Goecha-La: An epic journey to the footsteps of Mt. Kanchedzonga.
Distance: 103 KMS (64 Miles)
Avg. Time: 6-8 days
What to expect: Pure Awesomeness
I am a serious believer of the school of thought that we are not meant to just earn and pay our bills and then die. That is not life, nor it is my way of living. We were meant to be strangely wild, to be messy, to get mud under our nails, to walk barefoot on grass and to explore places where the wild things run wild. Anyways mush aside, here is why Goecha-La trek is super epic.
Goecha-La Trek had been on my mind for some time and I must say, that this is my favorite Himalayan trek on so far. Usually in most treks, you experience the OH-MY-GOSH-THIS-IS-MIND-BLOWING view at the highest point of the trail, however, this was not the case with Goecha-La.
Every camping site blew our mind away. The higher we went, the better it gets. We were walking in the clouds with horses, yaks and baby yaks chilling next to us. Isn’t that what life is all about- bliss in the wilderness. We would be super excited to reach the next camping site and be even more excited to wake up early morning to see how beautiful everything looks when the first light hits the camping spot. It is a tough trek, but if you are fit, it is a walk in the park and super beautiful, not to mention super clean. You will not find trash/wrappers on the trail.
Here are a few things you should know before doing the trek:
- You WILL face bad weather. It comes with the terrain. Rain, hail and snow storms are frequent visitors on this trek. But don’t worry, you will also experience sunny days and clear skies. The weather is highly unpredictable, but nothing can prepare you for it, but the right clothing and shoes can help.
- You WILL be able to clearly see Mt. Kanchendzonga during the trek, the third highest mountain in the world, and it is pretty epic. Not just see it, you will most likely camp under the shadows of Mt. Kanchendzonga and Mt. Pandim. And if the sky is clear, especially at night, you will find yourself staring right at the mountain up close and it will take your breath away.
- Goecha-La Trek has three viewpoints. You will most likely be taken to viewpoint 1, but that is not the actual Goecha-La peak view. You get the real view of Goecha-La peak from viewpoint 2, however, due to unknown reasons, the government is currently refusing tourists from heading to view point 2 this year. But it’s always good to check. I don’t think view point 3 has ever been open to tourists. And beyond that is China. You don’t want to walk that far.
And here are details of the trail.
Day 1: Yuksom to Tshoka: 1780M- 2900M
Distance: 17 KM
Avg. Time: 5-7 Hours
Trail: Not strenuous, gradual ascend at the beginning, the majority of the path is uneven but more or less straightforward. The last 6 KMS is all uphill though, so heads-up.
The way to Tshoka is super gorgeous, full of bridges, waterfalls, blue rhododendrons, mist, clouds and beautiful birds. And of course the beautiful Himalayas in the background all along. Tshoka is basically a small village, you will see a few huts there, a monastery, a small lake, and a small shop. Overall, it’s a charming campsite and it will definitely win your heart over.
Although there are basic rooms available for rent there, I would recommend staying in tents and having a cup of tea while watching the sunrise.
Although the last 6-7 km of the trail is all uphill, do stop at Bakhim for momos and a splendid view. Bakhim campsite is 3-4 KM before Tshoka. You also get BSNL and Airtel network here, in case you need to make any important calls.
Day 2: Tshoka to Dzongri 3950M
Distance: 9 km
Avg. Time: 6-7 hours
Trail: Uphill ascend
Prepare yourself, because this is going to be a tough day. The weather starts acting up from Tshoka, and chances of rain or hailstorm and even snow are relatively high. The way to Dzongri is all uphill but it is quite beautiful.
Some say it’s a steep climb, I even met people who referred to this climb as an “80 degree uphill climb” – don’t listen to them. It’s an easy climb, just take breaks when needed and before you know it, you will be at Dzongri.
The best thing about this day is, the views after Tshoka will just keep getting better and better.
It was raining the whole day, so I don’t have pictures of the trail, but we took plenty of pictures after reaching Dzongri.
Dzongri is one campsite where you are surrounded by mountains from all sides.
Walk around and take plenty of pictures because the background is jaw-droppingly beautiful.
Day 3: Dzongri to Thansing
Distance: 10 KMs
Avg. Time: 5-6 hours
Trail: Steep descend for more than half the trail and then its pretty much straight forward with slight ascend every now and then.
Thansing was one of my favorite campsites. It’s a place where you feel like you are walking in the clouds and you get clear views of Mt. Pandim and Mt. Kanchendzonga. Right after the descend, you will come across beautiful small bridges and if the weather is clear you will see Mt. Pandim in the background, and if it’s foggy, then everything will seem untouched and dreamy. So in either case, you will see beauty ahead of you.
It had started raining midway during our trek, and by the time we reached Thansing, it was cloudy and foggy, but beautiful. Sometimes at night, the sky cleared up for 15 minutes and we got a sneak peak of Mt. Pandim. It felt like the mountains were playing hide and seek with us.
