Friday, 26 August 2016

Goechala Pass Trekking in Sikkim

Sikkim Goechala Pass Trek

Trek to the Foot of the 3rd.Highest Mountain in the world, Mt.Kanchenjunga
Dzongri View Point

Trekking to the Foot of the Third Highest Mountain in the world Mt.Kanchenjunga.
Goechala Pass Trek is the most popular Trek in Sikkim. Sikkim is a small state in India. Sikkim was a small Kingdom ruled by the Chogyals. It became a part of India in the early 70's. Sikkim is a landlocked state bordered by Nepal Bhutan Tibet and the Indian State of  West Bengal on all its side. Sikkim is basically a Buddhist State and as a result one can find old monasteries dating back to 1700's. It has been said Guru Rinpoche brought and propagated buddhism in Sikkim when travelling to Tibet through sikkim. More than 60% of the land mass in Sikkim falls in the Himalayan mountain as a result there are a couple of high altitude treks concentrated in the sikkim Himalayas.

The Goechala Pass Trek is one such popular high Altitude eight days Trek in Sikkim Himalaya. One needs to have an additional two to three days for Travelling. For foreign Nationals there has to be more than two participants than only the Trekking Permits will be issued. One has to go through a Travel or Trekking Agency to avail of the Trekking Permit. Yuksom is the Trek head for the Goechala Pass Trek and takes about 5hours drive from Gangtok. One has to drive through Singtam, Ravangla and Tashiding to reach Yuksom. Yuksom is a small village on the fringes of the Kanchenjunga National Park with a concentration of few Lodges and Hotels which caters mainly to trekkers embarking on the Goechala Pass Trail. Yuksom used to be the old capital of Sikkim. It was here the Three Holy monks came together and Choose the first Chogyal of Sikkim. There is a coronation Throne and a monastery to prove this fact in Yuksom.

The Kanchenjunga National Park office is located at the entrance of the National Park leading to Dzongri. Every Trekker is required to pay the required fees here before proceeding on to Dzongri and beyond. It is mandatory for all participants to register with the local Police station and provide them with a fitness certificate issued by a competent authority.

Detailed Itinerary:

Day 1 : 
Trek from Yuksom starts on a gentle level ground through lush green forests of the Trek till Bakhim.
It is advisable to Trek slowly because of the gain in altitude as one will be Trekking from 1760m to 2828m and that is a gain of more than 1000m in a day. After an hours trek after lunch the Trek route is a straight uphill till Bakhim campsite. Bakhim is a small camping place with a forest rest house and a small hut which belongs to the Chowkidar of  the of the Forest Department.The Camp site is on small clearing above the Guest House. Normally all Trekkers proceed on to Tchoka a kilometre above. Tchoka is small settlement with a couple of trekkers hut and a monastery.This used to be the rehabilitation centre for Tibetan refugees escaped from Tibet. Now the National Park Authorities have evacuated the settlers and only a few Trekkers hut remains testimony to it.

Day 2 : The Days Trek to Dzongri is about 9Km and the Trekking trail is on uneven ground through thick Rhododendron silver fur and magnolia forests of the Kanchenjunga National Park. One has to Trek slowly as the altitude gain is more than the recomended. If one is not sure than it is advisable to put up camp at Phedang below Dzongri. A nights halt at Phedang will do a whole lot of Good to get acclimitized. Lunch at Phedang and than a steep climb up the hill of one hour leads to Deorali Dara. A hillock where the uphill ends and then one enters the Dzongri Valley. On a clear day the Kanchenjunga Range starts looking mesmerizing from this point onwards. Gentle walk of about 3Km through the valley leads to Dzongri camp site. There is a Trekkers hut at Dzongri. Hut is very basic therefore every one opts for a Tent. Only during emergencies do trekkers use this  trekkers hut.

Dzongri at 3950m is on the tri junction. Towards the east is the Chaurikhang valley & HMI Base Camp and the other one leads northwards to Thansing Valley and Goechala Pass. A rest day in Dzongri recomended to get better acclimitized to the rarified air and is beneficial as one treks to higher altitude. We were lucky to have a wonderful weather,the mountain view was mind blowing. Climbed Dznogri Top in the evening and in the morning for the wonderful view of the Kanchenjunga Range. The Range is very close from here onwards. In front is the Kabru sisters,Rathong,Freys Peak and in the middle is the Forked Peak and the main peak of Kanchenjunga.To the Right is Mt.Pandim flanked by Jopuno,Thingchingkhang,Lama Lameni and Mt.Narsing. Freys peak lies in the Chaurikhang Valley & Jopuno & Thingchingkhang in the Thansing valley is open for Expedition. These Expeditions are classified as Alpine Expeditions. Side Trek to Dzongrilla Pass on the rest day is advisable as it helps to get  acclimitized. This Pass leads to the Chaurikhang Valley and the HMI Base Camp. One can get clear views of the Kabru sisters and the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute
Base Camp from Here. Dzongri at 3950m enters into alpine vegetation.From here onwards the hill sides a bereft of tall Trees.Only cryptomeria bushes can be found everywhere.

