Trekking in Sikkim

Trekking is in its infancy and many of the routes are through areas that seldom see foreigners. Consequently, facilities are poorly developed though the paths are usually clear. You do not need previous experience since most treks are at 2000-3800 m. An added attraction is that dzos (a cross between a cow and a yak) will carry your gear instead of porters, though they are slower. The trekking routes also pass through villages that give an insight into the tribal people's lifestyle. With this area coming under threat from pollution by rubbish left by trekkers, be sure to choose a trekking agency that enforces good environmental practices; ECOSS in Gangtok and the KCC in Yuksom can point you in the right direction.

Khangchendzonga National Park

The park offers trekking routes through picturesque terraced fields of barley, past fruit orchards to lush green forests of pines, oak, chestnut, rhododendrons, giant magnolias, then to high passes crossing fast mountain streams and rugged terrain. Animals in the park include Himalayan brown bear, black bear, the endangered musk deer, flying squirrel, Tibetan antelope, wild ass and Himalayan wild goat. The red panda lives mostly on treetops at 3000-4000 m. There are about 600 species of birds.

The Khangchendzonga trek now falls wholly within the newly designated national park, from which all forms of industry and agriculture have been officially banished. The park office in
, about 100 m below the trekkers' huts, housed in a shiny new building has interesting exhibits and helpful staff.

The classic trekking route goes from
Yuksom to Gocha La
(variously spelt Goecha La and Gochela). This eight- to nine-day trek includes some magnificent scenery around Khangchendzonga, and there are excellent views as you travel up the Ratong Chu River to the amphitheatre of peaks at the head of the valley. These include Kokthang (6150 m), Ratong (6683 m), Kabru Dome (6604 m), Forked Peak (6116 m) and the pyramid of Pandim (6720 m) past which the trail runs.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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