This is a moderate-to-difficult trek with an optional climb to 16,200 feet along the way - while it is short in length and there are no pass crossings, the hiking is strenuous. The greatest challenge is the fast elevation gain at the start of the trek but there is soon an inspiring reward for the hard work - some of the most spectacular mountain vistas in the entire Himalaya. Most people should be in good physical condition with some previous hiking experience.
Day 1: Arrive in New Delhi, India where our driver will be waiting once you have completed arrival formalities. Departing the airport we have just a short drive of about 20 minutes to arrive at our guest house. Make sure to get a bottle of water. Drink as much as you can to help rehydrate from the flight and get some sleep.
Day 2: Meet for breakfast early so we can transfer to the airport for our morning flight to Bagdogra. On our arrival, drive to Gangtok — a scenic five to six hour road trip. We'll stop for entry formalities at the Sikkim border. Once we enter Sikkim, we continue along the beautiful Teesta River to Gangtok, the capital, located at an elevation of 6,000 feet. Here we will check in to our hotel, designed with a typical Sikkimese decor and holding good views of Kanchengjunga (28,169 feet) — the third highest mountain in the world and the area's most sacred peak. Get ready for delicious Tibetan and Chinese food.
Day 3: Enjoy a beautiful sunrise view of Kanchengjunga right from the hotel. Today we'll visit the local market and tour the local sights. Places of interest include Enchey Monastery where 90 monks are in residence. It is important to our hosts that we are respectful when we visit monasteries. Most important, be sure to walk clockwise around holy objects such as mani walls (prayers carved in stone). Later we visit the Rumtek Monastery, built to seat the 16th Karmapa Rimpoche after he fled from Tibet. We will spend a second night at our comfortable hotel in Gangtok.
Day 4: Travel by Land Rover to Yuksam (6,000 feet). The nine-hour drive is picturesque, traveling up and down the green, undulating hills of Sikkim. Yuksam is just a small, sleepy town now, but as the former capital of Sikkim, it is the place where the first king was crowned. It is also the trailhead for our trek. Overnight at our hotel in Yuksam.
Day 5: The trek team will be busy loading porters and or yaks this morning. You may want a short hike to explore the interesting monasteries nearby. Our trek begins with a long but gentle climb along the Ratang Chu five to six hours to reach our camp. The trek meanders through forest all day with an occasional stream crossing on well-maintained bridges. Camp at Bakhim (9,020 feet). Today's ascent is over 3,000 feet. On trek all food including breakfast, lunch and dinner are prepared by our own highly skilled camp cook.
Day 6: Bakhim-Pethang: Today's four-to-five hour trek climbs steeply through forests of pine, magnolia and rhododendron, to emerge into the alpine country for views of many high Himalayan peaks: Pandim (22,000 feet), Tenzing Khang, Jupono and Narsingh. The panorama is awe-inspiring. We pass though Tsokha, a small Tibetan settlement with a monastery and a holy lake. After a day of steep uphill hiking, camp is at Pethang (11,972 feet) Today's ascent is about 3,000 feet.
Day 7: Pethang-Dzongri: Our two-to three-hour climb begins in deep forests and ends in high alpine yak-grazing country. The land is dotted with chortens — large domes containing religious relics. Tonight we camp at Dzongri (13,200 feet).
Day 8: Layover at Dzongri: From Dzongri, we have intimate views of the Himalayas at arms reach. Towering above us are the snowy peaks Jupono (19,500 feet) and Pandim (21,950 feet). It is important that we rest today and drink plenty of water in order to acclimatize properly. Camp at Dzongri (13,200 feet).
Day 9: Dzongri-Thansing: A four-hour walk takes us past a series of cairns above the Prek Valley. From here you can view Kanchengjunga and the entire Prek Valley as far north as the Guicha La. From the ridge there is a steep descent through Rhododendron forests to the river bed. We head up the river bed to a bridge over the Prek River. Soon we reach the Thansing Meadow (12,890 feet), where we camp with clear views of Pandim and the east ridge of Kanchengjunga.