Day 3: Rest Day at Dzongri. Early morning trek to Dzongri Top for the views of the Mountain Range at Sunrise was awsome. From the view point at very close range is the Kanchenjunga Range. Returned back to camp site for breakfast. Aftyer a brief rest took a side trek to Dzongrilla Pass. It is always interesting to walk around in the himalayan hill sides. It is kind of meditation. Thinking of nothing but just wandering around. Gives one peace of mind.

Day 4: Dzongri to Thansing...The 7Km Trek starts on a level ground on alpine hill side. The mesmerizing sight of the Kanchenjunga Range in front makes this trek really pleasant. Two Mt.Pandim and Mt.Thingchingkhang.

Thansing Valley
Kilometre of walk then another steep dowhill path leads to Kookrochoong beside the river.Then a gentle three Kilometre of walk and we enter into the Thansing Valley. Since Thansing falls in a valley at times it can get very windy and cold. There is a Trekkers hut and the campsite is beside the river at the foot of  of

Day 5: Thansing to Lamunee is an Easy 3Km Trek. Campsite is at the entrance of the Samiti Lake. There are no trekkers hut in Lamunee except for a small shed constructed by the Kanchenjunga National Park for porters to take refugee from the cold mountain air. One can take a side trek to Laxmi Pokhari and reach Lamunee by taking a detour by the base of Mt.Pandim. This is also interesting Path if one is not too tired.

Samiti Lake at 4200m
Goechala Pass (4990m)
Day 6: Early morning trek to Goechala started at 3am. with a cup of Tea and some biscuits. Today is the longest Trek of the 8Days Goechala Pass Trek. Total distance covered is almost 24Km (round trek). Since camping is prohibited beyond this area one has to reach Goechala Pass and return back to camp. The  onglathang glacier starts from this point onwards. The glacier is covered with moraines and thus cannot be seen. The entire Trek route is on top of the Glacier. 30minutes of Trekking leads to  Samiti lake at 4200m. Samiti lake is a small glacier fed lake at the foot of Mt.Pandim and is considered holy by the people of Sikkim. Slight uphill of one Kilometre brings us to Zemathang view point. In the higher altitude because of rarified air one has to take small steps as you become breathless. It took us almost 3Hours to cover a distance of 3Km. Sunrise from Zemathang View point is marvellous. The main massiff of Kanchenjunga and the other smaller peaks looks mesmerizing. They seem so close,felt as if we could touch them. A slight downhill through snow covered path took us to Baluwatar. Baluwatar is big expance of level sandy ground  which never seems to end. Trudging along through field of soft snow brought us below Goechala climb to Goechala Pass from here onwards is a task to behold. The rarified air makes it hard for every trekker to climb the slight uphill. Goechala Pass is the highest point on this Trek. Beyond Goechala Pass lies the Yangtze Tar. This is slightly big valley at an altitude of 15000feet. There is a lake and the valley is always filled with green grass. when the monsoons start & the trekking season is over the yak herders take all their animals and put them up at Yangtze Tar. As grass & water is in plenty the animals stay here the entire summers and come out once the trekking season starts. Goechala Pass starts getting windy and cold so after a brief Photo session we retraced our steps back to Lamunee and trek back to Kookrochoong.

Day 7: Trek back to Tchoka takes a little detour. From Kookrochoong the path heads staright towards Phedang below Dzongri. Trekking trail is through dense Silver Fur Magnolia and Rhododendron Forests. This is a pleasant walk in the forest until Phedang. Lunch at Phedang and then a slow downhill trek through forests and uneven track brings us to Tchoka. A night halt at Tchoka found us sleeping on a bed.
Tchoka Camp Site

Day 8: The 13Km Trek back to Yuksom is on the same Track. It is always a pleasure to come back to civilization after the harsh weather in the mountains. A nice warm bath and warm food cooked on fire is a welcome sight.

Day 9: Driving back to Bagdogra Airport through Tashiding and Jorethang. Entered the state of West Bengal at Melli. Foreign Nationals will have to declare themselves at the Immigration office before exiting Sikkim.

Goechala Pass Trek is a Camping Trek and is a Trek to be Trekked once in a life time. The Trek Route takes you to the foot of the 3rd.Highest Peak in the world, Mt.Kanchenjunga. Sikkim Himalayas is really beautiful and the mountain views from Dzongri and Zemathang is a sight to behold. One can even opt for a longer version of the Trek starting from Nambu below Pelling. This is a 13 Days Trek and the Trek route is on the singalila Ridge which enters Dzongri through the Chaurikhang Valley.

