Goecha La (Sikkim) Trek

This post is about my recent trip to Goecha La, a 5000+m pass in Sikkim, gateway to majestic Kanchendzonga, world third highest mountain peak..

In 2009, at the end of September I planned a trek to Goecha La, a pass (La means pass in local language) in the north-west of Sikkim surrounded by majestic peaks of Kangchendzhonga (कञ्चनजङ्घा), 3rd highest mountain peak in the world, Kabru, Pandim and many others. The terrain is bereft of any vegetation and is more like Laddakh-Leh type, Tibetan plateau. I started my journey on 25th September from Kanpur to Delhi and then to Bagdogra by flight from Delhi. Bagdogra is the closest airport to Sikkim and is in West Bengal. The distance to Gangtok via Rangpo (border of WB and Sikkim) is about 130 km. I reached Bagdogra at about 1.00 pm on 26th and then proceeded straightaway to Gangtok by Jeep provided a friend. The first 30 km of this drive was through the plains of Bengal up to Himalayan foot hills. the views soon after the foot hills are lovely as one sees the curvy views of Teesta River flowing between the hills. The road up to Sikkim border is bad for most of the part but once, inside Sikkim, the quality of roads and general cleanliness changed significantly. We stopped at Rangpo, border town in Sikkim, to have some refreshments. There is a snack shop which seems to be flooded with tourists and to be honest, samosas were damn good. From Rangpo, it took another two hours to reach Gangtok and by the time we reached there, it was already evening. One thing which struck me immediately was good quality of roads and a concern for pedestrians in Gangtok, evident from a long footpath from Ranipul to Gangtok (about 20 km long) and duly protected from sides by iron grills. There was no visible encroachment on the pavement either.In Gangtok I stayed with a friend which was nice. He fed me some nice authentic Tibetan momos in the evening with specialty super-hot chili sauce. We also went to a place called MG Road in Gangtok which is pedestrian ONLY area with ban on smoking and spitting. This came as a nice surprise as one hardly sees such clean pedestrian in India.Next morning, I went to places like Tashi viewpoint, Ganesh Tok and Hanuman Tok in Gangtok from where one could see majestic Kangchendzonga range very clearly, especially in the early morning. Best is the view from Hanuman tok as it is the highest viewing point and offers superb views (see the picture below). A point to note about mountains is that typically morning views are far better because late in the day, due to heat, clouds rise and surround the peaks and nothing would be visible.

Kangchendzonga range as seen from Hanuman Tok


28th September 2009

After spending a day in Gangtok, I proceeded to Yuksom, a small town about 150 km away from Gangtok which can be reached via Rwangla or Rangpo. This is the place from where the trek to Dzongri, Goecha La and to the base camp of Mt. Kanchenjunga begins. The way to Yuksom is absolutely gorgeous with marvelous mountain views with green/blue watered Rangit river flowing in the middle of this Himalayan Kingdom. I started of on 27th September for Yuksam via Rumtek and Rwangla. At Rumtek, we gave lift to a couple of people from Rwangla. When we stopped there to drop them off, they offered us the tea made from Yak milk and some momos. I did not like the tea much but the momos were awesome with the super hot red chili paste. These Momos were filled with pork which actually made them taste better than chicken or veg momos. We proceeded straight to Yuksom with a couple of minor stops in between to buy some chicken etc. Again, the route was very scenic and I was finding it difficult to control myself from taking pictures. We reached Yuksom in the evening at about 4 pm after about 5-6 hours of journey. At Yuksom, I stayed in Hotel Yangrigang where I also arranged for guide and porters for the trek further. This is reasonably good hotel with OK food. They also offer drinks. The name of the Manager is Nawang Gaytso Bhutia and the whole family was quite friendly.Yuksom is a place located at about 1700-1800m above sea level and is considered as Birth Place of modern Sikkim and was the first capital of Sikkim. This was the place, where according to the historical records, the first Chogyal of the Kingdom of Sikkim was enthroned in 1641 AD by the three learned lamas. The famous coronation place and the monastry is shown below.


Actual place of coronation (Yuksam)

The Monastry

The night was spent at Yuksom as next day we had to start trekking to Tshoka which was about 18 km from here and since this was the first day, it could be a little tiring. Next day, when I woke up at about 5 am, from the window of my room I could see the amazing view of Mount Pandim sandwiched between green hill tops.

