Trekking Tips: Hiking in Monsoon & Summer in the Western Ghats

Following are the trekking tips for hiking in the monsoon (rainy season) and pre & post monsoon (summer & winter) in the Western Ghats in the South India.

Trekking tips for hiking in the monsoon in the Western Ghats:

  • Average temperature ranges from 21-27 degree Celsius in Rainy season.
  • The rainy season lasts for around four months from June to September.
  •  Average sunshine hours are from 4-5 hours per day during rainy season. but be reminded that sometimes, over the hills, the sun doesn’t come out even for days.
  • Every hill wears a layer of lush green.
  • But winds will also be high at the grass lands and peaks.
  • Western Ghats are one of the highest among receiving the rainfall during monsoon in rainy season in South India.
  • Western Ghats or most of the south India receive rainfall from winds carrying moisture from Arabian Sea rising along the slopes of the hills of the western Ghats hills and forming clouds During monsoon, shoes need a better grip while trekking because of the wet and slippery trails.
  • Small waterfalls or streams receive nice amount of water and finding drinking water on trek is easier.
  • But the main concerns are the leeches. Know more about prevention and cure from leeches on western Ghats treks.

Monsoon clouds, western ghats on Sakleshpur railway trek

  • On treks, one should always carry a raincoat. Poncho should be preferred as it can also cover the backpack.
  • Avoid carrying Umbrellas at thousands of feet, wind is very high and an umbrella cannot stand the wind even for a few minutes.
  • Carry a pair of dry and extra clothes in garbage bag to keep that waterproof.
  • Forget not to carry extra pair of undergarments and socks. These two items are always mandatory
  • Make sure the tent is waterproof and its base can stand hundreds of liters of under-flowing currents of water.
  • Possible, if trekking in a group, carry a tarpaulin also called as tarp. A tarp of 120 GSM weighs around 2.5 kg 18 feet by 12 feet in size.
  • A tarp comes handy when the rain suddenly starts. around 15-20 people can stand under it and it can also be used to cover the backpack on night camping.
  • During torrential rain, fog is high and it’s also gets tougher to perceive the trail. So one needs to be careful.
    Also use waterproof shoes and trousers along with taking care for electronic devices, watch and torch.

Trekking tips for hiking in the summer in the Western Ghats:

  • Average temperature ranges from 25-34 degree Celsius in summer.
  • Summer lasts from February to May and is succeeded by the rainy season.
  • Average Sunshine hours are around 8 hours per day. That concludes to you cannot avoid sun on the trek unless that’s a night trek.
  • There will be no greenery in the summer. Hills turn yellowish brown because grasses die out.
  • Waterfalls carry meager amount of water except the bigger waterfalls with perennial source of water.
  • Streams, which are usual source of water on the treks, almost dry up. Irony is you will need to carry more water with you when all the water sources on trek almost dry up.
  • After crossing the dense forests, one treks on the open grasslands with very less number of trees. These grasslands usually starts at around 3500 feet/ 4-5 kilometres of trek/ 2-3 hours of trekking through dense forests.
Western Ghats in Summer

Western Ghats in Summer

  • As you ascend up to the open grasslands, sun would start shining directly over the head because by the time you cross the initial stretches of forests, the sun would have come in the sky.
  • Since most of the treks involve trekking through patches of dense forests at the beginning of trek in Western Ghats, humidity will be very high. You will sweat a lot.
  • Because of over sweating and constant walking under the sun, a person who is not healthy enough might get headache or sun strokes. I have personally experienced this once.
  • There will no chances of rainfall. However, nights would be cold at the peak if you plan to pitch tent.
  • Towards June, it starts to rain in the Western Ghats. So expect some rain during last phase of summer treks.
  • Do not forget to cover your head while trekking under the sun. That avoids sun strokes. You can use bandana or a hat for the same.
  • Also cover your body with full sleeve cotton shirts light in color. They help reflecting the sun rays and protects against tanning and also keeps the body temperature low.

Monsoon rain in beautiful Kerala: Discover the science behind it

Kerala reminds me of the different shades of Green: light and dark green mosses grown over dark woods; yellowish palm fields in the valleys; Tea green covering the slopes of the hills; green grasses along every path that you see & dark green forests of the western Ghats.

When it rains in Kerala (6)

Other than these different shades of color, rain is what that catches up my fascination.

A couples of days before going for the Brahmagiri peak trek, I was watching a Discovery episode. Luckily, that episode was over monsoon in Western Ghats. Geography being one of my most enjoyed subject, it was fun to learn a lot from that episode. It was even more fun to realize the whole process of rainfall on almost everyday basis in Western Ghats during monsoon.
I was knowing that I was going to Kerala for two day trek but I did not know that I would see the whole process of rainfall live infront of my eyes.

So here is how I experienced the, what I would call, pre-rain and the rain phenomena.

Pre-rain (Morning to Afternoon):

Rains are brought by the easterly winds in the western Ghats. The Easterly winds from the west carry the moisture from Arabian sea and hence, form a cloud which bring the relief rain.

What is relief rain?