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Friday, 19 August 2016

Darjeeling Singalila Ridge Trek

Maneybhanjyang Sandakphu Phalut Trek

Kanchenjunga Range seen from Sandakphu 
Sandakphu Phalut Trek Route in Darjeeling  is moderate to easy trek & is popular with first  time trekkers.The Trek route falls in the Singalila National Park in the Darjeeling Hills.Sandakphu at 3636m  is the highest point in the Singalila Ridge.The High lights of the Sandakphu Phalut Trek in Darjeeling is the unobstructed view of the Himalayan Range from  the highest  points in the singalila Ridge.During autumn One can get unobstructed views of Everest ,Makalu,Lhotse,three sisters,Kanchenjunga to the Jhomolari in Bhutan from Sandakphu and Phalut.Trekkers take to the Sandakphu Phalut Trekking trail in numbers to witness the view of the Himalayan Range from these two vantage points.Singalila Ridge in the Darjeeling Himalayas is the only place in the world from where one can view the four highest peaks in the world.Hence,It’s an Honor to stand on the highest point in the singalila Ridge and feast at the sight of the four highest mountains  in the world. Singalila National Park is also home to 58 Variety of Rhododendrons.Witness the riot of colors blanketing the entire hill sides during spring.

The Sandakphu Phalut Trek in Darjeeling starts with a short drive of 45 minutes to Manebhanjyang Darjeeling & ends in Rimbik.On arriving at Manebhanjyang foreign trekkers will need to register with the Foreigners Registration office.Registration takes only about 30minutes.It is cumpolsary to hire trained & registered Guide from the Guides association.All visitors are required to register with the Park authorities and as well get the Trek Permit and pay the Park fees at the Park office. The Singalila National Park office is located at the far end of the town at the entrance of the National Park.
lengendry Land Rover

The 13Km Trek from Maneybhanjyang to Tongloo(3078m) starts with a uphill climb of 3Km till Chitray.Chitray is a small settlement on the Nepal side of the Trek route with a Buddhist  monastery and a school for the monks. A brief halt for a cup of tea after a steep climb seems to rejuvenate the sences.The 4Km  easy  trek takes us to Lameydhura the lunch spot for the day.Lameydhura is a collection of a couple of houses and three tea houses. Lamedhura to Megma is a gentle 4KmTongloo is on a hill top and the Mountain scenery is worth the climb.The Trekkers hut at Tongloo provides Basic accommodation and Basic Food.
trek over rough jeepable Track frequented by the aged Land Rovers from the British Era.At megma Foreign Nationals will have to register with the Defense Post.The steep 3Km uphill  Takes us to Tongloo(3078m).
Tongloo Trekkers Hut

The days trek of 15Km. from  Tongloo to Kalipokhari(3001m) starts with a gentle downhill trek of 2Km  to Tumling.Tumling is on the Nepal side & has a number of lodges run by local families.A Kilometre further on is the National Park Check Post & Permits are checked here.There are two paths leading to Gairibas.One on the Indian Side and the other on the Nepal side.The Trek route on the Nepal side is shorter and more interesting.The Route
Village of  Jaubari 
passes through small HillSide village of Jaubari  and finally a rough downhill 2Km  trek to Gairibas.A short rest for a cup of tea seems to help in easing the pain of the downhill trek.Foreign trekkers will have to register here too at the defence post.2Km of uphill and a kilometre of level ground leads us to Kayakatta our lunch spot of the day.Kayakatta is a collection of four or five houses where every household caters to the needs of the Trekkers.Gentle 4Km trek on a jeepable Track takes us to Kalipokhari.This place is named after a lake which is situated at the entrance of this small village.Kalipokhari  is a slightly bigger place with a number of lodges on the Nepal side of the border.There are no lodges or Trekkers huts on the Indian Side.Only a lone Defence post is  on the Indian Side and here too like in all other defence posts foreign trekkers will have to register their passport details.
Kanchenjunga Range from Phalut

It takes about 3Hours for an average trekker moving at their own pace to cover the distance of 6Km to Sandakphu(3636m) from Kalipokhari.First 2Km  till Bikhaybhanjyang is on level ground then the remaining 4Km is uphill till Sandakphu.Sandakphu has three Trekkers huts run by the Gorkha Territorial Administration,three private lodges run by local families & three Government Guest houses.There is a fairly big concentration of defence post here in Sandakphu.Of the three private lodges two are on the Nepal side of the Trek route and one is on the Indian Side.Climb a small hill for the spectacular view of Sunset & sunrise on  the Himalayan Range.Sandakphu at 3636m is the highest point on the Singalila Ridge.Hence one can get unobstructed views of Everest,Lhotse,Makalu  to Kanchenjunga Range to the Jhomolari in Bhutan.The months of October,November & December are the best time to view these Majestic Himalayas.Sandakphu is the only place in the world from where one can view the four Highest Mountains in the world.

