Goechala Trek Details
- Goechala Altitude: 15,100 feet
- Best months to visit do Goechala Trek: March to May (Spring) as well as September to November (Autumn)
- Goechala Trek Duration: 10 days
- Goechala Trek level: Difficult
- Goechala Base Camp: Yuksom, Sikkim
Goechala Trek Itineray
Day 1: Reach Yuksom
Altitude: 5,643 feet (1,720 meters)
Time: Yuksom, the base camp for Goechala Trek is 150 kilometres from Siliguri and can be reached in six to eight hours. Transport will be organized from New Jalpaiguri Railway Station.
The base of Goechala Trek is Yuksom, which was the former capital of Sikkim. Currently, Yuksom is a major town in West Sikkim which gives us a peek into Sikkim’s rich culture and varied heritage. Yuksom is situated at an elevation of 5700 feet, sprawled across a valley and treats the trekkers with commanding views of the Kabru peak. The drive from Jalpaiguri to Yuksom takes us through the course of the roaring Teesta River, Melli, Jorethang and Tashiding. It is an uphill drive wherein we will be crossing a bridge in Legship to reach Yuksom. For the ones who need to withdraw some cash, the last ATM is at Legship. We will be checking in at a Police Station in Melli to obtain the permit for the hiking excursion to Goechala. You need to keep a photo identity proof with three photocopies with you for verification. The next morning before commencing the trek to Goechala, we will pay the permit fees at the Yuksom forest check post.
Day 2: Yuksom to Sachen
Altitude: 5,643 feet (1,720 meters) to 7,200 feet (2,195 meters)
Time: five to six hours to cover a distance of eight kilometres.
Trek gradient: The initial section of the trek is a steady climb for two and a half hours after which the trail ascends steeply to Sachen. Then a normal walk of 45 minutes followed by a descent to a bridge leads to a trail that again ascends steeply to reach Bakhim.
Water sources: Carry 2 litres of water from Yuksom. You can top off your water bottles from the streams along the trail.
The trail to Goechala starts behind the Yuksom forest check post. We will be hiking on the forest trail for about 30 minutes and then the trail joins to meet the valley of the peaceful Rathong River. Once we cross the valley, the trail takes a sharp turn entering a dense forest. In the next 30 minutes, we will arrive at the first bridge over the Pha Khola. Pha Khola is enveloped with thick foliage and only receives occasional sunlight. The gradually swelling trail ascents slowly through the bushy foliage of the alpestrine perennial forest of Sikkim. It goes through the forest which is brimming with Oak, Spruce, Chestnut, Fir, Pines, goliath Magnolias and a wide assortment of orchids. In the following 30 minutes, to our left side, we will stumble upon the marvellous Tshushay Khola falls in a progression of little cascades streaming into the Prek River beneath.
50 meters ahead an enormous iron bridge crosses the Tshushay Khola. After crossing the bridge, the path starts to acquire elevation. Post an hour of trekking over the Mentogang Khola brings us to the next iron bridge. As soon as we reach the third and last cement bridge over the Mentogang Khola, we are already at an altitude of 7,100 feet. Only twenty minutes of trekking from here and we will reach the campsite of Sachen. Sachen at 7,200 feet is a little clearing where there is one log hut and the campground is over the trail on the right. Sachen is home to various bird species including Thrushes and Laughing Thrushes. The Prek runs beneath the campground and isn't noticeable, however you can hear it faintly surging underneath.
Day 3: Sachen to Tshoka via Bakhim
Altitude: 7,200 feet (2,638 meters) to 9,701 feet (2,957 meters)
Time: four to five hours to cover a distance of eight kilometres
Trek gradient: Only the beginning 40 minutes of a moderate level climb from Bakhim in a sequence of extensive zigzags after which the trail transforms into a steady climb.
