Sandakphu Phalut Trek
The only trek in our country where you see four of the highest mountains in the world
There are few trekkable places on earth where you can spot 8,000 metre peaks. Sandakphu, the highest point sitting on the border of two countries, is one of them. Sandakphu is the highest peak, both in the state of West Bengal and Mechi in Nepal. And because of it’s unique geographical placement and height, Sandakphu offers grand views of the world’s tallest peaks.
Standing at the Sandakphu peak, on your left, you see the Everest cluster. There is Lhotse and Makalu, the fourth and fifth highest peaks in the world, trying to outdo the world’s tallest peak. Then, there is Everest, effortlessly towering over everything.
On your right, is the world’s third highest peak, Kanchenjunga, standing with it’s family of peaks. This family of peaks is famously called The Sleeping Buddha, thanks to its appearance. Mt. Kumbhakarna forms the head and face of Buddha, while Kanchenjunga forms the upper body. The other peaks that make up The Sleeping Buddha are Kokthang, Rathong, Frey, Kabru South, Kabru North, Simvo, Mt. Pandim, Tenzingkhang, Jubanu, Narsing.
While the Everest cluster will only be seen on Sandakphu and a little beyond, the view of the Sleeping Buddha stays for good 4 days in the trek!. Very few spots in the world can give you views of eight thousander peaks like this. Even fewer of them would be accessible via a moderate trek.
Just for these views, Sandakphu is a trek for the ages.
What to Watch Out For
The Sleeping Buddha
The Kanchenjunga cluster is something you see right from the main Darjeeling town. It fills you with anticipation of seeing this massif close on the trail. You start seeing glimpses of the mountain from the first day. For three hours of the trekking day, the Sleeping Buddha plays hide and seek. And when you arrive at Tumling, you get your first unobstructed view of Sleeping Buddha. The Sleeping Buddha is your companion for most days of the trek. From Phalut, the cluster is so close, you feel like those mountains are a stone throw’s away.
The villages of Samaden and Gorkhey
The villages of Samanden and Gorkhey are picture perfect. Gorkhey village is in a small clearing surrounded by thick pine forest all over with a beautiful river cutting through it. Watch out for this village as you descend through the dense bamboo forest. One hour out of Gorkhey is Samanden. A village filled with wooden huts, vegetable farms, beautiful gardens and small patches of pine trees. It’s the kind of villages you hope to settle down in.
The constant flirting with Indo-Nepal border
The Sandakphu trek offers the unique experience of walking in India and having your dinner in Nepal. Or having your lunch in Nepal and having your toilet tents in India. Chittrey, on the first day of trekking, is the first spot where you’ll see pillars marking the India-Nepal border. This constant flitting in and out of Indo- Nepal border also makes this trek a unique cultural experience.
Jaubhari, the base camp
Jaubhari is a tiny village with just 10 houses, two kilometres away from Maneybhanjan, Sandakphu’s traditional starting point. We, however, start the trek from Jaubhari. It is a village that overlooks major parts of Darjeeling,Sikkim and Maneybhanjan from there. This is one of the prettiest base camps we have. We put it just behind Aru, our base for Tarsar Marsar. This is a big statement to make.
The long distance views
Sandakphu is one of the few treks that gifts you with long distance views. Not only do you see the far away Everest cluster, you also see the next four days of your trek stretched out before you. Such long distance views also makes the sunset view absolutely stunning. There aren’t many treks wherein clouds speckle the ground, not the sky. The sun sets below you.
Banner image by Dhiraj Kamble.
Day 1: Reach Jaubhari; 4-5 hours drive from Bagdogra Airport. Transport will be organised from from Bagdogra Airportat 9.30 am. Cost of the transport will Rs.3,300 per cab (5-6 seater).
Day 2: Jaubhari (6,400 ft) to Tumling (9,450 ft); 9 km, 6-7 hours
Day 3: Tumling (9,450 ft) to Kalipokhri (10,400 ft); 12 km, 7 hours
Day 4: Kalipokhri (10,400 ft) to Sandakphu (11,950 ft); 6 km, 3 hours
Day 5: Sandakphu (11,950 ft) to Sabargram (11,807 ft); 12 km, 7 hours
Day 6: Sabargram (11,807 ft) to Gorkhey (7,546 ft) via Phalut; 16 km, 6 hours
Day 7: Gorkhey (7,546 ft) to Sepi (6,234 ft); 11 km, 5 hours. Depart from Sepi after lunch. It takes 6-6.5 hours to reach Bagdogra Airport. Indiahikes arranges this transport for Rs.5,500 to Bagdogra Airport, which will have to be shared by trekkers. You will reach Bagdogra Airport by 7.00 pm.
Please note: The stay on the Sandakphu trek is arranged at tea houses. You will be camping in tents on two days (Sandakphu and Sabargram). You can leave behind luggage (no valuables) that you do not require for the trek at the tea house in Jaubari and collect it on the way back from Sepi after the trek.
