THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The first batch of trekkers will scale the 1,868m-high Agastya mountain on Tuesday when this year’s Agasthyarkoodam trekking season opens to the public. Two women will be part of the group on day one in the annual trek arranged by the Kerala Forest Department. This year, the trekking period is restricted to 38 days. It will begin on January 14 and end on February 18. Each day, five groups of 20 people will climb the mountain. Since last year, the trek has been thrown open to women trekkers following a court order.
“Women trekkers are provided separate accommodation at the base camp in Athirumala. Staff including women are being stationed across the trekking path for assistance. Meanwhile, the path would be closed for three days during the period for rituals to be done by Kani tribals. No trekking would be allowed during this period,” said J R Ani, wildlife warden, Thiruvananthapuram. The online booking for the trek closed in 49 minutes this year. On a daily basis, as many as 100 trekkers will reach Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary to scale the Agasthyakoodam peak, considered the second highest peak in the state.
Plastic is strictly banned and those bringing plastic bottles will have to pay an entry fee which will be returned on producing the used bottle after the trek. The trek schedule The trek begins from the forest picket station at Bonacaud. Day one of the three-day trek will see the trekkers climb up to the Athirumala base camp. The trek to Agasthya Mala peak will begin on Day 2 followed by a halt at the base camp. Day 3 will see the final descent.
TREK DURING OFF SEASON
In addition to the official trekking season, the forest department provides trekking facility during off season. This special off-season package is available for groups of five or 10 trekkers. The five-member group can avail the trekking package at a rate of Rs 16,000 while the 10-member team can avail it at Rs 28,000.
“Guides will accompany the group during the trek and provisions need to be brought in by the trekkers. The food is prepared by the staff and only two treks per week are allowed. This package also serves to give a source of income to the Eco-Development Committee members who constitute the local community,” says Ani.