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Kanchenjunga Base Camp - North Sikkim

Sikkim's best trek - and in under 3 weeks

**In June 2010 Joel died while leading The Great Himalayan Bike Adventure.
The itinerary pages of all his trips, including this one remain here unchanged.**

See Our treks for current treks

The trek to what many refer to as 'The real Kanchenjunga base camp' on the North Eastern side of this, the worlds third highest peak, is on many Himalayan trekkers 'wish list' but has been known also for the difficulty of the permit regulations.

The trek is set in the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Sikkim, a haven of diverse landscapes, cultures and wildlife; and newly opened North Sikkim is the jewel in this Kingdom's crown which we continue to explore.

In 2009 we were delighted that along with our friends in Gangtok, Marco Polo Expeditions, we took 11 trekkers on this superb trek - and it was worth every minute of bureaucratic hassle, displacing many other amazing Himalayan journeys I have made in the last three decades to make it into my top three.

After a scenic flight the length of the Himalaya, our journey takes us to newly opened North Sikkim - itself a beautiful destination rich in Himalayan history - where we begin our trek through mixed forest of rhododendron and blue pine to the Zemu glacier, the longest in the Himalaya, and on through high pasture to the stupendous North East face of Kanchenjunga, with, en route, views of Simvu, Siniolchu and Chomolhari in Bhutan.

After trekking back down the Zemu glacier, we drive to Kalimpong for a night, then Darjeeling, the old British Hill station set high among the West Bengal hills, to stay in one of our favourite post trek hotels, the atmospheric Windamere with time to visit the Mountaineering institute, or perhaps take a short ride on the old 'toy train'.

The gentle acclimatization and superb trail, recently rebuilt by the local villagers, makes for a perfect first time Himalayan trek - but even Himalayan veterans, especially those with limited time, would be impressed by this spring adventure.

Outline Itinerary

Day 1 - Friday 16 April 2010 - arrive Delhi

2 - Fly Bagdogra & drive Gangtok

3 - Drive Lachen

4 - Trek Tallem

5 - Trek Jackchen

6 - Trek Poki

7 - Trek Marco Polo Camp

8 - Trek Masuda

9 - Trek Mid Camp

10 - Trek Green lake - Masuda

11 - Trek Jabuk

12 - Trek Jakchen

13 - Trek Tallem

14 - Trek Zemu/drive Lachen

15 - Spare day

16 - Drive Kalimpong & overnight at Himalayan hotel

17 - Drive Darjeeling & overnight Windamere hotel

18 - Fly Delhi

Day 19 - Tuesday 4 May 2010 - depart


Newly opened region

Stunning views of Kanchenjunga & other Sikkim peaks

Beautiful trekking through forest & high glacier

Ideal first trek with ultra conservative acclimatization & easy trails

Beautiful campsites in forest & high pasture


No current departure - see Our treks


Joel Schone

Arrival hotel

Cottage Yes Please

Local Delhi office contact & airport Transfers

Shigeta Travel

Our service includes

Airport transfers

All hotels & guesthouses

Group transportation

Expedition-style trek:

Knowledgeable and experienced western and local guide

All meals and hot drinks on trek

Spacious four season tent on trek

1 night in Gangtok Demazon

1 night in Himalayan Kalimpong

1 night in Windamere Darjeeling

All meals in these hotels

Buffet breakfast in Delhi Radisson (day 2)

Our service excludes

Meals in Delhi

Insurance, international flights, visas, equipment rental, alcohol and soft drinks, laundry, tipping and other items of a personal nature


The Goecha La - Joel

Trekkers say

The Dzo in the snow, the glowing crimson Himalaya, the Nutella, the spoon, comparing Patagucci gear, the camaraderie, the altitude,
Csoma, Moorcroft, the fish tikka, Windermere "How was the expedition, Sir?", "I shot a moose..." – so many marvelous moments.

Thanks so much, for helping put together another fabulous trek.

