Trek to the Mukurthi Peak

The Mukurthi National Park covers an area of about 80 sq kms and is located in the state of Tamil Nadu. Created to protect the keystone species, Nilgiri Tahr, the park remains under the strict surveillance of the forest department and is probably one of the best maintained parks in the region.

Last year in June, we managed to get permission to trek to the Mukurthi Peak (2554 mts) and as expected, the trek was nothing short of a fantastic experience. The group of 8 boarded the Airavat Volvo bus at the Shantinagar Bus Station in Bangalore at around 11 pm and reached Ooty at the break of dawn the next morning after a comfortable 6 hour bus journey. The morning at the Ooty bus stand was a relief in more senses than one. We had finally gotten away from the unbearable heat of Bangalore city and the weather in the hills was beautiful. The piping hot cups of tea we had while waiting for our guide shook the sleepiness out of the group and we were all set to get on with our journey to the national park. As if on cue, Sarvanan, our guide for the next two days emerged out of the mist with the jeeps that were going to take us further. The distance from the Ooty bus stand to the fishing hut inside the national park was about 30 kms through some uneven rocky mountain routes.

The first sight of the fishing hut was all that was needed to send our excitement shooting sky high. The green coloured hut, nestled cozily within the Shola forests looked beautiful and welcoming. Meeting James, the affable caretaker and cook at the fishing hut only made the feeling better. After spending some time exploring the immediate surroundings of the fishing hut, we were treated to a simple but delicious dinner by James and his team. We had dinner around the camp fire and spent some time chatting under the stunning starry sky.  A little later, we decided to call it a night as we had an early morning  waiting for us. We planned to start the trek to the peak before sunrise so that we could beat some of the late morning heat during the trek up.

The Fishing Hut at Mukurthi National Park

The Fishing Hut at Mukurthi National Park

Early next morning, not before dawn, but early nevertheless, we were off on the trek. Sarvanan, our guide informed us that it would take us about 4 hours to get to the peak. James joined us for the initial part of the trek armed with a machete, he would help clear the route as and when there was a blockade. The entire first hour of the trek was on a trail through the dense Shola forest with short stretches riddled with low hanging tangled branches and if James hadn’t been clearing the way with his machete, we wouldn’t have been able to make our way through. The walk on this trail was not that difficult though as the low slung branches and the decently thick canopy directly above us created a shaded path. After the initial part, the trail opened into grasslands and then moved into a small patch of fir-tree forest. This stretch of the trek was made interesting by the fact that now we could see the mountains and the Mukurthi peak. The name ‘Mukurthi’ now seemed apt! The trail kept weaving in and out of the Shola forest patches that were now peppering the trail which predominantly went through grasslands.

The first part of the trail is through the Shola forest patch.

The first part of the trail is through the Shola forest patch.

Crossing a narrow tree branch bridge on the route

Crossing a narrow tree branch bridge on the route

The trail opens into a clearing before the grasslands begin

The trail opens into a clearing before the grasslands begin

Walking became easier as we entered the grasslands

Walking became easier as we entered the grasslands

The towering fir trees create a sudden change in landscape along the trail.

The towering fir trees create a sudden change in landscape along the trail.

A bright red mushroom seems to add much needed colour to the fir-tree forest.

A bright red mushroom seems to add much needed colour to the fir-tree forest.

The views of the mountains on the other side of the valley forced us to stop every now and then

The views of the mountains on the other side of the valley forced us to stop time and again.

Approaching the valley midway through the trek.

Approaching the valley midway through the trek.

We had comfortably completed the first half of the trek in good time and had now reached the stream that eased through the valley between the mountains. Deciding to spend some time at the stream on our way back, we chugged along, onto the slightly tougher uphill climb that would cover most of the remaining trek to the peak. Though slightly more difficult as the trail now consisted of slippery mud and loose stones, every step seemed to grant us a grander view of the park. The tougher the climb, the better the view from the top.

The quiet stream that ran along the valley clearly marking the two halves of the trek.

The quiet stream that ran along the valley clearly marking the two halves of the trek.

The start of the second half of the trek to the peak.

The start of the second half of the trek to the peak.

Mukurthi National Park

Mukurthi National Park

The first slightly tricky part of the ascent begins.

The first slightly tricky part of the ascent begins.

The views just seem to be getting better.

The views just seem to be getting better.

13

And the climb gets steeper!

What probably was the most exciting part of the uphill climb for the three of us who were leading the group was the sudden sighting of three Sambar deer who seemed to have been surprised by our presence deep inside their territory. On a normal day, the sight of these commonly seen deer wouldn’t have surprised us but we hadn’t expected to see these three large animals jump out of what seemed like a small clump of bushes on the adjacent hill. And we had been quiet enough (or so we thought) to make sure that we did not disturb the inhabitants of this beautiful region. The sighting was so sudden and unexpected that we couldn’t gather our wits and capture what might have been a beautiful frame on a camera. Once the Sambar had bolted and disappeared as quickly as they had appeared, we moved on, now craving for more sightings. The three of us kept exceptionally quiet for the rest of the climb secretly hoping to see the extremely elusive but majestic Nilgiri Tahr which called these mountains home.