It is mandatory for trekkers to carry a copy of their photo id for entry at forest check posts on the trek.
Day 1: Getting to the base camp – Jaubhari
We believe that Jaubhari is our prettiest basecamp! New Jalpaiguri is the closest rail head and Bagdogra is the closest airport to Jaubhari. The drive from both the places takes you on mountain roads meandering through tea estates and villages bordering India and Nepal. The duration of the drive is 4-5 hours.
- Altitude: 6,400 ft (1,951 m)
- Time taken: 4-5 hours drive from Bagdogra. Pick up from Bagdogra Airport at 9.30 am
Day 2: Jaubhari to Tumling
- Altitude: 6,400 ft (1,951 m) to 9,450 ft (2,880 m)
- Time taken: 6-7 hours, 9 km
- Trek gradient: Moderate. Steep climb for the first 1.5 hours, followed by a gradual ascent and descent for another hour. Last 3-3.5 hours is a combination of gradual ascents and level walks.
- Water sources: Chittrey (1.5 hours), Lamyadhura (3.5 hours), Meghma (5 hours)
While this trek is categorized as easy to moderate in terms of difficulty, rain can make it more challenging. Hence, ensure you start on time to reach your destination by early afternoon and avoid the mountain showers, which typically arrive post noon. The trail today is a combination of gradual and steep ascents and level walks. There are a few rocky paths (gravel roads) with muddy sections and a few walks through meadows as well.
To begin the trek, climb up to the main road from the homestay at Jaubhari. Across the road, you will find a trail going up the hill to Upper Chittrey. This is a steep climb of 3 km, through a thick forest, and takes about 1.5 hours to reach.
As you climb higher, pause to take a look at the villages and mountains around through the small openings that you find in the forest.
Towards the end of this section, the trail becomes steep and an approximately 10 minute walk leads you to a meadow with two small shops. You will sight a motor road going upwards; a little below, towards the left, is the Chittrey Monastery with Buddhist prayer flags fluttering in the wind. This is Upper Chittrey, where you can take a break.
From here, the trail gradually goes uphill. There are steps cut into the mountain to help locals and trekkers climb through the forest until Lamyadhura. At Lamyadhura, the forest opens up to a lovely meadow. The motor road can be seen constantly, with a few odd Land Rovers taking tourists to Sandakphu and Phalut. This can be used as a reference if you ever feel lost. This road goes till Phalut and you may even choose to walk on it. However, the mountain trail through forests is very beautiful, with a variety of wild flowers blooming in the spring.
Lamaydhura is a small village with a handful of Tibetan families that run a small tea shop. It is a cozy place to take shelter and enjoy a hot cup of tea and biscuits.
The trail from Lamaydhura to Meghma is a 3 km hike up a steady incline. It also has some leisurely walks over grassy terrain and motor roads. This is the easiest gradient of the day’s trek. Chimal and magnolia trees are scattered along the route and if you’re lucky and very quiet, you might be able to spot a red panda. Around 1.5 hours of walking brings you to a SSB check post (keep your visa/ID card handy for checks here). From this point, walk straight until you find a Buddhist monastery to your left. You can enter the monastery if it is open. A 4-minute-walk from the monastery will lead you to a fork. Take the road to the left and break for lunch at one of the tea houses.
The road going straight from Meghma leads to Tonglu. The trail from here to Tumling is a 2 km flat walk on the motor road, and takes 30–40 minutes. Tumling is on the Nepal border and has a few good private guesthouses on the Nepal side. This is where the day’s trek ends. If the clouds have not covered up the mountains in the distance, you will be greeted to views of the Sleeping Buddha as soon as you arrive at Tumling.
Day 3: Tumling to Kalipokhri
- Altitude: 9,450 ft (2,880 m) to 10,400 ft (3,170 m)
- Time taken: 6-7 hours, 12 km
- Trek gradient: Moderate. Gradual ascent for 1.5 hours followed by a 40 minute descent; steep ascent from Garibas for about an hour, followed by an easy descent. Level walks on the motor road for the last 2 hours.
- Water sources: Garibas (2 hours), Kaiyakatta (4 hours)
Wake up early for a brilliant view of the Sleeping Buddha bathed in the first rays of the sun. The Everest cannot be seen from here, but the entire Kanchenjunga family of peaks opens up, taking your heart away.The peaks that you can see from the left are Kumbhakarna, Kanchenjunga and Simvo in the background. Below Kanchenjunga are Koktang, Rathong, Frey, South Kabru, North Kabru, Kabru Forked, Goecha and the ridge of Pandim just ahead of Simvo. The depression between the ridgeline of Goecha and Pandim is the Goecha La, which is a popular and beautiful trek in Sikkim.
