A call from the mountains

The Summiteers

Ensconced in the Himalayas, a trekking expedition through the Khangchendzonga National Park in West Sikkim is not for the faint heart. It requires grit, guts and gumption and adherence to the sanctity of the wild. Nature Trekkers Goa had last May undertaken a Himalayan exploratory expedition in the region to a summit of 4171m. This writer reproduces the published article in his website to share with the readers on his challenging adventure which still is afresh in memory. Read on …

Sikkim, a beautiful State nestled in the North East of the country laps up panoramic views to the nature lovers and adventurists. And trekking up to the Dzongri Top from Yuksom through the eco diverse Khangchendzonga National Park in West Sikkim provides one such wondrous opportunity. But therein lays a catch. It is an exploratory expedition that requires courage and conviction, more than physical strength and mental stamina.

Though the relatively short trek, an off-shoot of the more difficult Goechala trek (4940m) may be a far cry of touching the skies, scaling 4171m (13,684 feet) it commands pride no less accounting to its high altitude. Few may be aware that the reverse of the 100 INR showcases the splendor of the snowcapped massif of Kabru South, Kabru North, Black Kabru, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Mt. Pandim among others as seen best from the Dzongri Top. A sight to behold! The best time here is in October under clear skies when the first rays of the sun bathes the majestic peaks with an orangy glow.

Nature Trekkers Goa in May 2017 organized their third Himalayan Exploratory Trekking Expedition in association with Green Woody, Rumtek at this high-altitude trekking trail in a span of three-and-a-half-days.  This writer was one of the successful dozen of the participating 18 trekkers from the State who had tasked out to reach the summit point and return to base camp braving AMS, adjustment to food and stay and climatic conditions.

After acclimatizing themselves at the base camp at Rumtek, 123 kms away, the enthusiastic group of young professionals was transferred to Yuksom for the commencement of the trekking expedition on May 9. But owing to inclement weather, the adventurers began from the trailhead at Yuksom, only the next morning as the weather cleared. From an altitude of 1780m, the motley group of 18 trekkers was presented with an onerous objective ahead of covering twice as much ground to compensate for a lost day. Along the undulating route to their first camp-site at Bakhim 13kms away, the Rathong valley gave a verdant glimpse of the magnificence of the Khangchendzonga National Park to the adventurers who were set to get enamoured with. The Goa-based adventurers met up friendly trekkers and gave way to the beasts of burden as they moved upwards. One could not miss the mounds of pebbles and stones (prayer structures) and colourful flags depicting Buddhism which gave a sanctified feel about the precincts.

On the bridge before Bakhim

The Yak – A Regular Sight

Prayer Structures – Ubiquitous En route

In the initial part of the trek, the murmurs of a waterfall enraptured the senses as the trekkers made their gradual ascent. As they glimpsed the first of the two cascading waterfalls along the trail, they were completely enchanted by its splendor that refreshed their senses. As they continued their trek, they came across another waterfall, which like the previous one gurgled into a stream that painted a lovely landscape. As they passed one bridge to another, the tiring group reached Sachen (2189m) for a lunch stop-over.

A late lunch stopover at Sachen

Moving forth, they passed the fourth and last of the bridges as the mainly pebbled and rocky zigzag trail  eventually gained an attitudinal gradation at Bakhim (2743m) where they reached late evening to set camp. A ramshackle Government cottage which was destroyed by an earthquake in 2011 with pine trees lined up overlooked the camp-site that gave a picturesque view of the Yuksom valley. Nearby, was a loggers’ hut where meals were served. It was quite a spectacle especially at supper having one’s meal under candle-light.

Bed Tea at Bakhim Camp-site

Logger’s Hut at Bakhim Camp-site

Early next morning, May 11, while six opted to return, the rest braced themselves to a climb upwards in excess of another 11 kms. The early part was particularly steep and excruciating. As they passed Tshoka (2985m), 3 kms away, a spectacular campsite with a few village settlements overlooking a beautiful lake decorated by colorful prayer flags overhead welcomed them.

Rhodendrons Abounded

Trekking past Tshoka Camp-site

The view from above on leaving Tshoka Camp-site

In the afternoon, at Phedang (3696m) they made a lunch halt. As the pitter-patter of rain drops began, they clambered up to their final stretch to Dzongri. The logged stair-way with loose, wet gravel in between made the ascendancy even more treacherous and challenging. The abundance of rhododendrons, wild flowers and lush oak plantations en route relived the physical strain that began to take its toll. Fog began to set in giving visibility to not more than 100 metres.  As they reached their high altitude camp-site at Dzongri (4060m) in the evening, the view where the camp was set was alluring. The vast tracts of meadow overlooking the pristine clean mountain peaks, was witness to yaks and mules grazing in gay abandon.  As dusk settled in, the temperature dipped and by night it was very chilly. The trekkers slipped on added layers of clothing to overcome the dip in the temperature.

Woken up from our snug slumber at 3.45am before day break the following morning, the adventurers warmed themselves to a steaming cuppa of bed tea. Soon after, the group readied themselves to take to the steep kilometer winding incline to their summit point – Dzongri Top (Dablhagang) soon after. It took us about quarter of an hour to reach the top situated at 4171m (13684 feet) which gave the 12 summiteers a sense of fulfillment and pride. The stunning vista of over a dozen majestic snow-capped peaks including the third highest mountain of the world, Mt. Kanchenjunga, was thoroughly enjoyable and overwhelming.

Shortly past 5 am on reaching our summit

Panoramic views of the mountain peaks from Dzongri Top

After spending at least an hour and a half on top admiring the magnificent peaks, the trekkers descended to Dzongri Base to freshen up, have breakfast and leave for Bakhim.

Back at the lower camp level, they did not feel the biting cold as much though the air grew gloomy as they settled in our tents to play cards or ludo. Later in the evening post supper, the guide and the camp-site cooks sprung a pleasant surprise with a chocolate cake complimenting their successful ascent to the summit earlier that morning.

Next morning, May 13, the adventurers set out to Yuksom with a packed lunch in their back-packs. But unlike on their ascent, the initial part up to the first bridge they came across was off-trail and through the underbrush as slight moisture began to rent the air. The group had to pass this bridge ideally before noon as about then it tends to rain and the area was susceptible to the perils of landslides. Thereon they took the normal course. As the last of trekkers, this trekker, lugging on his 6 km odd backpack trudged back to the idyllic Yuksom village, the first capital of the erstwhile Kingdom of Sikkim, it was mid-way through the afternoon and a sense of déjà vu for this fourth-time Himalayan trekker.

Back at Yuksom Village

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