However, we were lucky the next day to wake up to clear skies and sunny weather. And of course, we took some goofy pictures and had breakfast out in the open.
Day 4: Thansing to Lhamune (xx meters)
Distance: 4 km
Avg. Time: 2 hours
Trail: straight forward and easy peasy
This would be the most relaxed day of all for you. The trek is straight-forward and barely took us an hour or two to reach the next campsite. Just put some music on and enjoy the walk.
We set up camp and trekked further to spend time at Samiti Lake (an hour from Lhamune). Keep an eye out for wild blue deers, you’ll see them on the way to Samiti Lake.
Around 10:30pm, I got out of my tent to this beautiful view and it made all the efforts seem worth it. It was a full moon night, and the stars were out and about and we could see Mt. Kanchendzonga up close.
It almost stops your heart, the mountains when they make an appearance like that.
Day 5: Lhamune to Goecha-La view point 1 to Cockchrong
We started early of course, in order to reach the viewpoint to watch the sun rise.
We started around 3 AM and by 5AM we were at the viewpoint and saw the golden rays and the mountains lit up with the sun’s first touch. Stop and take a deep breath and take it all in before you start clicking away.
During our hike to the view point, every time I would look up and see the mountains start showing up, my heart would start racing and I had to look down. It was so beautiful, that you heart doesn’t know what to do, except bounce right out of your chest.
We then put up our prayer flags there, and sat there awhile to enjoy the view. It was extremely cold and our hands felt like they were about to fall off, but we still stuck around for an hour.
We couldn’t resist stopping at Samiti lake on our way back to the camp from the view point. It was a beautiful sunny day and the hard part of the trek was over and with the views we had seen the night before and early morning, we were all super giddy.
We took a nap back at Lhamune and had our breakfast and started our descend and camped at Cockchrong river side camp.
And of course the descend felt like a walk in the park, it was mostly downhill from there.
Day 6 and 7: Cockchrong to Bakhim and Bakhim to Yuksum 12-17kms
The rest of the trek was extremely easy and mostly fun. We were already used to the changing weather, it would rain every now and then and then it would clear up. We knew in our hearts that the hard part was over and it was time to descend safely and enjoy the rest of our time on the trek. We camped at Bakhim and had momos there on day 6 and made our way back to Yuksum on day 7.
And here is some practical information that you’ll need.
Starting Point: Yuksum, Sikkim
How to get there?
- From Gangtok: Shared taxi’s run regularly from Gangtok to Yuksum. The journey would roughly take about 6-7 hours.
- From New Jaipaiguri (NJP): Shared taxi’s run from NJP to Jorethang, from where you’ll have to take another shared taxi to Yuksum. This would take roughly around 7-8 hours.
Recommended Tour Operators:
Although majority of the well-known tour operators (like India Hikes & Trek The Himalayas) organize treks to Goecha-La pass, however, my recommendation would be Red Panda, the best local tour organizer at Yuksum. They are well-organized, well-connected and offer amazing food, and don’t usually club you with large groups. We were well fed throughout the trek, we even got mushroom pizza one day and a cake on our last day.
They usually partner up with BikatAdventures.com, who will also ensure you have an epic journey.
For the experienced mountaineers:
If you are a seasoned hiker, and are heading to Goecha-La with your own tents, you are still recommended to hire at least one local guide to help you with the permits and for safety.
Contact one of these two amazing bi-lingual local guides:
- Milan: +91 77979 80902
- Kiran: +91 77977 52349
Accommodation in Yuksum:
We stayed at a very charming guesthouse in Yuksum called Limboo Homestay (limboohomestay.com) and this was the best idea ever. They had beautiful spacious rooms, a beautiful garden and their home cooked meals were out of this world. The market is walking distance from here and the view from the rooms is super refreshing.
Ready to go? Here’s what you need to pack:
Whenever you are going for a trek, the first rule of packing is always pack light. Your backpack should not weight more than 10-12 kgs. Here is the list of necessary items:
Here is a list of necessary items:
- 2 x Full Sleeve quick dry T-shirts (not cotton)
- 1 x Half sleeve quick dry T-shirt
- 1 x quick dry trekking pants
- 1 x leggings (for girls)
- 1 x Thermals
- 1 x Rain suit (extremely necessary)
- 1 x Poncho
- 1 x Fleece
- 1 x Down Jacket
- 4 x Warm Socks
- 1 x Neck Warmer/Scarf/Shawl
- 1 x Warm Cap
- 1 x Waterproof gloves
- 1 x Plastic Water Bottle
- 1 x Head lamp
- 1 x Waterproof hiking shoes
- 1 x UV protection sun glasses
- 1 x Insect repellent spray
- Toiletries as per personal use (SPF 50+ Sunscreen and lip balm is important)
- Basic first aid kit
- Trekking poles (optional)
- Camera (optional)
- Power Bank (optional)