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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Basic Mountaineering Course at Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling - Part 5

Manu Khandelwal

Shifting to Sikkim


Before leaving to Sikkim, we were given time for an outing so that we could buy necessary stuff for our trek. We went to Big Bazaar in Darjeeling to buy chocolates and other food items. A night before leaving to Sikkim, we started packing up our rucksacks with all the equipment given by HMI and our own stuff. The equipment included rubbish bag, sleeping bag, lining, windproof upper & lower, feather jacket, mess tin, mittons, mattress, rucksack, ice-axe, snowboot, gaiter, harness set, carabiner, jummer, descender, and helmet. 

After putting our own stuff, the weight of the sack reached around 25 kg. So it became quite necessary for us to pack properly otherwise we were not able to carry that much weight. It took me around 2 hours to pack the rucksack. The thing that gave us so much problem was our Snow boots. Each boot was weighing around 2 kg and the size is also big, but by somehow we got able to pack all the stuff and then we slept.

The trek to HMI base camp at Chaurikhang was not a normal trek. Our instructor already told us that reaching HMI base camp is an expedition in itself. Our instructors also claimed that the trek that we are going to do is the toughest trek in India and 3rd toughest trek in the Asia. So we were already thrilled to do the trek.

me and my group at Big Bazaar

Drive from Darjeeling to Yuksom
Woke up at 0500 hours, got ready and boarded a taxi arranged by HMI. Yuksom is around 90 km from Darjeeling and the travel time is around 5 hours. The road condition was too bad and due to which it took around 7 hours to reach there. There were several landslide prone locations and old bridges on which only one vehicle could pass at a time. We also took a 1-hour halt at Jorethang, Sikkim and did our lunch there and then reached Yuksom in the evening.

while traveling from Darjeeling to Yuksom




Yuksom is a small village situated at height of 5850 feet in West Sikkim. The word Yuksom means “Meeting Place of 3 Lamas”. Yuksom is a starting point of several treks such as Goecha La, Dzongri La, Chaurikhang, etc. It is also the nearest road head to Kanchendzonga National Park. Visitors from all over the world visit here due to its wide variety of Flora and Fauna.

At Yuksom, our stay was in the camps. There were big alpine camps in which 13 people could reside. We chose our camp and put our sack into it. After all this, we got fall in and our instructor gave us instructions and timings for the next day. While telling the timings, our instructor used to say just 5,6,7 which means at 5 wake up tea, 6 breakfast and at 7 fall in.

In the end, our instructor used to tell us the most important thing that is where we had to answer the nature’s call. Every time they used to say that for girls, there are bathrooms and for boys, can you see the forest? That is the place. And they ended this discussion by this line, "Whenever you go, go with your buddy along with your ice axe because there are bears". The last line did scare some of the trainees but it was a good experience to answer the nature's call in the forest.

Yuksom, Sikkim

pitching tents at Yuksom campsite


inside the tents

Reaching Chaurikhang Base Camp

Trek from Yuksom to Tshoka
This was our first trek day and we had to trek around 16 km. After fall in, we started the trek with our packed lunch. The initial trail was through the village and soon we entered into the forest. The trail was mostly downhill till the entrance of Khangchendzonga National Park. After entrance, the trail passed through dense forest and the gradient was a mixed of uphill and downhill. During the trek, we crossed total 4 bridges over a river. After crossing the fourth bridge, we ate our packed lunch and then continued our trek. We reached Bakhim (previous campsite of HMI) in around 3 hours, which was the midway.

while trekking from Yuksom to Tshoka

entance of Khangchendzonga National Park

while resting amidst the trek

last bridge on the way



Initially, some trainees were trying to walk fast so that they could leave a good impression on instructors. We were also trying the same but the reason was we wanted more time for rest. As the weather was getting rainy, we decided to put on our ponchos. Although the terrain was not very difficult like other challenging treks, but the trail after the last bridge was steep all the way and the rain made it difficult to trek on it. We got totally drained out till we reached our campsite, Tshoka.

Tshoka is situated at a height of 10,000 feet. The word Tshoka means “house of water”. There was also a small lake situated near the campsite. We could see the Kasturi range and Mt. Pandim from our campsite.

Campsite at Tshoka

Mt. Pandim visible from Tshoka

Kasturi mountain range
After reaching the campsite, we just threw our sacks and started relaxing. Just after 2 minutes, our instructor called us and asked to set up the tents. Then we pitched our tents and relaxed inside it. As the weather was rainy, we decided to make a moat around the tent

Acclimatization at Tshoka
This day was our rest day to get acclimatized to the environment. We also did an acclimatization walk in which we went upto higher altitude on the way to Dzongri and came back to our campsite. We had some lecture sessions also. Later in the evening, we had dinner and slept.

while acclimatization walk

Rhododendron arboreum



a pond near Tshoka


while returning to Tshoka after acclimatization walk


Manu Khandelwal / Author

I call myself a traveller more than a travel blogger. Started this blog in 2013. Apart from this I am an Electrical Engineer. Love trekking and doing bike road trips. Like using technology but not addicted to it. A true foodie and love eating burgers.

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