Where eagles only dare
Definately Torna allias Prachandgad near Velhe is called as eagle's nest due to its long,exhaustive and steep climbs till the top of the fort and after this much painstaking efforts,you are rewarded with fantastic views on the top.
Torna is the first fort conquered by Shivaji Maharaj while making his dream of Hindavi Swarajya come true.
Torna is located near Velhe situated south-west of Pune around 55 kms distance between kanad and Gunjavni rivers.
When British officer captured this fort and for the first time he entered,he was surprised about the difficulty and exhaustive efforts for this place and he told that this fort is an eagle's nest.It is not that easy.And definately I have some photographs to show you that the climb is not that easy.
Torna is the highest fort in Pune district with length of around 1409 meters above sea level and around 700 meters from base village till top(almost half size of Kulang fort near Igatpuri) inspite of this,Torna is one of difficult fort in Pune district.
The trek starts from Velhe the base village and after crossing the stream,the broad route takes you till the top.You have to cross 4 hills before reaching the steep final climb.
The final climb is very very steep and rock face exposed at two places hence if you are not careful,chances are that you may fall in a deep valley below.You also get a good rock climbing experience plus at these rock exposed faces,there are iron grab rails fixed but they are not in a good condition.
The final climb is very very steep.It is almost 70 to 80 degrees steep at many places but if you experience of few treks,definately this trek is very very easy hence for those who are afraid,this fort is definately not on their cards.It is recommended that such people must avoid this fort(because it is clear that these people will not be able to complete the trek and also somebody other's trek also may get spoiled due to this)
I started climbing around 12:30 pm and around 2:30 pm I reached the top(Actually I would have reached the top in 1.5 hours only but at one rock exposed point,there were almost 20 people who wanted to get down but they were afraid due to the steep exposed rock hence they were climbing down carefully hence I had no option but wait till the 20 odd people climb down the rock patch.After all these people came down,I just gave a voice "Anybody remaining?" and no answer hence sprang back and started again.Till this point,I didnt had a single drop of water and no food.At this point,I had 2-3 bananas and one glass of water which was enough to provide me the required power for the final climb).From here,I reached the top in just 20 minutes.
My trekking shoes from action was tested for first time in this rock climb and it succesfully passed the test.
Also I could not neglect one loyal companion of mine.A dog who accompanied me right from third hill till the top and back to the base village.Due to bushes grown,I was not able to view the route but this dog showed me the right route and followed me till end of trek in Velhe village hence I call him my loyal companion.
After the rock patch of around 10 meters is over,the zig-zag steep route follows till the first entrance.Also you can see some rock carved steps in between but they are very steep.The final step to entrance is also very steep for 15-20 meters.Be careful here because if anyone looses balance will fall directly into the valley.There is no excuse for that.
After carefully climbing this first entrance,you encounter the second entrance and after that,you are inside the fort.
After entering the fort,in front you will see a small house where the watchman of fort stays.Further you will encounter flat area and to your left,you will have the highest point of Torna and towards your right or to the south,you will see Budhala machi,to the east,you will see zunjar Machi which has the road going to Rajgad(Somewhat difficult.It takes 6 hours to reach Rajgad from here).
From the top of Torna,you can see Sinhagad to north,Varandha Ghat,Raireshwar pleateau to south,Sahyadris and Raigad to your west,Rajgad and Purandar to east but unfortunately,the weather started getting cloudy hence all these mountains mentioned above were not visible.Only Raigad and Madhe ghat region was visible
Hence I decided to make a move in 30 minutes whereas to see this fort completely takes around 4 hours.
Torna is very vast with its arms spread to East and North directions.Maybe I will start somewhat early and see the full fort.Atleast I have got the idea of difficulty rating of this eagle's nest.
I started climbing down around 3:15 pm and reached the base village around 5:00 pm
What more can you see on this fort:
You can see the Zunjar Machi, Budhala Machi,Temple of Mengai devi on the top,plus some water tanks on top.But you need atleast 3-4 hours for that.
Shelter is available on top of fort
Tip for making Trekking good:
1) One serious thing I have noticed when people trek in groups "Who will reach the summit first" Trekking is not a competition of who climbs mountain first.It is the way of life and your attitude and feelings towards nature hence if your partners insist on climbing ______ mountain in just _____ time/Let us climb this mountain very fast etc etc.Please refrain from such idiot persons.It is advised that please dont invite such persons for a trek.No problem if you climb a mountain in 1 hour or six hours/one complete day.Nobody is going to give you a medal for your achievements hence please see that you choose like minded persons who have good understanding of each other.Thus can make a successful trek
And if unwillingly you are in a group of 20-30 people then please do one thing that divide your group in 3 to 6 people group each and maintain safe distance and co-ordinate amongst the group.The group leader must decide the trek plan .
2) Corporate rules are not applicable to treks.Leave aside your corporate profile while going for a trek.Nature is the supreme CEO
2) Always maintain a steady and gentle pace of around only 300 meters per hour while climbing a slope and around 400 to 500 meters per hour on gentle slopes and flat plateau land.I am saying this on my experience.
3)Always be in a small group.It is recommended that there should be minimum 2 and maximum 5 to 6 persons only.It is not good to organize a trek with 20-30 or a full bus group.These people unnecessiraly spoil the nature plus they are troublesome to other trekkers.
