Irashalgad is a small fort near Panvel. It was used as a watch tower during the bygone era of Maharajas for the Matheran range. Except, the last patch of Irshalgad, it’s an easy trek, otherwise you need equipment to climb till the top. We knew it that it takes 2-3 hours for one side ascend.
Though it was a monsoon trek to Irshalgad, I took 2 litres of water bottle considering last minute emergency. Purchased few life saving chocolate bars for energy. I always follow this for every trek. And not to forget, I prefer Action trekking shoes to any other brand which I had bought especially for Kalsubai Trek.
Taxi to Irshalgad
We started our Irshalgad trekking journey in the early morning from Panvel station. I had one hot Vada Paav outside Panvel Station which made my tummy full. Got into a KAALI-PILI i.e. a Taxi, negotiated a bit and he agreed for Rs. 1500 for Irshalgad round trip. He was ready to wait at the base village of Irshalgad i.e. Thakurwadi. Guys, don’t get confuse with the base villages. Chowk is the small town on the old Mumbai-Pune national highway. Actual base village of Irshalgad is approximately 10 kms from the chowk called as Thakurwadi, a very small village with majority of katkari population (an Indian tribe mostly belonging to Maharashtra state, considered as a nomadic, forest-dwelling people). There is no food service provider or any stall available during Irshalgad trek.
We started our Irshalgad fort hike from the base which is close to Morbe dam. Swimming in the dam is prohibited by CIDCO authorities. After a small walk you can see a steep ascend of 15-20 minutes. We crossed it and gained some height and was able to look around the mesmerizing view. Manikgad (easy trek near Panvel) was noticeable but its top was into the clouds. We continued after few selfies and landscape pictures.
Walk on the ridges
After that route becomes narrow at few places, making you walk on the ridges. Carefully we crossed it. Lush greenery was welcoming us throughout the ascend till Irshalwadi. Irshalwadi is again very small village situated on Irshalgad plateau. It took us around one hour with few breathing breaks to reach plateau. It’s a huge a place where we saw some paddy fields and were shocked to knew that these villagers have their farms so high.
Black Tea at Irshalwadi
Life of these farmers must be very hard, as they have to get down this plateau for each and every small thing. Few of them told us that they do it on daily basis. We asked for a cup of tea and we got black tea as there is no milk available. Not shocked this time, we tried very hard to not show that it was tasting malty and brisk. We paid for it while chewing few happidents. The taste of tea was still there on tongue, but we neglected and started walking towards Irshalgad top so as to cover remaining half distance within time. Place was good for camping, but there better 11 top locations for camping near Mumbai.
You need to take left from the village Irshawadi. Here you can miss the route to Irshalgad top but we kept in mind that next we have to join the ridge in any case and just followed the direction. Suddenly, dark clouds covered the entire plateau and it started raining cat & dog. Irshalgad Pinnacle was already covered by the clouds. We tried to take a shelter under big Mango tree but it was safe game for few minutes. By that time, we got into our windcheaters of ZEEL brand marketed by Vivek Oberoi, I remembered. There is a small temple with white tiles on every side which was the sign for us that we were on right track.
Ridge was taking us slowly up, gaining height simultaneously. It was drizzling after downpour atop. Wind started showing the presence hitting the droplets forcefully on our face. Struggling on few slippery patches we reached to the boulders area which was clearly visible while climbing the first half of trek ascend.
Fresh air of Irshalgad trek
Looking from the side view, we came to know that the pinnacle of Irshalgad is thin and bit tilted to our left side. We thought we reached to the end point of Irshalgad trek but again there was a small walk to the plateau, until a point where it is considered as safe to trek even for a kid and beginners.
We took a halt, gulp few sips of water. My friend brought the lemon water which I drank more. We discussed a lot about trekking as a medicine, compared Gym & Trek, approx calories burnt and etc. Slowly, silence took the place and we were just enjoying the fresh air and the view like a King. We were clearly able to see the dark clouds that went ahead after drenching us. Dark clouds and shower below across the dam was feast to the eyes.
After a short but long break for a regular trekker, we decided to trek further. There were two routes for Irshalgad, one from the left side of the rock portion and other straight from the rocky patch. We decided to opt the difficult one considering both routes will take you to the top of Irshalgad.
But failure, it was a dead end after climbing rock patches. There was only a thin ridge hitting the rock wall and no other way we can climb that without any equipment.
Tricky part of the Irshalgad Trek
So turned back for the second route, it was the edge walk till rocky steps and after that we noticed the route is difficult and there was a small ladder to overcome the patch beside water tank which was carved inside basalt rock of Irshalgad Pinnacle. This tricky portion consumed more time than expected but safety is our priority.
We witnessed big air blow due to the hole, which is the main attraction of Irshalgad trek. There is another difficult path to reach caves which we crossed gently. If we miss a step here then one can expect a fall of 500 ft approximately to open doors of heaven. We explored the caves of each side. Was able to spot “Kala buruj” of huge Prabalgad. Then I showed my friend the path of range trek Prabalgad to Irshalgad. Cool breeze was holding us to the top. We took a rest for a while and thought of returning back.
Time to descend Irshalgad
Once you climb up then you realize that descend is difficult than ascend. After few safe selfies, we headed back to the needle eye cautiously. It’s called as “Nedha” in Marathi. Took few sips and witness the awesome view of Morbe dam for the last time. Return journeys are bit more emotionally difficult to initiate, but no one can stay here for long time. We got back very safe to the boulders then carefully slipped down few muddy paths.
After reaching Irshalwadi plateau of Irshalgad, we took short cut to the base from paddy fields and avoided the village visit. Few villagers were able to notice us and must be hoping that the group that went up must have come down safely. We kept Camera and water bottles inside our bags so as to easily rush down to the base. It again took one hour as photography made us lag behind. You just can’t keep your camera in the bag while crossing scenic locations.
Reached Irshalgad base safely
Reached to Thakurwadi, completely exhausted by the time we sat in the Kali-Pili, without uttering a word driver started the vehicle and we left for Panvel. While returning, I saw Manikgad and planned for next Sunday as it was in my list since long time. I was looking back at Irshalgad for the last view to cherish forever.
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