John S, Sikkim Kanchenjunga 2007

Fitness and trekking experience

We are asked many questions about fitness levels for the treks and our guidelines are basically that you should be healthy, active, adventurous and spend time in the outdoors. Past trekking experience isn't necessary, although it will help you understand what a 'trek' involves. The most important factor for enjoying the trek is a positive attitude, and a sense of humor.

Detailed itinerary

Note that the trekking itinerary and campsites may vary slightly depending on trail and weather conditions and the various trekkers' acclimatization rate.

Fitness and trekking experience

Basically you should be healthy, active, adventurous and spend time in the outdoors. Past trekking experience isn't necessary, although it will help you understand what a 'trek' involves. The most important factor for enjoying the trek is a positive attitude, and a sense of humor.

Detailed itinerary

Note that the trekking itinerary and campsites may vary slightly depending on trail and weather conditions and the various trekkers' acclimatization rate.

Day 1 - Arrive Delhi

One of our drivers will be at the airport to meet you,  look out for the sign with your name on. After settling in at our hotel in the main bazaar, we have dinner together at one of Delhi's many excellent restaurants - and talk over our adventure.

Day 2 - Fly to Bagdogra and drive to Gangtok

Our flight this morning heads north and then turns to fly parallel with the Himalayan barrier. Nanda Devi, Annapurna, Everest and Makalu are among the peaks we see. After 90 minutes in the air, we touch down in the cooler air of Bagdogra, where we have an early lunch and take a five hour drive - in easy stages - to our hotel in Gangtok, the capital of modern Sikkim.

Day 3 - Drive Lachen 2735m

The paperwork and red tape always follows us; Joel and Tega will probably have to attend a briefing at the 'Black Cat' division this morning, but we hope to get away by 10. A good seven hour drive to North Sikkim, with plenty of stops to stretch our legs and admire the scenery; steep rhododendron clad hillsides high above the Teesta river. North Sikkim consists of two valleys heading up into Tibet, the Lachen and Lachung, and our destination is the main village in the Lachen valley, tucked beneath 'Lama Ogden' the peak on which the local gods who protect the valley live. Tonight we stay in a simpler hotel, and Dawa, our cook, will be making the first of many meals for us.

Day 4 - Drive and trek Tallem 3240m

Time to get the kinks out after all that sitting in planes and jeeps! We drive about 30 minutes to the road head at what is generally called Zemu - then descend on a staircase to the trail. This trail is being constantly upgraded, as it is subject to the full force of the monsoon in the summer months; sometimes there are a couple of sections that need your hands; it is only around two hours walk, but our first at altitude, so take it easy and go slow - this is one of many days to enjoy the beautiful forest. Our camp is a series of small clearings in the forest, and yes, that is the face of Kanchenjunga up valley...

Day 5- Trek Jakchen 3411m

After a good breakfast with the spring woodland all around, we set off for an easy days walking, crossing the new bridge (look downstream for the old one) onto the stone flagged trail that locals are making and maintaining. What follows is classic Himalayan forest, Maple, Rhododendron, Aster, Blue Pine - beautiful at any time, and in the spring doubly so - we ascend for nearly two hours to a high point of 3560m to superb views of Sinochuli (6891m) with its unique fluted face. A descent to the river is followed by a short and steep climb and another drop to Jakchen (Marshy place) - four hours walking and a total elevation gain of 160m - great acclimatisation!

Day 6 - Trek Poki 3658m

Jakchen is a real 'frost bowl' and we wait till the sun hits the camp at 8am for breakfast and tent drying in the sun - then away steeply past the abandoned shelters that the locals lived in while building the great trail. Last autumn we had to cross avalanche chutes and some sketchy sections which may or may not have been fixed since - two hours into the day we look back to see Chomolhari, the highest mountain in Bhutan at over 7000m - then the day is a delight of streams and small glades before climbing to the large rock known as Poki cave - a lovely camp with wooded hillsides, crags and snowpeaks all around. Lunch at camp and the afternoon to relax!