As you proceed from Tumling to Kalipokhri, you enter the Singalila National park. You can choose between a hiking trail and a motor road. The motor road goes into Nepal and reaches Gairibas via Jaubari (not the base camp), both villages in Nepal. We suggest you take the hiking trail, which passes through dense forests and meadows, and is much more scenic than the motor road.
This route will take you directly to Gairibas, 5 km away from Tumling. Through the forest, the trail climbs to a flattish top from where you can visually trace the route all the way to Sandakphu, which stands tall before you.The trail then descends from this point and a 10 minute trek will land you in a beautiful meadow with majestic views of wide valleys. To your right is India, and to your left is Nepal. You will also find a border stone there.
Another 40 minutes of descent from here will bring you to Gairibas.
Gairibas is a small village with a few hotels and guest houses on the Nepal side. On the right side of the road is India’s SSB camp and Singalila National Park Entry Check Post. You will need to pay the entry fee here to proceed with the trek.
It is advisable that you take a break here since the next stop, Kaiyakatta, is 2 km away and the trail to reach there includes a steep climb of 1.5 km. There are steps cut into the mountain for trekkers. One also has the choice of trekking on the winding motor road, which gives fantastic views of the Nepal side. Once you reach the top, descend a bit and in 10 minutes, you will be in Kaiyakatta, where you can stop for a hot Nepali lunch.
Kalipokhri, your final destination for the day, is 4 km from Kaiyakatta. The trail goes on a level motor road. Vehicles are not allowed on this stretch. This is a beautiful trail on which you can encounter many kinds of birds. After 1.5-2 hours, you will reach a bean-shaped black lake surrounded by waving Buddhist prayer flags. This is Kalipokhri, which translates to Black Lake. There is a small Buddhist temple at the opposite end of the lake. Note that you are actually standing on the border between India and Nepal. A 5 minute walk from this point will lead you to your tea house. The motor road that you find running behind the shed near the lake goes to Ilam district in the interiors of Nepal, which is the district town for all the Nepali villages on this trek.
Find a small shed and a motor road running behind the shed. That road takes you to the interiors of Nepal, to Ilam district, which is the district town for all the Nepali villages on this trek. With a short walk of 5 minutes, you are done for the day. Rest here for the night.
Day 4: Kalipokhri to Sandakphu
- Altitude: 10,400 ft (3,170 m) to 11,950 ft (3,642 m)
- Time taken: 3 hours, 6 km (to Goat campsite)
- Trek gradient: Easy – moderate. Gradual ascent for the the first 30 minutes followed by a steep ascent for about an hour, and finally, an undulating path on the motor road.
- Water sources: Bhagsa, Bikheybhanjang, both of which are reached within the first hour of trekking. Ensure you refill your water bottles before proceeding from here.
Take a break at Bikheybhanjang and look out for Sandakphu, which lies ahead of you. The trail from here to Sandakphu is a steep incline of 4 km and zigzags up the hill. You can choose between two routes here – the left one which goes via Nepal and is a longer trail with a gradual ascent, or the more popular shorter route with a steep ascent.
An hour’s steep ascent on the second route followed by around 15 minutes of level walk brings you to a place where trails from Nepal and India converge and further break up. You can sight huts and tea stalls dotting the Sandakphu landscape.
The main attraction of this spot is the 180-degree panoramic views of the Himalayan peaks, one of the world’s most coveted panoramas. Makalu, Lhotse, Everest, Nuptse, Baruntse, Chamling, Chomolonzo, Machapucchare and other peaks of the Annapurna range spread out towards the west. Three sister peaks stand tall towards the north and of course, the Sleeping Buddha lies before you. Towards the east, you see the highest ranges of Bhutan, where Chomolhari the highest peak, rises above all the others.
Faint mobile network is sometimes available at the highest point in Sandakphu. Your campsite is a 20 minute leisurely walk from here, and is situated at a slightly lower level.
In the winter months, the Sandakphu campsite is covered in snow. The temperature here dips to sub-zero levels after sunset, November till March.
Day 5: Sandakphu to Sabargram
- Altitude: 11,950 ft (3,642 m) to 11,807 ft (3,599 m)
- Time taken: 7-8 hours, 12 km
- Trek gradient: Moderate. Begins with a gradual decent followed by a combination of gradual and steep ascents and level walks. Rocky path (gravel roads) with few muddy sections and forest cover. Will get tricky if it rains.
- Water sources: Carry 2 litres of water from Sandakphu, as water is scarce on this route. Sabargram has an open pond close to the Forest Post.
Start early as there is lot of distance to be covered. The trails are the best you will encounter on this trek in terms of scenery and diversity of flora and fauna. You will walk on ridges and through meadows, and maybe even run down a few slopes with the wind blowing through your hair. This route, in April and May, has an immense concentration of rhododendron in full bloom, and you will also have yaks for company in some places.Proceed north-east, following the logical trail. A 20 minute descent is followed by a 5 to 10 minute ascent and another short section of an easy descent. Gradual ascents and descents over 2 to 3 hillocks and you join the road again. This section takes 1.5 hours as you reach Thukumb Checkpost. Get your entry tickets checked here.
