Goecha La Trek


Goecha La is one of the most popular treks in India. Located in Kanchenjunga National Park, in the north-eastern state of Sikkim, the trail shall take you closer to the tallest peak of India. That is true, Goecha La view point 1 is the closest you can get to Mt. Kanchenjunga from the Indian side. During the month of May, the trail is filled with colourful Rhododendron flowers that make this a trek a memorable experience. If you have done easy 4-day long Himalayan treks before and are ready for something more challenging, then Goecha La is a trek you cannot afford to miss. Here is all you might want to know before heading there. 


Basic Information

Highest altitude: 15100ft (4600m)

Location: Kanchenjunga National Park

State/Country: Sikkim, India

Base village: Yuksom

Total Distance: 90km

Number of Days: 8 Days

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Experience: At least 1 or 2 high altitude trek experience. 


 

Best Time to Trek

 

The best time to do Goecha La trek is during Spring/Summer. That is, during the month of April or May. The weather at his time of the year is pleasant. Rhododendron flowers of all colours bloom along the trail thus enhancing the experience. The temperature can dip as low as -5°C at night. 

 

You can also do this trek during fall/Post monsoon - October or November. However, it will get colder from Dzongri and beyond. The temperature can dip as low as -12°C.



Plan Your Trek

 

You can do this trek through a trek organiser or by yourself. If you have a bigger group, then doing it by yourself would be economical. But for smaller groups, going though trek organisers works out better. 

 

I have trekked several times with Himalaya Trekkers and I highly recommend them. You can also checkout Bikat Adventures and contact the local trek organisers - Red Panda Tours and travel. You will need to carry the below mentioned documents to avail a permission at Forest office in Yuksom. 

 

If you plan to trek on your own, here are the steps to follow - 

1. Get a permit from the Forest department - This will take a few minutes. Carry a Photo ID, a medical fitness certificate from a doctor and two passport size photographs. 

2. You can carry your tents or book a bed at the shelters along the way. The forest department will be able to help you with the necessary contacts at various places to book a bed in advance. The room will have no amenities. You will have to carry your sleeping bag. 

3. Almost all shelters have a caretaker who can cook basic food for you. You can also take a cook from the village along with you.


Book Your Transport

Siliguri situated in the north of West Bengal is the transport hub to get to North-east of India. For those traveling from the South, a direct flight to Bagdogra airport will be the best option. You can also take a flight to Kolkata and then a train to New Jalpaiguri(NJP). There are plenty of trains arriving at this station form various parts of the country. From here, take an auto rickshaw to Siliguri town. (More about transport in the  below section).  


Buy The Necessary Trekking Gears


Here is my list of things that you must be carry for this trek. Though not a winter trek, since the temperature drops to -5°C, you will need some moderate winter clothing. 

 

1. Winter Clothes - A good winter jacket (Must), socks, Winter Gloves, Mufflers, Woollen head cap. 

2. Trekking Shoes - A good trekking shoe is a must. A good shoe is your best friend on these slippery trails. 

3. Backpack - A 50L backpack would be perfect for this and future treks. 

4. Water proof bags - It is better to pack your clothes in waterproof bags/covers.

5. Poncho - It does rain or snow during this time. Therefore this is a must. Is available at Yuksom for rent. 

6. Water bottle

7. Sunscreen

8. Lip balm

9. Power bank - Buy a good 20000mAh if you want to capture the moments.

10. Head torch - A must for sunrise trek on Day 3.

11. Trekking Pole - Preferably 2 but 1 is sufficient. Can be rented at Yuksom.

12. Food - Carry some light protein bars/Chikkis  for yourself even though the organisers arrange food. 

13. Sleeping bag and Tent if you are traveling by yourself. 


Stay in Siliguri


Whether you take a flight to Bagdogra airport or a Train to NJP, you will have to come to Siliguri town for accommodation. The taxi fare from Bagdogra Airport to town will cost you around Rs 400-600. There are plenty of Auto rickshaws plying between NJP railway station and town. They may charge you around Rs 50 for this shared drive. 

