“The body roams the mountains; and the spirit is set free”
- Hsu Hsia-k’o, 17th Century Chinese poet
In Indian mountaineer and writer Harish Kapadia’s Across Peaks & Passes in Darjeeling and Sikkim, he listed 20 major passes in the Sikkim Himalaya, ranging from the 3500m-Chhiya Bhanjang to Jongsang la (6145m) and 14 major peaks, from 6147m-8586m, that have been explored or topped out since the late 1880s. Many of the pre-World War II Everest expeditions passed through the northern valleys of Sikkim en route to Tibet when Nepal’s border was closed for 100 years during the rule of the Rana dynasty.
But due to political turbulence and its sensitive borders with neighboring countries of Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet, access to the former Himalayan kingdom was severely restricted from the 50s. From around 1961, Sikkim border was shut completely, except for army personnel. It was only in 1975, when Sikkim became part of India, that the first expedition to Talung from the Goecha La and Talung glacier was approved.
Although Sikkim and Nepal share the Himalayan range on their borders, including Mt Kanchenjunga which straddles both countries, Sikkim’s trekking industry is less commercialized and developed compared to Nepal. Unlike Nepal’s teahouse-trekking concept, with lodges for travellers enroute, most of the treks in Sikkim are run expedition-style with tents, porters and cooks.
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.