Goechala: A romantic high altitude trek in the Himalayas

Trekking in Sikkim is very different from trekking in any other part of the Indian Himalayas. The mountains, the trails, the people and the culture is in such sharp contrast to the rest of the country that for any trekker the Goechala trail is a must-do.

The Goechala trek in Sikkim is also one of the most romantic trails the Indian Himalayas has to offer — the enchanting walk through the Tshoka Rhododenderon forests, the vast Dzongri and Thansing meadows, the startling blue waters of Samiti lake, the looming presence of Kanchejunga and Pandim, the icy trail to Goechala make lots about the trek very romantic.

Goecha la trek : Yuksom, where your trek starts

 Goecha la trek : Yuksom, where your trek starts

Trek Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival day (Base camp – Yuksom)
  • Arrive at NJP Railway Station, Siliguri by 9 am (on your own)
  • Indiahikes will arrange pick – up vehicles/shared cabs from NJP to Yuksom – the base camp.
  • Transport is arranged in a Tata Sumo (or similar vehicle). Each cab costs Rs. 5500/-
  • The transportation cost is additional, to be shared among the trekkers and paid directly to the drivers.
  • It takes around 6-7 hours from NJP to Yuksom. Expected arrival time at Yuksom is 5 pm.
  • Camp overnight at Yuksom.

Goecha la trek: The trek starts just behind the houses at Yuksom

 
Day 2: Yuksom to Sachen
  • The trail starts just behind the forest check post and skirts around the fields of Yuksom entering the Rathong river valley
  • It is a pleasant jungle walk upto Sachen and will take around 4.5 hours.
  •  The trail is moist with a gradual ascent, so be careful not to slip.
  • Sachen, at an altitude of 7200 feet is a small clearing with a single log hut.
  • The river Prek runs right below it and you can hear it faintly gushing.
  • Camp overnight at Sachen.

Goechala-dzongri-trek

Day 3: Sachen to Tshoka
  • It is a short, but steep climb from Sachen to Tshoka.
  • Cross the wooden bridge that hangs over the prek river, and climb into the forests.
  • It is a sharp climb through a mixed oak and Rhododendron forest with wide switchbacks.
  • Rest for a while at Bakhim, before you proceed to Tshoka.
  • There are a couple of cafes near Tshoka, where you can try the local malt – Tumba.
  • Tshoka also has a monastery, with fantastic views of Mt. Pandim and the entire Kanchenjunga range.
  • You will reach Tshoka in 4 hours. Camp overnight at Tshoka.

Goecha la trek: Tshoka monastry and the serene pond in front

Day 4: Tshoka to Dzongri
  • This day is believed to be the most rewarding day in the entire trek.
  • The trail passes through the densest forests of blooming colourful Rhododendrons.
  • After about hours, you will reach Phedang, a large clearing with superb views of the snow clad mountains. Stop here for lunch and a well deserved rest.
  • Continue on the trail which traverses across a ridge and leads to a shrine.
  • Dzongri is a large cauldron, mostly meadows, surrounded in all directions by the mighty peaks of the Kanchenjunga range. 
  • Camp overnight at Dzongri. In every direction is a snow peak to be looked at and admired.

Goecha la trek: The climb after Phedang. Watch out for colourful birds in the Rhododendrons.

Day 5: Dzongri to Thansing
  • Start trekking to Dzongri top by 4:00 am. Dzongri top at 13681 feet, is the highest point from where you will get a 180 degree panaromic view of the mighty peaks of the Singalila and Kanchenjunga ranges. 
  • Witness an inspiring sunrise and spend time watching the mountains changing colours in the sun rays. 
  • Spot Thansing, the destination for the day, Lamuney and Goechala peaks below you. On the other side, the green Rhododendron slopes extend for miles. 
  • The destination for the day Thansing is a meadow at the same altitude as Dzongri. The trail from Dzongri to Thansing descends a 1000ft to Kockchurang and then climbs a 1000ft to Thansing.
  • The trail climbs onto a ridge, from where you can see Kanchenjunga, Pandim and the other peaks to the right towering over the meadows. 
  • The Rhodendron forest trail is excellent for bird watching. Once you trek through the forest you will reach Kokchurang.
  • The Prekchu river flows through the trail. Walk down to the bridge across Prekchu and spend some time at the bridge experiencing the cool breeze of the river.
  • Camp overnight at Thansing.

Thansing on the Goechala trek

 
Day 6: Thansing to Lamuney
  • The trek from Thansing to Lamuney is relatively easy, with mostly flat gradients. 
  • It takes about 2 hours to get to Lamuney.
  • From Lamuney, trek to Samiti lake, a beautiful clear blue lake located 45 minutes off the main trail. 
  • It is a steep climb, and the trail is rocky. The Samiti lake shores are home to mountain goats and blue birds which you are most likely to spot. 
  • Spend some time one the shores of this beautiful lake before you return to Lamuney. Camping is no longer permitted at the lake.
  • Retrace the same trail back to Lamuney and camp at Lamuney.

Blue waters of the Samiti lake

 
Day 7: Lamuney to Goecha La to Thansing
  • This is the hardest but most rewarding day of the trek, so begin your day 2 hours before sunrise, i.e around 3 am.
  • The trail from Lamuney to Goecha La climbs onto a ridge above the Samiti lake.
  • Continue on the trail till you reach Goecha La. The view from here will blow your mind, with Mt. Pandim and Kanchenjunga standing tall right in front of you. 
  • Spend some time on top, before you begin the descent to Thansing.
  • The entire day’s trek takes 10-12 hours. Expect to reach Thansing by evening.
  • Camp for the night at Thansing.

Hampta trek review

 
Day 8: Thansing to Tshoka
  • The day’s trek can be divided into two phases – the first being from Kockchurang to Phedang and second, the Rhododendron forest trail from Phedang to Tshoka.
  • The trail passes through a forest and the gradient is mostly flat, with small ascends and descends.
  • Rhododendron trees line your way all along and the Prekchu flows below. 
  • Phedang is 10 kms away and this is one of the longest trails between two known campsites. It takes about 4 hours to reach Phedang.
  • From Phedang you retrace the descending trail to Tshoka. The days trek takes about 6-7 hours on an average.
  • Camp overnight at Tshoka.

