Visa and Permits
Because Sikkim shares its borders with Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet, all foreigners entering Sikkim have to apply for Inner Line Permit (ILP) or Restricted Area Permit (RAP) for security reasons. Permits can be applied at Indian Missions, Sikkim Tourism offices at New Delhi, Kolkata, District Magistrate Office of Darjeeling, Siliguri, and Rangpo, or online at: https://sikkimpts.azurewebsites.net/ilp/index. A 30-day permit can be issued on the spot with the relevant documents: photocopies of passport and Indian visa and two passport photos. Foreign tourists are permitted to stay in Sikkim for 30 days. However, the permit can be extended for another 30 days at Foreigners Registration Office (FRO) in Gangtok or the FRO in North, West and South Districts.
Foreigners who want to trek in Sikkim’s interior regions need to apply for the Protected Area Permit (PAP) issued by the Tourism and Civil Aviation. However, only travellers in a group of two or more can apply for the PAP through a registered travel agency in Sikkim. Certain areas located in the international border areas like Nathula and Gurudongmar are closed to foreigners. Domestic tourists require permits to visit these areas. Permits can be applied via registered travel agents.
Easy: A beginner’s trek that includes 3 to 6 hours of walking, covering 4 to 12km a day with some steep ascents and descents, and altitude reaching up to 3,800m. Previous Himalayan trekking experience is not required but you should be physically fit.
Moderate: For experienced trekkers who seek a higher level of physical challenge. Treks of up to 12km a day, averaging 5 to 12 hours of walking, and a 1000-m elevation gain over steep, rugged terrain, exposed areas and altitude exceeding 4000m. Expect to scramble over rocks and boulders and traverse a series of moraines. You will camp at an altitude of over 4000m.
Difficult: Although a non-technical climb, this trek is physically demanding and caters to experienced Himalayan trekkers. You trek over steep, rugged terrain at elevation gains over 1000m. Daily hikes averaging 8 to 10 hours, usually for more than 10 days, and you camp at an altitude over 5000m. The high altitude and long days make the trek strenuous.
Your choice of gear can either make or break your trip. In the Himalayas, weather conditions can change in a flash. The volatile climate at high altitude means you can experience drastic temperature drop, heavy downpour or even snowfall in a single day.
Having the right gear is about being as comfortable as you can be while enjoying the outdoors. As the Scandinavians say, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
The gear listed here are suitable for all Sikkim Peak’s trekking itineraries, with the exception of Sikkim Expedition Trek which requires more technical gear.
Layering is the key as it allows you to slip layers on and off and regulate comfort based on weather changes and activity level. The 3 basics: base layer (closest to your skin) works to wick (move) sweat off your skin to keep you from becoming chilled or risk hypothermia. Mid-layer works as an insulation to retain body heat. Outer layer (shell) protects you from rain and wind.
1. Base layer & underwear:
Quick-drying shirt and underwear; synthetic materials like polyester and nylon, or merino wool wick and dissipate sweat well so you’ll stay comfortable. Polyester is cheaper and more durable whilst wool is warmer and odor-resistant.
Polyester fleece or down jackets; Polyester comes in lightweight, mid-weight and heavyweight fabrics. It breathes well, stays warm even when damp and dries fast. Down offers more warmth for its weight, compresses for easy packing but can be pricey and loses insulation when damp.
3. Outer shell:
Lightweight waterproof/breathable jackets repel water while allowing vapour to escape as you work up a sweat. Gore-Tex, eVent, NeoShell, OutDry, H2No are some of the waterproof/breathable fabrics used by outdoor brands. PVC ponchos aren’t suitable for long, strenuous treks as you’ll be drenched in your own sweat and risk catching a cold.
4. Hiking pants:
Quick-drying pants. Go for synthetics like nylon or polyester or splurge on Cordura pants which are pricier but highly breathable, durable, and comes with a soft, cotton-like finish. Most hiking pants come with a DWR (durable water repellent) coating to repel light rain and snow.
Gloves; a lightweight or fleece liner glove and waterproof rain gloves to layer over the liners when needed. Opt for materials like polyester, merino wool, Polartec Fleece or PrimaLoft liner.
A hat, wool beanie or Buff; At high altitude, the sun’s intensity will lead to sunburn. Some hats come with neck covers to protect the back of our necks. When the temperature dips, we lose most heat through our head so a warm beanie or Buff (a multifunctional headwear that can be used as a hat, balaclava, headband) is a godsend.
Sunglasses Opt for 100% UV sunglasses designed to protect your eyes from the intense light at high altitudes and sunlight reflecting off snow.
Hiking boots & sandals for campsite; for multi-day trips, look for boots that are sturdy, stable and provide support for rugged terrains. Nylon/synthetic mesh or split/full-grain leather uppers offer flexibility and breathability. Gore-Tex-lined shoes keep your feet dry and less blister-prone. Vibram or Contagrip outsoles ensure superb trail traction on rocky and wet terrain. Synthetic fibres or wool socks keep your feet dry and prevent blisters. Waterproof gaiters can come in handy when it rains or snow or the trail turns muddy.
On the Trek, bring:
7. Trekking poles
Trekking poles are indispensable for long treks and the precipitous Himalayan terrains. They protect your joints and give you better endurance and stability.
8. Drinking water
On a two- to four-hour hike, we’ll need an average of two litres of water. Our body loses about one litre of water an hour from sweat when we exercise moderately. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, headache, nausea or even a heatstroke. Instead of water bottles which take up valuable pack space, use a 2 to 3-liter hydration reservoir.
High-calorie granola bars, nuts or dried fruits to stave off hunger pangs and provide the extra energy boost for tackling sheer slopes.
10. First-Aid kit
Pre-assembled kits are available at outdoor gear shops. But you can pack your own and seal it in a waterproof casing or a large Ziploc bag. Do include basic, over-the-counter pills like antacids and painkillers, bandages (various sizes), gauze pads and disinfectant ointment.
On some treks, we start the day before sunrise so a headlamp comes in handy. Or when you need to move around the campsite at night. Bring extra batteries.
Since our treks are supported, you only need to carry a daypack with a capacity ranging from 11 to 20 litres to carry extra layer/rain jacket, snacks, water and camera. Look for packs with side pockets for water bottles or a hydration sleeve for your removable reservoir. Smaller packs (less than 20 litres) usually don’t come with rain covers attached. Buy a separate rain cover or pack a large enough garbage bag to keep your pack dry during a sudden downpour.
*In Gangtok, Sikkim, there are a few outdoor gear shops that carry outer jackets, mid-layers and base layers, hiking boots, trekking poles, sleeping bags, headlamps, and etc, from reputable brands like The North Face, Mountain Hardware, Gore-Tex, Craghoppers and Salomon. For more info, message us.
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