The trail to Sabargram is towards your right while the Nepal road goes via the left trail. Take a left via the Nepal trail and walk for 10 minutes till you reach a hut. Another 15 minutes on the same trail will connect you back with the trail to Sabargram.
This stretch takes around 3 to 4 hours till you find yourself at Forest Check Post of Sabarkum. This will be your campsite for today.
Day 6: Sabargram to Gorkhey via Phalut
- Altitude: 11,807 ft (3,599 m) to 7,546 ft (2,300 m) via 11,950 ft (3,642 m)
- Time taken: 6 hours, 16 km
- Trek gradient: Moderate. Initial descent followed by a combination of gradual ascents and descents to Phalut. Level walks to Gorkhey except for the final hour of steep descent.
- Water sources: Carry 2 litres of water. You can refill your water bottles from a stream ahead of Phalut.
You will get the best views of Kanchenjunga while trekking to Phalut.
The trail from Sabargram to Phalut is a 7 km zigzag route, which will take you about 2.5 hours to cover. There are a series of gradual descents and level field walks, each coming in intervals of 15 minutes. After this is a 1/2 km flat meadow walk followed by 1 km of steep climb, which can be negotiated by taking shortcuts.Look out for the trekkers’ hut on your way. From this point, you will reach Phalut by climbing steadily for about half an hour. The view point is on the hillock to your left. Reach there early to get magnificent views of the entire panorama of mountains and peaks.
Phalut is a small grassland with minimal or no vegetation. There is only a SSB camp, a forest guest house which can accommodate 8 people, and a GTA trekker’s hut which can accommodate 18 trekkers. Though this is a remote place, you get the closest views of the entire panaorama.
If the weather is not clear on this day, you might have to head straight to Gorkhey.
From Phalut, you begin to descend. The trail passes through forests, with several openings. In the initial stretch of the descent, you will be able to view Pandim, Tenzingkhang, Jubanu, and Narsing through the openings. Continue on this trail for around 10 km to reach Gorkhey. The final stretch to reach the village is a steep descent through fields.
While you’re at Gorkhey, make sure you walk through the village, across the bridge on the Gorkhey river to enter Sikkim. This will better enable you to absorb the beauty of the place.
Alternate trek routes from Phalut to Sirikhola: Route 1: Phalut to Gorkhey (15 km), to Rammam (9 km), to Sirikhola (4 km), total distance – 24 km. This is a longer route but very scenic. Experienced trekkers may want to take this route.
Day 7: Gorkhey to Sepi via Samanden and Ramam. Depart from Sepi
- Altitude: 7,546 ft (2,300 m) to 6,234 ft (1,900 m)
- Time taken: 4-5 hours, 11 km
- Time difficulty: Easy, mostly level walks interspersed with a few ascents and descents.
- Water sources: Carry sufficient water with you today. You can refill your water bottles at Ramam, where you will reach a little over an hour into your trek.
Start early from Gorkhey and proceed to Sepi via Ramam. The trail from Gorkhey to Ramam is through a forest with gradual and steep ascents. On the way, you will pass Samamden, a very pretty village with quaint wooden huts and lush fields. There is a tea house at Ramam, next to the SSB post, where you can take a break.
The route from Ramam to Sepi is mostly made up of descents through dense forest. Just before Sepi, you will cross a wooden bridge at Srikhola. To get to Sepi (our final destination), walk up the motor road for 30-40 minutes. You will reach Sepi around 1.00 pm.
After a hot lunch, depart for Bagdogra. Vehicles can be arranged on demand. You will reach Bagdogra Airport at 7.00 pm.
How to get to Base Camp- Jaubhari
New Jalpaiguri → Jaubhari
Jaubhari is an extremely pretty, quiet village in West Bengal 2.5 km after Maneybhanjan. Maneybhanjan is the usual starting point of the Sandakphu trek. From Maneybhajan taxi stand, 2 roads fork out – the upper road leads to Sandakphu and the lower, to Jaubhari.
Pick up will be arranged from Bagdogra Airport to Jaubhari at 9.30 am on day 1 of your trek.
The cost of each cab is approximately Rs 3,300. It will be shared among your co trekkers in the same vehicle.
Travel to the pick up point for your trek – Bagdogra Airport-
You can take a train from Delhi or from Kolkata.