Relief rainfall or relief precipitation is one of the three kinds of precipitation. When masses of air carrying moisture rise along the slopes of high rising hills they get condensed and form clouds. These clouds bring rain.

When it rains in Kerala (7)Masses of air rising along the slope of the hill to form rainy clouds

I was still lying in my bed and looking outside the window out of my blanket overlooking yellowish green palm ranges. Morning in Kerala would mostly be cold because of the last day rain. Last night it has rained. We were to start out trek to the Brahmagiri.

Around 9ó clock we started our ascent to Brahmagiri peak. One has to follow Thirunelli-Pakshipathalam Trail for 4 kilometers and take a deviation midway towards Brahmagiri. Though the weather was very pleasant in the forest stay but, inside the forests, it would mostly be damp and humid. One sweats a lot and on top of that, has to face leeches through out the forest.

When it rains in Kerala (10)Dense forests of kerala during monsoon

Its very hard not to relish the beauty of the nature while trekking through the forest. That again reminds of the different shades of greenish Kerala. Dark green forests; a few leaves olive green in color; new light green mosses hanging onto the fallen tree branches and old dark mosses settled over the rocks. Lime green bamboos and spring bud leaves all paint the whole canvas
in greens.

When it rains in Kerala (8)Mosses over woods

Just before noon. we reached open grasslands. In western Ghats, grasslands begins around 3500-4000 feet. These open grasslands would burgeon a varieties of wild flowers. The grasses would be around 3-4 feet tall. Pre-noon time in Kerala would be little sunny and the sun will also keep on playing hide & seek with the clouds. It usually would be warmer but not hot.

To reach to the Brahmagiri peak, we were walking straight along the ridges of the hills. One has to cross 3 hills to reach at the peak. There is no shortcut here. One has to walk along the ridge and cross the hills to reach at the peak. Walking at the ridge gives you maximum local elevation. You can feel the wind blowing and low clouds rising along the slope of the Ghats.
These phenomena were the precursors that rainfall would soon be happening. You can see large masses of low clouds rising along the slopes. You can even feel them if you are walking along the ridge, the white masses approaching you. Look at a distant hill, you can clearly see the rising along the slopes clouds merging with the clouds above you. Along the slope side, the valley depressions are full of fogs and clouds. The more or less looks like a great oval depression filled with smokes.

When it rains in Kerala (5)Clouds rising along the valley and slopes of the hills

In the afternoon, we were at the peak. There were no trees. The sun was shining directly over our head. This shining of sun makes the air warmer and thinner. Thus, low lying clouds start rising and merging into heavy clouds lying not much above western Ghats.

By the afternoon, even the hills get warmer. The surrounding gets thinner. That was our time to return to base camp because we knew that it would rain a lot. Around four in the evening, we were back at the base. Climbing might take hours but descent seldom.

By the time, we reached at our base house, it certainly had become darker but, pleasant. There were no more silvery or low lying white below azure sky in the background. Just in last 10 hours, color of the Kerala has changed from vivid green to gloomy green. High winds had abated. Only cool breezes were there in the air.

When it rains in Kerala (4)Its almost gonna rain over another hill

During rain:

I was standing at the balcony of the KTDC forest house. Houses in those parts of Kerala were slopy. That must have been because of there rains almost throughout a year. There was a pigeon sitting at the red-painted sloppy roof of the house. In front of me, were the dark clouds hanging over to the magnificent hills of the silent Western Ghats. It had started raining. That was a thick and heavy rainfall.

The falling rain creates a flimsy white foreground before the dark hills. As darker and scarier the hills looks like, the white film looks serene the same. Drops falling on the slopes and water falling down from the roof looks like a cold and wet firework.
The pigeon was still sitting there.

When it rains in Kerala (1)Rain and fog together

Unlike Northern plain, I could not feel any terrestrial heat radiating out of heart after the rain fall. But that was there. Far in the distant hills, when water falls on the warm surface of the hills, it evaporates. That would look like another clouds is taking birth out of the earth. Neither the base not the top of the hill is visible. The top of the hills is not visible because that is covered with the clouds and base of the hills is not visible because of the evaporated water forming another cloud.

Everything was told in that Discovery episode and witnessing each phenomenon in front of my eyes was a refreshing experience.

While on the earth around me, all the dust were settled down. All the drain, ditches and drains were filling up with water.
While the pigeon was still sitting over there un-moving like a saint lost in trans.
I looked around. Rain drops were hanging onto the needles of Araucanian conifers. That more looked like a plain yet vivid Christmas tree.

When it rains in Kerala (3)Rain drops hanging onto the needle like leaves of conifers

People are so much used to the rain that they still wear the same white Dhoti and Shirt and take black umbrella with them. The white flimsy rain, black umbrella, people in white dresses, grey and dark clouds almost make the whole world look like a black and white world yet more beautiful.

I kept standing there for long time. The wind would bend the direction of falling drops like someone has just swayed them with a giant blow. Its graceful to watch pristine water flowing just in front of your house; conifers holding on the water droplets; clouds kissing the high hills; white curtain forming in the air; the sway of wind and your mind subconsciously lost in thought of someone.

When it rains in Kerala (9)Heat getting dissipated out of hot earth in rain