Day 10: Thansing-Sumati Lake: A short trek takes us through an area where we may find yaks and blue sheep. The land is open and windswept. Scenic high points are dotted with Buddhist prayer flags as you begin climbing up the lateral moraine. Enormous boulders rise above the scree. Overnight camp in the meadows below Sumati Lake (14,200 feet).
Day 11: Day Hike from Sumati Lake: We'll be careful to make sure everyone is acclimatizing well. An optional day hike takes about nine hours and we must get a very early start in order to ensure clear views. We will climb to the dramatic Gorha-La viewpoint - the most spectacular view of "Kangchendzonga," how the local people refer to this majestic mountain. The British found this too hard to pronounce and the standard transliteration is now Kanchengjunga. We are so close, it feels like we can reach out and touch the mountain! We return back through Samati and continue on downhill to Thansing.
Day 12: Thansing-Choakchrung: Our camp tonight is at Choakchrung. Today we assess our group schedule and well-being. Be prepared to be flexible at this point as we will want to "play it by ear." It is only a two-hour hike down from Thansing to Choakchrung (10,000 feet) so we have plenty of time to enjoy the beauty around us.
Day 13: Choakchrung-Tsokha: Take a new trail through deep green virgin forests of Rhododendron, White fir and Blue Spruce. Today's walk takes five hours and ascends 1,000 feet as you enjoy the sounds of the forest. Hiking below moss-covered branches, we are surrounded by birds and butterflies. Camp at Tsokha (10,000 feet).
Day 14: Tsokha-Yuksam: Return downhill to Yuksam. It is a steep 4,000-foot descent and takes about seven hours. Overnight at our hotel in Yuksam (6,000 feet).
Day 15: Yuksam-Darjeeling: After a two-hour drive, we stop for lunch and to visit Pema Yangtse, the premier monastery of Sikkim built in the 17th century. It's a wooden structure depicting "Sangthokpalris", the heavenly abode of Guru Padmasambhava (the Buddhist lama who is credited with converting Sikkim and Tibet to Buddhism). Visitors are welcome at a prayer and chanting session. Enjoy captivating scenes of paddy fields and orange groves as we drive on back roads to Darjeeling. Our hotel is a delightful older establishment with gardens, views and fireplaces. There is free time to relax and settle in before an optional short evening stroll around the Mall. Darjeeling was originally established by the British as a hill station in the mid 1800s to escape the heat of the plains. Pleasantly surrounded by tea plantations on all sides, we can absorb magnificent views of snowy peaks including Kanchengjunga. Overnight at our hotel Darjeeling.
Day 16: Darjeeling: Today we will visit the famous Ghoom Monastery, which enshrines an image of the Maitreya Buddha. The monks are friendly and will probably invite us to join them for a cup of the famous, salty, Yak Butter Tea. We may enjoy a short but memorable ride 4.5 miles back to Darjeeling from Ghoom on the famous "Toy Train". Completed in 1882 this railway connected Darjeeling with the rest of British India. Our ride, although short, will give us a chance to admire the Bastasia Loop, one of four complete loops and five switchbacks maneuvered on this feat of engineering. After lunch, visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, the Zoological Park and the Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Center (to shop for arts and crafts). We will spend a second night at our hotel in Darjeeling.
Day 17: Darjeeling-Delhi: After breakfast, we head to Bagdogra for the afternoon flight back to Delhi. This flight arrives in Delhi in about two hours to reenter the modern world. Alternatively you can divert to Nepal via taxi and flight to Kathmandu or explore Bhutan via Land Rover. Your group leader will depart from the group today. If you don't depart today, inquire about booking additional nights in Delhi, as well as many additional options to enhance your visit. (Breakfast)
Set Dates for 2013: 2013 Sikkim & Kanchenjunga Trek — November 1-17, 2013 — From New Delhi, India
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Asia India Outdoor: Land Rambler Hiking & Trekking Walking Tours
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