Water sources: Carry enough water from Sachen as it is difficult to find a source on the trail
Today’s hiking trail leads through the forested zones towards Bakhim. In about one kilometre from Sachen, we reach the fourth iron bridge of our trek, over River Prek. No sooner than we traverse the bridge, the trail goes to the left and climbs up to gain altitude and enters an Oak forest. When the trail somewhat plateaus down, we are greeted by the first sight of rhododendrons. Yet again, the trail starts to gain height rapidly, we can feel a dip in the temperature and a long ridge walk takes us to Bakhim at 8,600 feet. After a well-deserved rest and refilling our bottles, we start our climb to Tshoka by following the trail just behind the Bakhim Forest House. For the next two kilometres, the trail is a blend of steep rises and falls and filled with slopes overseeing Bakhim. In the next forty minutes, the trail drops around a ridge to move to the opposite side of the slope.
Now that we have reached an elevation of 9,000 feet, we are treated with magnificent views of rhododendrons and alpine berries stretched across the expanse. The trail gets shadowy from the drooping trees and wanders for another ten minutes, only to jump out to a plateau in front of the trekkers' hut of Tshoka. There is also a flat plain camping area to the left of the trekkers' hut. Otherwise, trekkers can halt at the Forest Rest House a little uphill. The vistas of the snow-clad peaks of the Kanchenjunga range along with Mt Pandim overwhelming the horizon alongside Jopunu and Tinchenkang is surely going to take your breath away. You can climb somewhat higher to get magnificent display shots of the lake and the pinnacles. There are cafes uphill that serve the locally brewed malt beer called Tumba. There’s also a beautiful monastery that could be visited. Get on the trail heading out of Tshoka, traverse a tiny wooden bridge over the pond and head to the monastery.
Day 4: Tshoka to Dzongri via Phedang
Altitude: 9,701 feet (2,957 meters) to 12,083 feet (3,683 meters) to 13,024 feet (3,970 meters)
Time: five to six hours to cover a distance of twelve kilometres
Trek gradient: Initial 30 minutes of steep ascent followed by a steady ascent, after which the trail again hikes steeply for 20 minutes to reach Phedang. An hour ascent from Phedang followed by a gentle descent to Dzongri.
Water sources: Carry 2 litres of water from Tshoka as it is difficult to find a source on the trail.
We will be hiking up to the small pond that heads to the monastery and follows the trail that runs to its right. Within minutes of climbing, the trails get steeper and leave Tshoka behind. You will soon find yourself surrounded by bright rhododendron trees. If it’s spring season then you can anticipate the entire slope to be coloured in a crimson hue. In about 30 minutes of hiking on steep rocky terrain, the trail transforms onto a gradual climb over paved wooden logs. Hiking along rhododendrons scented misty trail is quite surreal. You can find small wooden benches on the sides of the trail, giving it the look and feel of strolling in a park. Even though we will be hiking through such a tranquil setting, we can feel the effects of the altitude. Soon, the wooden path changes to a usual rocky trail strewn with pebbles that ascents swiftly to Phedang in 20 minutes. Perched at 13,000 feet, Phedang is a huge open space with scintillating vistas of snow-capped mountains. At Phedang the trail diverges into two halves, straight one heading towards Dzongri and right towards Kockchurang. Post lunch and a well-deserved break we will take the trail to Dzongri that starts across the clearing.
The trail begins to rise instantly along with the rhododendrons that freckle the hill. Owing to the ridge hike, the trail zigzags between alternating sides of the hill. We can witness the landscape oscillating amid the Kabru and the Pandim ranges. In the next hour, we will reach the top of Deorali at 13,080 feet, which is a holy place with a shrine and prayer flags. After a short break at the shrine, we will be following the trail that gradually descends towards Dzongri. In the next hour, we reach the trekkers' hut and the camping ground at Dzongri. Dzongri is an enormous cauldron, generally, knolls, encircled by mighty peaks of the Kanchenjunga range. Look anywhere, and there is a snow-covered mountain to be gazed at and adored.