Mount Pandim seen from the window of my hotel, this would have been around 5.30-6.00 am..

29th September 2009

Soon after having the breakfast and packing the stuff, we headed off for our trek. With me were my guide Suthang and porters Dilbahadur, Birman and Buddha. The guys looked short and thin but went through the mountains with load without any visible effort and without any modern expensive gear. They were very friendly and helpful all throughout the trek.First stop was the check post of Kangchendzonga Forest Reserve where was had to pay for our five-six day camping, kitchen etc। Total amount paid was about Rs 1,000/- for 5 days of stay on the mountains. From here, we headed off straight to Tshoka. The road to Tshoka was largely fine with many ups and downs and the terrain was largely walkable. We stopped for lunch at a place called Sachen which was about 6-7 km from Yuksom. Then moved on the Tshoka. We encountered 4 bridges on the and after the last bridge, it was a little tough as it was all the way up, quite steep, to Tshoka for about 5 km. On the way we took at 15 min halt at Bakhim where we had a tea at a little Tibetan restaurant managed by a lady called Geeta. We reach Tshoka at about 5.00 pm and took us around 6 hours.Tshoka is the first major halt after Yuksom and is located at around 2900 m. It has basic amenities for trekkers including two toilets, places for camping and couple of rooms with mattresses if you like to sleep inside if you are fortunate find them empty. Soon it became dark and we started to get ready for dinner and the sleep. We put up our tent at Tshoka. Suthang and porters started making food. I took some evening pics around of the valley which looked awesome in diminishing sunlight with beautiful corrugations of the hills. There were a couple of small shops managed by locals (I was told that only 15-20 people lived there) where I could get some water and beer.



View of the valley from Tshoka in the evening

30th September 2009

Next morning, we woke up at 5.00 am again and started getting ready for rather tough day as we had to trek for about 20 km Thanseng, a place at about 3900 m. In the morning, we had light breakfast. Morning also brought some really nice view of Pandim.


Pandim in the early hours from Tshoka

Then we soon left for Thanseng. First we had to climb al the way up for about 5 km to Phitang which is located at 3500 m. The trek was all the way up but the terrian was largely fine with some rough patches at the end and we did reached Phitang comfortably in about 1-1/2 hours. Phitang is a place from where either one can head towards Dzongri which is at about 4000m and is famous for some nice views of Kangchendzonga or one can straightway head towards Thanseng via Kokruchong. One can come to Thanseng from Dzhongri as well via Kokchurong without coming back to Phitang.

Phitang, about 5 km from Tshoka on the way to Thanseng

After taking a bit of rest, we started for Kokchurong. The ~10 km long trek to Kokchurong through dense forest with very narrow and muddy roads which was worsened by intermittent rain. On the way, we also had our lunch. The way was up and down. We reached Kochurong in about 3-1/2 hours which is located at about 3300 m. Kokchurong is beautifully situated on the side of Rangit river with very nice views of Pandim, Tenzing and Narsing. We halted there for about 30 mins where I took some pics.


Kokchurong


View at Kokchurong

Soon after reaching Kokchurong, we started moving towards Thanseng as the weather was getting a little rough as well as dark. The route to Thanseng is all along Rangit river coming from Goecha La, through bushes. The distance from Kokruchong to Thanseng is not too long about 4-5 kms and was steep in the beginning followed by almost flattish trail, but the land scape changes dramatically. Whilst in the beginning, we could see some long pine and Buransh trees, these disappeared at about midway and what one sees are small bushes with some bright flowers. Near thanseng, I saw rocky mountains on both sides with no trees, more like desert. The view in front beyond Thanseng looked more or less like a desert. It took about 1-1.5 h to cover this trek before we reached Thanseng. Thanseng has a hutment which is meant for cooking etc for porters while people like me needed to pitch the tent and spend the time. I took a stroll to nearby Rangit river where fresh blue water gushing through and no water could have been better than this water. There was a massive lawn like area for pitching tents with Pandim on one side, extremely close to us, almost at the bottom of Pandim and on another side some other small-ish mountains. Thanseng is a height of about 4000 m and is a beautiful place with mountains on both side and river along the way to Goecha La. Air quality was superb.