Goecha la trek:The trail from Tshoka to Phedang -Its an out of the world experience - walking through a forest with only Rhododendrons

Day 9: Tshoka to Yuksom
  • Retrace your way from Tshoka to Yuksom. Its much faster and easier than your trek up. 
  • Sachen comes up quickly being a pure descent. From Sachen the trail goes up and down generally losing altitude. 
  • The last stretch has a few climbs before you reach Yuksom.
  • Stay overnight at Yuksom.
Day 10: Yuksom to NJP
  • Depart from Yuksom early morning.
  • Indiahikes will arrange for shared cabs to drop trekkers to NJP railway station or Bagdogra airport. 
  • The transportation cost from Yuksom to NJP/Bagdogra is additional, to be shared among trekkers and paid directly to the driver.
  • Expected arrival time at NJP/Bagdogra is 5 pm. Book your train/flight tickets late in the evening to give you enough buffer time.

 
 

Trek Documentation

Day 1: Getting to the base camp Yuksom

The Goechala trek starts at Yuksom, a fairly large settlement in West Sikkim. It was once the capital of Sikkim, so the culture in the town shows. It is also a nice quaint hill station and for those who want to avoid the hustle bustle of Darjeeling, Yuksom is a nice gateway. There are plenty of hotels in various budgets so staying is not a problem. A decent room with a shared bath works out to about Rs 300. The costlier rooms are around Rs 1,500.

If you are on the Goechala trek there are two important things to do at Yuksom. One, make an entry at the police station. For this you need a photo identity proof with three photo copies. Two, you need to pay the permit fees at the forest check post (trekkers do this in the morning when they are starting the trek). The fee to be paid is broken down into small elements like tent, porter, yak and other charges. Camera charges are extra. It can get somewhat confusing, but the net amount will boil down to about Rs 700 per person.

Foreigners have it slightly more difficult. First, foreigners cannot trek alone; they need at least a partner. Two, they need to get a trekking permit from Gangtok (which usually their trekking agency will organize). Three, foreigners have to do the trek with a trekking agency – they cannot trek on the trail by themselves. Finally, once they enter Sikkim from any highway, their papers are going to be checked at the border.

Yuksom is also the last place to buy provisions for the trek. So stock up well before you start the trek. You get almost everything at Yuksom so there really isn’t any need to buy things at Siliguri, Kolkata or Gangtok.

Day 2: Yuksom to Sachen 

  • Altitude: 5700 feet to 7200 feet
  • Time taken: 4-4½ hrs

Note: Most trekkers like to trek from Yuksom to Tshoka in a day. This makes the trek very long and the altitude gain too much. A sensible way to trek is to break the trek at Sachen as described here.

 

Goecha la trek: The trek starts just behind the houses at Yuksom

Goecha la trek: The trek starts just behind the houses at Yuksom

From Yuksom, the Goechala trail starts just behind the houses after the forest check post. Cross the last few huts of Yuksom and skirt around the fields of Yuksom to enter the V shaped valley of the Rathong river (many mistake it for the Prek – earlier Prek and Pha Khola merge to form the Rathong).

The trail, though passing through the fringes of the forest is exposed for about half hour. Midway through the exposed trail, look for a shelter on your right. From here onwards it is half hour to the first bridge over the Pha Khola.

By the time the trail gets to Pha Khola, you are well into the thick of the forest and the coolness envelopes you at all times. The gently undulating trail climbs gradually.

Goechala-dzongri-trek

Goecha la trek: The trail through thick forests

The next hour and half is a pleasant walk through the moist jungle until suddenly on your left the Tshushay Khola falls in a series of mini waterfalls joining the Prek below. 50 meters later a large iron bridge spans the Tshushay Khola. After the bridge the trail begins to climb more noticeably.

An hour later watch for another small cement bridge over the Mentogang Khola (you won’t find a board telling you the name). You are already at 7,100 feet and it is only twenty minutes from here to the log hut of Sachen.

 

Goecha la trek: Sachen - if you are a big team, make the flat ground to the right of the trail your campsite. The loghut area to the left may run out of space.

Goecha la trek: Sachen – if you are a big team, make the flat ground to the right of the trail your campsite. The loghut area to the left may run out of space.

Sachen at 7,200 feet is a small clearing where a single log hut and a shelter on the trail exist. The log hut a few meters below the trail. The hut has room enough for about 6-7 and a small area to cook. For a larger team look for the clearing just above the trail opposite the shelter. The Prek, runs below campsite and is not visible to the eye, though you can hear it faintly rushing below.

Day 3: Sachen to Tshoka

  • Altitude: 7200 feet to 9650 feet
  • Time taken: 3½- 4 hrs

This is a short trek, but the altitude gain is considerable. Trekkers love the initial amble through the forest – it gives them a chance to loosen up before the stiff climb to Bakhim from the bridge over Prek.

The trail out of Sachen undulates but maintains an even altitude, in fact gaining a few feet until 45 minutes and 2 kms later you drop down to the bridge over Prek. The clear water of the Prek is worth savoring. You don’t meet the river until three days later at Kockchurang.

Goecha la trek: The wooden bridge over Prekchu adorned with Prayer flags

Goecha la trek: The wooden bridge over Prekchu adorned with Prayer flags

The wooden bridge over Prek sways when you walk over it. Adorned with multitude of prayer flags wishing success to the expedition — it signals the start of the real climbs of the Goechala trail – climbs that stay with you until you get to Goechala.

Take the trail that begins to climb to the left of the bridge. The trail climbs sharp through a mixed oak forest until the wide switchbacks level somewhat half hour later at the sight of the first Rhododendrons. The altitude gain is rapid and the air gets cooler perceptively. Soon the trail climbs to the ridge and stays there until you get to Bakhim another half hour later. From the Prek it takes an hour to get to Bakhim (the total distance is only a kilometer but feels a lot longer).

 

Goechala trek: The cafe a Bhakim. A perfect place for a short break. Lovely views and you get almost all mobile signals!