Delhi to NJP
12506 North East Exp ANVT 6.45 am – NJP 8.20 am
14056 Brahmputra mail DLI 23.40 pm – NJP 4.55 am
Kolkata to NJP
15959 Kamrup Exp HWH 17.35 – NJP 6.15 am
13147 Uttar Banga Exp SDAH 19.35 – NJP 7.00 am
12343 Darjiling Mail SDAH 22.05 – NJP 8.00 am
13149 KanchanKanaya Exp SDAH 20.30 – NJP 7.30 am
More details can be found on www.indianrail.gov.in.
Ensure you book your tickets well in advance.
The pick up point is Bagdogra airport.
Most flights from major cities land around 8.30 am or later.
Hence, if you plan to board a flight to Bagdogra Airport, booking it for the day before trek is recommended.
Meet the pick up vehicle the following morning at Bagdogra Airport.
Sepi → New Jalpaiguri
The trek ends at Sepi. Indiahikes arranges transport from Sepi to Bagdogra Airport at an additional cost. It costs Rs. 5,500 from Sepi to Bagdogra Airport. It will be shared among your co trekkers in the same vehicle.
It takes approximately 6-6.5 hours to Bagdogra Airport. You will reach Bagdogra Airport by 7 pm.
IMPORTANT – In case you are booking return tickets for the same day, it is advisable to book tickets for flights/trains/buses that leave post 9 pm.
How to get fit for the Sandakphu trek
Sandakphu is a moderate trek. There are no technical sections to walk on. But it is an extremely long trek. This requires a good amount of preparation.
This trek requires a good amount of cardiovascular endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. Start jogging at a slow pace and then keep increasing your pace day by day. In order to be prepared for high altitude trek, you should have a combination of distance and speed targets.
Here’s a fitness routine that works:
Here’s a chart to help you get fit for the trek.
Working out indoors
If you can’t go out and jog because of time and space constraints, here’s a video you can use to work out indoors.
What to take on the Sandakphu trek
- Trekking shoes: You will need trekking shoes with good grip. Sports shoes will not be comfortable for this trek. You can watch this video to learn how to choose the right trekking shoes.
- Backpack (40-60 litres): A backpack with sturdy straps and a supporting frame. Rain cover for backpack is essential, especially during the months of April and May.
On a trek, carry fewer clothes than you would normally need. Do not pack for ‘what if situations’. That will only add to the weight of your backpack and not be used on the trek. Once your clothes get warmed up on a trek, you will not feel like changing. Just maintain personal hygiene.
- Three warm layers: You will need at least three warm layers (two light layers such as fleece or woollen and one padded jacket) for this trek. Add another layer during winter. A hollow full sleeve windproof jacket/down jacket will help enormously because Sandakphu is a very windy trek.
- Three trek pants: Wear one pair and carry two pairs. Denim/jeans and shorts are not suitable for trekking.
- Three collared t-shirts: Carry light, full sleeved t-shirts that prevent sun burns on the neck and arms. Again, wear one and carry two. Let one of these be a dri-fit t-shirt. It will dry quickly in case you are trekking on a rainy day. A common mistake that trekkers make is not changing their tshirts often enough. Regardless of how cold it is, the body tends to sweat a lot. Trekkers who don’t change to fresh clothes after reaching the campsite fall ill due to wet clothes and are often unable to complete their trek.
- Thermals (Optional): Those who are more susceptible to cold can carry thermals to wear at night. From December to March, carrying this is mandatory.
- Sunglasses: Sunglasses are to prevent snow blindness. There might be snow at the upper campsites regardless of the season. So carry a pair of sunglasses.
- Suncap: The sun is intense at higher altitudes and a sun cap is absolutely essential to keep your face and neck safe from sunburns.
- Synthetic hand gloves: One pair of fleece or woolen hand gloves. One pair of water proof gloves.
- Balaclava: You may use woolen scarves instead as well. This helps to keep your ears and neck covered protected from cold winds.
- Socks (2 pairs): Apart from two sports socks to wear while trekking, you can take a pair of woolen socks for the night.
- Headlamp LED torch: Mandatory.
- Trekking pole: Watch this video to understand why you need a trekking pole.
- Poncho: Given its geographical location, Sandakphu is prone to rainfall almost throughout the year. It’s always wise to carry a poncho along with you.
Indiahikes offers rentals on this trek. You can now rent trekking shoes, trekking pole, padded jacket and poncho instead of buying them. You can collect these directly at the base camp and return them there after the trek. Get the details here.
- Daypack (20 litres): If you are offloading your backpack, you will need a smaller backpack to carry water, medical kit and some light snacks.
- Toiletries: Sunscreen, moisturizer, light towel, lip balm, toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitiser. Do not carry wet wipes since these are not biodegradable. We do not like biodegradable wet wipes because they take a long time to decompose in the mountains. Use toilet paper instead.
- Sanitary waste: Make sure you bring your used sanitary napkins back to the city with you. Carry a zip lock bag to put used napkins. Bring this ziplock bag back with you to the city and do not dispose sanitary napkins in the mountains.
