Sikkim Trek - Kanchenjunga Ridge Trek
When John began guiding on Mt. Rainier in 1989 he had the honor to work with Nawang Gombu, the Sherpa who accompanied Jim Whitaker to the summit of Everest on the first American ascent of Mt. Everest in 1963. This eventually led to a trek to Sikkim organized by the Northwest Mountain School in 1997. Together, John and Gombu traveled in this area with a small group of trekkers. At the time access to the area was highly restricted for foreigners, and John vowed to return as more terrain opened up. That opportunity has finally arrived and John will be leading a trek in the Fall of 2011 to an area recently opened. We will be working to organize the trip with the help of Gombu's daughter, now the owner of a very successful trekking company in India.
Sikkim, once an independent Himalayan kingdom, is now an Indian State in the Northern part of India. It lies just east of Nepal, south of Tibet, and to the northwest of Bhutan. Kanchenjunga, the world's 3rd highest mountain, lies on the border between Sikkim and Nepal, and will be viewed throughout the trek. The mountains of Sikkim are remote, forested down low, and present an interesting blend of cultures, influenced by Sikkim's proximity to Tibet, Nepal, and its annexation by India in 1975. The history of Sikkim is fascinating and is heavily influenced by the fact that it lies so close to Tibet, controlled by the Chinese, who have often claimed that Sikkim is part of Tibet, therefore part of China.
This is a highly customized program and will be limited to 8 participants and will be led by IFMGA guide John Race and Tenjee Sherpa. John and Tenjee have previously guided together in Ladakh and on Denali, North America's highest mountain. Our trip will include visits to Darjeeling, a lovely town in the mountains surrounded by tea plantations, and home to a significant population of Sherpas and Tibetans, with a rich history as a British "hill station" during the time the British Empire occupied India.
For those who have never been to the Taj Majal, you will also have the option to visit the Agra at the end of the trip. From Agra you can visit the Taj Majal, the Agra Fort, and Fatehpu Sikri.
Sikkim Trek Itinerary
Day 1: Depart US for flight to New Delhi, India
Day 2: Arrive New Delhi late night. Transfer to hotel close to the airport for short layover.
Day 3: Depart for the airport at 8am for the 10am flight to Bagdogra arriving there at noon. On arrival, complete entry formalities and drive to Darjeeling (3 ½ hrs) stopping en-route at Kurseong for some tea and snacks. In Darjeeling. (night in hotel)
Day 4: After breakfast, visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) Everest Museum, the Tibetan Refugee self help center and perhaps the old Happy Valley Tea Garden where tea is made in the traditional way. Afternoon free to explore on your own in Darjeeling. (night in hotel)
Day 5: After an early breakfast, we set off by jeep for the 5 ½ to 6 hour drive to Pemayangste (7380'/2250m.). We spend the night at either Phamrong hotel or Norbhugang. In the evening you can visit Pemayangtse, the 2nd oldest monastery in Sikkim. (night in hotel)
Day 6: After breakfast, we take a scenic 3 hour drive, through the tea plantations to Uttarey . The road follows the River Ranjit, passing through a beautiful steep sided valley en route. Our first walking day of the trip is on a good trail, through an abundant rhododendron forest, to a campsite clearing near the forest guards hut at Chitre (8,792'/2680m.). (4 to 5 hours trekking w/ night in tent)
Day 7: Today’s is a short walk to our camp below Chiwabhanjang (10,270'/3130m). We will walk to Singalila (12,090'/3685m) which is a good acclimatization hike and weather permitting, has fantastic views of the Kanchenjunga range. We return to camp in time for tea. (2 hours trekking w/ night in tent)
Day 8: We begin with a steep climb but on a well defined and ancient path through rhododendron forests to a clearing where there are some prayer flags at 11,482'/3500m ( 1 ½ hrs). We then descend to a point at 10,825'/3300 meters, with the path winding between Nepal and Sikkim and offering spectacular views from the ridge. The trail here literally clings to the ridge top with no way down on either side. We stop for lunch before continuing to another ridge top and then to camp near the yak herders camp at Dhor (12,200'/3720m). Water is often scarce at this and the next campsite, which means that the kitchen staff have to descend a long way to find water. We camp on the Nepal side of the ridge and have splendid views across a succession of ridges, as well as a beautiful sunset panorama of the high peaks of Nepal, including Makalu and Everest. (7 to 8 hours trekking w/ night in tent)
Day 9: We get up early to go to the viewpoint to watch the sunrise on Kanchenjunga – the world’s 3rd highest mountain. Most of the day is spent climbing and descending until camp at Khamsong Danda (12,630'/3850m) just before Paharay Megu (12,900'/3930m). Today's hike stays high, between 11,800'/3600 and 12,800'/3900m, and our camp is a grazing ground for yaks. (5 to 6 hours trekking w/ night in tent)