Day 5: Dzongri to Dzongri Top. Rest day at Dzongri
Altitude: 13,024 feet (3,970 meters) to 13,778 ft (4,203 meters)
Time taken: Steady 45 minutes climb to Dzongri Top
At 4:00 AM we will begin the hike to Dzongri top which is crested at 13,778 ft. Dzongri top is the highest point from where we will get 180-degree panoramic views of the mighty peaks of the Singalila and Kanchenjunga ranges. We start early to catch the sunrise at 5:00 AM because we can’t miss out on witnessing the very initial gleams of sun striking the majestic Kanchenjunga. Dzongri top is a two slope climb from Dzongri and takes around 45 minutes. As the hike advances, the mountains of the Singalila range begin to unfurl and exactly at the turn before the top, the Kanchenjunga and its adjoining peaks show up. We behold the most surreal and breathtaking sunrise of our life, where the sun hallows the mountains and paints them in the softest of hues. The panorama from Dzongri Top includes the outstanding peaks of Kanchenjunga (8534 meters), Kabru (7353 meters) and Mount Pandim (6691 meters) enriching the horizon. Aside from this, the fabulous view also involves Koktang (6147 m) and Narsing (5825 meters), and different pinnacles like Frey Peak, Kumbakarana, Jopunu, Simro and others. We can likewise spot Thansing which is our next campsite, just as Lamuney and Goechala top beneath. On the opposite side, the green rhododendron slants reach out for a significant distance. The rest of the day is a rest day at Dzongri and you are free to explore the neighbourhood.
Day 6: Dzongri to Thansing via Kockchurang
Altitude: 13,024 feet (3,970 meters) to 12,152 feet (3,704 meters) to 12,946 feet (3,946 meters)
Time: five to six hours to cover a distance of eight kilometres.
Trek gradient: Gentle descent for roughly two hours and a steep descent to Kockchurang followed by a nonstop climb to Thansing.
Water sources: Carry sufficient water from Dzongri. You can refill bottles at Kockchurang.
Today’s trail begins from the right side of the trekkers' hut in Dzongri, among lush meadows and dense rhododendron ranches. The gentle to medium descent proceeds for more than two hours. The rhododendron bushes out of nowhere offer a path to the rhododendron woodland. The plunge gets steep and you lose over 500 feet. The profoundly forested regions come next where bright birds greet the trekkers. This trail is well-known for Blood Pheasant which is Sikkim’s state bird. Descending on the rock and gravel for about 45 minutes we reach a level ground, Kockchurang. Here, there is a route through the forest going right which goes to Phedang. Kockchurang has a trekkers hut but no place large enough to set up a campsite or pitch tents. Only 50 meters away towards the bridge is the Prekchu River that flows next to the trekkers’ hut. The bank of the river has enough space to sit back and relax. Trekkers can refill some water for the rest of the trek to Thansing.
The path to Thansing begins from the opposite side of the river through wonderful rhododendron trees. The slope rises and it is a climb till the end. Since the path is a progressive rise and not in the slightest degree steep, in the starting the trekkers find an opportunity to appreciate the stroll as well as the excellence of the locale. By halfway, the backwoods close and the scene become rough and harsh. However, the craggy doesn't extend for a long time and soon the rich knolls make the way. Towards the end of the hike is Thansing which is a big meadow. There is a worn-out trekkers’ hut at the passage of the meadow. The hut can be utilized as a kitchen but tents need to be pitched. The open glade can have quite a few tents. Thansing is at the foothills of Jopunu top, with a clear perspective on Pandim and the left mass of Kanchenjunga.
Day 7: Thansing to Viewpoint 1, Samiti Lake and back to Thansing
Altitude: 12,946 feet (3,946 metres) to 15,100 feet (4,602 metres) back to 12,152 feet (3,704 metres)
Time: 12 to 14 hours to cover a distance of 16 kilometres
Trek gradient: Nonstop climb for two hours to reach Viewpoint 1.
