Lingana Climb, Pune, India Dec 15, 2022

by - Monday, December 26, 2022

Lingana Pinnacle

Lingana is a massive pinnacle in the Sahyadris, located between between Raigad and Torna (I did the Rajgad to Tonra climb in 2018). The name is derived from its shape which resembles a linga. It used to be a prison fort, but all the rock cut steps have been destroyed now. An arduous, technical climb is the only way to reach the top.

The Alpinist Group, which organizes many treks around Pune, is led by Bhagwan Chavale. He is an experienced climber who has climbed many mountains including Mount Everest (twice), Annapurna, Kanchanjunga, etc. My friends Samir, Anu and I decided to join in a guided climb organized by this group.

We left home at 2am in our car. The road was extremely bad. There was even a stretch where the car simply could not move forward because the road was broken and there was a lot of loose sand. After several attempts, the driver decided to go in reverse, which did the trick. It was really unnerving because we could've been stuck in the middle of nowhere at night with no help in sight.

Narrow 'road' with a cliff on one side and a dug up trench on the other side. I am glad we were driving at night and couldn't see the drop off to the left!

Our meeting point was near the Mohari village. The last section of the road was so bad that it was completely undrivable. We decided to leave the car with the driver and covered the last 0.5km on foot. We reached the meeting point at around 5:15am.

It was a beautiful, starry night with great visibility

We met the group and got our gear which included a climbing harness, carabiners, helmet and a descender. We also got some food (poha and chai) and a pack of paranthas to carry with us. Bhagwan gave a short briefing about the trek.

Sky lit up with brilliant colors as the Sun decided to take over from the moon and the stars
We started our trek at around 6:45am

The glow from the rising Sun bathed everything in a golden hue

After about 2.5km we arrived at a really steep and treacherous section. It is a dried waterfall area called Boratyachi Nal.

Boratyachi Nal

It was really rocky and we had to be extremely careful. There was a recent fatality in this area when someone lost his footing!

After Boratyachi Nal we traversed along the side of the Rai-ling plateau. The trail was really narrow at times and we had to hold on to fixed ropes to make sure that we didn't slip and fall down hundreds of feet.

Traversing along the side of the Rai-ling plateau to reach Lingana base

Finally we reached the base of the Lingana pinnacle. 

The entire climb from here on was highly technical. The guides fixed ropes on the pitons that were already hammered into the rocks and we clipped into these ropes to climb up. Pitons are metal spikes with a ring shape hook that are hammered into the rocks and are used as climbing anchors to prevent falling. Each rope section was 20-40ft long. We had two carabiners attached to our harness which we used to clip on to the ropes. At every junction we had to unclip from the previous rope section and reclip to the new one. Use of two carabiners assured that we were never fully unclipped, an important safety precaution.

Only one person could be on a rope section at a time so the going was quite slow

Samir navigating a tricky section

With our head guide, Bhagwan Chavale

It was physically exhausting but Anu was up to the task

It was a steep, vertical climb in many places with hundreds of feet of drop below. We had to use whatever little foothold and handgrips we could find to pull ourselves up. If that didn't work, we simply had to pull ourselves up using the rope. It required a lot of upper body power, balance and core strength.

There were a lot of loose rocks and scree which frequently came down from the top as they got displaced by the other climbers. We had to be careful not to get hurt. Our helmets got pummeled by small rocks many times and boy were we thankful for the helmets!

Short video of one of the climbing sections

At the midway point there was a small cave and a water tank. Many climbers refill their water supply here. I did not want to risk drinking unfiltered water and decided to make do with the water I was carrying.

The climb got even harder from here on but the views got better too!

View of my climb from my sunglasses with an embedded video camera

The above video shows a small climbing section ending at a piton junction where I am getting ready to clip on to the next section. It shows why it is important to have two carabiners.

We reached the peak at around 12:15pm after 4+ hours of climbing.

The view from the top was simply spectacular. It was a clear day with gorgeous 360 degree views. 

We could see Torna, Rajgad, Pratapgad and Raigad from the top

From left to right: Samir, Anu and I

My customary headstand at the top :)

Group photo at the top

After spending an hour at the top, we started the downward journey at about 1:15pm. The mountain is too steep to hike down, therefore the only way to go down is via rappelling. The total descend was about 1,000 ft. Our guides had divided it into six rappelling sections. This was my first rappelling experience and I was understandably a bit nervous.

I am trying to look confident but it is really scary when a small rope is all that's preventing a 1000ft fall!

Samir and Anu had done rappelling earlier and came down like pros

My first rappelling experience. Doesn't look very scary in the video but the drop was enough to cause serious injury or death

Once I got the hang of it, I got more and more comfortable. By the time I reached the last slope, I was really enjoying myself. I was initially holding on to the rope in a death grip but I eventually started relaxing . By the end, I was able to push off the rocks and hop down which was a lot of fun.

By the time I got to the last slope, I was really comfortable

We arrived at the base of Lingana at around 3:45pm. 

We thought the hard work was done and it was just a short walk back to the starting point. We couldn't have been more wrong! The Boratyachi Nal climb proved to be a difficult one, especially on tired legs. It was only a 300-400ft climb but we had dig into our energy reserves to navigate it. There was no trail - it was a pure rock scramble which often required us to use all fours. The light was fading fast and we wanted to be out of the treacherous section before it got dark.

We reached our starting point in Mohari village at around 5:15pm

Sunset was as spectacular as the sunrise. Impossible to capture these moments on camera

Although the guide had arranged for dinner, we decided not to wait for that and after a quick wash and change of clothes, drove back to Pune. We reached Pune at 8:30pm, 18.5 hours from when we started.

Here's a video which shows the bird's eye view of the trek:

Trek route visualized using Google Earth

This was definitely one of the more difficult treks I have done. Being an experienced hiker I wasn't expecting it to test my mettle but it proved to be quite a challenge. This was my very first rappelling experience and I hope I will get an opportunity to do a few more.

Here's a link to a photo album with more pictures and videos.


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