Day 7 - Trek Marco Polo Camp 4260m

Today we go through the 4000m barrier, not high by Himalayan standards, but high enough to feel breathless and have a slight headache; go slow and drink lots of water, at least three litres a day. We cross a side stream and climb through dense forest, with spring blooms all around. We have two hours gentle climbing to the first possible camp at 3950m; our back up camp if anybody feels below par. We stop here for a long break - you can see the terminal moraine of the Zemu Glacier from here, and on the left another peak that will be one of many constant companions as we ascend higher, Simvu at 6816m. From here it is two more hours gradually ascending alongside the lateral moraine of the glacier, with our first broken ground - true glacier territory. Our camp is sheltered at the foot of the terminal moraine, with a breathless climb up the moraine for superb views!

Day 8 - Trek Masuda Camp 4560m

The next few days are totally unrivalled for mountain scenery; today a climb up the moraine before sun up gives wonderful views of the sun hitting Sinochuli and Simvo among others. We walk parallel with the moraine through rhododendron pasture, slowly ascending and crossing side streams until you reach a view point adjacent to a side valley - an incredible panorama - Sinochuli, Simvo, Lama Ogden, Kanchenjunga, Nepal peak, the Twins, Nepal gap and Tent peak sweeping high above the Zemu glacier. We descend across what was once a glacial lake. The rest of the day as we follow the glacier and the sun moves high above Sinolchuli is simply a mountain delight; lunch looking up at the glaciers tumbling down from the Himalayan giants then finally across high pasture to Our home for a couple of nights, Masuda; one of the few places in the Himalaya you can appreciate the true scale of the giants all around.

Day 9 - Rest Day at Masuda

This is our spare day, and if all goes well we will use it here to explore the high country all around.

Day 10 - Trek to mid camp 4700m

There is actually no water at 'Green lake' so we move up valley to a sheltered spot near the moraine; only two hours walk, and arriving in time for lunch - followed by an afternoon of resting and enjoying the lovely camp.

Day 11 - Trek to 'Green Lake' 5000m and return.

A day of days, ascending onto high pastures alongside, and soon climbing above the Zemu glacier; an hour and the views we have seen to date are surpassed - down valley the Zemu Glacier sweeps away, with the mountains of Bhutan the backdrop; and above us Tent peak, Nepal peak, and of course Kanchenjunga; as we get closer you can make out the route tried by German expeditions between the wars, and finally with difficulty climbed by the Indians in 1967. Finally we arrive at 'Green Lake' for lunch, and more views...then return to Masuda camp.

Day 12/15 - Trek back to Zemu

Yes, we re trace our steps, but seeing it all from different angles and in different lights; it really is a remarkable valley - in 2009 we took much longer descending as the trekkers were just so happy to sit and take it all in. Enjoy! In Lachen we have a goodbye meal with our crew, shower, and prepare for our last adventure, two of the oldest and best hotels in the Himalaya.

( Day 16 - Drive Kalimpong

Originally the plan was to drive direct to Darjeeling, but the ongoing protests by Nepali workers for an independent state mean the last section into Darjeeling may be closed as we arrive - so we are playing it safe and heading for Kalimpong, and the Himalayan Hotel, originally the family home of David Macdonald, trade agent for Tibet early in the 20th century. Kalimpong is a bustling Tibetan foothold, and we arrive for a late lunch and a wander through the old bazaar. )

Day 17 - Drive Darjeeling

A second piece of Himalayan history, the wonderful Windamere, in the old tea planters hill station of Darjeeling - we arrive after breakfast, in time for both a visit to the Himalayan Mountaineering institute, and perhaps a ride on the old toy train; or just enjoy this wonderful hotel with afternoon tea and all meals included.

Day 18 - To Bagdogra and Delhi

An early morning drive through the lush green scenery and hills to the airfield at Bagdogra, and our flight to Delhi.

Day 19 - Farewell

We take you to the airport for your flight home. Return soon!

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