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Kangchenjunga – the third highest mountain in the world, provides an inspiring backdrop for the Goechala Trek
Until the discovery of the height of Mt Everest in the 19th century, Kangchenjunga was considered to be the highest mountain in the world. Viewing its huge flanks rising high above the foothills, it is not hard to understand why, while the many 7000m peaks complete an impressive panorama.Yet there are more than mountain views to whet the appetite of the seasoned trekker. The trails lead from steamy, subtropical forest with bamboo, luxuriant ferns and orchids to temperate forest bands with ancient oak and rhododendron trees before heading to the alpine meadows that afford uninterrupted views of the East Ridge of the mighty Kangchenjunga.
New Jalpaiguri Railway Station(NJP) is located in the Jalpaiguri District which is considered to be the Gateway to the Northeast. All major cities and towns are connected to NJP via the Indian Railways. The closet airport is Bagdogra Airport which is about 16km from NJP. From NJP we take a taxi to Yuksom in Sikkim. This journey will take us approximately 6 hrs. Yuksom is a beautiful town in West Sikkim which was once the capital of Sikkim. Overnight stay in Yuksom
This is the first day of the trek. After walking across open fields we enter the beautiful valley of the Rathong river. En route appreciate ancient Oak, Conifer and Bamboo forests and the luxuriant ferns and delicate orchids that line the trail . Yuksom (1760m) marks the entrance to the Kangchenjunga National Park. Just after leaving the village you can see Baktim on a ridge high above the confluence of the Rathong and Prek Rivers, which will give you an idea of how to pace yourself for the day. Sachen is located at about 7200 feet above sea level. At Sachen we will find a lot of Log huts were we will spend the night.
The trek from Sachen to Tshoka involves quite considerable attitude gain. We continue walking until we reach the bridge over the river,Perk. Prayer flags in the distance are an indication of the start of the Goechala trail. We trek through Oak and later Rhododendron forests. On the way we pass through Bakhim. Bakhim has a forest rest house and a tea and snack stall. We can stop and rest for a while and enjoy the view of the Yuksom Valley. From Bakhim, Tshoka, is about an hour. From a distance you will see a trekkers hut on a plateau.This is Tshoka. Overnight stay in Tshoka.
On the fourth day we have a steep climb. You will be surrounded by Rhododendron forests all around. After about half an hour in to the trek the trail changes to a well laid out path with wooden logs. In some time we reach Phedang. At 12,000 feet and a source of water nearly Phedang is a perfect place to stop for lunch. We then continue for Dzongri. Through this leg of the trek you will be reaching over 13,000 feet, so headaches are not uncommon due to the thin air. In about 6 -7hrs we reach Dzongri. Overnight stay at Dzongri.
Today we start a steep ascend to Dzongri top which will take up about an hour. This is the highest point on the trek from where we will get a 180 degree panoramic view of the Kanchenchunja range. If we start early at 4am we can reach the top just in time for the sunrise. Experience how the golden rays of the sun interact with this magnificent mountain range. After enjoying this spectacular view we retrace our steps to Dzongri.
Beyond Dzongri, the peak of Pandim looms above the Prek Valley. Below the mountain peaks are countless hanging glaciers and snowfields that define the upper reaches of this impressive alpine valley and the route to the Goecha La, providing a taste of the days to follow. The hanging glaciers and moraine fields leave little doubt that you are in the midst of the high mountains while the alpine meadows are particularly attractive during May. From camp, head east from Dzongri to a series of cairns above the Prek Valley. From the ridge, a steep descent though rhododendron forest leads to the riverbed before heading up along the boulder-strewn riverbed to a bridge over the Prek River. The trail leads to the meadows at Thangsing(3930m). Overnight stay at Thangsing.
The trek to the rarefied climes of the Goecha La is rewarded with unrivaled views of the massive East Ridge of Kangchenjunga high above the Talung Glacier as well as views of the high ridges and peaks that enclose the upper Prek Valley. Looking north there is a vast mountain region yet to explore, but for now the Goecha La is as far as you are permitted to go. The pass is often shrouded in mist and cloud not long after sunrise, so an early start is necessary. The trail heads along the far side of the lake and through moraine before crossing a sandy section alongside the Onglakhing Glacier. From here, you can see the pass at the head of the valley. However, the trek through the lateral moraine is tiring – more so if there has been a recent snowfall.The Goecha La is marked with fluttering, colourful prayer flags, framing the peak of Kangchenjunga. Lead the same trek towards Lamuney and then move forwards to reach the destination for the day- Kockchurang. You can choose to set up your tent near the bank of the river or you can also reside in the trekkers hut.
From Kockchurang we trek back to Tshoka via Phedang the way we came.
We retrace our steps back to Yuksom via Bhakim and Sachen. Next day we take a cab back to NJP.
We drive back from Yuksom to NJP.