 

Surprisingly, Siliguri does not have any hostels. You will have to stay at a local lodge. There are plenty of options but the one I found descent is Hotel Saluja  on Hill cart road. You can book a hostel room (With shared bathroom) for Rs 500. Twin hostel rooms are available at Rs750. The place is clean and economical. The location is perfect. It is about 1.5km from the Bus station.  

 

Traveling around Siliguri is pretty easy. Take a shared electric auto rickshaw. A ride would not cost you more than Rs20 to any place in town. Here is my blog post of things you can do in Siliguri.



How to Reach Yuksom


Reaching Yuksom is not as difficult as one might think. Near Tenzing Norgay bus station or Sikkim National Transport Bus terminus at Siliguri, you will find several shared taxis heading to various places in Sikkim. There might be a direct shared taxi from Siliguri to Yuksom. The frequency of which might be less.  However, there will be plenty of taxis heading to Jorethang. A taxi fare to Jorethang will cost you Rs 250 per head. At Jorethang taxi stand, you can find several taxis heading to Yuksom. The ride would cost you Rs 300 per head. The prices are fixed and well planned therefore there is no bargaining or confusion. 

 


Stay in Yuksom


There are several good homestays and hotels in Yuksom town. I would recommend Limboo Homestay. They will charge you anywhere from Rs800-1000 per bed, including food. You can also lookup for other hotels located in town centre. 

 


The Trail 



The beauty of Goecha La trail is that the landscape changes every day. It is the most interesting trail I have ever been on. Here is a detailed report on the trail. 

 

Day 01: 16-Apr-2022

Route: Yuksom (1710 m/5600 ft) to Sachen (2200 m/7200 ft) 

Distance: 8km (4H)


It is an easy trek on the first day. You walk through the village and reach the Kanchenjunga National Park entrance. The hike involves steep descent through the forest. You will pass through a few waterfalls, suspension bridges before arriving at Sachen. There is a Shelter at Sachen. The caretakers serve hot food and tea upon order. The camping sites are located around the area. There is a stream flowing by the shelter. There are also a few public toilets. 

 

Day 02 (17-Apr-2022) - Sachen (2200 m/7200 ft) To Tsokha (2960 m/9700 ft) via Bakhim 

7km (5H)


 

From dense forests, you walk higher up into the mountains. Take a short break at Bakhim shelter. People also choose to stay at Bakhim instead of Sachen. The first viewing of Rhododendron flowers should happen on the trail between Bakhim and Tsokha. On either side of the trail are the Rhododendron trees, hopefully in full bloom during the month of May. 


Tsokha shelter is situated at a beautiful location, by an old Tibetan monastery. There are a couple of shelters here. You can book a room there. A bed will cost you around Rs 100 per night. Make sure to walk up to the viewpoint on a neighbouring hill to take a good look at Mt Pandim, Lama and Lamini mountains. The camp sight is often visited by several Red-billed blue magpies. 

 

Day 03 (18-Apr-2022) - Tsokha (2960 m/9700 ft) To Dzongri (3970 m/13,024  ft) 

12km (6H)

 

The trek from Tsokha to Dzongri is a long and challenging, as you gain significant altitude. Oak trees give way to Pine trees. Take a quick lunch break at Phedang shelter. The next stretch is filled with Rhododendron trees. This is the most scenic stretch during the month of May with the flowers in full bloom. After that long walk, you will be rewarded with spectacular views at your Dzongri campsite. 


Walk up to the neighbouring hills to catch the glimpse of the mountains you are surrounded by. There are a fews shelters, a shop and toilets. 

 

Day 04 (19-Apr-2022) - Dzongri Top - 4200 m/  13,681 ft . Dzongri (3970 m/ 13,024 ft) To Thansing (3704m / 12,152 ft)

10KM (6-7H)


At dawn, trek to Dzongri top to get a 360 degree view of the Himalayan range. Head there at around 4am as the sun rises at around 5:30 AM. It is a short but steep climb of around an hour. 


