On the Goechala trail


We have been planning to trek in Sikkim for some time and we chose Goechala over Sandakphu as the latter seemed too easy. We trekked from Nov 2 to 9, 2018. These are some quick notes from the trek.

We flew to Bagdogra a day before and stayed in Siliguri. Siliguri was crowded, charmless and was quickly christened the honking capital of India. The one feature of interest was the tum-tum, an ubiquitous mode of transport here.

Tum tum at Siliguri

The next day we traveled by Road to Yuksom. The condition of the roads was reasonable and it took us about 6 hours to reach Yuksom. Yuksom was a small town at the end of the road with a few hotels and other shops.

Day 1

The first day of the trek. We entered the Kanchenjunga national park, walking along the Rathong river. A steady gain in altitude, although there were some downs in the path. Dense forest with oaks and rhododendrons, lots of birds and squirrels, plenty of water. We had a late start at 11.30 am and with a slow walk and a midday break, reached Sachen at 3.30 pm. Cool, but not too cold, slept in tents and had a good nights sleep.

The trail on the first day

Day 2

More climbing on the second day, a steady ascent through dense forests again. Crossed a few bridges across the Perk river. With a 9.30 am start, we reached Tsokha at 3 pm. En route, we had a half an hour stop at Bakhim where we could look back at the Yuksom valley. Another comfortable night at Tsokha, getting colder, but still comfortable.

Day 3

The first tough day of the trek. A steady climb throughout the day, made difficult by the altitude and the cold. At the midday stop at Phedang, it was bitterly cold. Added to this was the headache and breathlessness due to the altitude. We started crossing the tree line on this day and the landscape was dominated by rhododendron bushes, flowerless at this time of the year. Parts of the path on this day were also lined with logs. In total, it took us 7 hours to reach Dzongri where we camped in wooden huts. The cold and high altitude headache made for a poor night's sleep.

Path with wooden logs

Day 4

The schedule called for an early morning climb to Dzongri top for a view of the Kanchenjunga range. But with the cloudy skies and cold, we decided to skip that and proceed straight to Thansing. It was a relatively easy day, starting with a gentle gradient, then a steep descent to Kokchurong at 12,100 ft. From there it was a continuous climb to reach Thansing. Views of Kanchenjunga from camp, but weather continues to be cloudy with mist.

Picture postcard scenery at Kokchurong

Day 5

A rest day with a 2 and half hours, 2 km walk. We had a late start at 11 am and it was a picturesque and comfortable walk. A window of clear weather in evening and night with come good views of Kanchenjunga and the night sky. Another uncomfortable night because of severe cold and the altitude.

The view towards Kanchenjunga Camping under the milky way

Day 6

To reach the viewpoint at sunrise, we started early. With a 3 am start, we climbed through moraine to reach the viewpoint at 5.30 am, just in time to see the first golden rays on the Kanchenjunga range. It was cold on the top, allowing only for a few pictures before we started down again. On the way we walked by the side of the Samiti lake, which we could see better in the light while returning. We were back at the camp by about 8 am and after breakfast, started descending to Kokchurong where we stayed for the night.

First light on the Kanchenjunga range

Day 7

A series of ups and downs led from Kokchurong to Tsokha, but the weather had improved by now and the lower altitude was a welcome break. Arriving at Tsokha, it was almost like the trek was completed although we still had a day to go. Slept comfortably in huts.

Endless valleys towards Yuksom

Day 8

A long, but easy day. Initial descent to Bakhim and then further down to Sachen. From Sachen its a series of ups and downs to reach Yuksom. Tired, but exhilarated to end the trek and reach civilization. Next day, we flew back to our homes from Bagdogra.

A note about the organizers

We did the trek through Thrillophilia after seeing their websites on the trek and seeing them offer regular treks in this region. Word of advice to others planning to do the trek - don't do it with Thrillophilia. They don't do the trek directly, but hand you over to local operators, so essentially you are doing with a small local company, but paying money to thrillophilia to arrange it for you. The best approach would be to approach a company based in Yuksom. From what we saw of other groups on the trek, "Red Panda" seemed to be a prominent local organizer with good tents and gear.

A note about trekking in Sikkim

Having done most of our treks in Himachal and Ladakh, we wanted a taste of Sikkim and it is definitely something to do once. However, most of us felt that it is not as picturesque as Himachal. The trails are also more crowded, although that can be good to meet different people, especially those from various nationalities as we did on this trail.


17-11-2018: Spelling corrections. Minor changes.