- Cutlery:Carry a spoon, coffee mug and a lunch box. We insist on trekkers getting their own cutlery for hygiene reasons. We do not allow biodegradable or disposable cutlery on our treks.
- Two water bottles: 1 litre each.
- Plastic covers: While packing, use plastic bags to compartmentalise things and carry a few extra plastic bags for wet clothes.
Mandatory Personal Medical Kit
- Diamox – 1 Strip
- Crocin- 10 tablets
- Avomine (optional, in case of motion sickness)- 1 Strip
- Combiflam- Half Strip
- Muscle relaxant – Half Strip
- Digene- Half Strip
- Avil- 1 strip
- ORS- 6 packs
- Knee Cap (If you are prone to knee injury)
- Original and photocopy of government photo identity card- (driving license, voters ID, etc.)
- Medical Certificate – Download PDF
- Disclaimer- Download PDF
If you’re shopping or packing for the trek, you can download this quick and simple checklist for offline use.
Here’s a guide to help you pack for the trek –
What are the risks on the Sandakphu-Phalut Trek?
The Sandakphu-Phalut trek is graded moderate-difficult. If you have registered for this trek, then here is some information that you must know in order to have a safe trek. At Indiahikes, we believe that as long as you are well-informed and well-prepared, you can survive easily at high altitudes.
The Sandakphu-Phalut trek is a very long trek. Although there are no technical sections, this high altitude trek comes with several risks. Most trekkers are carried away by the road that goes along the trail. They often see jeeps and little carts alongside which makes them believe that they cannot be in any immediate danger. But the trek climbs very rapidly to the Sandakphu and Phalut campsites, and this is something that you should be extremely mindful of.
What Indiahikes does to ensure your safety
Our philosophy is simple. We ingrain safety aspects in the people we work with, in the processes that we follow, and in the equipment we carry. All our trek leaders are trained repeatedly on safety issues and protocols. Most issues are resolved with their intervention.
Right from the time you decide to register for the trek till the last day of the trek, these safety procedures will be running in the background. We have listed a few of them below:
1. Fitness criteria before registration
Over years of organising high altitude treks, we have found that safety issues thrive amongst those who are unfit and unprepared for the trek. So we have introduced an eligibility criteria for the Sandakphu trek. Anyone who wants to register for the Sandakphu trek has to meet the fitness requirements, with the ideal BMI. The BMI and fitness regime will require proof. A high altitude trek is not to be taken casually.
2. Monitoring health on a trek
On the Sandakphu trek, your Trek Leader will be monitoring two aspects thrice a day.
- Oxygen Level
- Pulse Rate
Your Blood Pressure levels will be checked once a day.
This will help us ensure that your body is acclimatising as required.
Every trekker will be given a Health Card at the beginning of the trek. The Health Card is issued to monitor the trekker’s daily health, wherein they will be entering details about their health everyday. It also contains details of what symptoms one should look out for and what action should be taken during emergencies. These Health Cards will be collected back at the end of the trek.
3. High Altitude Medical Kit
Your trek leader will be carrying a full-fledged high altitude medical kit. This will include basic medicines and specific medicines catering to altitude sickness – Diamox, Dexamethasone (tablets and injections) and Nifedipine. Your Trek Leader will also be carrying a portable oxygen cylinder throughout the trek. In addition to that, there are oxygen cylinders installed at all high altitude campsites for any emergency situations.
4. High Altitude Trek Equipment
To ensure safe trekking on snowy terrain, Indiahikes will provide you with micro-spikes to attach to your shoes. This will give you good traction on hard snow. To avoid snow from entering your shoes, Indiahikes will provide you with gaiters that you can put on over your shoes. You will have qualified technical guides with you, who will lead the way on difficult terrain.
All our sleeping bags and tents are custom-made for high altitude. If it is cold outside, it will be around 10 degrees warmer inside the tent. The sleeping bags can withstand temperatures up to -10 degree Celsius.
With all these processes and equipment in place, you can be rest assured that you will have a safe trek with Indiahikes.
Nevertheless, you will need to be cautious and report the slightest of symptoms to your trek leader as soon as you feel them.
5. Being hydrated and well nourished on the trek
You need to drink a minimum of 4 litres of water every day during the trek to ensure that you’re well hydrated. De-hydration on a trek can make you lose energy very quickly and intensify the effects of AMS. Your trek leader will brief you about the amount of water that you need to carry with you at the start of each day as well as water sources on the trail.
We provide trekkers with nutritious meals to ensure that they are energized to complete the trail each day. Apart from this, snacks or packed lunch is provided wherever the trail before a meal break is likely to be long. Make sure that you do not skip any meal as this can lead to serious health emergencies on high altitudes.
The Sandakphu-Phalut trek is peppered with tea houses along the way and it can be tempting to make a pit stop for momos or magi. We strongly advise you against this since the salt content of these food items can dehydrate you.
