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Singalila Pass & Phoktey Dara

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The trip itinerary:

 

Day 1: Pickup in the morning from NJP/Bagdogra and reach Hilley (~2600m, 8500ft) in 8 hours. The road goes inside the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary at Sevok and then enters to Sikkim through Malli. Til Jorthang (~900m, 3000ft). The road goes along the moist evergreen forests of foothills while we cross Kitam Bird Sanctuary. From Jorethang the metaled road gains  height rapidly . The car takes 7/8 hours to cover the distance of 150 Km. Hilley isn’t a village but a small settlement of people working for Forest department’s horticultural garden and nurseries. Many endemic medicinal plants grow inside these. 2/3 privately owned lodges are available to stay and they serve food. Hilley doesn’t have any shop and the last market to shop and ATMs are in Jorethang. Hilley has forests as well as clearings in the surroundings. Red Crossbill and Parrotbills  are the specialty and delight for the bird watchers. The viewpoint is a 15 mins walk and offers first views of Sikkim ranges. Night stay in lodge.


Day 2: Today we start our exciting journey through woods. The Check-post of Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary is a 5 minutes walk from the lodge. There is a small restaurant/shop beside. Obtaining our permit (if you are a student, do produce the identity card for a discounted permit charge) we enter the sanctuary gate to a cakewalking trail on soft earth. Barsey is just 4.5 Km away  skirting the hills through evergreen forest. After half an hour we reach our first resting shelter. There will be few more ahead. Continue your walk gently amid quintessence of forest, avoid talking loud. Enjoy the pristine nature in silence. If you are lucky enough, you may witness an endangered vividly colured Satyr Trogopan or a Kalij Pheasant crossing the trail. During March and April, this trail changes to riotously red with one of the major species Rhododendron arboreum, locally called Gurans. High altitude vegetation is frail, avoid trampling, always follow main trails and do not pick plants or flowers. Following the trail for another hour we reach a clearing with an artificial reservoir on the left side of the trail.  This place is specially notable for different types of birds species, most notably the Green-tailed Sunbird, Fulvettas and Yuhinas. Walk along the reservoir and follow the trail for another 10 minutes. From the bifurcation take the main trail on right and follow till we reach the opening of Barsey (~2750m, 8900ft). It is situated on the top of this ridge and the main ridge line continues toward left. First views of Kanchendzongha will spellbound you looking straight in the north. The area is surrounded by dense vegetation of Rhododendron trees. Total distance is 4.5 Km and at a leisurely pace may take 2 to 2 and half hours. There is a Log-house with one dormitory and 2 rooms (called “Guras Kunj”) and a Forest-hut for accommodation. They can serve food if informed earlier. Camping ground is inside the boundary of Guras Kunj. In the afternoon walk along the trail  going away from the hut to a small hilltop. Stones are carved accompanied by a small Buddhist Chorten. Enjoy the freshness of air. If you stay here for an additional day, you can trek to Guras Tal (There isn’t a lake though) on top of a hill some 5 Km away. But this requires hiking a full day, up and down. For the tourists who don’t want to go further towards Singalila range, it is wise to stay one more day here to explore the area. There is a trail descends through the forest to Dentam (a small town of West Sikkim) 10 Km away and another leading to Soreng. These are spectacular bird watching forest trails. A binocular is recommended . Night stay in tent.


Day 3: Today and tomorrow you will probably see the best among the alpine forests in Sikkim. There is no flowing water source in today’s trail, fill up your bottles from Barsey. The trail continues traversing from one hill to another and going interior towards Singalila range. There are two trails opposite of the Guras Kunj compound, one going down to Dentam, another going towards left inside the Sanctuary. We take the the later, and start our journey inside rich forest. The trail is almost on a flat level, actually going down a bit. Canopied by Rhohodendron, Magnolia and Bamboo, the trail receives just enough sunlight that it remains dusky green even in the morning. Undergrowth is so dense that at times you have to look for the marking trail. There are glades inside jungle in continuous interval to surprise you. Day’s walk is divided in to 3 equal parts. After walking for 2 hours and 4 Km, we reach the first opening between two hills a small sized dry swamp called Lassuney. Crossing the field we cover another 4 Km to reach  Deolinga Dhap, much bigger in size. A team can camp, at the fringe of the this swampland, but it is two early for us to pitch the tents. The last stretch of 4 Km is also easy undulating till we reach our campsite at Joributey (~2700m, 8850m). Distance is 12 Km and may take 6 hours. Joributey is a clearing on the slope of the hill. A low swamp is just beside the camping ground and the accompanying hill slope thickly covered with Magnolia and conifer forest. This is a beautiful camping ground and the opening attracts different type of bird species. In the evening  sit outside the tent and enjoy the silence of the jungle in soughing wind. An alarm call of Kakar (Barking dear/Muntjac) is common. Tent for the night.


