Trekkers guide to the Yuksom - Dzongri - Gochela trek

By @Saravana |
The Yuksom - GoeCha La trek in Western Sikkim takes you right under the shadow of the mighty Kanchendzonga, the 3'rd highest mountain in the world. This 7-8 day trek, is one of the more remote and stunning treks in India, taking one through forests of Rhododendron and valleys covered with lichen and moss, offering numerous birding opportunities and encounters with herds of Bharal or Blue mountain sheep and not to mention the stunning vistas of some of the highest mountains in the world.

No wonder this is a very popular trek in Sikkim.

Permits and Logistics :

Individuals are not allowed to undertake this trek. You'll need to be accompanied by a guide or atleast a porter. This is done to promote job creation in the local villages and also to keep an eye on travelers for their own safety and prevent them from sneaking into Tibet. Also trekkers need to register themselves at the Yuksom police station and also pay the permit fee to the forest department (and take an inventory of all your disposable plastic items) before entering the Kanchendzonga national park.

Back in 2007, the rates were 300 Rs/day for guides and 150/day for porters. Pack animals cost an additional 150Rs/day. Although these rates might've changed in the 4 years since i've been on the trek. Trekking gear like sleeping bags (they have nice down filled sleeping bags available), sleeping pads, gloves etc can be rented at the Yuksom market. Your guide or porter can help arrange everything. You can also buy the necessary provisions like Rice/Veggies/Noodles/Bread etc from the Yuksom market.

For a fully supported trek with a guide, cook, tents, porters etc the cost was around 1500/Rs per person per day. Although all these costs might have changed considerably in the years passed.

The Food Situation:
This is not a tea house trek. The only restaurant available enroute is at Tshoka (the settlement above Yuksom and the first day's halt). The chowkidars (caretakers) at the various trekking huts may be able to whip you up something hot or share their Dal Chaawal with you (remember it was about 50Rs a plate) but do count on it. It is better to carry as much food as you can carry, remembering the fact that the load will get lighter as you climb higher.

Recommend carrying lightweight, high energy food items like dry fruits and nuts and a few chunky cheese cubes. Also carry oral rehydration packs like Electral to replenish your salts after a hard day of trekking. The glacial streams are pure and the water should be safe for drinking (especially after Tshoka), carry purifying tables for your peace of mind.
The main trek to the GoeCha La pass (via Dzongri) and back takes about 7 to 8 days. This however can be extended (a trip to Chaurikhang) or shortened (return back after Dzongri) based on the time constraints on the traveler. A typical itinerary on this trek is as follows.

Day 1: Yuksom -> Tshoka (7hrs, moderate)

Day 2: Tshoka -> Pedhang -> Dzongri (6hrs, moderate+)

Day 3: Rest at Dzongri (catch early morning sunrise at the Dzongri Top, and wander around the Dzongri meadows in the afternoon)

Day 4: Dzongri -> Thansing (4hrs, moderate-. The downhill climb from Dzongri towards Kokchurung is hard on the knees)

Day 5: Thansing -> Lamune (2hrs, easy. In the morning climb up the hill to the right of Thansing to catch the early morning sunrise over the Kanchendzonga)

Day 6: Lamune -> Samiti Lake -> Zemathang -> GoeChala Pass -> Lamune/Thansing/Kokchurung (8hrs, Difficult)

Day 7: Back to Tshoka (6-8hrs moderate. Here the way back has 2 routes. One can either chose to climb up to Dzongri and then go back down to Tshoka or take a bypass trail through the forests from Kokchurung to Pedhang. The trail is very small and difficult to find in the snow but without snow it is the preferred route back to Tshoka)

Day 8: Tshoka - Yuksom (5hrs, easy)

Extensions :
For those with extra time, this trek can be extended by a couple of days to include Chaurikhang where the HMI (Himalayan Mountaineering Institute) base camp is located. This camp is located at the edge of the Ratong glacier with spectacular views of the surrounding peaks. Another sight not to be missed is Dudh Pokhari lake surrounded by high peaks.

The Trekking Huts and Camping sites along the route..

1.Bakhim (~9000ft/2750m) : 12kms away from Yuksom the Forest Rest House at Bakhim can be used as a overnight shelter for weary travelers. However if you have the energy i suggest you carry on for another 3km (about an hours trek) and reach Tshoka.

2.Tshoka (~9800ft/3000m): A small village settlement of about 10 houses, Apart from the Trekkers Hut there are couple of other makeshift guesthouses (run by the trekking agencies for their clients) where you can find accommodation. There is also a restaurant here at Tshoka where you can have your dinner and breakfast and get a packed lunch for the tough day ahead.

3. Phidang (~11800ft/3600m): A 3 hour steep (slippery in wet conditions) climb up from Tshoka bring one to Phidang. This site is nothing more than a large clearing where the trekkers stop for lunch (a broken down shed is used by the groups to make food). 

4. Dzongri (~13200ft/4030m): From Phidang the route is flat for a while before it climbs up to Mon Lepcha (a pass above Dzongri), after taking in the stunning views from here, you'll have to climb down towards the Dzongri Trekkers Hut.

5. Kokchurong (~12150ft/3700m) : From Dzongri, a trai to the right goes east climbing up along a small stream and down to the valley of the Prek Chu river. The downward climb has numerous steep switchbacks and is pretty hard on the knees. Finally at the base of the decent you'll reach the Kokchurong Trekkers Hut by the banks of the Prek Chu river.

6. Thansing (~12500ft/3800m):  After Kokchurong, you'll have cross to the right bank of the Prek Chu river (using a couple of bridges) and walk up along its moss and boulder strewn banks towards Thansing. On a clear day you'll great views of Mt.Pandim looming above you and this is one of the most beautiful stretches of this trek. There is a trekkers hut at Thansing and the campground is lush and wide.

7. Lamune (~13400ft/4100m): From Thansing its a gentle 2-3 hour walk along the Prek Chu valley to the Lamune camping site. Since the Trekkers hut at the Samiti lake is closed down (for environmental reasons), Lamune is the base camp for the trek upto the GoeCha La pass. This is a pure tent-only camping ground without any other means of shelter available.

8. Samiti Lake (~14750ft/4500m): The Samiti lake is a beautiful high altitude lake located at the base of the climb to the GoeCha pass. The Trekkers hut here is abandoned and tourists are not allowed to stay here for the fear of pollution to the lake.

9. Zemathang (~16240ft/4950m): The Zemathang viewpoint (GoeCha La viewpoint 1) is where all the trekkers come to experience the magical panoramic sunrise scenes over the Kanchendzonga mountains. From the Lamune campsite its a difficult climb up to the view point. You'll have to start by 3:00am inorder to arrive at the Zemathang view point in time to catch the sunrise. There is a trekkers hut being constructed here, so perhaps in the future trekkers can stay here overnight and be spared of the early morning trek (but do be wary of staying overnight at such high altitude).

10.GoChela pass (~16700ft/5100m) : From Zemathang one has to climb down a small hill (very slippery in the snow) and walk along a glacial moraine and once again climb up a few hundred meters to reach GoeCha La. It overlooks the Talung valley and has great views of the south face of Kanchendzonga.
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