A tiny shaded stream with an idol of Ganesha next to it , midway through to the peak, came as a lifeline giving us that slight nudge that helped us move on. We continued to a point about a couple of hundred feet short of the peak where Sarvanan decided to let us take a short 10 minute break. Even though we weren’t at the peak yet, the view from this high pit stop was breathtaking. The valley and the path that we had taken to get here were now like thin lines on a map well below us. The final stretch of the trek to the peak looked steep but Sarvanan led the group this time by climbing this without too much of a fuss. We followed and after a little struggle, the entire group had made it to the top! We were at 2554 metres, at the Mukurti peak, the fourth highest summit in the Nilgiris!

The idol of Ganesha at the stream midway through the second half of the ascent.

The idol of Ganesha at the stream midway through the second half of the ascent.

Filling up mountain stream water.

Filling up mountain stream water.

The slippery grass-covered trail made the climb  a little tricky.

The slippery grass-covered trail made the climb a little tricky.

A shot of the Mukurthi peak.

A shot of the Mukurthi peak.

Almost there, 20 odd feet from the peak.

Almost there, 20 odd feet from the peak.

Once on the top, no one uttered a word. The silence was forced by the stunning panoramic views that the point afforded. We could see the valley and the Shola forests on one side and the deep and dense Silent Valley National Park on the other. Clouds floated in and out between the hills before completely engulfing all but the adjacent peaks. This was what dreams were made of. We spent a good 45 minutes at the peak breathing in the strangely fragrant mountain air and knowing well that we had just made it in time to watch the spontaneous but amazingly graceful performance of the clouds below us.

The view towards Silent Valley National Park, from the top of Mukurthi Peak.

The view towards Silent Valley National Park, from the top of Mukurthi Peak.

The rolling hills of the Nilgiris range sprawled below us.

The rolling hills of the Nilgiris range sprawled below us.

Taking in the panoramic views.

Taking in the panoramic views.

The clouds blanketing everything but the high peaks.

The clouds blanketing everything but the high peaks.

We were then coerced by Sarvanan to start our trek back to the fishing camp as there was a possibility of the rain coming down in a few hours time. The trek down to the fishing camp was uneventful for the most but we did manage to keep the promise we had made to ourselves and spent about 15 minutes soaking our feet in the cool water of the stream down in the valley. Managing to reach the fishing camp just about five minutes after it began to drizzle, we had successfully managed to finish the trek to the Mukurti peak and back in about 10 hours.

On the descent.

On the descent.

Taking the much-needed break at the stream.

Taking the much-needed break at the stream.

Back at the fishing hut just as the rains begin.

Back at the fishing hut just as the rains begin.

We had just finished the trek but it wouldn’t be wrong if I said that most of us had already started dreaming of our next trip to this beautiful untouched part of the Western Ghats.

Dreaming about the next trip to Mukurthi even before this one ended!

Dreaming about the next trip to Mukurthi even before this one ended!

All photos courtesy: Reena Chengappa, Jyotirmoy Talukdar and Gayatri Hazarika

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49 thoughts on “Trek to the Mukurthi Peak

  1. Hi,
    Thanks for this interesting travelog. Can you please let me know the guide details so that we can also go for the same. Thanks in advance.
    Thanks,
    Sayan Banerjee
    Mob. No: +91 9019025773

  2. Hey, this is amazing 🙂 thanks for ur time to write this out… i too need the guide details and would like to know if it is safe for women.. u can text me at 8148875271… thanks in advance

    • Hey… glad that you liked it. The guide is a very nice fellow and the place is as safe as it can be. I would suggest going with a small group. I think the group size that is allowed on each trip cannot exceed 8 members and at any time there will be only group trekking to the peak. This means that this is as exclusive as it gets and you’ll have Mukurthi to yourself. 🙂

      Will send you the details of the guide on your number.

      Cheers.

    • Hi Dinesh,

      Thank you… glad that you liked the post.

      About your plan, I’m pretty sure that you won’t get the permission on such short notice. The forest department takes its own time to clear these and moreover, if the dates were available then they would have already been booked well in advance.

      I can still send you the contact details. Please share your email address here and I’ll send you the details by mail.

      Cheers, Vijay.

  3. Nice one..You did an excellent job by describing it…..I planned on 1st feb 2014 with my mates around 8 members….Thanks for sharing….and I just want to know one thing for trekking shoes will be comfortable or sandals will be enough?…..because I’m having wound in my foot,sandals will be comfortable for me….