What you compulsorily need to know if you’re going on the Sandakphu trek
Acute Mountain Sickness:
At 11,929 feet the chances of being hit by Acute Mountain Sickness cannot be ruled out.
Sandakphu and Sabargram/Phalut are the highest campsites on the trek. Trekkers tend to develop symptoms of altitude sickness at these camps. The ascent to the Sandakphu is rapid.
Do not proceed to Phalut/Sabargram if you have symptoms of altitude sickness. Inform your trek leader about your condition. If the symptoms don’t alleviate it is best to head down to Tumling/Jaubhari. Although if you feel symptoms of AMS at Phalut/Sabargram, it is better to proceed on to Gorkhey.
This risk can be avoided by going on a course of Diamox. Even while on Diamox, the risk of AMS still prevails. While AMS can be treated with rest and medicines for the most part, the symptoms must be recognised before it can go to advanced stages – High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).
HAPE and HACE are critical conditions that can be fatal within hours. And they can occur without AMS preceding them. So it’s doubly important to recognise any symptoms and nip them in the bud.
** Being a tea house trek, alcohol tends to be available easily on this trek. Although prohibited on our treks, some trekkers make the mistake of sneaking in a drink. Nothing can be deadlier than this. Alcohol multiplies the chance of being hit by AMS by several times.
Take this specific precaution – Go on a preventive course of Diamox
We strongly advise you to go on a preventive course of Diamox. Diamox is a blood thinner and helps you acclimatise much faster and reduces the chance of AMS by around 80%. Take half a tablet twice a day from one day before your trek.
What to do if you have symptoms of AMS?
If you feel any symptoms of AMS on the trek, you must report to the Trek Leader immediately. Do not wait till the end of the day’s trek. Do not try to handle it yourself either. Our Trek Leaders are well-trained and experienced to handle any cases and they will be the decision makers in any such cases.
Watch the below video to understand the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness. In this video, Arjun Majumdar, the founder of Indiahikes will also tell you the protocol to follow when you see someone showing symptoms of AMS.
Exit points on the Sandakphu-Phalut trek:
The safest point on a trek where a trekker can descend to and rest is considered an Exit Point. For most months there is an open jeep trail until Phalut. This trail closes before Sandakphu in winters. For a safe exit, you must get down to Jaubhari . Although if you feel symptoms of AMS at Phalut/Sabargram, it is better to proceed on to Gorkhey.
For any advanced treatment, Darjeeling has the closest hospital. It takes about 1.5 hours to reach from Jaubhari. There is a smaller hospital in Sukhiapokhri too.
Why you should personally know about the risks and precautions of high altitude treks
If ever you find yourself alone at high altitude, either while trekking independently or with another organisation, there are some life -saving steps you can take. Firstly, you should be able to recognise symptoms of altitude sickness. So acquaint yourself with the symptoms.
Secondly, there might be instances when you have to administer medicines to yourself or to a fellow trekker. There are three life-saving medicines that we suggest you always carry on you – Diamox, Dexamethasone and Nifedipine.
If you are trekking with Indiahikes, do not administer these to anyone without consulting your Trek Leader. If you are trekking independently then you need to know when exactly to administer these medicines and in what dosage.
Also ensure that you are well hydrated throughout the trek and do not skip any meal.
You can watch the video below to learn about HAPE and HACE and how to tackle them. In the video, Sandhya UC, partner at Indiahikes, explains in detail about High Altitude Pulmonary and Cerebral Edema, what the symptoms are and how to tackle them.
We cannot stress enough on how important it is for you to communicate any symptom to your Trek Leader. Only then your trek leader will be able to take steps at the right time.
Acute Mountain Sickness
If you’re of the opinion that fit people don’t get AMS, please get rid of that notion right away. AMS can affect anyone without paying heed to their fitness and prior experience at high altitude! Altitude sickness does not distinguish between a first timer and an experienced trekker.
For more detailed information about Acute Mountain Sickness, you can download and study the manual below.
Cancelling your trek
In case, you wish to cancel your trek, please login to your account and cancel. Cancellation requests will not be taken over phone or email.
The cancellation charges are as under:
- Cancellations prior to 30 days from the start of the trek — full refund.
- Cancellation between 30 days and 20 days to the start of the trek — 50% refund.
- Cancellation less than 20 days to the start of the trek — no refund.
Please note: In case of refund, there will be a deduction of 4% (cancellation charges) from the total fee that you have paid. Also, if you have opted for a trek insurance, the amount will not be refunded.
If in the unlikely case of a trek being called off at the last moment due to a natural calamity/unforseen circumstances (like rains, earthquake, landslides, strike, bandh etc.), Indiahikes will issue a trek voucher for the full amount of the trek fee. The voucher can be redeemed for the same trek or another trek in the next one year.
