A trek to the little-visited Indian base camp of Kangchenjunga

I along with my friends planned a trip to the little-visited Indian base camp of Kanchenjunga last October. We were a team of six trekkers all equally passionate about trekking and mountaineering. Kangchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world. To trek in the Zemu valley we required clearances from a number of Government departments as well as the Army. There exist a complicated permit system to trek to the northeast base camp of Kangchenjunga in the Zemu valley, sometimes it will take months to obtain. We were fortunate as we got this rare chance without much waiting. This was a full-service trek. The trek cost around Rs 8000/- per person per day for a group of six trekkers. We got accompanied with a cook, kitchen staff, porters, guide and a liaison officer deputed by the Sikkim Government. We started from Gangtok. We stayed at Mintokling guest house there. From Gangtok it took around six hours to reach Lachen. We reached Lachen following the Teesta Valley. Lachen is situated at around 2800 metres. It was very cold there. At Lachen we stayed at an eco-friendly resort, the Apple Orchard. We got a very warm welcome there. From there, we had to travel for about half an hour by road to reach Zema, which was the starting point of our trail. [caption id="attachment_1289" align="alignnone" width="300"]kangchenjunga Camp site[/caption] From Zema, we had to trek to Tallem. As the old trail route from Zema to Tallem had been destroyed by landslides we chose the right bank of the Zemu chu river, for trek. This was very difficult as the path was full of landslide remains. To cross this part we took about 3 hours. Anyhow we managed without much trouble. Then we had to climb steeply through the forest area for one hour to reach Tallem. Our Tallem camp was set in a forest cleared area. We got enough supply of water there. The water purification tablets that we carried with us helped us a lot. Our next camp site was Jakthang. From Tallem to go to Jakthang we had to cross the Lhonak Chu. As the permanent bridge over the Lhonak Chu had been washed away by the flash floods we had to cross a temporary log bridge.  As it was autumn season, the forest was very beautiful with high altitude plants, such as ferns, creepers, moss and lichen. We had to trek for about 4 hours to reach there. While we reached our campsite it started snowing heavily and this continued for around 3 hours.  We struggled a lot to pitch our tents in the snow, but our tents were all soaked and wet in snowfall. We collected available decayed rhododendrons there and lit fire to dry our clothes and sleeping bags. The next day morning we started our climb to Yabuk. On our way we could see the beautiful sight of a flock of snow pigeons. At Yabuk we rested at an old hut. The trail from Yabuk took us up to a small pass, where we got an amazing view of Siniol Chu, Simvu, Kangchenjunga, the Twins and the Nepal Peak overlooking the Zemu glacier. From Yabuk we walk across a pastureland and then start climbing to a small pass at the head of the valley. We got a clear view of Zemu peaks from here. At a short distance from here is the Sona camp. To reach the Rest camp we had to trek high through the forest for an hour. Our final destination Green Lake is about 4 hours trek from the Rest camp. To reach there our guide who accompanied us throughout our whole journey helped a lot. We had to walk a long distance and also had to cross a riverbed to reach the Green Lake camp. [caption id="attachment_1290" align="alignnone" width="275"]download (3) River Crossing[/caption] The day we reached our last spot of trek was rest day for us. Our ultimate aim of watching the magnificent views of the Kangchenjunga mountain range and the valley was fulfilled by climbing a hill behind the Green Lake camp. The Zemu valley and the Talung valley are linked together by the famous Zemu Gap which can be clearly seen from here. We spend the entire day wandering around and watching the peaks. The next day we started our journey back to Gangtok. This trip was really memorable and was an experience of a lifetime.

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