Dont trek alone unless you know all the routes.Only few mountains can be climbed alone because you can easily find local people/trekking groups frequently.If you want to trek alone,here are few destinations like Torna,Sinhagad,Purandar,Raigad,Shivneri,Harishchandragad(From Pachnai side),Nane Ghat,Dhakoba and Darya Ghat,Kalsubai,Ratangad,Kavnai fort,Avandh Patta fort,Salher,Mulher these destinations can be trekked alone also but be sure to inform the local people before the trek.
Avoid spicy and too much oily foods while trekking.Before starting a trek have light food like Shira/Pohe/2 bananas/Tea with glucose biscuits and sweet laddos for small breaks while climbing.Always keep Glucose/Electral powder packet forever with you(for exhaustive treks you might feel cramped due to lot of sweating).Prefably drink very less water while climbing.
While trekking,since you are entering into a different teritory,there can be few animals in that region like snakes,leopard,wild pigs,fox etc.There can be fog,rain also.Hence dont go to that destination and return back in half way.Always be aware that you will always find such scenarios in any part of mountain
Remember that Nature is supreme.Nature doesnt act according to your mood.Nature cant hide all these animals only for your trek.
Tips to avoid attack from animals:Dont wear white/red colored dress while trekking through forests.Wild pigs,bisons are very sensitive to white color.Hence in forest,wear dark colored track pants like Black/Brown/Dark Blue in color and always wear yellowish/brown/olive green shirts(Dont think about matching colors in dress.This is not a ramp)
Wild pigs,bison,deers,rabbits stay in flat area only near the starting point of mountain and flat pleateau somewhere in between the lower parts of mountain.They are not found on top of mountain/steep slopes.Wild pigs are found near water source in the forest and in grassy area and areas having small bushes.They are not found in dense forest having high trees.
Dont indulge in teasing monkeys.please refrain anybody in group doing this.Though not lethal but it might proove dangerous.
Foxes are also seen on the base village but if you are in group of 2 to 3 at-least no problem of foxes/hyenas(I encountered them while doing Lonavla- Rajmachi to Dhak Bahiri 4 day trek around year 1995.I and one partner was having a stick and other partner was also having a axe and we 3 collectively made noise.fox ran away immidiately and was not seen later).Avoid cooking/carrying non-veg food while trekking.
Bears are the very dangerous of all animals found in forests but they are found only in Koyna region near Vasota and Nageshwar lingi fort.
In Sahyadris,Tigers are also found in Koyna region and some chances of occurence near Bhimashankar region.
Giant Indian squirrel called as 'Shekhru' are found in areas near Mahabaleshwar,Matheran and Bhimashankar.They are endangered species.I was lucky to spot it near Ludwig point Mahabaleshwar in feb 2011 early morning.But it disappeared in a flash before I could take a photograph.
various species of butterflies are found in Sahyadris like Blue Mormon and common Mormon in Bhimashankar,Mahabaleshwar region dense forests and other species like common rose,lime,spotted swordtail, common blue bottle etc are also found in sahyadris in all seasons.
Leopards are found anywhere but they are rarely found during day time.But if you are in a group of 4 atleast then nothing to worry about the leopard(Ofcourse you will have to think as a team and not only yourself.Many people in this scenario think that out of we 4 to 5(or just 2 in some cases) if Leopard attacks only me then what to do.They should refrain from thinking so.They should think that we are ___ in number so a leopard can do nothing.Ofcourse it depends on your thinking.Power to encounter such situation is secondary issue.Thinking collectively as a team is important)
While walking through grassy areas,carry a heavy stick and beat this heavy stick on ground.Snakes are very sensitive to the vibrations created on the ground and they will come to know that somebody is there on the way and hence they will not come in your way.If you dont have a stick with you then do one thing.Thump your feet heavily on ground while walking.
Although there are 150 species of snakes in sahyadris,only 4 are venomous their names and common names in Marathi are given in brackets (Cobra or Naag,Saw scaled Viper or Fursa,Viper or Ghonas and Krait or Manyar ).There are other snakes like Rat snake or Dhaman,Water snake etc are non poisonous
If you want to make a overnight stay while trekking,you must do this.
Clean the surroundings during day time and set your base camp so that there are no chances of snakes and scorpions..
Always carry a match box,Cigarrate lighter and candle along with battery torch.
Also for precautions,carry few crackers/phatakas (Sutali in Marathi) with you.
They are useful for giving signals between groups in case of destination lost plus they create noise hence they can keep animals out of bay but remember that you must use them only when needed.
I have seen many trekkers unnecessarily firing crackers and disturbing others(Near echo point sudhagad just to test the echos)
Here are few photographs of the trek
Torna fort 5 kms away from Velhe
Torna fort from Velhe village from where the trek starts
Torna fort vastness from base village
View of Gunjavni dam to west from Torna while climbing
One view of the steep climb
Rock patch exposed at one point.If someone slips,there is no excuse
Just see how steep is Torna climb.Can you believe this?You have to climb by this way to reach here to the first entrance door
The final climb to the fort and you have the main entrance first door.One has to be careful.If someone looses balance,deep valley is on his back side
Torna fort first door Bini Darwaza
Approaching Torna Summit
On top of fort(The pole towards right is highest point.Torna is very vast.You need 3-4 hours to see it completely)
Myself near Velhe