Trail to Thanseng, close to Thanseng

It became dark too early and soon my cooks started to cook as we wanted to leave early at about 1.30 am for going to Goecha La next morning. This was bit stupid things because ideally I should have rested at Thanseng for a day for acclimatization. I remember that I got up at around 9 am and to my delight, I could see snow-capped Pandim visible in dark. The moon light was sufficient to lit up the Pandim.. Amazing sight. I was virtually standing in front of moonlit Pandim. Although it was looking so amazing that I could just the night out looking at it, but had to go to sleep because next morning final summit was ahead.


Night view of Pandim, right behind my tent at Thanseng.

1st October 2009

Next morning I got up at about 1.00 am and soon after having light breakfast of a strong coffee and some noodles, we set on our trek Goecha La. It was absolutely dark and I found my lights very useful for the first time. First bit of trek for an hour was quite easy but then it started getting steeper gradually as we reached closer to the Samiti lake which was not visible. Finally after about 3 hours, we reached first Goecha la (first pass) at about 5.00 am and this was very good time as sun was just starting to pop out. which is a high place at altitude more than 5000 m. The view from this place was simply amazing; on right I could see Pandim with Sun on its back, on the left, there were Kabru and glorious Kangchendzonga and in the front was a desert like place where small stream of a Rangit river flew with very clear but extremely cold water and then second Goecha La (second pass), about a km away for which I needed to get down it (a very steep downhill slope) into this vast desert like place. At this point we were standing in a place from where all the mountain peaks could be approached easily (in the sense of approach not comfort). The weather was cold and windy. But sun light for some night made my day. I then walked for about a km before we reached the second pass of Goecha la. However, at this point the weather became very rough with thick clouds surrounding the peaks and nothing was visible from the second pass. I tried a few pictures but could shoot nothing. Still I was lucky enough to take a few pictures of all the peaks with in the first hour of my ascent to Goecha la. Because of lack of rest and acclimatization, I started feeling a little dizzy soon after my arrival to the second pass however a tablet of dispirin helped..


Panoramic view of peaks as seen from first pass of Goecha La



Close up view of Kabru (L) and Kanchendzonga (R) from first Goecha La.



We moved further up and I was able to shoot a better view of Kanchejunga (R) and Kabru (L) right in front of us. This was at abt 6.00 am.



The clouds set in soon after and the peaks on the left started getting invisible.



View after clouds had set in

After waiting for some time and finding no hope of cloud covers receding, we started to trek back to Thanseng. On the way back I saw a clear view of Samiti lake which was looking fabulous filled with clean water. Trek back to Thanseng did not take much time and we reached back at about 10.00 am and decided that we should be heading off to Kokruchong on the same day where I took overnight stay. My cook served some really nice chicken curry at night with chapatis and rice.


Samiti lake on the way back to Thanseng

2nd october 2009

Next day, we headed off to Tshoka with a stopover at Phitang where we stayed for about an hour for a nice lunch. We were at Tshoka by noon or so. I could have trekked down to Yuksam on the same day but my new shoes give me massive blisters on the back of my feet and I needed to stay for them to heel. It was nice to stay there. Had some beer and some nice food there again. Met couple of friendly Australian tourists who were going off to Dzongri.3rd october 2009
In the morning again, the cooks made lovely breakfast and we started at 7.30 am to get down to Yuksam where I needed to catch the jeep to go to Gangtok on the same day. Because of bad blister and hard shoe, I needed to in chappals so trek was considerably slowl and I reached Yuksam at about 1.30 pm where we had our lunch and soon proceeded to Gangtok by Jeep, this time via Rangpo. On the way to Yuksam from Tshoka, I met a local guy, Dipen, who was voluntarily picking up the leftover plastic on the route for a benign disposal. It was wonderful to see selfless people caring about the environment and nature, we don’t find too of them now days, isn’t it?

 


Luxury in the mountains!! (chair and table was available at the camp site, not mine)



Dipen, a local chap, who voluntarily picked up the plastic waste on the trek routes.

 

So overall, it took 5 days to complete this marvelous journey to Goecha La which is a wonderful place and from where I could see wonderful views of Kangchendzonga, Pandim and Kabru as if I was standing right in front of them. Ideally one should take a day’s halt at Thanseng and on return via Kokchurong, take a day out for Dzongri too which is supposed to be a very nice place for viewing the peaks.

