm and one could even swim. Then it was river crossing time. It was pretty straightforward. Nobody had any hiccups in crossing.
After a while, the forest began to thicken, and we were lagging behind. We spotted a small snake, supposed to be a Viper. It was a tough and tiring since we had to make our own trails. Mudassar was leading the pack. Few t imes we hit a dead end. Each time Mudassar, sometimes assisted by Ashish, were scouring through the dense vegetation to find a trail, be it an animal one or the one made by the flow of water. At around 4 in the afternoon, we hit one more roadblock with many of us lagging behind. This time Mudassar alone went in search of the trail. In the mean time all of had assembled at the bank of the Kabbinale River eagerly waiting for some good news from Mudassar about our heading. He took more than 30min to get back, that too with a bad news. We were 2 hours behind schedule. We had to reach an Island where the conditions were ideal for camping. But that is out of sight for us now. The only option was to trek for 15 more minutes, to find a inclined rock face, which would be our camping place. When we reached the spot it was around 5 in the evening. My god we had to spend clos e to 12 hours on that inclined rock face. After the some soup and MTR ready to eat for dinner, we prepared for the night ahead. Each one of us pretended we had the best place on the inclined surface, but we didn’t. Each one struggled the entire night. I remember Arun and Suman getting up in the middle of the night and started chatting. I myself woke up several times hoping that it wouldn’t rain or the level of water would rise.
Sunday, 24th October, 2010
We woke up at around 6 in the morning relieved that the ordeal is over. But we still had to reach to the top and we didn’t know that we would be successful in that. We started at around 7AM, again along the river, led by Mudassar. After a couple of hours walk, here we were again, having to cross a river. Here we decided to have breakfast, in our case maggi cup noodles, which was way too little in quantity. As usual people in the group were carrying excess and were kind enough to share with us. It was chapati with pickles and “chutney pudi”. Ill have to thank Harish Malleshappa and one more guy (Sorry forgot his name) for sharing the extra food they had got. Time to cross the river!!! At first it looked easy but it wasn’t. After a few initial trials which indicated the depth was way too risky to cross, we decided to use the ropes, build a human chain, pass on our luggage and finally we ourselves would cross. It took us an hour and a half for the entire ordeal. But there were no hiccups. After all this, we realized that we were on the wrong trail and we had to cross back. This was after Mudassar, Harish and Ashish, who went in search of the trail, realized that we should not have crossed the river. Not again!!! But we had to and after 45 minutes, we again crossed the river. This time it was relatively easy though. On the same bank we were, where we had our breakfast and it was time for searching th e trail once again. And we got it, this time though, we had to do ~70deg ascent to get on top of a ridge. Slowly and steadily everyone made it. And after an hours walk on the ridge, we reached the grasslands. This was a great relief, as we were in the final stages. After a couple of hours climb we reached the top, where we had a sumptuous lunch of MTR ready to eat pongal.
Mudassar’s condition had deteriorated, they (Mudassar assisted by Harish and Rafi) reached the top an hour later. My god he has survived till now with a little bit of badam milk. After all the photography of the scenery, taking group photographs, it was time to head home. We had to find the jeep track after about 45min walk, through grasslands, coffee estates, we found it. It was a great relief for everyone, that we reached civilization again. And it started raining.This was probably the most boring part of the trek, walking on jeep track, full of leeches (more leeches here than inside the forests). At about 6 in the evening we reached the estate building where we cleaned ourselves. A mini bus had been arranged to take us to Chikmagalur. And from there back to Bangalore.