Irshalgad Fort Trek
Irshalgad fort trek is located in between Matheran and Panvel in Maharashtra. It is a sister fort to Prabalgad. The altitude of the trek is 518 mtrs till the rock cut called Nedhe. The area of the fort is not as large as Prabalgad but there are several water cisterns cut from the rock.
The name Irshalgad itself is a misnomer; Irshalgad is actually a pinnacle and not a fort. It hardly comes across anywhere in history. It may have been used as a watchtower to look after the area between Manikgad and Prabalgad. In May 1666, Shivaji Maharaj conquered the region of Kalyan and Bhiwandi, up to Rairi. Irshalgad, must have come under the Maratha rule at that time. It is the neighbour to Prabalgad. Kumar Prakash Durve lost his life after falling down from this pinnacle onJanuary 23, 1972. To remember this day, all the trekkers from the Mumbai – Thane region assemble here on January 26 every year.
Irshalgad fort trek is actually a pinnacle and it can be easily made out because of it’s distinct shape from the Mumbai Pune Highway. There is a water tank on the route from the Irshal plateau to the peak. The most important characteristic of the for is the “Nedhe” which is a natural rock cavity formed because of wind erosion. There is a water tank and a cave next to the Nedhe. This water is suitable for drinking. The pinnacle needs to be climbed with the aid of rock climbing equipment. The climb is considered to be an easy one by the climbing fraternity but should not be attempted by amateurs. From the top we can see the forts of Prabalgad, Matheran, Chanderi, Malanggad, Karnala and Manikgad.
Irshalgad pinnacle is accessible by an easy to moderate 2 hour trek. Nanivali village (the starting point of this trek) is a comfortable 2.3 kilometres walk from Chowk. A wide well defined path from the Nanivali village takes you to the Irshalwadi village. The path climbs a steep ridge and then tapers to an easy ascend till Irshalwadi. From Irshalwadi village head towards a temple dedicated to a local deity and access the Irshalgad plateau via a west-east axis. The trek is fairly easy till the pinnacle base.
On encounters a water tank on the route from the Irshal plateau to the peak. From there, we reach the needle hole near the top after negotiating a simple rock patch and a rickety ladder. This is pretty trick during monsoons. The route is well marked and has a metal board at some places. Over the years and after numerous landslides, the path as become a bit risky. Proceeding little ahead, we see a water tank to the left and a cave to the right. The route from the Nedhe climbs up to the top of the pinnacle. It is essential to have artificial rock climbing equipment to climb the pinnacle. Many lives have been lost while trying to climb this pinnacle. There are bolts placed at regular intervals for climbing. The pinnacle climb requires 100 feet of rope and is extremely difficult for a first timer.
Prabalgad can be reached from Irshalgad after a 20km long traverse walk. One needs to starts from Chowk railway station, climb up to Irshalgad Nedhe and back to Irshalwadi before proceeding to Prabalgad by a 2 km long connecting ridge at the North. An exposed traverse over the prabalgad plateau leads you to the Poinje col, from where one can ascend Prabalgad via the Poinje South ascend (aka Chincholi Vaat) rout. Else one can continue west to reach the southern Prabalmachi village and then continue to Kalavantin Durg, Thakurwadi or Vardoli. A local guide is essential as the trail is often confusing and hidden underneath overgrowth during Monsoon.
How to Reach
Alight at Chowk bus stop and cross Chowk railway station to reach the Morbe Dam road. The trail passes through Nanivali before climbing uphill to Irshalwadi (base village).
The nearest railway station is Karjat from where one can hire a private vehicle to Base village, Naniali near Chowk. One can also get down at Panvel and take a shared or a private rickshaw to Nanivali near Morbe dam. State Transport buses are also available from Panvel.
If travelling by your own vehicle is Nanivali village near Chowk town should be your road head. Chowk town lies on NH4 that connects Panvel with Karjat and is an easy drive from Mumbai as well as Pune.