The north east base camp of Kangchenjunga in the Zemu Valley has been "out of bounds" due a rigid permit system imposed by the Government of India and Sikkim. However, if you can manage the hassles associated with getting the permits then it is one of the most rewarding walks in the Himalaya. South Col has trekked this route twice the last time in October 2014.
Who should join this trek?
A good choice for experienced hill walkers, high level of fitness required. Prior experience on treks above 5000 metres desirable.
1) Walking times: average 6-7 hours walking per day (with some longer days - possibility of snow on this route is present.)
2) Altitude: up to 5,150m metres
3) Terrain: for some of the time following well-travelled trails although also likely to encounter rough and rocky conditions. There are steep ascents which could be across rocky scree slopes and can be snow covered.
4) Remoteness: the trek is in a remote mountain area and a long distance from the roadhead and the nearest cities. However mobile phones will not work on the trek. This is a full support camping trek with tents.
5) High altitude insurance including emergency evacuation insurance by helicopter is recommended for this trek.
Preparing for High Altitude
As the trek crosses 5000 metres it is necessary to read and prepare for high altitude. Some of the best information on high altitude is here:
Base Camp MD website: http://www.BaseCampmd.com/expguide/highalt.shtml
High Altitude medicine website: http://www.high-altitude-medicine.com
Medex Travel at High Altitude: http://www.medex.org.uk/v26%20booklet.pdf
Day 1: Gangtok to Lachen by road
The drive from Gangtok to Lachen takes around six hours with a lunch stop at Mangan or Rang Rang Bridge.
Day 2: Lachen (2700 m) to Zema by road and then trek to Tallem (3250 m) (5–6 hours)
The road continues along the North Sikkim Highway to Zema for half an hour. From Zema, take the trail west along the right bank of the Zemu Chu through landslide debris and boulders which can be quite difficult. After around three hours of walking, the boulders end and there is a clearing which serves as a lunch stop near the river. The trail then leaves the valley and climbs steeply through the forest to reach Tallem in about an hour.
Day 3: Tallem to Jakthang (3430 m) (3 to 4 hours)
This is a short day and Jakthang is reached by lunchtime. Soon after leaving Tallem, cross the Lhonak Chu on a temporary log bridge and then follow the path along the river for an hour. The path then climbs through the forest for an hour until a saddle is reached from where the trail drops for about half an hour and crosses two small streams. It then levels off and enters the clearing of Jakthang with a ruined hut which can be used for cooking and shelter.
Day 4: Jakthang (3430 m) to Yabuk (4040 m) (41/2 to -51/2 hours)
Follow the trail out of Jakthang along the river for about twenty minutes. The path then climbs to a small saddle where there is an indistinct trail going to the right to Muguthang. Do not take this right fork but instead go left and down to a stone bridge over the river which is visible from the top. From the bridge follow the well defined trail through rhododendron forests climbing gently for about two hours with the Zemu Chu on your left. The path then leaves the river and makes a sharp ascent for about an hour and reaches a broad meadow at the edge of the tree line with a ruined double storied hut which is Yabuk.
Day 5: Acclimatization day at Yabuk (4040m)
You can spend the rest day walking up the valley, bird watching or just lazing at camp.
Day 6: Yabuk (4040 m) to Rest Camp (4500 m) (4-5 hours)
From Yabuk walk across the meadow and then start climbing to a small pass at the head of the valley which should take about seventy five minutes. From the pass the first view of the Zemu peaks are visible. Fifteen minutes later you reach a broad meadow which is Sona Camp. The trail then climbs for an hour and reaches a broad river bed covered with white stones. From here a climb across scrub and dwarf rhododendron forest for another hour reaches a clearing with some ruined stone shelters which is the Rest Camp across the valley from Siniolchu.
Day 7: Rest Camp (4500 m) to Green Lakes (5050 m) (4 to 5 hours)
The trail to Green Lakes is often indistinct and a guide who has trekked this route before is essential. Leave the Rest Camp walking through scrub and moss with your feet often sinking into the brush. In 30 minutes you will reach a river bed with some streams flowing across. Cross the river bed and reach a grassy meadow in about ninety minutes. The path then climbs gently before reaching another river bed which you should follow for around 30 minutes. Another level meadow is reached and at the end of the meadow is the Zemu glacier just below, a fascinating view point. Swing sharp right at this point and again navigate through brush/grass/scree on a faint trail for an hour walking to the end of the valley which is the Green Lakes camp.
Day 8: Rest Day at Green Lakes
Spend the day lazing in the sunshine and watching the peaks. The more intrepid can climb the hill behind the camp for about an hour or so to come to a high point with magnificent views both towards Kangchenjunga as well as down the valley. The Zemu Gap that links the Zemu valley to the Talung valley is clearly seen from this high point.
Day 9: Green Lakes (5050 m) to Yabuk (4040 m) (5-6 hours)
It is possible to make the march from Green Lakes to Yabuk in one day, as the trail is mostly downhill. More intrepid trekkers and porters could try to reach Jakthang on the same day.
Day 10: Yabuk (4040 m) – Tallem
The march down to Tallem would take about five hours and drop in altitude is welcome.