The 21Km  long trek to Phalut(3582m) is gentle and passes through meadows.On a clear day this an interesting day for a trek as one gets 180Degree panaromic views of the snow clad Himalayan Range as one lumbers along the trek route till Phalut.After  every bend and turn one can expect  picture perfect  Himalayan vista for your eyes to feast on.It is advisable to start the trek after an early breakfast.First because the distance is long and secondly,It can get a bit windy.The trek route from Sandakphu to Phalut is bereft of any tea houses. There is a Park office at Sabargram ,14Km from Sandakphu this works as an office and a Tea house for Trekkers.There is a lone trekkers hut 2Km below  Sabargram at Molley.One can even break the trek here and stay at molley for the night.On a clear autumn evening make it a point to climb the 30minutes uphill to the Phalut top.The colors of the setting sun painted on the Himalayan Range is spectacular.Likewise climb to the Phalut view point during sunrise you will not regret having taken up the trouble to trek up in the cold.Be prepared with a Goretex Jacket as it gets very windy at the top.

The 15Km trek to Gorkhay Village is all the way downhill through Rhododendron,Silver fur and Phalut coupled with the long trek downhill.
Bamboo grove Forest.Gorkhay is a small agricultural village comprising of a collection of few houses on the fringes of the National Park at the border with Sikkim.Gorkhay is a warm place after the windy stay at Phalut.The warm food and a dip in the river nearby  rejuvenates the sences after the cold night at

There is Government Trekkers Hut and three lodges run by local families.The Rooms in the lodges are small but clean with attached washroom and restroom.Eden lodge is particularly friendly and clean.This lodge even has it’s own electricity by means of a small generator.

The Days Trek of about 14Km to Timburey from Gorkhay passes through small villages of Samamdin and Ramam.These are all agricultural villages on the fringes of the Singalila National Park.First 2Km of uphill through pine forest  leads us to Samamdin meaning “Lost Valley”.This place has been aptly named the “Lost Valley” as it lies in the middle of Jungle on a flat land of 2Acres only.There is a Government primary School and a lodge belonging to the forest Department.The National Park authorities have been encouraging sustainable tourism for the livelihood of the local people here.Hence,you will find a couple of homestays and a camping ground for the adventurous.
Next 2Km downhill till the riverbed and a gentle 4Km uphill trek through oak and walnut forest to Ramam.Ramam is basically a big village as compared to other villages on this Sandakphu Phalut Trek route.Lunch and a short rest at Ramam and then a gentle 8Km trek through Ramam village to Tumburey for the night.Timburey also on the fringes of the Singalila National Park is a small village comprising of a couple of house holds.The Park authorities have been encouraging sustainable eco tourism to these house hold.Therefore there are a couple of Homestays that caters to the needs of the Trekkers who happen to trek by.

The short 10Km/3Hours or so of trek to Rimbik with a 3Hours jeep drive back to Darjeeling ends the Sandakphu Phalut Singalila Ridge Trek in Darjeeling.The Drive back to Darjeeling leads us to Manebhanjyang and further on to Darjeeling.

To sum it all up.The Sandakphu Phalut Trekking in Darjeeling is an easy to moderate Trekking in the Eastern Himalayas.Views of the Majestic Himalayas are a treat to the eyes,especially from Sandakphu and Phalut.Accommodation in the lodges are basic (considering the circumstances) but clean with common restroom and washroom.Food is simple and only vegetarinian food is available on the entire trek route.There is no electricity in all the places of stay.Lodges have solar lightning.Camera batteries should be fully charged from the hotel in Darjeeling.The Trekkers hut in Sandakphu have provision for Charging the Phone and camera batteries for a sum of money.
The Singalila National Park is home to the endangered Red Pandas.The Red Pandas are bred in captivity in the Zooligical Park in Darjeeling.These furry and docile animals are then brought & rehabilated in the Jungles of Singalila National Park.Other animals are also protected in this Park.There are common Leopards,Himalayan sloth Bear,wild dogs and number of Deer living in the Singalila National Park.There is rehabilation centre for Red Pandas at Gairibas.Infact the rehabilation of the Red Pandas have been quite successfull in this National Park.

The Best time to Trek in the Sandakphu Phalut Region is from October to December.This is immediately after the three months of monsoons.Hence the skies are clear all day long and the Mountain views are splendid.Trekking can also be done from March to May.During this period one can see the profusion of colors from the flowering Rhododendrons all over the hill sides.The Singalila National Park is closed to visitors from 15th.June to  15th.September.This is because of the breeding season of the Red Pandas.

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