Goechala trek: The cafe a Bhakim. A perfect place for a short break. Lovely views and you get almost all mobile signals!

Bakhim has a Forest Rest House and some trekkers like staying at Bakhim – simply for its view of the Yuksom valley. Finding the caretaker is a struggle and most trekkers move on to Tshoka which is another hour away.

Bakhim has a lovely tea stall where the owner dishes out some snacks as well. With a well deserved rest start your climb to Tshoka. Follow the trail just behind the Forest Rest House. The trail again climbs in a series of long switchbacks, overlooking Bakhim until forty minutes later it dives around a ridge to move to the other side of the hill.

 

Goecha la trek: The trail from Bhakim to Tsoka. Rhododendrons start appearing. The mix of forests and clearings make the trails enjoyable.

Goecha la trek: The trail from Bhakim to Tsoka. Rhododendrons start appearing. The mix of forests and clearings make the trails enjoyable.

At over 9,000 feet high, Rhododenderon trees abound everywhere. The trail gets dark from the overhanging trees and meanders for another ten minutes. It suddenly pops out to a plateau and the trekkers hut of Tshoka. There’s also a flat camping area to the left of the trekkers hut. The trekker’s hut is a pretty long wooden building that has four rooms – enough space to house more than 20 trekkers. Alternatively, trekkers can stay at the Forest Rest House slightly uphill.

Spend some time exploring Tshoka. Slightly uphill are the cafes where trekkers can try the local malt beer Tumba.  Ask the café owners for the keys to the monastery.

 

Goecha la trek: Tshoka monastry and the serene pond in front

Goecha la trek: Tshoka monastry and the serene pond in front

 Follow the trail as it leads out of Tshoka, cross the small wooden bridge over the pond and head to the monastery. It is a quiet place worthy of a quick visit. But what will take your breath away is the view of the snow clad peaks of the Kanchenjunga range stretching right behind you – with Mt Pandim dominating the skyline. For most trekkers this is the view of the day.

Day 4: Tshoka to Dzongri via Phedang

  • Altitude: 9650 feet to 12980 feet, Phedang is 12,050 feet
  • Time taken: 5-6 hrs

For most trekkers this day is perhaps the highlight of the Goechala trail. Everyone looks forward to the trek this day. For one, they trek through some of the densest Rhododendron forest India has to offer, and second, on the trail, suddenly the views open up to showcase the might of the highest mountains in Himalayas.

 

Goecha la trek:The trail from Tshoka to Phedang -Its an out of the world experience - walking through a forest with only Rhododendrons

Goecha la trek:The trail from Tshoka to Phedang -Its an out of the world experience – walking through a forest with only Rhododendrons

Like yesterday, climb up to the little pond leading to the monastery, and then follow the trail that runs to its right. The trail begins to climb sharply and within minutes Tshoka is a tiny hamlet below you. Red Rhododendron trees spring up everywhere. If you are in season when the flowers bloom (May 1st/2nd week), then the entire slope lights up with a fiery red colour.

Goecha la trek: The wood paved trail through thick Rohododendron forest

Goecha la trek: The wood paved trail through thick Rohododendron forest

After a stiff climb for about 30 minutes, the trail evens out to a gradual climb. The trail changes to one paved over wooden logs. It is a delight with Rhododendrons fanning the path. Little wooden benches line on either side of the trail – which makes the trail look like it is in a park. Sometimes mist filter in surreally through the Rhododendron trees – but even in the magical setting the trail climbs throughout and trekkers feel the altitude. The log path gives way to a regular stony trail that climbs quickly to Phedang in 20 minutes.

Phedang at 12,000 feet is a large clearing with superb views of the snow clad mountains. A log hut and a few wooden benches dot the landscape. Stop here for lunch and a well deserved rest. The trail forks at Phedang with one that goes right, leading to Kockchurang. Water is available from a spring slightly lower on the trail to Kockchurang.The spring is 10-15 minutes away on a lower trail.

Take the trail to Dzongri that starts across the clearing. The trail starts to climb immediately along the dwarf rhododendrons that line the slope. The views start getting better with every step, but watch for a few muddy patches on the trail. After a bout of rain you need to skip your way around them. It is a ridge climb, so the trail switches between the alternating sides of the hill. Watch for the view change between the Pandim ranges and the Kabru. An hour later the climb tops at a shrine with multitude of prayer flags. This is the highest point of the days trek at 13,080 feet.

 

Goecha la trek: The climb after Phedang. Watch out for colourful birds in the Rhododendrons.

Goecha la trek: The climb after Phedang. Watch out for colourful birds in the Rhododendrons.

Take a brief rest at the shrine and follow the trail that gently descends towards Dzongri. For most parts the trail undulates with the first patches of snow lining the roots of the dwarf rhododendrons around you.

The Dzongri trekkers hut appears suddenly at the bend in the trail. A gentle clear stream runs by the side of the hut. There are plenty of camping grounds around Dzongri but the hut itself can take in 30 trekkers at a time.

 

Goecha la trek: An aerial view of Dzongri trekker huts

Goecha la trek: An aerial view of Dzongri trekker huts

Dzongri is a welcome sight for trekkers after the hard climb from Tshoka. At 12,980 feet trekkers feel the affect of altitude at the Dzongri meadows. Dzongri is a large cauldron, mostly meadows, surrounded in all directions by the mighty peaks of the Kanchenjunga range. In every direction is a snow peak to be looked at and admired. For most trekkers Dzongri is a reward on its own. Many finish their trek at Dzongri and head back the way they came.

