Detailed Itinerary of Goechala Trek:
Day 1: Travel from NJP/Bagdogra to Yuksom by jeep.
It is a 6-7 hour ride through the hills. Upon arrival in Yuksom, prepare for the trek that starts the next day. If time permits, one could also see around Yuksom. The Dubdi monastery, the Coronation throne are a couple of the local attractions. Additionally, Yuksom is a historically important place for Sikkim as it was annointed the first capital of Sikkim in 1643 AD.
Day 2: Yuksom (1750m) to Sachen (2250m). 8km appx.
This is a fairly easy walk and helps trekkers to find their rhythm and gradually get used to the demands of the trail. The distance is about 8km and it takes between 3.5-4.5 hours for most trekkers to reach Sachen. Trekkers tend to skip this camp site at times, however this is not recommended unless one is a regular and experienced trekkers who has done multiple 800m single day altitude gains before.
Day 3: Sachen (2250m) to Tsokha (2950m). 8km appx.
The walk begins in an easy fashion from Sachen and takes about about an hour to the bridge over Prek chu (chu meaning river). From the bridge to Tsokha is a straight ascent of about 5 km and is a good introduction to the climb the next day. Bakhim (meaning Bamboo Hut) breaks the climb. There is a tea stall at Bakhim and one can sit here and enjoy the views of the valley below. Trekkers are often astonished at how much they have climbed in the previous hour and half. Rhododendron trees abound around Bakhim and here onwards till you are above the tree line they will remain a constant companion. It is a further hour and half to Tsokha.
Day 4: Tsokha (2950m) to Dzongri (3950m). 10km appx.
This day is often referred to as the ‘test day’ since it is a relentless and fairly steep climb from Tsokha to Dzongri. You will gain altitude fast and it is important to not rush up the slope. Time the ascent to reach Dzongri is about 5-6 hours and you will still reach comfortably by 2pm, assuming you start at around 8am. The trail passes via Phedang (3679m appx.) which almost slices the walk into half. It looks like a possible camp site but teams do not prefer to camp here because of lack of water near the campsite. Water here must be brought from far (20 min walk one way). Thus, teams rest here for a while, have their packed lunch/rations provided to them in the morning, and proceed to Dzongri. In an hour, you will come across Deorali top, the highest point on this day at over 4100m. Here on the trail eases out and descends slightly to dzongri. Many people, upon arrival in Dzongri will experience a mild headache due to the 1000m effective gain. Make sure you stay warm and hydrated. Let the guide/team leader know about any headache or health difficulty. Usually the headache should subside in a couple of hours.NOTE: There is no water source on the trail on this day and trekkers must fill up at Tsokha and ration the water wisely.
Day 5: Rest Day. Acclimatization
This day you stay on at Dzongri and take rest. You may choose to wake up early and walk up to Dzongri top to see a full panoramic view of all the snow-capped mountains around at sunrise. One can see at least 10 peaks here from left to right, including Kokthang, Rathong, Frey’s peak, Black Kabur, Kabru dome, Kabru north and south, Kanchenjunga, Pandim, Tenzingkhang, Japnoo, Narsing and a few others. Return from Dzongri top to the campsite and rest here for the day.
Day 6: Dzongri (3970m) to Thangsing (3800m). 10km appx.
This day you ascend a little from the Dzongri campsite and then walk through meadows with gentle up and down slopes till you arrive at the steep descent to the Kokchurang campsite by the Prek chu. The descent is challenging for almost everyone and can take around an hour. Kokchurang campsite is nestled in a dense forest by the river side and is a perfect spot to rest for a while. We do not set up camp here on our way up. After some rest, we proceed to Thangsing, our camp for the night, through some more beautiful forest. On a clear day, the Thangsing campsite gives you a welcome gift of outstanding views of Mt. Pandim right upon arrival. Soak in the beauty of the sights before you and surrender to nature’s splendour. Thangsing is a wide open field and you will often find trekkers or local staff playing cricket, football or volleyball here. Join in for some fun and to test your lungs!
Day 7: Thangsing (3800m) to Lamuney (3950m). 3.5km appx.
It is the simplest day of the trek. A very gradual gain from Thangsing will take you to Lamuney in 1.5 hours. Start late by 10 am and you will still reach Lamuney by 11:30am. Relax at camp. The following morning you will be up early and leave for View Point 1 around 2:30am.
Day 8: Lamuney (3950m) to View Point 1 (4600m) and back to Kokchurang (3600m). 15km appx.
The day starts early at 2:30am. It will be biting cold at this hour and one must be prepared for it. Typically the temperature will be below zero at start. Start slowly and cross the Samiti Lake in the dark on your way up to the view point. The start is timed to take you the view point around first light and before sunrise for, as beautiful as first light looks on the peaks, the sunrise is pure magic. Peaks light up in the descending order of altitude with Kanchenjunga first to be lit followed by kabru north and then the lower peaks in order. The route used to be open right up to the Goecha la earlier. However, the National park authorities have closed the route beyond view point 1 now as the zone beyond it has been identified as having significant concentration of blue sheep and the snow leopard. This area is a breeding zone for these species as well and has been demarcated as a conservation zone to reduce human interference. Carry a pair of binoculars with you to give yourself a chance of spotting a rare leopard or a flock of blue sheep. Leopard sightings are very rare as they are extremely shy and if you see one, count yourself very very lucky! Descend to Samiti Lake on your way back to the camp. Around 8am, when you are likely to be back at Samiti, the water is very still usually and a full reflection of the peaks around it is visible in the water. Several birds will be out by now and the area around the lake is a great place for photography aficionados. Come back to camp at Lamuney, have an early lunch and move down to Kokchurang campsite next to the river for the night. It is warmer here and of course very beautiful.
Day 9: Kokchurang (3600m) to Tsokha (2950m). 15km appx.
The walk from Kokchurang to Phedang is through a very dense forest and no pack animals can do this trail due to the narrow nature and dense vegetation on the trail. For several hours you will walk through forests that might remind some of the forests in the Indian Western Ghats during monsoons. This part of the trail takes about 4-5 hours typically. Have the packed lunch provided to you, here. From Phedang turn left and down towards Tsokha. It is a continuous descent up to Tsokha and takes up 2 hours.
Day 10: Tsokha (2950m) to Yuksom (1750m). 16km appx.
Last day of the trek takes you back over the same route you took to come up. Descend all the way to the suspension bridge over Prek Chu below Bakhim. It can take anywhere between 1.5 to 2.5 hours. From the bridge there is a climb for about 20mins after which the trail takes you over gentle ups and downs while constantly losing altitude towards yuksom. Expect yourself to reach Yuksom in between 5-7 hours. You will have packed lunch on this day as well and Sachen is a good point to take a break. As you near Yuksom mobile networks will become active again. Reach the road head and you are standing at the end point of the trek. A cozy bed and hot water will be waiting for you at your hotel/homestay.
Day 11: Leave Yuksom for NJP/Bagdogra as planned.
In morning after breakfast is ideally the final day of the trekking. It is advisable to start early since a long drive. Travellers we suggest you pack the luggage before have a delicious breakfast or before starting to your journey. The distance from NJP/ Bagdogra airport is 155 kilometres which ideally should take not more than 7 to 8 hours. Lunch can be enjoyed at Jorthang or malli where there are serving good local foods. After enjoying lunch drive continue to your destination at the N J P/Bagdogra Airport.