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Goecha La Himalaya India, WW
mini location map2012-04-16
98 by photographer avatarwritelots
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Goecha La Himalaya India, WW 
Goecha La Himalaya India, WW
Backpack avatar Apr 16 2012
Backpack48.00 Miles 9,300 AEG
Backpack48.00 Miles9 Days         
9,300 ft AEG20 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I'm not given to summary, so this is a challenge. I spent three weeks in India, eleven days of that on trek. It was a magical, wonderful and deeply varied experience. I've posted details of the entire trek on my blog at, with lots of photos and anecdotes about what I encountered along the way.

But, for those of you who are not given to reading interminable blog posts: (Day 1 on my blog is our drive from Gangtok to Yuksom)

Day 2: Yuksom to Sachen
3.8 miles, 2500'Gain - Highest point (Sachen) 2300 meters (~7545')

Left Yuksom with guide, yakman and three dzo to support 2 trekkers. Hiked through dense jungle and steep hills high above the Prek Chu river. Crossed several suspension bridges and passed a large landslide area from the earthquake of September 2011. Our guide, Raj, was still looking for the cook and porter he'd need for our trip - so we ended up partnering with a pair of German hikers we met up with at Sachen.

Sachen itself is little more than a muddy yak pasture and a rickety shack used as a kitchen. I was glad they were boiling our water here. Not recommended as a camp unless you're trying to break up the climb to Tshoka (which worked for me since I had a cold and was still suffering from Dehli Belly). Cell service still good for those with Indian cell phones.

Day 3: Sachen to Tshoka
3.8 miles, 3200'Gain - Highest point (Tshoka) 2745 meters (~9005')

Now a group of 4 trekkers with 2 guides, 2 yakmen, 6 dzo, 1 cook and 1 porter. Yikes. The trek continued on terrain similar to day 1 until we crossed the largest bridge over the Prek Chu Khola, then we began to climb steeply. Rested briefly at Bakkhim Forest House before continuing climb through blooming magnolia and rhododendron forest.

Tshoka was once a village for displaced Tibetans, but once Kanchenjunga National Park was established here the villagers were moved out. Now it is a trekker's village. Our camp was set up on a hill just beyond the buildings, with amazing views as the fog and mist rolled in.

Day 4: Tshoka to Dzongri
5.6 miles, 4,700'Gain - Highest point (Dzongri) 4200 meters (~13779')

We're getting acclimated to elevation, so we're climbing slowly. At first, we were in a rhododendron wonderland, but we climbed out of it and into the pine and fir forests and then to alpine scrub. This was a tough day, as much of the hiking was in very dense fog/mist up steep and muddy trail that was badly damaged by all of the pack animal traffic. I was still under the weather, coughing all the time and struggling with breathing under ideal conditions. It was good to know that we'd have a 'rest and acclimate' day at Dzongri.

It snowed that night, and I was more glad than ever for my very nice sleeping bag!

Day 5: Dzongri Viewpoint
3 miles, 1,500'Gain - Highest point (Dzongri Viewpoint) 4550 meters (~14927')

Woke before dawn to climb up to the viewpoint above Dzongri. The amazing views of Kanchenjunga (3rd highest peak in the world after Everest and K2) with dawn light made it totally worth while. No clouds in the morning, just clear blue skies and incredible Himalaya views.

Many of the others hiked on to Dzongri La (pass) after breakfast, but I stayed back and rested. Instead, I hiked around the high meadows and took in the cultural remnants of the Tibetan yak herders who used to summer their animals up here. The mists came in the afternoon, as usual, and we had a long evening in the tents (sitting on the ground for hours and hours and hours was starting to get old at this point).

Day 6: Dzongri to Tanasing
5 miles, 864'Loss - Highest point (Dzongri) 4200 meters (~13779')

My favorite day of hiking...such a treat! Not only did we get to hike downhill much of the way, but we were treated to stellar views the entire way. The mists held back until we were finished hiking, and we got to spend a fair amount of time hiking along the bottom of the canyon (always a favorite of mine).

We descended from the alpine meadows back into the hardwood forests, though the trees in the canyon weren't in bloom yet. All along the way, we had views of Mt. Pandim (in my opinion the fairest of the peaks) and the amazing U shaped valley carved by massive glaciers that once came down from these peaks. The whole day was made even better when I learned that the steep 500meter descent was one thing we weren't going to have to climb back up on our way out. Now THAT's music to my ears!

While the westerners hid in the tents from the freezing mists and played dice, the guides and crew played cricket. At over 13,000'. That takes lung capacity!

Day 7: Tanasing to Lamuney
3 miles, 800'Gain - Highest point (Lamuney) 4164 meters (~13661')

The shortest day of hiking, getting us to the camp closest to our ultimate goal at Goecha La. We were glad for the short hike, too, as the day quickly became foggy and bitterly cold. Another game of cricket was played, but was slightly less 'sprightly' than the first.

These very short days of hiking and very long days of sitting were really taking a toll on my butt.

Day 8: Lamuney to Kokchurong
3 miles, 400'Gain - Highest point (Lamuney Mani Stones) 4285 meters (~14061')

With my cold and cough still keeping me down, I decided not to wake up at 3am to hike in the freezing cold pre-dawn up to Goecha La (4940 meters, 16,207') for a close-up view of Kanchenjunga. It was a big disappointment to come this far and miss the goal by such a short distance, but I did not relish making myself any sicker or slowing down the rest of my group.

In the end, it was a small disappointment. The views of Kanchenjunga from the Mani stones just above Lamuney were still spectacular. Standing at over 14,000' and looking at a mountain that is still 14,000' higher is an incredible feeling. Truly the rooftop of the world.

After the rest of the group had returned and we'd finished breakfast, it was time to break camp and hike down to a camp down the valley. We encountered a few large groups heading up to the meadows at Tanasing and Lamuney on our way, making us glad for our timing. The mists settled in heavy and cold once again at Kokchurong, and it rained much of the night.

Day 9: Kokchurong to Tshoka
10.5 miles - mostly downhill

Once again, the morning was clear and beautiful. Though it had rained through the night, the landscape seemed largely unchanged from the day before - I guess in a rainforest one nighttime storm does not make much difference. This was the day we would avoid the hike up the big hill and instead follow the river valley on what our guide told us was narrow, dangerous trail.

Clearly our guide has never been to the Grand Canyon!

It was a nice trail, with a lot of ups and downs as it wound through the hills. Because it was too narrow for the dzo and ponies, there was much less damage to the trail and the vegetation along it, and I was finally able to see some of the smaller plants that clearly are tasty to the pack animals. The fog and mists settled in early, however, and many of the the sheltered slopes were still covered with ice and snow. What wasn't frozen was muddy and sticky, making for a long hard day of hiking. The fog nullified the views, which further ruined the day. By the time we reached Tshoka, I was ready to be done with the whole deal. Done with mud, with being cold, with mist and sitting on the ground and sleeping on a thin foam pad. Time to get back to 'civilization'.

Day 10: Tshoka to Yuksom
7.4 miles - mostly downhill

Our hike back to Yuksom was delightful - sunny and almost hot. We were back in short sleeves and soaking in the rays. Our guide seemed to have caught my head cold, lucky him, and he was coughing and hacking the whole way down. We reached town just after lunchtime and had plenty of extra time to walk the town again and get some final dice games in with our fellow trekkers. Though I was sad to be leaving this amazing landscape, I was glad at the idea of returning to flush toilets and soft beds. But that's a story for the rest of the blog...
Throwing a Wendy
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.- Barack Obama
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