Day 5: Dzongri (12980ft)  to Thansing (12894ft)  via Kockchurang (12096ft). 5 – 6 hours

  • Altitude: 12980 feet to 12894 feet, Kockchurang 12096 feet,12980 feet to 13681 feet
  • Time taken: 5-6 hrs

Sunrise from Dzongri top on the Goechala trek

Sunrise from Dzongri top on the Goechala trek

The day starts with a climb to Dzongri top. Dzongri top i.e at 13681 feet, is the highest point from where you get the 180 degree panaromic view of the mighty peaks of the Singalila and Kanchenjunga ranges. Dzongri top is a two hill climb from the Dzongri trekkers hut. The trek from Dzongri to Dzongri top takes about 45 mins. The sun rises at 5 a.m and you don’t want to miss seeing the first rays of sun hitting Kanchanjunga. Start your trek at 4.00 a.m with torch lights and you reach the top just as the dawn breaks.  As you climb up, the peaks of the Singalila range begin to open up and just at the bend before the top, the Kanchenjunga and its neighbours make their appearance. Witness an inspiring sunrise and spend time watching the mountains changing colours in the sun rays. Spot Thansing, the destination for the day, Lamuney and Goechala peaks below you. On the other side, the green Rhododendron slopes extend for miles. Retracing your path to Dzongri  takes 20 mins.

The view from Dzongri top on the Goechala trek

The view from Dzongri top on the Goechala trek

Thansing is a meadow at the same altitude as Dzongri. The trail from Dzongri to Thansing descends a 1000ft to Kockchurang and then climbs a 1000ft to Thansing.

Arial view of Thansing below Mt. Pandim from Dzongri meadows on the Goechala trek

Arial view of Thansing below Mt. Pandim from Dzongri meadows on the Goechala trek

Take the trail heading right from the Dzongri trekkers hut and go to the top of the ridge.It is a kilometer and 20 mins to the ridge top. From the ridge top you get to see Kanchenjunga, Pandim and the other peaks to the right towering over the meadows. Descend through the Rhododendron shrubs to the meadows. The meadow gently slopes down. The walk through the Dzongri meadows in the lap of the mighty mountains is as breathtaking as the view from Dzongri top.

Dzongri meadows on the Goechala trek

Dzongri meadows on the Goechala trek

 In half an hour Rhododendron shrubs occupy the slopes again. The gentle to medium descent continues over 2 hours. The Rhododendron shrubs suddenly give way to Rhododendron forest. The descent becomes steep and you lose more than 500ft. The forest is a good place to spot birds. Walk through silently and spot birds camouflaged in the browns and greens of the forest.

 Kockchurang springs up at the end of the descent. Just there find a route through the forest going right. It goes to Phedang. Kokchurang has a trekker hut but no real place to pitch tents. The Prekchu river flows next to the trekker hut 50 meters away. By the banks of the river, amidst the rocks 4-5 tents can be pitched. The small camp site though feels lovely. In the evening expect mist hanging over the river and the tents enveloped in the mist with the sound of the fast river below makes it a great camping experience.

 The trekker hut at Kokchurang has two big halls on the sides capable of handling 10-12 trekkers each and a central hall which can serve as the cooking area.

Prekchu flowing at Kockchurang on the Goechala trek

Prekchu flowing at Kockchurang on the Goechala trek

From Kokchurang, walk down to the bridge across Prekchu. Spend some time on the bridge experiencing the cool breeze of the river. The water below looks icy blue. On the other bank you have the Rhododendron forest again. They flower in June but at any time, the moss lined trees with their branches spreading out in all directions make it a fairy tale walk.  There is a trekking trail but no lined path. The gradient increases and its an ascent through out. The distance between the bridge and Thansing is 2kms. By mid way forests end and the landscape becomes rocky and barren. At the end of the climb is Thansing a big meadow. There is a dilapidated trekker hut at the entrance of the flat meadow. The hut can be used as a kitchen but tents would be needed to stay. The open meadow can host any number of tents. You are right in front of Pandim and the left wall of Kanchanjunga here. Thansing can be cold in the night.

Thansing on the Goechala trek

Thansing on the Goechala trek

Day 6: Thansing  to Lamuney 

  • Altitude: 12894 feet to 13693 feet
  • Time taken: 2 hrs

The trek from Thansing to Lamuney is an easy one. Walk through the meadows heading closer to Goechala. The trek is inspiring because the mountains come closer and closer. The meadows tend to get rockier as you move ahead. The flat gradient suddenly gives way to an ascending trail and that’s the farthest you can camp. The ascending trail heads to Samiti lake where camping is no longer allowed.

 Excursion to Samiti lake 14100ft 45 mins moderate climb and back to Lamuney

Blue waters of the Samiti lake

Blue waters of the Samiti lake

 You may choose to trek further to Samiti lake and spend an hour there. The trail ascends from Lamuney and it is a 45 minute stiff climb to the Samiti lake. Notice the terrain being rocky all through the ascent. The climb suddenly flattens out and the deep blue waters of the lake come into the picture. Move closer to the shore of the lake and the blue does not change. If  it is windy, the lake has waves too. Take a walk around the lake and sit besides its serene waters. The Samiti lake shores are home to mountain goats and blue birds which you are most likely to spot.

 

Samiti lake at 14,100ft

Samiti lake at 14,100ft

 Day 7: Lamuney  to Goechala and back to Kockchurang/Thansing

  • Altitude: 13693 feet to 16000 feet
  • Time taken: 10-12 hrs

 This is the longest day of the trek and so start your day really early at 3 a.m to give you multiple advantages.

- A 3 a.m start ensures that you reach the first view point or the sunrise point right in time to see the first run rays hitting Kanchenjunga.

- It also makes it easier to walk on the morains that you find after the sunrise point as the snow is still hard.

 – The probability of getting good views are higher in the mornings.

- Lastly gives you enough time to go all the way to Goechala and return to Kockchurang.

 Do not plan to leave earlier than 3 a.m as it is mostly not required and the lack of sleep can tend to tire out people unnecessarily.

 A lot of people would misguide you saying it is impossible to go further if you are late but these are not really true. Even a 5 a.m start from Lamuney can take you all the way to Goechala but you will miss out on the sunrise.

Goechala sunrise point or the first view point at 15100ft

Goechala sunrise point or the first view point at 15100ft

 The trail to Goechala goes behind Samiti lake and beyond. Mt. Pandim is always to your right and the left is also lined by huge snow walls. Climb to the ridge on top of Samiti lake and then traverse right on the narrow trail on the flank of the mountain. A bit more of a climb and you reach the sunrise or the first view point of Goechala in less than two hours from Lamuney. Mt. Pandim and to your right and Kanchenjunga raises just in front. Spend a few moments here before starting your descent to Zemathang. Zemathang is a sand bed covered with snow and gravel. From Zemathang Goechala is a climb of  about one and a half hours.

