Another retro blog - Dec 23, 2003
I am not even sure why we decided to visit Sikkim and base camp of the 3rd tallest mountain in the world. But, I am pretty sure we did not even know where Sikkim was before we started planning. Having climbed Kili 2 yrs earlier, obviously that memory had softened!
After spending 2+ wks in Darjeeing and Gangktok, which is another blog, we arrived in Yuksom to begin our trek. Yuksom is a very small village, pleasant and very quiet. We meet a couple from the US, that have just completed the trek today. They had some great views, but said it was very cold at night, and they did get snowed on. They used their lighter sleeping bags with silk liners, down jackets and still froze. We brought our summer bags with us, but fortunately Juan from Modern Central Travel in Gangtok took one look at them and said 'no way' and includes down sleeping bags with our tour. (Juan was great, as we stumbled on his office and within an hour he had booked our entire 2 wks in Sikkim, including the 6 day trek.) The couple said
it is beautiful, but actually some of the ridge passes are as impressive as Goecha-La. We are excited! and decide to bring our summer bags with us, in addition to the down ones, and were sooo glad we did!!
So, the trek begins - Umbert our guide, (who we have now traveled with for most of the last week, and is great company!), two porters and two dzos (a hybrid between a yak and a cow), a cook and an asst cook. It is a beautiful walk thru pristine forests,- oaks, ferns, moss, rhodis. Cutting trees is forbidden, so everywhere - trees and natural green covering. The forests are so thick, and other than the rare slide, just tree covered hills for as far as you can see.
Fortunately, the Sikkimese believe in switch back trails so it is a very pleasant walk in the woods with the occasional suspension bridge. We start a little after 8 and lunch is at 11:30 in a wooden hut. It's delicious noodle soup and tea. Lunch is served quickly. By 12:00, Ed and I head out ahead of the others. Umbert tells us at the fork, go
up. We do, but eventually end up down by the river. By 2:00 the others still have not caught up with us. We begin to wonder if we've made a wrong turn.
Finally, Umbert shows up and tells us we are @ 20 mins till the 9000 ft hut and then 1000 ft to the hut we will be staying . He takes us up the steeper trail, and by 3:30 we arrive at the sleeping hut just as it begins to snow. It was only the last 20 mins when I begin to feel tired, but as the snow starts, we know we do not want to dawdle. And we are so glad we did not make a wrong turn!!
The hut, although cold, is spacious with 4 separate rooms, each with boxed pads on the floor. In addition there is a large central area with some tables and chairs. We quickly change into dry clothes. Hard to believe, up until the last hour, we were sweating in a t-shirt and a fleece. Now we are glad to pile on all our silks and powerstretch. We enjoy the tea and watch the snow
fall, never realizing we would be having a white Christmas!
It's beautiful, but feel bad for the French couple, Remi and Raphaelle, also hiking the trail. They have booked thru another agency, and decided against hiring the dzos. They are carrying their own gear and have their own guide and 2 porters for the food. They do not arrive until 5:00. They are in very good spirits, but admit it was a miserable last 2 hours.
After dinner, we join together, share stories and enjoy a whiskey toast to Christmas Eve! Its great fun, and we actually manage to stay up until 8:30! Snuggled in our fleece liner, our poly bag and a down bag, we are both quite toasty and sleep very well!
Dec 25, 2003 I am awake by 6am and enjoy the beautiful and surprisingly clear morning with about 1" of snow covering everything. What a beautiful Christmas morning!! Ed joins me for the sunrise on the hillside, as the rest sleep. We then snuggle back in till after 8:00. Breakfast is outside in the sun, with an amazing vista. Toasted veggi sandwich, fried potatoes and a porridge-ish
dish, it is all delicious. We are relieved we will not starve. Umbert tells us we will stay one more night here. It is much warmer to acclimatize. I am abit disappointed, as we both feel great. But it is a quiet, restful day.
The next day, we hike to Dzongri at 13,400. We encounter our first ice patch. As the American we met in Yuksom described 'oh, ice, ice ice, ugh, ice' and warned us, there are some nasty stretches. This one is @ 200' along the path, with a nasty slant downwards. It is almost frozen waterfall-ish. It is way too slick with too much risk to try to walk across, so we climb up thru the brush staying on tuffs of grass as we find them. When shopping for the trekking poles, the very expensive ones had carbide tips, good for ice. I had laughed and said ' oh no, I am not that kind of trekker'.... I am not sure the tips would have helped, but crampons would have been nice!
We arrive by 2pm, have lunch and then climb up to Dablakang, which is about 600 ft higher, to
help with the acclimatization and enjoy the beautiful views before the clouds move in. Up by 4:30 the next morning, it is back up the hill for sunrise. Cold and windy, there are only a few clouds above, but thick clouds below.
The morning walk to Thangsing is beautiful, across the hills, so it is quite flat, with lovely views of @ 6 mtns including Kanchenjunga. We do hit several ice patches in the shade, but very enjoyable walk. Then it is a steep. stone stair steps, down hill, that lasts for an hour to Kokchuran and the river.
After that it is an easy, enjoyable hour walk to the Thangsing stone hut. It sits in an open valley. We arrive by 2pm and enjoy a late lunch. It is cold. Umbert tells us at each hut, we lose another 'luxury'. First we lost the table and chairs, now the mattress-ish pads. I ask him 'what's next' and he says 'the roof'. I don't think he is kidding as Samiti Lake has been described by all trekkers as 'very rough'. We are told we will stay here, do an early morning sunrise walk to
the ridge, back for breakfast, then up to base camp, Goecha La ( @ a 4 hr hike) and then return back to the river hut to stay tomorrow night. That's the plan!
Dec 28 2003 Day 5 The alarm goes off at 4:30. Remi gets up to wake Umbert only to come back to tell us it is snowing! we think he's joking. But, there is 3-4" on the front covered walkway and 6*8" all the way out to the outhouse. The snow goes beyond our boots. 2-3 hours later, it is snowing hard. I feel like I am in a Nor'easter blizzard!
By 10am we are still deciding what to do. Remi wants to stay to take pictures tomorrow. He consistently seem a little too glad to take unnecessary risks. Finally, we ask Umbert what he would do. He states if the weather will clear for tomorrow, we can wait. but as it continues to snow, the porters begin to worry it is getting too deep for the dzos. It is quickly decided, we better go. A quick pack up and we are on the trail by 11. Initially we though we
could just go back to Dzongri @ 4 hrs. Umbert says, no, we need to go back to Tsokha, our first hut. That is 6 hours without snow! I only hope we can get there before dark.....
To be Continued.....
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