Day 4: We start our trek taking the trail from the campsite going along the slope of the hill. A small climb on the gradient will take us to the shoulder of this hill and  a clearance in the jungle. Here is small lake down on our right called Hans Pokhri, and we turn right . Forest beside the trail here is not thick and we walk on gentle track for 30 minutes. Again we enter in to the dense forest and gain some height for an hour to reach the clearing of the hill top called Achaley. From here a trail goes down on our right to Uttarey. This top has recorded sighting of Red pandas. Clear weather will produce magnificent view of Kanchendzongha and surrounding high peaks. Continue walking straight through the top and descend along the trail to enter into jungle once again. This is a damp and moist forest , and a small ravine alongside. Walk silently to listen to the hundreds of birds chirping and singing in the bushes. Climbing up and down to two small hillocks we reach the largest of the swampland called Thulo Dhap (~2800m, 9300ft) in this trail. Walk carefully on the swamp to protect the shoes from getting wet in muddy water. A small stream cuts the grassland in between. Take some rest and enjoy the vista once you cross. Fill in the water bottles and start climbing the trail. This is a moderate zigzag climb of nearly ~300m/1000 ft and can take one hour or little more. The jungle is a series of stretches of Rhododendron, Birch and Far trees.Finishing the climb we reach another hill top surrounded by alpine scrubs called Tiktiki. From here we follow the trail gently upwards in to a glade called Kharka Dara (~3350m, 11000ft). Depending up on the time, either we camp here or at Kalijhor (~3400m, 11500ft), 30 minutes further ahead. Distance is 13 Km and may take 6/7 hours. Water is scarce at both the camp sites. As these campsites are situated facing the barren high Himalayas, wind is fierce in the afternoon and evening. This will be our halting point for next 2 nights, so that we don’t miss any chance to witness the panorama. Night temperature will drop to below freezing in the night and early morning. Frost forms outside the tent even in April or November. Normally mornings are calm and offers enigmatic view of Sleeping Buddha. Night stay in tent.

 

Day 5: Today we have a leisure day but we wake up early in the morning. Sunrise can be seen either from Kharka Dara or Kalijhor. We will visit Singalila Pass, the top point in this ridge and return. The first rays on Kanchendzongha create magical reality. It is a brilliant display of radiant colors. Bright streaks of red, pink, and orange. After an early breakfast we start following the wide trail on level ground and skirting one table top we reach Kalijhor. Below on our right the trail on the ridge goes to Chewabhanjung and we can see the SSB camp. Kalijhor is another clearing with alpine conifers and scrubs,  surrounding the campsite. The top of Kalijhor is Phoktey Dara and a spectacular viewpoint. From here we traverse the hill while the treeline recedes. This particular stretch in the morning is abundant of several bird species. We would prefer it call it as “Sunbird Trail” . Fire-tailed Sunbird with its magnificent plumage perch and play in this alpine shrubbery. After continuing our walk for 45 minutes we reach the base of the Singalila Pass. The pass is clearly visible from this point and about ~200m/650 ft higher. Endless ridge-lines are visible in the south and east till Barsey. We commence our final ascent to the pass and reach in 30 minutes. Breathtaking view from left to right encompassing majestic Nepal and Sikkim Himalaya to the north. Most of these peaks are towering above 7000m. In the far left (west) we can see the Everest group of peaks and to the right Three sisters, Chamlang, Baruntse, Kanchendzongha, Simvo, Pandim, Tenzingkhang one after another. The entire Kabru range (North, South, Dome) Fork I/II, Rathong, Frey peak (just above Chaurikhang, HMI basecamp area) are south to the gigantic Kanchendzongha and form a semicircle in front of the massif. Spend around an hour and start retracing the trail to return. We return to our campsite and take lunch. Distance to Singalila Pass and return is around 8 Km and may take 4/5 hours. In the afternoon we are free to explore the surrounding area. Sunset is a phenomena which anyone should not miss on the mountain. Shifting patterns of light turns the snow laden mountains in to pink and golden hue. Night stay in tent.


Day 6: Weather on mountain is only predictable to an extent and changes frequently. If the weather remains clear we will visit Phoktey Dara to witness the sunrise and unbelievable panorama. It is only 30 minutes walk from the campsite and on the top of a table mountain. The unmistakable Sleeping Buddha dominates the eye shot. An irresistible temptation for the shutter bugs to try different angles, panorama and hues. We return to the campsite and complete the breakfast. Today is our last day of this charmingly beautiful trek. We return to Achaley top via Tiktiki and Thulo Dhap, this time almost entirely gentle to moderate descent. From here two trails split , the one on the right through which we came and the other which we take now and descents on the slope traversing on our left. The down slope goes through conifers and Rhododendrons in the beginning and evergreen forest at later stage, occasionally passing between glades. After 3 hours we suddenly enter in to a large opening with few homes at fringe. These can be considered upper peripheral houses of Uttarey. Birds eye view of the entire valley of Uttarey is fantastic , a monastery and mobile tower on a hillock, the main bazar stretch, the swampland alongside the road down below. It is another 3 Km to reach Uttarey (~2000m, 6550ft) main bazar. Total distance is 14 Km and may take 6/7 hours. Night stay in lodge.

Day 7: In the morning we take the car from Uttarey and start the return journey to NJP/Bagdogra.The Singshore bridge is just 5 Km from Uttarey on our return. This suspension bridge is almost 250m long and 300m/1000ft above the gorge and said to be 2nd highest in Asia. The road is scenically blessed and we cross beautiful hill stations like Dentam, Hee, Barmiok and Rinchenpong to reach Jorethang. Have your lunch here. Continue journey to reach Siliguri/Bagdogra by 5 pm. Our trip ends here.

Cost per person (INR)
Rs.12000
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Date Selected Dates
Where Singalila Pass,West Sikkim
Duration 7 days 6 nights
Difficulty Easy
Capacity 30 Seats
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7838984471, 8368292699, 01142156013
in collaboration with
Himalaya Trekkers
1st Oct, 2014
30th Oct, 2014
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