Sunrise on the mountains at Goechala

Sunrise on the mountains at Goechala

 Retrace your path to Lamuney, and then head to Kockchurang with your belongings. Stay at the trekker hut or pitch tents by the river at Kockchurang.

Day 8: Thansing/Kokchurang to Tshoka via Phedang

  • Time taken: 6-7 hrs

 The days trek can be divided into two phases. The first from Kockchurang to Phedang – a direct trail by passing Dzongri and second, the Rhododendron forest trail from Phedang to Tshoka.

 

The trail to Phedang at Kockchurang on the Goechala trek

The trail to Phedang at Kockchurang on the Goechala trek

 The first phase is new and interesting. The trail goes on the flank on the mountain all along and you move from one mountain to another to another maintaining a constant altitude of 12,000ft all along. Kokchurang, Phedang and most of the trail, are all at 12,000ft!

 Take the diversion to the left inside the forest instead of climbing up to Dzongri. The trail remains mostly flat with small descents and ascents only to switch between mountains. Rhododendron trees line your way all along and the Prekchu flows below. Look left and at a number of places you get lovely views of Mt. Pandim and its neighbours. Phedang is 10 kms away and this is one of the longest trails between two known campsites. It takes about 4 hours to reach Phedang.

 From Phedang you retrace the descending trail to Tshoka. The days trek takes about 6-7 hours on an average.

Day 9 : Tshoka to Yuksom via Bhakim and Sachen. 6 hours

  • Time taken: 6 hrs

 Retrace your way from Tshoka to Yuksom. Its much faster and easier than your trek up. Sachen comes up quickly being a pure descent. From Sachen the trail goes up and down generally losing altitude. The last stretch has a few climbs which makes you wonder but its soon over and you find yourself back in the friendly Yuksom neighbourhood.

Day 10 :Yuksom to NJP

Leave Yuksom early morning and reach NJP by 4.00 – 5.00 pm

Trek Reviews

tejaswi

Trekker Tejaswi says:

It was an easy early day, we had a lot of thinking time. The brain would be rather shut down on these days by working extra hard, but we had to rest the body too and hence were having a short day before the grand finale. It had snowed in the camp at 15000 odd feet today. A snow fall I was not glad of. Anything scared me. The evening fast approached, as we also experienced a giant cloud engulfing the camp site. The temperature has not dropped further but surely visibility was lost.

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Sanjay Phadke of 11 th Oct'14, Goechala batch says:

We accidentally landed onto Goechala trek because of cancellation of our earlier trek in Kashmir. Little did we know how big a blessing in disguise this was, not only because of subsequent devastation in Kashmir which is still coming back to normalcy; but also because the sheer beauty of high mountains in Sikkim that we encountered. Whether it's jungles or meadows, icy peaks or rivers, gorges or snowfall; this trek had it all. Had done many in western Himalayas and was somewhat unsure of this eastern side; but this clearly was my best trek so far, and I would advocate it to anyone with some interest in raw and pure nature and willing to rough it out.

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Ajay Goyal of 4th Oct'14 Goechala batch writes:

I had trekked Kedarnath and Yamunotri in Uttarakhand earlier. Both these journeys were primarily religious but the sheer beauty of nature around was a great experience. In July 2011, I trekked Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib, this trek was also partially religious in nature but fascinating. These treks being religious routes were very crowded not only with people but with Mules and Donkeys, and very dirty also.  Meanwhile I went for number of treks in Pune – Mumbai Sahyadri region and my interest in trekking grew. Then I undertook Trek to Roopkund in May 2012. Roopkund trek was magical and I wrote about it earlier.

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Goechala trek

 

 

 

 

 

Sunil Jugulkar from November 2013 Goechala trek batch says:

Goecha La, the word brings a surge of happy emotions to my mind every single time it is mentioned. Being my first multi-day trek, I wasn't sure what to expect, apart from the the fact that it was going to be difficult. However the trek surpassed all my expectations. The mountains were higher than I'd ever seen, the climbs harder than what I'd ever done, and the weather colder than what I'd ever experienced.

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Kamal Das from October 2013 Goechala trek batch says:

Our second camp day-Tshoka. It's evening time, we are done with our lunch already, after a brief visit to the monastry and the lake aside we were back at our campsite. Our campsite is on a hill cliff in front of which we had a valley view with layers of hills till the horizon and behind the snow capped peaks of Mt. Pandim, Mt Zapno, Mt.Tenzing and Mt. Lamalamuney greeting us.

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 chandra

Chandra Dhayalan from April 2012 Goechala trek batch says:

I have never done a trek before, so Goechala was my first trekking expedition. The team was a good combination of some novice and experienced trekkers. Myself being novice got several tips from team members regarding what to do and what not to do. The support staff were awesome, they even made a birthday cake at Tshoka for one of our team mates.

Krishanu Majumder from May 2012 Goechala trek batch says:

It is 4:45 A.M. All of us are standing in the viewpoint one, spellbound by the gorgeous Kanchenjunga, panting and waiting for the sunrise. Even now, while writing this trek report, a strange thought keeps coming to my mind. I should not have come back from there. Such was the beauty of the place.
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man

Meghali from May 2012 Goechala trek batch says:

The GoechaLa is a moderately difficult trek in Sikkim, being a good choice for trekkers in the east. Two things that should be kept in mind before planning this trek are, firstly, choosing the right time for it (late April to May) so as to be able to see the Rhododendrons in full bloom and avoid extreme temperatures and secondly, to have a high level of physical stamina in order to survive the 5 and a half days of tough climbing.
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Vipul Jani who did the Goecha la trek in May 2011 says,

"Over all, It was an amazing experience for me. The trek has been fanastic. Our team was wonderful and co-operative. The highlights were obviously Dzongri Top and first view point on way to Goecha La. We could not go beyond first view point but there are no regrets as we were very much dependent on weather. The trail between Tsokha and Phedang, specifically the wooden section in between rhodedendrons on both sides was awesome.
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Bhupendrasing Rajputh says,

" This was my first trek of long spell and that too in the Himalaya's. So I was in the mixed state of mind throughout the trek. Although the trek route was visited by many trekkers and we found many more enroute (to & fro), every moment was new challenge for me and that's how  I enjoyed the trek.
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Vijay Zala who did the Goecha la trek in May 2011 says,

"The locations and campsites selected were beautiful also the trek routes were awesome. Our teammates were fantastic - I have never been in trekking with such a nice team. All basic arrangements were nicely planned and managed - particularly food, trek timings, emergency plans, safety cautions..
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Nandita Singh shares some tips on equipping onself for trekking in the rain.