Water sources: Carry sufficient water before the summit climb as well as before the descent of Thansing. It is difficult to find a source on the trail
Goechala, by the name, is a pass (La implies Pass in Tibetan) between Oglanthang and Talung valley. There are three critical focuses for Goechala. Viewpoint 1, which is the sunrise point, offers a breathtaking perspective on the high tops during dawn. Viewpoint 2 is a frigid lake, which can be seen from the moraine edge and Viewpoint 3 which is the Goechala pass. We just have the authority to climb until Viewpoint 1. We start at 3 am at the latest so that we reach View point 1 (sunrise point) before dawn and return to Kockchurang camp by afternoon or early evening. Another advantage of beginning early is that it is simpler to stroll on the moraines that you find after Sunrise Point as the snow is still hard. The path to Viewpoint 1 is a moderate rising. You can break the rising into two sections. One, up to Samiti Lake and the second to Viewpoint 1. With our headlamps, we take the path towards the north. The path rises from Lamuney and it is a 45-minute tough hike to the Samiti lake. The ascension unexpectedly levels out and the dark blue waters of the lake come in sight. Go for a stroll around the lake and sit next to its peaceful waters. The Samiti lakeshores are home to mountain goats and bluebirds which you are likely to spot.
Hike the paved path at a consistent speed for two kilometres to arrive at Viewpoint 1 (15,100 ft). The highlight of this day will be the entrancing perspective of the sun ascending on the Kanchenjunga range. Mt. Pandim is transcending on the right and Kabru ranges on the left half of the lake while Kanchendzongha stays in the centre. The delicate alpenglow on the peak is a sight that will stay with you. On our way back we follow the path back and arrive at Samiti lake (14100ft). This fresh impression of the encompassing mountains on the Samiti lake is something photographic artists should pay head to. This turquoise water body is a medium to huge size high elevation lake with a bay and outlet. The power source adds to the River Prek. We proceed with the path to Lamuney and further down to arrive at the campground of Kockchurang through Thansing.
Day 8: Kockchurang to Tshoka
Altitude: 12,152 feet (3,704 meters) to 9,701 feet (2,957 meters)
Time: six to seven hours to cover a distance of 18 kilometres
Trek gradient: A comparatively level trail to Phedang for about four hours followed by a descent to Tshoka.
Water sources: Carry 2 litres of water from Kockchurang as there is no water source on the trail.
We take the path leading to the left inside the woods as opposed to scaling to Dzongri. It is a comparatively flat trail with tiny risings and fallings and zigzags between mountains. Rhododendron trees line your route from the beginning and the Prek streams beneath. To our left and at a few spots, you get beautiful perspectives on Mt. Pandim and its neighbours. Phedang is 10 kilometres away and this is probably the longest path between two known campgrounds. It requires around four hours to arrive at Phedang. The path goes on the flank of the mountain from the start and you move starting with one mountain then onto the next to another keeping a steady elevation of 12,000 feet from the start. From Phedang you backtrack the dropping path to Tshoka.
From Kockchurang Trekkers’ Hut in transit the path bifurcates. We take the path to our left side to bypass Dzongri and reach straight to Phedang. The path is flat and crossing consistently mountain after mountain, keeping right around steady tallness. The wilderness is thick, tranquil, loaded with various kinds of Rhododendrons. The path is ideal for birdwatching as human development is meagre. The 12 kilometres long path takes four to five hours of navigating and driving into the opening at Phedang. From here we turn left and descend to Tshoka in a similar way we came.
Day 9: Tshoka to Yuksom via Bakhim and Sachen
Altitude: 9,701 feet (2,957 metres) to 8,654 feet (2,638 metres) to 5,643 feet (1,720 metres)
Time: six hours
Trek gradient: Nonstop descend to Sachen and a surging path to Yuksom.
Water sources: Carry sufficient water from Tshoka. There are a few streams where you can refill your bottles.
Backtrack your way from Tshoka to Yuksom. It's a lot quicker and simpler than your trek up. Sachen comes up rapidly being straightforward descent. From Sachen, the path goes up and down for the most part losing elevation. The last stretch has a couple of climbs which however it's soon finished and you end up back in the friendly Yuksom locale.
Day 10: Departure
Leave early morning for the New Jalpaiguri Railway Station from Yuksom.