Trek the Himalayas of Sikkim, India in the Shadow of Kanchenjunga


Global Adventure - Trek the Himalayas of Sikkim, India in the Shadow of Kanchenjunga

Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest peak, will fill your sky along with dozens of other Himalayan giants from Goecha La Pass on this 9-day trek through Kanchenjunga National Park in Sikkim, India, sampling an immense range of landscapes, flora and fauna, as well as high mountain culture far more ancient than the state itself. Our trek will be guided by Jamling Tenzing Norgay, the son of the first Everest summiter Tenzing Norgay, and we'll enjoy high tea at Tenzing Norgay’s family home and a visit to their family museum and shrine. The trek starts and ends in Bagdogra, India and includes a day to explore lovely Darjeeling. Stay in 3* hotels in town, carry only a daypack on the trek with supported camping every night. Designed to follow right after the Bhutan Jomolhari trek adventure. NOTE: Fee shown is the final payment, due by Sept 18, 2018. (Please see ‘Trip Price Detail’ below to view full pricing details.)

COVID-19: Learn about our most up-to-date guidance for participants and leaders on our COVID-19 Response page. All participants and leaders must agree to the COVID-19 Code of Conduct before participating in this Mountaineers activity.
  • Thu, Nov 1, 2018 — Wed, Nov 14, 2018
  • Global Adventures Committee
  • Global Adventures, Backpacking
  • Adults
  • Strenuous
  • Challenging
  • Mileage: 54.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 15,500 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 16,406 ft
  • Pace: Moderate

This adventure is scheduled to facilitate participants first doing the Bhutan Jomolhari Circuit Adventure (in neighboring Bhutan) and then transferring immediately thereafter to Bagdogra India to do this adventure.

Arrive no later than Thursday Nov 1, 2018 in Bagdogra, India (participants in the Bhutan Jomolhari Circuit adventure will fly in that day).  Drive to Darjeeling and spend a day sightseeing there before transferring to the start of the trek in ancient Yuksom.  Finish the trek at Pelling and transfer back to Bagdogra on November 14  for flights home or on to other adventures.

NOTE:  Flight schedules are not yet released for the local routes in Sikkim and Bhutan, so these dates are not final until that can be settled.

Itinerary Highlights:  

Our trip will begin with a transfer from Bagdogra airport to Darjeeling, a beautiful three hour ride along forests, tea estates and pleasant hillside towns and villages along the route of the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway or “Toy Train”. Darjeeling is a peaceful hill town once a resort and healing spa for the British raj, surrounded by lush tea estates and with Kanchenjunga and a row of snowy Himalayan peaks in the distance.  We’ll spend a day exploring and acclimatizing in Darjeeling including visits to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI), the center and training school for Indian climbers, the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park with its rare collection of animals including Siberian Tigers, Red Pandas and the Snow Leopards, the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center and the Happy Valley Tea Garden.   

Our welcome in Darjeeling will include the unique privilege of a late afternoon high tea at the Tenzing Norgay family Residence and an opportunity to visit the late Tenzing’s personal museum, which houses an invaluable collection of medals and personal memorabilia. 

The next morning we’ll transfer in a private vehicle approximately 5 hours over winding roads, through the green countryside, cardamom groves and small Sikkimese villages to Yoksum, one of the most historic sites in Sikkim.   Upon arrival we’ll take an afternoon hike to Dubdi monastery, the oldest monastery in Sikkim, and on to the coronation site of the 1st king of Sikkim in 1642. 

From Yuksom our 9-day Goecha La trek begins in earnest, though with an itinerary that builds in a gradual ascent profile for acclimatization.  Starting out in lush semi-tropical hills of oaks, spruce, orchids, giant magnolias and rhododendrons along the Prek Chu (river), we’ll climb steadily for three days to Dzongri, a breathtaking setting on a clear day with a spectacular view of the 14  peaks of the Kangchenjunga Himal.  We’ll spend a rest and acclimatization day here, with the option of a day hike to Gingay Dara,  a pass overlooking a valley with panoramic views of Ratong Glacier, Koktang, Kabru ,Frey and peaks to the south of Kanchenjunga. In the distance we may see the Himalayan Mountain Institute’s Base Camp where students of the institute do high altitude mountain training. Over the next two days we’ll climb along ridges overlooked by the Himalayan crest, then drop steeping into the Onglathang valley and climb again along the valley through meadows, past yak herders and grazing yaks to our highest camp at Lamuney at 13,650 feet. We’ll have an afternoon to rest here before our big climb to Goecha La the next day - day hikes are available from here to either the Samiti lake (14,400) or to the base of Mt. Tinchin Khang’s glacier (15,500 ft).  

On our most dramatic day, weather permitting we’ll rise very early for the long hike to Goeche La and back, about six to seven hours of strenuous walking on challenging moraine, culminating at 16,207′ with in-your-face views of Kanchenjunga and surrounding peaks across a desolate moonscape of glacier and rock (so stunning that the Indian government decided to feature the view on its 100-rupee note!).   (An easier option will be available to hike to a 15,000’ viewpoint along the route to Goecha La, for those who don’t feel up to the full trek to the pass and back.)  

From Goecha La we’ll trek two more days mostly downhill along a different off-the-beaten-path route to Bakkim, Phedang and Tshoka and finally Yuksom where we’ll have lunch and afternoon free to rest and shower, have our  farewell  dinner and   say  our final   goodbye to our trek staff.  After breakfast the next morning we will drive to Pelling and visit the sacred Pemayangtse monastery, regarded as one of Sikkim’s most sacred and prestigious centers of religious learning, and the Rabdentse Ruins, the second capital of the former kingdom of Sikkim from 1670 to 1814. The capital city was destroyed by the invading Gurkha army and only the ruins of the palace and the chortens are seen here now.  From the ruins if the weather allows we’ll get our last, superb views back to the Kanchenjunga Himal.  From Pelling we’ll drive back to Bagdogra (approx. 5 hours) for flights onward.