Day 11: Tallem to – Lachen (2700 m) (3 hours) trek and then to Gangtok by road
From Tallem retrace your steps to Zema, which is the road head. Have an early lunch in Lachen and then drive back to Gangtok the same day and reach in time for dinner.
|Duffle Bag||All the equipment listed below other than what you need for the day should be packed into a duffle bag, locked and handed over to the porters in the morning. In case you cannot get a duffle bag in your home country these are available very cheap in Kathmandu and I can help you with this. The duffle bag should not weight more than 10 kgs!|
|1||Sleeping Bag||Warm sleeping bag is needed at least three season rated to 15F|
|2||Daypack or Hipbelt||To carry water, one jacket some nuts, chocolates, cap, camera to keep with you in the day, maybe gloves and cap as well, hiking poles etc.|
|3||Boots or Trekking Shoes||one pair|
|4||Slippers or Sandals for camp||lightweight to wear in the evenings|
|5||warm Socks||2 pairs to carry and one pair to wear|
|7||Underwear||1 to wear and 2 to carry|
|8||Warm Cap||one- Wool or fleece is usually good|
|9||Heavy jacket||the warmest you can get as nights and early mornings are cold - down is usually preferred otherwise a warm synthetic filled jacket.|
|10||Thermal Underwear ( top and bottom) - long johns||inner layer to wear at night and early morning ;|
|11||Mid Layer||Usually a jacket of fleece or wool which can be worn over a thermal layer or by itself while walking|
|12||T shirts for walking||one to wear and 2 to carry - if the sun is hot you can walk in a T shirt|
|13||Trousers /tights etc||one to wear and one to carry light weight preferred|
|14||One Rain Jacket /Wind Jacket/Soft Shell jacket||useful in case of wind ... you may need it in light rain though we would usually take shelter and wait for the rain to stop. Our trek is not in the rainy season though some light rain/snow in the late afternoon evenings cannot be ruled out.|
|15||Torch or headlamp||one small needed carry one set spare batteries|
|16||Sun bloc||one small tube should be ok spf 30 or 50|
|17||some essential medicines||vitamins, headache, fever, pain killers, diamox for altitude, your own specific medicines etc|
|18||Hiking poles||if you have bad knees then this is recommended especially on the down hills!!|
|19||Water bottle||one no 500 ml or 1 litre is ok you can use the 500 or 600 ml empty coke or pepis bottles|
|20||Sun glasses||the sun is strong in the day|
|21||Cap for the sun||ditto!|
|22||small towel||for baths and wash up in case you can use the hot shower|
|23||toothbrush, paste, soap, shampoo, vaseline, comb||and any other toilet items you may need!|
|24||wet tissues - wet ones for bathroom||called wet ones in India|
|25||some washing powder surf etc small||to wash clothes en route if needed|
|26||Nuts, raisins etc all mixed up||can be divided into small packets for daily use|
|27||Chocolates /Energy Bars/Amul cheese slices/tea bags||Carry some chocolates or energy bars to have on the way. Amul cheese slices are very useful and can be had as snacks when you are tired of sweets!|
|29||Volini gel/ Bengay etc for aches and pains||or any other equivalent|
|30||Iodine or chlorine tablets for water purification||available in Kathmandu- this is important as mineral water bottles are expensive; for overseas visitors you can get iodine tablets in REI and other large outdoor outlets|
|31||Electral or any other rehydating salts||Carry a few small packets of electrolyte - useful to have mixed with water if dehydrated|
|32||some spare plastic bags to pack wet stuff, dirty clothes etc|
|33||Book in case you want to read on the way and IPOd for music optional!|
|34||Two small locks one for your duffle bag and one for your room in case the lodge does not have a lock|
|35||Clothes line with hooks on either side in case you want to hang up your wet clothes to dry outside!!|
|36||Super Glue||To patch up boots that may give way!|
|37||Face mask||For dust, cold winds etc available in kathmandu|
|38||Extra shoe laces||one pair|
Sujoy Das +91 9831054569; Nepal +977 9818037020
The cancellation policy and refunds available are given below:
0-7 days before the start of the trek =75%
8 -15 days before the start of the trek = 50%
16-30 days before the start of the trek = 35%
31-45 days before the start of the trek = 25%
46 days and above = 15%
IN CASE OF LEAVING THE GROUP
If due to illness or any other reason a client has to leave the group and go down or wait at a campsite for the group to pick him/her up on the way back, all expenses including lodging, fooding and any porter/guide related expenses if any are to be borne by the individual client over and above the trek fees paid for the trek. There are also no refunds for leaving a trek before completion.
HIRING OF PONIES ETC
In the eventuality of a client needed the services of a pony to come down to lower altitudes, the cost of hiring the pony will be paid by the client.
CAMPSITES ON THE TREK
The choice of campsites to be used on the trek will be decided by South Col and clients will have to stay at these designated campsites. Clients are not permitted to choose their own campsites on the route.
The trek route and day wise schedule will be fixed by South Col and will have to be followed by the client.
RISKS AND LIABILITY
The trek is in a remote mountain area and has certain additional dangers and risks, some of which include: physical exertion for which the client should be prepared; weather extremes subject to sudden and unexpected changes; remoteness from normal medical services; evacuation difficulties.
In the event of injury or illness South Col Expeditions (Sujoy Das) or its Staff can, at the clients cost arrange any medical treatment and emergency evacuation service as it or they deem necessary for the health and safety of the client. Waiver of liability form as per link attached to be signed by the client. https://www.southcol.com/waiver-of-liability-release/
EVACUATION BY HELICOPTER
In the eventuality of not being covered by emergency helicopter evacuation insurance and an evacuation is considered necessary, the cost of the evacuation will be paid by the client in advance to the helicopter company/travel agent etc as deemed necessary.