While many people abort their camping plans when rain surprises them, others see it as an opportunity to make an unforgettable, special and challenging experience.

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Why Goecha la in Sikkim is a most romantic trek

Arjun Majumdar writes about the Goechala trek and tells why it is one of the most romantic trails in the country.

I have never been as enamored by a trek as I have been of the Goechala. It is the most romantic trek that I have done. There are lots in the trek that make it romantic. On a long stretch between Tshoka and Phedang the trail climbs under a canopy of red rhododendrons in full bloom. Never have I seen a trail turning red the way it did on this trek. It was as if the trail was on fire! Rhododendrons bloomed in every direction I looked. Even the sunlight that seeped in was red through the filter of the flowers!

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Memoirs of the past --- A trek diary by Vinita Chhatwani

Goechala trek

Doing a well know trail has its own ups and downs.--- We initially planned to venture to Zemu glacier in Sikkim but because of permissions issues the plan had to be cancelled. Since we were just three of us we decided to do the well-known Goechala trek. I had been to Dzongri 9 years back in 2004 which was my first Himalayan trek and had wonderful memories of the trek. Several things have changed in the years but one thing that is still unchanged is the splendour and the profuse forests along the Goechala trail. In all Goechala is a wonderful trek, beautiful dense forest, waterfalls and magnificent views of Mt Khangchendzonga, Mt Pandim, Mt Tenzing , Mt Narsing, Kabru group of peaks and many more. Read more..

An Ode to Goecha la --- An amateur's trek diary

Goechala trek

Nagendra Kumar blogs about his experiences of Goecha la trek in April 2012.

The steep descend tested the strength of our thigh muscles and took us to Kokchurang which was in a valley sort. Trekkers hut surrounded by tall pine trees and fresh water stream nearby was a scene of bollywood flick from eighties. After a rest for a while, once again we moved ahead and crossed to wooden bridges, stones and climbed further for an hour and half to reach Thansing. Read more

Things to get

BAGS

  • Backpack (40-60 litres): Backpack with sturdy straps and supporting frame. Rain cover for backpack is essential. 
  • Daypack (20 litres): It is mandatory to carry a daypack if you choose to offload your backpack. If you decide to carry your backpack, day pack is not required.

FOOTWEAR

  • Trekking shoes:  No sports shoes. The shoes need to have soles with good grip and ankle support. Do not wear a new shoe to a trek. It might cause blisters. Before bringing them to trek, wear it for a week to make it softer. We recommend FORCLAZ 100, 500, and 600.
  • Socks (3 pairs): 2 cotton pairs, 2 woolen pairs (mostly to be used on campsites and while sleeping. Keep them dry.)

CLOTHES - REGULAR

  • Trek pants (3 pairs including the one you are wearing): We highly endorse synthetic quick-dry pants as they are light. Plus, when it's cold you can wear one over the other. While trekking a pair is what you would carry apart from the worn. You could keep the third pair for your return journey. Alternative : Cotton pant with many pockets / Track pants are comfortable too. Please do not get Denim jeans, shorts or 3 quarters to trek.
  • Collared t-shirts (3 pairs including the one you are wearing):Preferably light, full sleeve t-shirts. The collar and the sleeves prevent sun burns on the neck and arms. Avoid loud colors that would distract birds and animals.
  • Full sleeve woolens (2 pairs including the one you are wearing):We endorse fleece over wool as it is light weight, compact and warm.
  • Thick jacket: Carry 1 hollow full sleeve windproof jacket/down jacket 
  • Thermal inners: 1 pair of lightweight, upper and lower (optional)

ACCESSORIES

  • Raincoat/poncho: A lightweight poncho is preferred as it covers your rucksack as well from top. Raincoat can also be used as wind proof when required. Enquire Indiahikes for availability of ponchos at the base camp.
  • Balaclava: The cap must cover your ears and neck. You may also use scarves.
  • Synthetic handgloves: Ensure that the gloves are waterproof.
  • Suncap: 1 pair of nice warm gloves required, fleece or woolen. 1 pair of water proof/resistant, wind proof gloves. You get very thin inner gloves nowadays. You may get one of those to use layering.
  • Sunglasses: Curved ones will cover your eyes well. No blue coloured sunglass — they don’t block UV. Blacks, greens, browns are fine. Avoid multi tone sunglasses. Sunglasses prevent snow blindness. Sunglasses are mandatory for this trek.People who wear spectacles, choose one of these - contact lenses, photo chromatic glasses, or if either of the above is not possible, wear your spectacles and carry a big sunglass that can be worn over your spectacles.

OTHERS

  • Toiletries (Sunscreen - SPF 40+, moisturiser, light towel, lipbalm/chap stick, small soap, toilet paper, wet tissue)
  • Repair kit (needle & thread)
  • Headlamp/LED torch: Mandatory
  • Camera: Carry all accessories - spare batteries, charger, etc.
  • Cutlery: Carry a plate, spoon, coffee mug & a lunch box. We insist on trekkers getting their own cutlery for hygiene reasons. To save weight,  you may use your lunch box to have food in it and also carry it.
  • Water bottles: 2 bottles, 1 Litre each. Packaged drinking water bottles like Aquafina, Bisleri and others are not allowed.
  • Trekking pole: Trekking pole is mandatory. Duralumin 4-step telescopic anti-shock trekking poles are available with Indiahikes at the cost of Rs 450. To order mail us at support@indiahikes.in
  • Plastic covers: While packing, use plastic bags to compartmentalize things and carry few extra plastic bags for wet clothes.