Day 10: Leaving camp at Khamsong Danda, we descend before beginning a steady climb. The terrain becomes more open and the views of the mountains get larger. We follow a wide valley passing a large waterfall to camp near the holy lakes at Lam Pokhari (13,780'/4200m) . We are in camp by lunch in preparation for a long day tomorrow. There are several holy lakes around the camp and many are very important pilgrim sites for Sikkimese who come here during the monsoon months. In the evening we are again rewarded with a spectacular sunset on Makalu and other high peaks. (3 to 4 hrs trekking w/ night in tent)
Day 11: We leave early today to get the early morning views from Danfe Bir pass, about 45 minutes from camp. The pass can be seen from a distance as we switchback our way up to the pass. We then descend and then go up again to Danphebir at 14,765'/4500m, which is marked by hundreds of prayer flags. Once again the view is spectacular. We then descend through open terrain and pine an juniper forests to lunch by the river at Gomathang. After lunch we climb for about 2 hrs to our camp at Yangseb by the river . (6-7 hrs trekking w/ night in tent)
Day 12: We contour the hillside and cross a small river and then one final climb to a small pass at 14,140'/4310m and offering views looking back to the mountains. We then continue to camp at Panding (14,025'/4275m). (5 hours trekking w/ night in tent)
Day 13: We have a fairly long day of ups and downs as we cross another 2 small passes and finally descend to camp at Ghate (12,960'/3950m) placed well in dramatic settings beneath the southwest face of Kabru massif. (6 – 7 hours trekking w/ night in tent)
Day 14: Today’s is a relatively easy walk to Dzongri . We cross the river and then climb gradually to the pass and then descend through the vast grazing grounds of Dzongri (12,960'/3950m) . From here we get excellent views of Rathong and other mountains besides Kanchenjunga. (4 hours trekking w/ night in tent)
Day 15: An early start for the half hour walk to a viewpoint above our camp on a lovely trail past fluttering prayer flags where we are rewarded by spectacular views of the sunrise on Kangchenjunga and the neighboring peaks of; Rathong (21,925'/6683m.), Kokthang (20,177'/6150m.), Kabru Dome (21,667'/6604m.) and Forked Peak (20,066'/6116m.). The day’s walk starts with a short climb to a ridge, which affords open views across Sikkim. We follow this scenic ridge for about 5 km, before descending very steeply down a spur to our lunch spot on the banks of the glacial Praig Chu. A short stretch of boulder hopping, and then we cross the stream to begin the climb to Thangsing, a large open campsite in a grassy pasture. The southern Ridge of Kangchenjunga and the moraines of the Oglathang Glacier are visible directly ahead, and there are close-up views of Pandim. We have lunch at Thangsing and continue for another 2 hrs to camp at Lamune (13,660'/4164m) It is an easy walk in a wide open valley after crossing the stream with Kanchenjunga looming straight ahead. (6 hours trekking w/ night in tent)
Day 16: We have a very early start and follow a terminal moraine scree trail up a switchbacked path from where you descend to Samiti Pokhari. This sacred lake with prayer flags around it is surrounded by a number of snow-capped peaks, including Pandim which is close enough to touch. From here we will make the hard, four-hour climb up to Goecha La at 15,750'/4800m. The trail skirts the lake, before ascending a series of moraine ridges on the eastern edge of the Oglathang Glacier. As we climb, we have increasingly spectacular views of the mountains and valleys to the south and east, but these are overshadowed by the panorama that unfolds ahead of us when we reach the prayer-flagged Goecha La. Rising more than 13,125'/4000 meters above the Talung Glacier, just 5 km away, is the stunning eastern wall of Kangchenjunga, which includes the five principal summits of the massif and also the very impressive Kabru and Rathong peaks. We return to Samity Lake by early afternoon and have lunch before continuing downhill for another hour to the same camp at Lamune or further to Thangsing. (9-10 hrs. trekking w/ night in tent)
Day 17: We backtrack to the river from where we take another route, avoiding Dzongri to Phedang. We cross a clearing in the forest and descend through thick , tall rhododendron and magnolia forests to the tiny settlement of Tsokha. (6 hrs. trekking w/ night in tent)
Day 18: Continue the descent through rhododendron forests to the suspension bridge over the Praig chu. From here we follow a hilly trail through forests to the large village of Yuksom. Here we spend the night in a hotel. Yuksom is an important place in Sikkimese history as the first king of Sikkim was coronated here and his seat can still be seen. We can take a walk up to Dubde monastery, Sikkim's first monastery, in the evening or early morning. A small religious lake is also here and looks serene surrounded by prayer flags. (5 hours trekking w/ night in hotel)
Day 19: Drive to Kalimpong after breakfast. Kalimpong, was once an important market town, strategically located at a crossroads between Sikkim, Bhutan, Tibet and the plains of Bengal. One of the principal commercial enterprises of the town today, is the growing of flowers in nurseries. (4 ½ hrs driving w/ night in hotel)
Day 20: Drive to Bagdogra for onward flight to Delhi arriving evening and transfer to International airport for connecting to homeward bound flight early the following morning.
Day 21: Arrive home.