Goecha La is a high altitude trek in West Sikkim famous for grand views of Mt Kanchenjunga. Over a week, we climbed to 5000m and were suitably rewarded with surreal views. Here's a quick story of what happened and what we saw, in pictures!
I'm not going to make you wait to show you what the trek was all about! Here's a grand view of the 8586m high mammoth of a mountain, the mighty Kanchenjunga, third highest mountain in the whole world. We trudged up to a height of 5000m, walked for a whole week, in the night, in the morning, in the evening for this. For this view, we hiked from 1AM till 3PM the next day, worth it? Totally!
Sikkim is famous for two things, unobstructed view of Mt. Kanchenjunga and the stunning rhododendron bloom that paints the landscape in all shades in April/May. We didn't miss the glory, we saw flowers of all colors - pink, yellow, red, white! This was on the second day of the trek, we gained a height of whopping 5000ft in a single day. It was crazy as hell.
The treks starts from Yuksom in West Sikkim. The first day we entered Kanchenjunga National Park and walked through dense forests with nasty little flying insects and abundant yaks for company. We started from Yuksom and camped at Bakhim(9000ft) for the night.
The next day was a long day. We started from Bakhim towards Dzongri at 14000ft high. The climb was long and endless but this view at the Devrali Top made up for it. For the first time, we saw the clouds clear up to show the mountains hiding behind them. It was a glorious day, two things Sikkim's known for were right in front of us - the mountains and the flowers.
The third morning, we woke up at the ungodly hour of 3AM and climbed to up to a sunrise point, Dzongri Top at 15000ft. Because sunrise happens here at 4.30AM. It was so damn cold that it was impossible to stand still, we had to keep moving to generate body warmth. Taking pictures was next to impossible for me as I tend to get very cold very easily. But having a good lens helped! Early morning glory shining on the mountain tops. This looks like Mt. Kabru but need confirmation.
Same morning, same place, another view. Turning back from Dzongri Top I saw clouds fill up the valleys, ready to leave.
On the fourth day, we marched towards Lamuney, the camp before Goecha La. The terrain was flat, felt like high altitude with little vegetation and stark landscapes. We walked on the pleasant terrain for a while before the altitude dropped like crazy. We went down to Kokhchurung all the way down to the river and walked up again to our campsite. From 14500ft we lost the altitude just like that.
So it turned out the campsite at Lamuney was full, so we stopped at Thansing. But the catch was on the summit day, we'll have to cover that extra distance and climb to the pass and walk back extra to reach back to Thansing. So we did, woke up at 1AM and climbed and climbed and climbed and climbed. It was a long climb to 5000m/16000ft and back! But we did it, for the sake of mountains. Seen here is Mt. Pandim glowing in the moonlight.
We reached Goecha La View Point 1 by sunrise time, it was a very difficult climb for me considering I hadn't exercised at all in 2 years but I made it. Barely so, but I reached. We got a small glimpse of might Kanchenjunga, the same picture you saw at the beginning of the post. But then we proceeded towards Goecha La View Point ahead for a close up view of Kanchenjunga. That was the longest hike ever, at least if felt like that. We crossed a desert, a barren rocky field and a huge mountain slope covered in scree. Only I know how I crawled through the landscape, and thanks to few other friends who were equally tired but wanted to reach the viewpoint2, I managed to reach the second viewpoint. But what a disappointment because Kanchenjunga was right in front of us, completely shrouded in clouds! No view, zilch! But the silver lining was this gorgeous glacial lake, Goecha Lake.
This is the view of Kanchenjunga from Dzongri Top, since we didn't see anything from Goecha La View point 2, I'm showing you this. :) My friends went ahead on another hour long hike to the original Goecha La while me and a friend embarked on the impossibly long hike back to campsite.
The hike back to the campsite, Thansing was so long it felt like an eternity. We we were so spent with the climb up that walking back felt impossible. We slept on the desert, stopped by the moraines, sat by the lake side and yet the campsite was nowhere near. We walked all afternoon and finally reached 14 hours after we started.
The sparkling blue Samiti Lake just below Goecha La Viewpoint 1. The sun sparkled for few minutes to reveal its colors. It was cloudy for most of the trek, I didn't see blue skies, gorgeous sunsets or glorious mornings. It was cold and cloudy all the time but at least we got view of Kanchenjunga when it mattered!
The surreal landscape of high altitudes in Sikkim. The land was barren but stubborn vegetation dotted the landscape. A clear water stream ran through the valley and somewhere between this is Lamuney campsite. We walked past it to the next campsite.
On the fifth day, we were back to greenery. We walked along the river for a long time before entering dense forest where no yak has littered the path. It was extremely long again, but beautiful nonetheless. Our guide, Basant enjoying the view or rather waiting for the laggard, me! ;)
Yaks are used as the pack animals in Sikkim. And the thing with yaks is they carry little, are quite stubborn and they shit a lot! So you can imagine the trail with the rains, slush and abundant yak shit. The trail was the dirtiest I've ever walked upon and I wondered at my own decision of hiking with yaks. Sometime in future I'd like to do away with pack animals and hike alpine style. But for now, I had to live with the guilt. This trail from Kokhchurung to Dzongri however was only for hikers, yaks go through another route. This day was again very long but also extremely beautiful. We climbed through narrow trails amidst dense misty forest and full of rhododendron bloom. The next day, another long walk later we were back in Yuksom.
Goecha La is a trek unlike any other I have been on so far. It is undoubtedly the most beautiful in terms of views but the route is a little bit tricky. You climb almost every day, even when you are returning back. But there are trekkers huts everywhere making the trek a little bit comfortable. The views were worth the effort however, Sikkim is very very beautiful. I was convinced of this again.