PERSONAL MEDICAL KIT - Mandatory

  • Diamox - 10 tablets (to prevent AMS)
  • Crocin – 6 tablets (fever)
  • Avomine – 4 tablets (motion sickness)
  • Avil 25mg – 4 tablets (allergies)
  • Combiflam – 4 tablets (Pain killer)
  • Disprin – 6 tablets (headache)
  • Norflox TZ & Lomofen– 6 tablets each (diarrhea)
  • Digene - 10 tablets (acidity)
  • Omez/ Rantadine – 10 tablets (antacids)
  • Crepe bandage – 3 to 5 meters
  • Gauze - 1 small roll
  • Band aid – 10 strips
  • Cotton – 1 small roll
  • ORS – 10 packets
  • Betadine or any antiseptic cream
  • Moov spray (aches, & sprains)
 
MANDATORY DOCUMENTS
 
In addition, please carry the below three documents. Document two and three need to be downloaded (PDF), filled in, signed and handed over to the trek leader at the base camp. Without these documents you will not be allowed on the trek.
 
1. Original and photocopy of government photo identity card- (driving license, voters ID, etc.)
2. Medical Certificate (to be filled by the trekker) - Download PDF
3. Medical certificate (to be filled by a doctor), and disclaimer - Download PDF
4. Passport size photo

IH CHECKLIST (570 x 738)


Tips & Advice 

  1. Avoid sports shoes. They are ill suited for trekking. We recommened FORCLAZ 100, 500, and 600. Wear the shoes for a week prior to the trek to avoid shoe bites/blisters on slope.
  2. Duralumin 4-step telescopic anti-shock trekking poles are available with Indiahikes for Rs 450. To order mail us at support@indiahikes.in.
  3. We highly endorse synthetic quick-dry pants. They are light and can be worn in layers when it gets cold. Cotton pants/track pants are an alternative. 
  4. Jeans,shorts and 3/4 pants are not suitable for trekking.
  5. Light full sleeve collared t-shirts are the best option. Avoid round neck t-shirts which exposes the neck during cold weather and may cause sun burns during the day.
  6. We endorse fleece jackets over wool as it is light weight, compact and warm. It is better to layer your clothing with multiple light sweaters than to carry one thick heavy jacket.
  7. Thermal inners are optional for those who are more sensitive to the cold.
  8. You may use scarves as an alternative to balaclavas.
  9. People who wear spectacles, choose one of these - contact lenses, photo chromatic glasses, or if either of the above is not possible, wear your spectacles and carry a big sunglass that can be worn over your spectacles.
  10. We insist on trekkers getting their own cutlery for hygiene reasons.
  11. While packing, use plastic bags to compartmentalize things and carry few extra plastic bags for wet clothes.

How to get there

Getting there

If you are trekking with Indiahikes

  • Arrive at NJP Railway Station, Siliguri or Bagdogra aiport by 9 am (on your own)
  • Indiahikes will arrange pick - up vehicles/shared cabs from NJP railway station and Bagdogra airport to Yuksom - the base camp.
  • Transport is arranged in a Tata Sumo (or similar vehicle). Each cab costs Rs. 5500/-
  • The transportation cost is additional, to be shared among the trekkers and paid directly to the drivers.
  • It takes around 6-7 hours from NJP to Yuksom. Expected arrival time at Yuksom is 5 pm.

List of trains available:

From Delhi

  • North East Exp      -- Train No 12506  (Departure - 6.45am ; Arrival at NJP - 8.20am)
  • Brahmputra mail   -- Train No 14056 (Departure - 23.40pm ; Arrival at NJP - 4.55am)

From Kolkata [Howrah]

  • Kamrup Exp               -- Train No 15959 (Departure -17.35; Arrival -6.15 am)
  • Uttar Banga Exp        -- Train No 13147( Departure - 19.35; Arrival -7.00 am)
  • Darjiling Mail             -- Train No 12343 (Departure - 22.05 ; Arrival -  8.00 am)
  • KanchanKanaya Exp -- Train No 13149 (Departure - 20.30 ; Arrival - 7.30am)

Getting back:

  • Depart from Yuksom early morning.
  • Indiahikes will arrange for shared cabs to drop trekkers to NJP railway station or Bagdogra airport. 
  • The transportation cost from Yuksom to NJP/Bagdogra is additional, to be shared among trekkers and paid directly to the driver.
  • The approximately cost per shared cab is Rs. 5500/-
  • Expected arrival time at NJP/Bagdogra is 5 pm. Book your train/flight tickets late in the evening to give you enough buffer time.

If you are trekking independently:

  • If you are using the public transport, take a shared taxi from NJP to Jorthang which you can get outside the NJP station.  It takes 3 hours to reach Jorthang and costs about Rs 170.  At Jorthang go to the taxi stand(anybody will guide you there) and take another shared taxi to Yuksom. Taxis leave to Yuksom twice a day, once between 6-7 a.m and next between 12 p.m and 1 p.m. A shared taxi charges Rs 150 per seat from Jorthang to Yuksom.
  • If you are taking a hired taxi, the route is pretty straightforward. It takes you on the Guwahati highway and branches off to Sikkim in half an hour. The 7 hour journey takes you through Melli, Jorthang, Legship, Tashiding before reaching Yuksom.
  • Important: Jorthang has the last ATM and you get phone network in Yuksom and also Bhakim.Yuksom does not have any ATM and so carry sufficient cash with you before going to Yuksom. Off-route Pelling has an ATM. 

Note: On the way back, shared jeeps leave Yuksom to Jorthang at 6 a.m. Make sure to enquire about the vehicle and book a seat the previous evening.

Fitness Required

Minimum Age:

10 years

Past experience in trekking:

Useful but not essential.

Fitness required:

You need to be in good physical condition before the start of the winter camp. You should be able to jog 4 kms in 30 minutes before commencement of the trekking expedition.

A word on fitness.

The Winter camp involves trekking on snow and skiing during harsh winter weather. It takes you to a high altitude of 12000ft  when walking on heavy snow.  At that altitude the air is thin and the conditions difficult.