For a more detailed daily itinerary with photos and overview map, click here.  For daily distance, altitude and elevation gain/loss, click here.

NOTE:  As with any extended travel, but particularly in an area with unpredictable weather, our itinerary can change without notice and sections may be modified or dropped.  The priority will always be on safety for all participants. 

 Time of Year:   We’ll be visiting during early November, when the summer monsoons have passed leaving the best chance of clear skies for at least part of the day.  (Bhutan and Sikkim are in the eastern Himalaya which tend to be wetter than Nepal and the western Himalaya, so afternoon clouds and showers can happen even in November.)  Weather will be very cold, however, with the chance of some high altitude snow showers.

Lodging:   Comfortable 3-star bed and breakfast hotels in town, and 8 nights of supported camping (tents, sleeping gear and food will be carried for us, and camps and meals prepared for us by support staff).

Food:   All meals will be provided except on our arrival and departure days.   We will sample some of the tasty local dishes and drinks at restaurants in town. Food in the Himalaya, particularly that carried on supported treks, is usually quite simple but filling, heavy to potatoes, eggs, rice and lentils with some meat.  Vegetarian diets are easily accommodated but not many other specialized requirements.

Leaders' Experience:   Primary leader Cheryl Talbert has led several Mountaineers and private backpacks, treks and cultural trips around the U.S. west and worldwide, including co-leading the Everest Basecamp/Three Passes Loop in Nepal in 2012 and extended high-altitude treks in Peru in 2014 and 2015 (  She is an instructor for Wilderness Navigation and certified in Wilderness First Aid.   Co-leader Sharon Carlson has backpacked and climbed for 30+ years, has been a Mountaineers climb leader for 5+ years, and has trekked and climbed all over the U.S. and around the world including high altitude treks and climbs in the Andes and the Himalayas.  She is Chair of the Tacoma Branch Wilderness First Aid Committee and is an EMT, retired Firefighter and military flight nurse.

 Trip Rating:  The Goecha La trek is rated strenuous and challenging, because of the high altitude (one 16,000-foot pass and 6 successive nights of camping between 10 and 13,000’), potentially severe weather, rugged terrain (including boulders, steep scree and some slippery snow), and 3-10-mile trekking days with one day of elevation gain of 3850’.  

Participant Requirements:   Must be a current Mountaineers member with an up-to-date waiver on file. This outing includes long strenuous days of hiking on rugged terrain including some steep moraine and scree slopes that can be wet and slippery, for multiple successive days without such amenities as showers or laundry.  The weather at these altitudes can change quickly from mild to very cold with rain or occasional light snow.  For these reasons, participants need to be in excellent aerobic condition with good balance and confidence traveling on rough trail, and with the experience and willingness to pack appropriately and to deal with some discomfort, cold and inclement weather for extended periods.  Recent experience with multi-day strenuous backpacking, scrambling or hiking, plus a positive attitude and a demonstrated ability to get along well with groups under demanding conditions and under the stress of an unfamiliar culture, will be very important.  Past good experience at altitude will be a plus.

NOTES RELATED TO ALTITUDE AND REMOTENESS:    The elevations reached for multiple days on this trek create an elevated risk of altitude illness including the potential for fatal pulmonary or cerebral edema. In addition, for multiple days on this trek the group will be more than 2 days from the nearest road with good medical facilities additional hours by car beyond that (helicopters are available but only for the most extreme emergencies). 

For these reasons participants will be expected to attend a seminar on altitude illness symptoms and prevention, and another discussion-style seminar on leadership and decision making in high-hazard outdoor situations.  In addition, participants will be expected to actively participate in advance planning of gear, trip logistics and navigation, to demonstrate good fitness and confidence on rough terrain, and under certain circumstances may be asked to get their doctor’s approval before being approved for the trip.  Participants will be expected to cooperate closely together as an expedition team and make decisions including daily route, start and end times and pace based on the safety and well being of the entire group.

Participants will be required to carry international medical insurance and emergency evacuation insurance sufficient to get them back to medical help in the United States if needed.

Trip Price Detail:   Total price $3600 including all lodging, transport, excursions, guides, support staff and most meals, plus some leaders' expenses and a Mountaineers administration fee.  Your international and domestic airfare, travel insurance, Indian visa and tips for our guides are not included.   

Registration Instructions:   Please complete and submit the application form .   Priority will not be based on date of application but rather to applicants with more group trekking and higher altitude experience and to those who want to sign up for both the Sikkim and Bhutan adventures.    For this reason there could be a delay of a few weeks after you apply before you find out if you are approved.

As soon as possible upon acceptance on the roster, participants are expected to complete and submit the Global Adventures Liability Release and a detailed Trip Agreement.

application         release        trip agreement

After the leaders' approval, click on 'register' from this trip listing and pay the 50% deposit online in order to hold your space on the roster. Registration will close on May 1, 2018 or whenever the roster fills. A place on the roster can only be secured with payment of the deposit.   The date when the balance of the trip payment is owed will be announced later.

Cancellation Policy:   If you cancel because of an emergency, you may receive a refund less expenses incurred and a $100 administrative fee.


Trek the Himalayas of Sikkim, India in the Shadow of Kanchenjunga

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

After receiving your deposit, the leaders will send out a series of letters and emails providing information to help participants succeed on the trip, including recommended and required gear, recommended maps and guidebooks.

Participants will be required to attend a seminar on altitude illness symptoms and prevention, and another discussion-style seminar on leadership and decision making in high-hazard outdoor situations.  Dates of these seminars will be planned based on the schedules of participants.


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