The incomplete summit

Ninad Mandke
Saturday, 2 June 2018

An impromptu plan to scale Malang gadh near Kalyan with friends, inadequate trekking gear and an unfinished mission — can still leave you with much peace, that of having been in the mountains

It was a cool and a breezy Friday evening in Pune. I had a strong urge to go out in the mountains — to a place I had never seen before. I asked a few friends and as usual, everyone had packed schedules so we had to be back by lunch time the next day. After short listing a few treks around Pune, I decided to go to Malang gadh, the fort atop Haji Malang. My friends readily agreed.

Four of us started the journey in our Maruti Ferrari 800 (The 18-year-old sounds like a Ferrari!) at 10 pm post dinner and decided to directly reach the base village ahead of Kalyan, nonstop! We were at the base, staring at the fort at around 3 am and decided to begin climbing at around 7 am to reach the famous Dargah of Haji Malang. We found a veranda of a shop ideal for sleeping. After being troubled by mosquitoes, we hopped back in the car and slept there for a while. Our positions of sleeping were so acrobatically unique, that we all got cramps in the first 20 minutes. That’s when we decided to start trekking.

Being very close to the Arabian sea, the humidity was really a pain. Trekkers generally hate steps on any fort. We hated them too. Longing for the trek route to start, we climbed the steps till the Haji Malang Dargah in complete darkness. It was unfortunately closed at that early morning hour. We ate our sandwiches and started trekking towards the fort. Ah! What a relief on the trek route. No steps! In about 45 minutes, we reached the plateau before the rock patch. We started our climb on the rock patch. It was fairly easy initially, given our decent experience in trekking. And then came the scary part. Towards the end, with hardly 20 feet to go, the overhang of the rock stopped us. There was a narrow ladder of sorts placed for trekkers to complete the patch. Even at 8 am, the rock had become quite hot. We took out the ropes and carabiners from our bags and decided to quickly touch the summit. There was just one bolt to tie the rope! We could not reach the ladder as the ropes were less and the bolts were not present. We looked at each other with a poker face, knowing that we would not be able go ahead from there.

In all these years, not once had we left a mountain incomplete. Pondering over our silliness of carrying inadequate equipment, we decided to head back. Never. Underestimate. Nature.

We trekked back to the Dargah sweating our way down the route in the humidity. The people outside the Dargah very sweetly gestured us to enter it. As we walked towards the Dargah, we were asked, “Nahaye nahi ho kya?”(Haven’t you had a bath?). We apologised and started walking back. There began the return journey! Until we reached Khandala, it was very humid! We were back to Pune by 1.30 pm and went to our respective homes. 

Did we complete the trek? No. Did we feel accomplished? No. Was the money wasted then? No!

Even if a trek is left incomplete, you never lose anything. It was a wonderful experience. The natural landscapes around Kalyan were amazing. The view from the top was worth it too! I forget everything when I am in the mountains. For me, trekking is not just a sport, it is a therapy. A wonderful solution to gloom, to overcome your fears. One day, we shall definitely go and complete the Malang gadh trek. One day!

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