Your physical fitness is important for a successful completion of the trek. Training yourself to get to a jogging distance of 4 km under 30 minutes makes your lungs strong and gives it ability to process less air for more work.

Here is an exercise schedule which will help you run upto 4 km in 30mins by 5 weeks

Week 1 :

Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.

Week 2:

Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 90 seconds of jogging and two minutes of walking for a total of 20 minutes.

Week 3:

Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then do two repetitions of the following:

  • Jog 200 meters (or 90 seconds)
  • Walk 200 meters (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 350 meters (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 350 meters (or 3 minutes)

Week 4 :

Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:

  • Jog 400 meters (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 200 meters (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 800 meters (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 400 meters(or 2-1/2 minutes)
  • Jog 400 meters(or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 200 meters (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 800 meters(or 5 minutes)

Week 5 :

Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:

  • Jog 1/2 km (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 400 meters(or 3 minutes)
  • Jog 800 meters (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 400 meters(or 3 minutes)
  • Jog 800 meters (or 5 minutes)

Flexibility Exercises

Flexibility is the ability of the muscles and tendons to relax and stretch easily.  It determines the amount of movement your bones can make in any direction around joints such as shoulders, elbows, hips and knees.  Stretching improves your posture and helps to prevent low back pain.  Stretching your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors and low back muscles regularly, promotes relaxation in the tissues reducing the strain on your back.  On your trek, it is important that you arrive on the slopes with your muscles relaxed. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before the trek.

Warm-up stretching exercises loosen tendons, increase blood circulation, and help prevent injuries during your workouts or any activity.  Cool-down stretching helps relieve muscle soreness and tightness.

Here's a simple and highly effective fitness plan that will help you be better prepared.

fitnesschart

 

Photos from the trek

Trekker Photo Albums

1. Trekker Ayan Das of October 2014 batch shares his trek photos.

Prek Chu River at Kokchurang, Sikkim

samiti lake from top

Pandim

samiti lake from top

 View his entire album here

2. Sujith Padaru who trekked in October 2014 to Goechala shares his photossnow

goechala

 View his entire album here.

 3. Here are some awesome clicks shared by our trekker Purav Patel who trekked in October 2014 to Goechala.

Prek river

Jemathang

Samiti lake

wild berries

 

View his entire album here.

4. Trekker Parmeet Kohli shares his photos. He trekked in November 2014 to Goechala.

Kathok Lake

goecha

 fall

 View his entire album here.

5. Here are some awesome clicks shared by our trekker Samujjwal Sahu who trekked in October 2013.

Goechala

goech1

goecha3

goecha4

View his entire album here...

Mohit Mangal shares his photos of Goechala

This is a picture from Dzongri top at about 530am, when we wanted to see the sunrise amidst the various ranges in front of us.

 

This is a picture on the day of the pass, while we were back on our way down. This is a sort of panorama of Samiti Lake and its reflecting surface. From the viewpoint 1, this is a view of MT. Kanchenjunga through the prayer flags on the mountains, trying to capture the essence of the culture and the mountain. Needless to say, this is a picture of Mt. Panjim, the mountain which seemed more beautiful to us then Mt. Kanchenjunga. Also, one of the only mountains that stayed with us from the 2nd base camp till the way back. This was the view of our last base camp in the trek. This picture is special as it shows the expanse of the valley with respect to our camp (Tiny orange tents)

Goecha la Photo Contest

First Prize: Shanker - Sept/Oct 2012 photo contest

Goechala trek

Second Prize: Arun - Sept/Oct 2012 photo contest

Goechala trek

 




Trek inclusions

Trek fee: Rs. 14,650/-*

*Service tax at 3.09% is payable on the trek fee

Inclusions:

 

  • Accommodation during the trek (camping)
  • All meals - vegetarian (starting from dinner at Yuksom on day 1 and ending with breakfast at Yuksom on the day 10)
  • Trekking permits and forest camping charges
  • Trekking equipment (tents, sleeping bags, ice axes, ropes, etc.)
  • Safety equipment (first aid, medical kit, oxygen cylinders, stretcher, etc.)
  • Services of an expert trek leader (qualified in basic/advanced mountaineering courses)
  • Services of an expert trek team  (guides, cooks, helpers, porters/mules)

Exclusions:

 

  • Food during transit is not included (to and from the base camp)
  • Backpack offloading charges - Rs 2200
  • Personal expenses of any kind
  • Anything apart from the inclusions

 


INDIAHIKES SAFETY

At Indiahikes, safety of a trekker comes first. You will experience it first hand on the slope. Your team is accompanied by experienced trek leaders, safety gears, high end trek equipment, high altitude first aid kits and most importantly the right information.

If there is a medical emergency on the trek, your trek leaders are trained to handle crisis, especially related to altitude and medical emergencies. Indiahikes team carries high altitude medical equipment, oxygen cylinders, and other emergency kits.

Most situations are resolved by the trek leader's intervention.If,however,evacuation is required, it is carried out by the Indiahikes team. The affected participant is moved down to the nearest emergency medical centre as soon as possible. This can take time, even 1-2 days, especially from high camps. Medical expenses, if required, at the medical centre are to be borne by the participant. 

Doctors trek at a 50% concession

As an initiative in this regard we want to encourage doctors to trek and also function as team doctors. If you are a doctor on the trek and would like to become the team doctor, please let us know. 

As team doctor, on successful completion of trek, you will receive a Indiahikes trek voucher for 50% of trek fee. The trek voucher can be redeemed for any other trek.

Interested doctors, apply to support@indiahikes.in

NOTE: Do not make any travel arrangements until you have received an email confirmation from Indiahikes.


 

Foreigners, please note:

  • As per regulations, you need to obtain a special permit at Gangtok to trek in Sikkim. 
  • Indiahikes can help you obtain this permit. Kindly reach Yuksom a day before the trek batch starts.
  • The charges of obtaining the permit will be Rs 1000 per person and has to be paid to our representative who will meet you at Yuksom.

Permits required:

Documents required:

  • Original passport + 1 photo copy
  • 2-3 photocopies of Innerline permit
  • 1 photocopy of visa
  • 2 passport size photographs