    • Thanks Shiva. As I’m not aware of your trekking experience, I would suggest you bandage your wound well and then add cotton padding, two layers of socks and comfortable trekking shoes. The trek is easy-medium but wearing sandals with a wound might create problems for you, especially on the descent.

      Have a great trip.

      Cheers, Vijay

  4. Hi Mr. Vijay.

    Very well written and surely u had a grt experience trekking at this place…

    Infact about 8 of us are planning to trek to this peak in march 2nd week… I came to know that permissions are to be taken for visiting this place.

    Cud u give me contact details and guide me through the process of obtaining the permission.

    Looking at the pics, I cant wait to visit the place.

    Waiting for your earliest response

    Regards,
    BS Venkatesh
    E-mail: venkat_hkbk@yahoo.co.in

  5. Hi there…
    It was a very nice blog and surely u had a grt experience trekking the mukurthi peak… Ur blog has only increased my excitement / eagerness to visit the place…

    Cud u give me contact details and guide me on how to get the permissions…
    An earliest response would be highly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.

    BS Venkatesh

  6. Hi,

    This is really neat. Can you provide the guides number also permission details?
    I have been trying to get info regarding this for quite some time.
    Please let me know the details.
    My mail id: asbhat83@gmail.com

    Thanks in advance,

    Ajith

  7. Hi
    Your blog got my attention on mukurthi peak. This is awesum description of ur trek. I am planning to trek with my group in second weekend of june. Can you please send me contact details of fishery hut caretaker. I also need time it takes to move from forest department to fishery hut and can we make it to fishery hut on trek if we start at around 3-4 pm.

    Thanks in advance,

    venu
    +91-9642707080

  8. Hi,
    Thanks for this interesting travelog. Can you please let me know the guide details so that we can also go for the same. Thanks in advance.
    Thanks,
    vijay

    • Hi Vijay,

      Sent you the details by mail but got a reply from ‘boxbe’ saying that my mail was ‘waitlisted’ and that I had to click some button to get it through. I’m sorry but to me it looks like spam and I won’t be comfortable clicking on any unknown link.

      If you need the details, please send me a regular email address that I can reply to.

      Cheers, Vijay

    • Hi Deepu,

      Thank you for appreciating the post. Mukurthi is a beautiful trek for sure and you will definitely have a fantastic time if you do it. The contact number of the guide I used has changed (I was informed about this from one of the readers of this post with whom I had shared the number.) You will have to approach the Forest Department in Ooty for the permission and to book the Fishing Hut.

      If you are not in a hurry to visit, I can try to find the new contact number or probably find some other good guide for you.

      In any case, wishing you the best of travel.

      Cheers, Vijay.

  9. Hi ,

    Fell in love with the place reading your blog . Would like to visit the place with my friends. Could you please share me the guide and booking details. Thanks in advance.
    Mai id:raj.cheq@gmail.com

    • Hi Rajkumar,

      Thank you for appreciating the post. Mukurthi is a beautiful trek for sure and you will definitely have a fantastic time if you do it. The contact number of the guide I used has changed (I was informed about this from one of the readers of this post with whom I had shared the number.) You will have to approach the Forest Department in Ooty for the permission and to book the Fishing Hut.

      If you are not in a hurry to visit, I can try to find the new contact number or probably find some other good guide for you.

      In any case, wishing you the best of travel.

      Cheers, Vijay.

    • Hi Abhishek,

      Thank you for appreciating the post. Mukurthi is a beautiful trek for sure and you will definitely have a fantastic time if you do it. The contact number of the guide I used has changed (I was informed about this from one of the readers of this post with whom I had shared the number.) You will have to approach the Forest Department in Ooty for the permission and to book the Fishing Hut.

      Wishing you the best of travel.

      Cheers, Vijay.

  10. Hi,
    I am interested in the trek. Could anyone of you help me with the Guide’s contact number ??? I need it as soon as possible…

    • Hi Ranjan,

      Please check your inbox. I have sent you some information, but I think visiting next week might be difficult. Permits are necessary for a visit to Mukurthi and these might take some time. You can try though.

      Hope you have a good trip.

      Cheers, Vijay.

      • Hi,
        Thank you for your prompt reply. I had already called the wildlife warden. They squarely rejected my request saying NOT ALLOWED. Just that this trek has been in my to-do list for too long now. I called the guide, he asked me to call someone else. Lets see what happens next. 🙂
        Thanks again.
        Cheers

    • Hi Kamalesh. I’m sorry but the guide I had done the trip with has stopped working at Mukurthi. You will have to contact the forest department directly. If you do get the contact of some guide and find him worth a recommendation, do share his details with me.

      Have a good trip.

      Cheers, Vijay.

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