Having lived in Bangalore for more than 10 years, I had been checking out the BMC website(Bangalore Mountaineering Club) quite a few times. This is known to be a popular agency that organizes treks around Bangalore. A casual check lists a bunch of treks of various difficulty levels being conducted on all weekends of the year. Though I have trekked with a bunch of strangers several times in the past, I had never signed up for one organized by an agency or a club. So, despite the list of treks looking pretty attractive, I hadn’t gotten around to actually sign up for one of BMC’s treks.
Buoyed by the experience of trekking to the Tadiandamol peak in Coorg, I convinced my wife to accompany me on a short day trek with the BMC. Without further ado, we pored over the list of treks available, and zeroed in on Uttari betta.
Bangalore is surrounded by a number of hills and hillocks – all waiting to be explored. One such relatively unknown hill near Magadi is Huthridurga (also known as Uttari betta). At an elevation just over 1000m, and with a short trekking path of 3 kms, Huthridurga is ideal for casual hikers, first-time hikers, children, and family. There a several small rain water tanks at the top of this hill, alongside an old temple dedicated to Shiva, built by Kempe Gowda. Remains of an old fort can be seen at several places along the trekking path on this hill.
The pickup at the BMC office in Indiranagar was spot on time at 6.30 am. After picking up around 15 participants from different points, we were treated to a sumptuous breakfast at A2B on Mysore road. The trek leaders picked up packed lunch for the group, and soon we were driving through the Magadi road. In about 2 hours, we could make it to the small village at the base of the hill.
The group had a bunch of youngsters, some couples, solo trekkers, and even a child. A number of participants were first-time hikers, and a few were trekking with BMC for this first time. After a round of introductions and selfies, we quickly started our ascent.
The trail is mostly rocky – going over boulders and steps carved into huge rocks. Considering that this is an entry-level trek, the trek leaders did a good job in motivating and catering to the needs of all participants, making sure none was left behind. Since it was a hot sunny morning, with no signs of clouds or rain, we took short breaks wherever there was shade.
There was a small cave as we reached closer to the peak. Some of the trek participants went to explore the cave, while the others spent time photographing the beautiful view of the plains from above. Parts of the trail was quite steep, and having good hiking shoes definitely helped cover them easily. I assume it would be slightly more challenging when it rains, but not really dangerous.
Very soon we reached the top and the group scattered around exploring the place and enjoying the cool breeze at the top. The packed lunch boxes were opened and gobbled up by the exhausted group sitting under whatever little shade could be found at the top.
In about half-an-hour, we started the descent, and it took much less time than going up. We boarded the bus parked in the small village at the base, and were soon on our way back to the city. It poured cats and dogs on our way back to Bangalore.
Based on this experience with BMC, I found them well organized and quite helpful. This would definitely be a good option solo trekkers. I would look forward to do more treks with them in the future.
After a long gap of more than 8 years, I decided to trek again, and this time decided to do it solo. After looking at a bunch of trekking options in South India, I zeroed in on the Tadiandamol hills in the Coorg district.
Tadiandamol (also spelled Tadiyandamol) is the tallest peak in the Kodagu (or Coorg) district in Karnataka. The difficulty level of this trek is categorized as ‘moderate’, and it can be done as a weekend trek starting from Bangalore. I had read online that it is possible to camp at the peak or at the base of the hill. So, I had picked up a tent and mat for rent and carried them along with me.
The nearest town for this trek is Virajpet in the Coorg district. I boarded a KSRTC Volvo bus to Virajpet starting from the Shanti Nagar bus terminus on a Friday evening. The journey was uneventful, and I was at Virajpet at 4.30 am on Saturday. The total trek distance one-way is 8 km, and can be done in 4-5 hours. Since it was quite early in the day, and I did not want to end up reaching the peak right at noon, I decided to visit Talacauvery – the birth place of the river Cauvery.
Soon I reached the private bus stand in Virajpet, just around a 5 minutes walk from the main bus stand. From here, there are buses going to a town called Napoklu – which is mid-way between Virajpet and Talacauvery. The first bus for the day starts at 6.50 am, and I was soon on this bus making my way towards Talacauvery. Around 40 minutes into the journey, the bus crossed the Aramane stop where I would have to alight later in the day to start my trek towards Tadiandamol. I made a mental note of this bus stop.
The conductor dropped me at a junction called Nelaji from where he said the bus to Bhagamandala would arrive in 5 minutes. Bhagamandala is a small temple town at the base of the Talacauvery hills, and it is easy to find transportation to Talacauvery from this town. True to his words, the next bus was right on time, and I was dropped at the Bhagamandala bus stand. Here, I inquired around, and hired an auto-rickshaw to take me to Talacauvery and bring me back to Bhagamandala as well (costs Rs.250).
In the hot morning sun, Talacauvery still looked beautiful. After customarily visiting the shrines of the river goddess and Shiva at the temple, I sat on a park bench there and took in the expansive views of the valley below. Having spent a few minutes there, I got back to Bhagamandala in the same auto-rickshaw, and got ready for my onward journey.