The trek from Dzongri to Thansing involves a steep descent to Kokchurang and then a walk along the Prek Chu river to Thansing. The walk is not very difficult as it is mostly a descent. The views from Thansing are spectacular. You have reached the foothills of snowcapped mountains. There are a few shelters here. This is the last shelter you will find on this trail.



Day 05 (20-Apr-2022) - Thansing (3704 m /12,152 ft) To Lamuney (4150 m/13700 ft)

4KM (2H)

 

Thansing to Lamuney is an easy trek and should not take you more than 2 hours. It is almost flat. The location is spectacular. If you have a choice then definitely spend a night here. There is a kitchen and a public toilet at Lamuney. You can camp by the shelter. Most people choose to stay at Thansing and trek from there the next morning. 

 

Day 06 (21-Apr-2022)- Lamuney (4150 m/13700 ft) To Goecha La View Point 1 (4600 m/15,100 ft) and back to 

Kokchurang (3757m / 12,000ft)

16KM (8H)

 

Finally the day you have been waiting for arrives - The summit day. It is advisable to begin your trek no later than 3AM. The climb is steep at places.  It will take you around 2 hours to reach Goecha La Viewpoint 1. The trail passes through Samiti lake and climbs closer to the base of Mt Pandim. 

 

You will need adequate clothing on this day to bear the cold. Also, be careful while descending as the snow begins to melt when the sun goes up. During November, you might need gaiters and spikes to trek in this region. Check the weather conditions beforehand. 

 

After that exhilarating climb to the viewpoint, descend to Lamuney or Thansing and then continue your journey back to Kokchurang. It is a long but easy trek. There is a shelter at Kokchurang with around four rooms. You can also camp by the river. 


 

Day 07 (22-Apr-2022)

Kokchurang (3757m / 12,000ft) To Tsokha (2960 m/9700 ft)

18KM (6H)



To avoid climbing upto Phedang, the trail from Kokchurang to Toskha is a long winding trail around the surrounding hills. The trek is not very steep but long and tiring for sure. You leave behind th snow-capped mountains and walk back to the pine and oak forests. 

 

Day 08 (23-Apr-2022)

Tsokha (2960 m/9700 ft) To Yuksom (1710 m/5600 ft)  

15KM (6H)

 


The last stretch is definitely the most tiring part of the entire trek. Remember the descent from Yuksom to Sachen? Well, on the way back you have some steep climbs. The views are not new anymore and hopefully the beautiful experience will keep you motivated to finish this trek. Take enough rest and enjoy this last stretch back to the village of Yuksom. 


Important Things to Ponder Upon

Goecha La Viewpoint 1 is located at 15100 ft. Goecha La Viewpoint 2 and 3 are closed for trekkers now due to spotting of snow leopards and certain casualties in the past.

So, make sure that you are not having any issues with high altitude. In case you find it difficult to breath at a certain altitude, then make sure to return immediately. Chances are that you might suffer from HAPE (High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema), a condition caused by excess fluid in the lungs. 

The weather conditions in the mountains are extreme. One has to be phyiscally and mentally prepared before venturing into the Himalayas. Goecha La, by no means, is an easy trek!


My Experience



This was my third Himalayan trek and I must say that it was the best I have done thus far. There is something inexplicable about the Himalayas that separates it out from other mountain ranges. Goecha La trek takes you so high up in the Himalayas that all you can see nothing but snowcapped mountains around you. 


We had an exciting trekking experience. On our way, we got stuck in a hail storm. Luckily, we found shelter under a huge rock. At Lamuney campsite, it snowed heavily and turned the place white. The view from Lamuney campsite was spectacular. Needless to say that the sunrise at Goecha La viewpoint was mesmerising. I sat there for more than an hour absorbing the magnificent view. The simplicity of the inhabitants of Yuksom touched me and from them, I received a new perspective towards life. For me, this was the most memorable trekking experience of my life. My video should take you through my journey. 

 


My Film on Goecha La - 




Comments

  1. Looks like this is quite a tough one, that only committed trekkers or mountaineers can do .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Pradeep. That is correct. One or two High altitude trek experience will be required to enjoy this moderate level trek.

      Delete
    2. Oh! but no mountaineering skills required.

      Delete

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