 

Kanchendzonga Range (Stitched picture)

Stuff to carry
1. Good comfortable but rugged pair of shoes, better if waterproof.
2. 5-6 pairs of socks. Two layers are better. Inner of cotton and outer woolen if cold.
3. Comfortable trousers with many pockets, light weight ones and those with zips near the knee are better..
4. A sweater, a thin jacket and one fleece for colder nights. Temperatures are normally above 0 if one does not do this trek in winter.
5. 3-4 t-shirts. couple of them preferably light weight polyester ones which dry quickly.
6. Swiss knife
7. Torch or headlights
8. Some medicines like Dispirin, Paracetamol etc
9. Walking stick is useful
10. A pair of good sandles
11. Two rucksacks, one big (70-80 l) and one small one (50 l).
12. A sleeping bag for -5 DegC, a mattress and a 2-3 men tent
13. Large plastic bags as inner lining for rucksack.
14. Sun Cream

Guides: Suntang, Dilbahadur, Beerman and Buddha

Original Post: http://khayaalaat.blogspot.com/2009/11/goecha-la-sikkim-trek.html

13 Comments

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  • Sahil Sethi says:

    @ Ashish , Very nice post with beautiful pitures. Sikkim is on my list. Hope to travel one day.

    Sahil

  • Anil Misra says:

    Lovely trek and an even better description. Congrats.

  • ashok sharma says:

    i am very much impressed about the cleanliness,rare in our country,
    beautiful photographs,
    keep up your ghumakkarpan.

  • Manish Kumar says:

    ??????? ???? ?? ????? !

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    A very detailed post , beautiful pictures. Only one suggestion , instead of writing such a long post break it into two parts.

  • beautiful place…………..
    You are very fortunate to go there…….
    Very well narrated post and I agree with Mahesh jee…………

  • Ashish says:

    Thank you all for your comments. I agree that it could have been posted in two parts.. Next time..

  • Nandan says:

    Good meaty one even though I am reading after a hearty meal. Being all by yourself (you had company but not like family/friends) for a week and do these severe treks must mean a lot of ‘character-building’. Congrats.

  • Ambrish Rahul says:

    Nice one Ashish. It was very detailed. But I just missed one small part. Can you please tell us how did you acquired guide/cook/porters and how much could that have cost you. And also the best way to acquire them.

    Also I would be interested to know whether we could undertake this trek in mid March.

    Thanks

  • Arindam Chakraborty says:

    Hello,

    I have recently trekked with a company named PAC Adventures. http://www.pacadventures.com/

    I was very much surprised to see their approach towards trekking as well as the ecological balance is concerned.

    Some Points I would like to mention.

    Firstly their group size is remarkably small(10 or less). As clients we had plenty of flexibilities while on the trail. Each one was equally supported by their team-mates and the whole trek turned out to be a friends reunion. The whole team moved in a group irrespective of few being fast or slow.

    Secondly the most important thing they emphasised was acclimatization.

    Food was ample and hygienic and sometimes it was a grand feast(in those conditions). Everybody had adequate supply.

    I was really surprised to see their environment friendly nature. The team mates even collected back the candy wrappers which the trekkers chewed on the way. While I have seen many trails where you are penalised for littering…these people took a slight different approach. They rewarded people for maintaining the zero plastic rule. Everyday in the evening meet the most eco-friendly person was selected and was rewarded. This created a sense of responsibility among the trekkers and on the last days clients also took part in the clean up programme. We collected back water bottles, wrappers, noodle packets, cigarette buds(some people dare to smoke on high altitude treks) and what so ever polluting agents.

    Lastly I would love to mention the price which is irrelevant to this topic but many operators give an excuse that they cannot look after the environment control factor due to the competitive price(lack of man management). The price they quoted was below the others but still the environment factor was well maintained. Its not the money but the mentality that matters.

  • Daksh Kapoor says:

    First a fall, I would like to tell you that you have done a wonderful task.
    Keep it up.
    Now coming to Dzongri Goecha La trek :
    Goecha La is a high mountain pass in Sikkim, India in the Himalaya range.The southeast face of Mt. Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain, is viewable from the pass, which is also a base camp for those aspiring to scale the mountain.
    Anyone looking forward to adventurous place in INDIA? After an exhaustive on line research I found this best package .Check it out.
    http://www.365hops.com/social/event_detail.php?eventid=VkZod1RrNVJQVDA9

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