The time was around 11 am, and I was hungry. So, I gobbled up a couple of dosas in the nearby hotel and also picked up a couple of water bottles for my trek. Soon I boarded a bus back to Napoklu, and got dropped off in this town. A wait of another 10 minutes, and I got the bus going towards Virajpet, and got down at the Aramane (palace) bus stop from where the trek was to begin.
The initial 4 kms of this trek is practically a walk on a surfaced road – although it gradually keeps gaining altitude. Vehicles kept going up and down. In about an hour, I reached a view point from where the actual trek on a mud path starts. It is here that the vehicles have to be parked. Of course, the road isn’t very well laid, and cars with low ground clearance might have to be parked around a km before reaching this view point.
I started walking along the mud path and in around 15 minutes, came upon a forest checkpost. The guard gave me a shock when he said that camping on the peak or at the base is not permitted, and I would have to leave my tent, sleeping bag and mat right at the forest guard’s quarters. I did not expect this. The time was around 2 pm, and this meant that I would have very less daylight left to trek all the was up and make it back to this checkpost. With no other option, I dropped my camping equipment at the checkpost, and proceeded further.
The gentle slopes soon give way to a steeper rocky terrain, and walking continuously became arduous. Also, the fact that I had lost touch with trekking for a while did not help things a bit. Nevertheless, a group of youngsters were trekking along, and were passively accompanying me, and also sometimes encouraging me to make it to the top (thanks to them).
Around half-a-kilometer before reaching the top, I came across a small shola forest, which was the most taxing of the whole stretch to cross. The long and winding roots of the trees crisscrossed the climbing path, and acted as steps on which one has to climb to move forward. Each step is quite steep, and your shoe grip could be pretty precarious on these roots. This is one section which needed careful navigation both while climbing, as well as when descending.
It was 5.30 pm by the time I reached the peak huffing and panting all along. The peak seemed to be perennially surrounded by mist, and an Indian flag had been planted right at the top. On a clearer day, the view of the valley around would have been spectacular. But, I wasn’t complaining. The cloud cover and the mist was a welcome respite from the hot April sun, and helped me recover some of my spent energy. I spent around half-an-hour here clicking photographs, and relaxing before starting my descent.
The descent was even more taxing on my feet and knees, but I kept walking. Soon, I picked up my equipment from the guard’s quarters, and reached the viewpoint from where the mud path had started. As luck would have it, there was a homestay at this point, and the keeper allowed me to pitch my tent on their ground. Also, I got to use their facilities, and got served piping hot dinner with chicken. The material comforts helped me recover well, and I soon dozed off into a deep sleep cocooned in my sleeping bag inside the tent.
It should be mentioned here that the view point in front of this homestay is quite a sight both in the evening and in the early hours of the day. The lights from the towns of Madikeri, Kushal nagar, and Virajpet are all visible from this point at night, and it is quite a spectacle. Similarly, early in the morning, the whole valley is spectacularly covered in layers of mist, which gives a ethereal feel to it.
The next morning, I started walking down and reached the Aramane or palace. This is the Nalknad Palace, which is nothing but a hideout built by the king of Coorg – Chikka Veerarajendra to escape from the onslaught of the British. The palace is maintained by the government, and has a keeper who could show me around. The 200 year old building needs better maintenance, but was well worth a short visit
In no time, I made my way back to the main road and took a bus back to Virajpet. Food options around the Virajpet bus stand are scanty, and I had to be content with a fast-food joint. The KSRTC Volvo to Bangalore was delayed by an hour, but I was soon on the bus on the last leg of my journey that would soon end in Bangalore.
Some tips for this trek:
The toilets in Virajpet KSRTC bus stand are in decent shape, and can very well be used for freshening up in the morning.
The actual trek start point (the mud path) is 4 kms inside from the main road. So, to save energy, it would be prudent to alight at a town called Kakabe and hire an auto-rickshaw to reach this start point. That way, the total trekking distance halves to 8 kms up and down.
With camping at the top banned, the homestay at this trek start point looked like a good option to stay. They have their own tents, and also permit visitors to pitch their tent (if the number is less, I believe). The name of this homestay is ‘West Wind Cottage‘. Details are attached below.
Once this homestay is crossed, no food or water is available (There is a stream which could have potable water in the post-monsoon months). So, make sure you carry some food and at least 2 liters of water per person as you climb. Many youngsters had not carried water, and were left quite tired at the top.
Wear sturdy footwear with good grip. The last section of the climb is quite steep, and one wrong step could leave you tumbling down the rock-strewn slopes. It is prudent to gauge each step and make sure the foot is well planted before making every move.
The trek path is known to be leech-infested during and after the monsoons. But the environs is also likely to be much greener and pleasant in this time. It is an year-round destination, and it is a personal choice when to do this trek.
As always, make sure to carry all your garbage and waste back with you to be disposed later at an appropriate place.
Camping at the top of the peak, and also at the big rock at the base of the peak has been banned from Jan 2017. A guard is posted at the check post to enforce this ban.