The night is young

The night is young

Trekking ahead

The night is young

About 80 trekkers were taken to the police station when they went on a night trek to Skandagiri recently. In another incident, a trekker met with an accident when he went to Madhugiri for a night trek. That is not all. Many trekkers ended up in police stations after camping at Antaragange caves.

   With such incidents happening, trekkers and organisers of trekking groups have now  halted or reduced the night treks they have been conducting. In such a scenario, trekkers talk to ‘Metrolife’  about conducting night treks in the right way, following the rules and having fun at the same time.

Virender Sirohi, an avid trekker and founder of Bangalore Trekking Club (BTC), says that most of the rules are vague. There are no clear statements and guidelines on which hillocks are shut at night and no website where trekkers can access information. To be on the safe side, BTC decided to stop conducting night treks. “It’s better to be safe than sorry until we have enough information. There is no structured database where we can access information about trails. The hills are also quite big that even if police forces are guarding it from one side, people finish the trek from the other end.”  He adds that night treks are banned in places such as Skandagiri, Madhugiri and Savandurga.

 Pranav, one of the founders of ‘Madventures’, says that his group usually talks to locals to understand procedures. They have reduced the number of night treks. “Night treks at some local places are banned. Outside Bengaluru, camping in Kudremukha is also banned. People have to trek and come back to Bengaluru. One has to seek permission from the forest department if they want to camp in Kudremukha. Camping is possible in places like Sharavathi Valley but since the campsite is inside a forest reserve, one has to take permission from the forest department in Shivamogga,”  he says.

He adds that rules are strict when it comes to trails situated in the Western Ghats. “Many times, land here is sold off as agricultural land even though it is said that it is a restricted forest area. Noise, vehicular movement and activities like drinking, smoking and climbing at night is harmful to endangered species.”

Kshitiz Goliya, a regular trekker, says that bans aren’t a solution since trekking at night is a difference experience. “It’s a blessing to trek around Bengaluru. Day treks aren’t always feasible because it’s too hot then. It’s different when one sits under a bed of stars after trekking. I think the departments should reach out to groups online, get them registered and informed so that safety of groups can be tracked. The process just requires some structure and foundation.”“

All said and done, night treks are still in demand. Organisers feel that most people have to be in the right frame of mind while trekking at night as they are relying on torches. They also have to know the trail inside out if they aren’t going with a group. They also
unanimously add that there has to be a database where trekkers can read up about rules while trekking.

  Virender says, “Sometimes, the meaning of ‘reserved’ is not clear. ‘Reserved’ is usually a tract where there is no human interaction but many times, there will be a village near the hill so I don’t know how that area falls under the category of ‘reserved’. Permissions are also hard to avail because nobody wants to write and give information.”

He feels that it’s much safer to stay in a group and trek, with proper gear and safety kits. “I feel that trekking groups stick to safety rules. It is the people who go alone or with friends ruin it for the entire trekking community. Once we went to Skandagiri only for a cleanup meet and found 550 alcohol bottles. There was another incident that took place in Madhugiri, where someone climbed at night using their torch from the phone. Even a place like Nandi Hills is not well-maintained. Obviously such incidents will lead to bans.” Pranav too adds that popular trekking spots must be controlled.

“We have seen how beautiful Kodachadri was 5 years back. Now, it is a complete dump yard. As an organiser, I have to adhere to rules and check the required permissions but as a trekker, I wish that smaller treks like Makalidurga and Savandurga must be opened
at night because its fun to climb the peak, see the sunrise and come back. It’s an experience in itself.”