In early November in 2012, I along with three other travel enthusiasts – Abhishek Das, Ankur Roy and Pradipta Roy – set out to conquer Goecha La, a 16,000 feet high mountain pass in West Sikkim, to enjoy the experience of a lifetime. The pass offers breathtaking views of the southeastern face of Mt. Kanchenjunga and other Himalayan peaks like Mt Pandim and Mt Tenzing Khan.
The Goecha La trek starts from Yuksom, a small hamlet in the foothills of the Himalayas and goes through the Kanchenjunga Reserve Forest. Prior permission from the forest officials and necessary medical clearances needs to be taken before commencing on this trek.
The first day’s trail of around 14km took us across endless sprawling greenery, ravishing waterfalls and fast flowing streams. We stayed overnight at Tshoka, a small tribal settlement. Tshoka offers the first distant views of the Goecha La Pass and after a good night’s rest, we commenced on our onward journey the next morning.
The stretch from Tshoka to Dzongri, our next halt was an extremely challenging one comprising of steep terrains, dense forests and dull surroundings. We reached Dzongri well past sundown, and set up camps adjacent to the scanty settlements in the area. Dzongri gets extremely cold during the night: think temperature below -15°C, frozen water bottles and of course snow all around.
The following morning, we continued our journey towards Thangsing. For the first time, we enjoyed panoramic views of Mt Kanchenjunga. We walked across lush green meadows, past flocks of yaks and wild horses, across frozen rivulets, down winding pathways demarcated only by the movement of cattle and locals trudging on foot. We reached Kokchrung by noon and crossed the Prek Chu River. We arrived at Thangsing by afternoon and stayed overnight at the lone trekker’s hut present there.
We started for Goecha La early next morning before sunrise. The golden rays of the rising sun offered spectacular views of Mt Kanchenjunga which towered before us like a wall of ice. We walked on freshly fallen snow, across frozen streams, often stopping to find a way so as to prevent slipping on the ice and losing our balance which we all did nevertheless. We reached Lamuney around 8am and climbed up to the Samiti Lake. Lamuney thwarted us with extremely cold winds, and despite a yearning desire to reach Goecha La, we had to abort the short steep climb from the Samiti Lake taking into consideration the extremely hazardous weather conditions. We returned to Yuksum in two days via Kokchrung and Tshoka bypassing Dzongri on our way back.
Not only did I fulfill my long standing dream of trekking in the Himalayas that November, but it also exposed me to the relentless efforts put into cleaning up the mountains in order to give the future generations a chance to experience the same thing.
Meghdoot Mukherjee, a student of IIM, Ranchi, is the winner of the Lonely Planet Travel Contest hosted by ambitionMe. This is an education venture with the mission to help youngsters discover and connect with their dream careers. You can learn more about this contest here and participate here.