Here is what the trek fee includes
- Accommodation and meals – Stay is included from Day 1 to Day 6 (Jaubhari to Gorkhey). You camp on two days of the trek (3 per tent) and stay at tea houses on all other days. All meals from dinner at Jaubhari on Day 1 to lunch at Sepi on Day 7. Meals are simple, nutritious and vegetarian.
- Camping charges – All trekking permits and forest camping charges are included.
- Safety equipment – First aid, medical kit, oxygen cylinders, stretchers etc.
- Services of an expert Trek Leader – All our trek leaders are qualified in basic / advanced mountaineering courses.
- Services of an expert Trek Team – The mountain staff on this trek consists of well trained guides, cooks, helpers and porters.
The trek fee does not include
- Transport to and from the base camp – We will arrange shared taxis for trekkers to pick you up from New Jalpaiguri Railway station and drop you back there from Sepi. This will cost Rs.3,000 per 5-6 seater vehicle on the way to Jaubhari and Rs.5,500 per 5-6 seater vehicle on the way back from Sepi. You will have to share this cost with the other trekkers
- Food during transit to and from the base camp – The trek fee does not include meals purchased during the journey to Jaubhari and return from Sepi.
- Backpack offloading charges – Rs. 1,500 + 5% GST for the full trek. The backpack cannot weigh more than 9 kg. Suitcases/strolleys/duffel bags will not be allowed. Please note that charges will vary for last minute offloading in case you decide to offload your bag after reaching Jaubhari (Rs. 350 per day inclusive of tax).
- Anything apart from inclusions
In case, you wish to cancel your trek, please log in to your account and cancel.
Cancellation requests will not be taken over Phone or email.
The cancellation charges are as under.
Cancellations prior to 30 days from the start of the trek — full refund.
Cancellation between 30 days and 20 days to the start of the trek — 50% refund.
Cancellation less than 20 days to the start of the trek — no refund.
Please note: In case of refund, there will be a deduction of 4% (cancellation charges) from the total fee you have paid. Also, if you have opted for a trek insurance, the amount will not be refunded.
If a trek is called off at the last moment due to a natural calamity/unforeseen circumstances (like rains, earthquake, landslides, strike, bandh, etc), Indiahikes will issue a trek voucher for the full amount. The voucher can be redeemed for the same trek or another trek in the next one year.
A high altitude trek in the Himalayas requires considerable fitness. Your body needs to train itself to process more work with lower levels of oxygen. Therefore, on treks, cardiovascular training is critically important. The trek has a long walk and gradual ascent on an everyday base. As a measure of your fitness, we require you to be able to run at least 5 km in 40 minutes by the time your trek starts. If you are 45 years or above, cover 5km in 45 minutes. This is a minimum, mandatory requirement.
If you prefer cycling over running, then cover 20 km in 60 minutes.
Unable to do so can make your trek difficult.
In addition, preparation of trek needs to include strength and flexibility training. Registering for the trek is an understanding that you will undertake the mandated fitness training and upload the fitness screenshots on your dashboard. Trekkers who have not adequately prepared may be asked to discontinue the trek at any point.
Indiahikes has the right to reject trekkers who do not meet our eligibility requirement at the base camp.
Indiahikes expects all trekkers to carry their own backpacks. All common gear will be carried by the support team. If for some reason a trekker is unable to carry his or her backpack, he/she can offload the same by paying an additional charge.
Backpack offloading charges – Rs 250 per day plus GST of 5%. Charges for last minute offloading during the trek will be Rs. 375 per day inclusive of tax. You can opt for offloading directly your dashboard after your payment is done for the trek.
Partial offloading is not allowed. The backpack cannot weigh more than 9 kg. No suitcases/trolleys/duffel bags will be allowed.
Online offloading in advance is possible up to three days prior to the trek start date.
Indiahikes will organize transport to and fro the base camp Jaubhari, from New Jalpaiguri railway station, on the first day of the trek. This will be in 5-6 seater vehicles. The cost of each vehicle transport one way is Rs 5500. It will be shared among co trekkers in the same vehicle. The same thing applies to the return journey.
Repeat Trekker Policy
At Indiahikes, we believe that the mountains hold all the aces. The weather could play spoilsport, the altitude could mess with a trekker, the unpredictability of nature itself could turn against him. Whatever the reason might be, it is never nice to turn away from a trek midway.
In the event that a trekker has to come down without completing your trek, they can always head back to the mountain and do the same trek again. If this happens, trekkers don’t have to pay the trek fee. They have to just make the optional payment for the insurance amount.
On another note, it could also happen that you love a trek so much that you want to go back time and again. Trekkers don’t have to pay the trek fee for repeating a trek.
Note – The Repeat Trekker Policy holds good only for Indian Treks.
It is not valid for treks we run in Nepal.
If there is a group size of 10 trekkers and above, then we will waive off the trek fee charges for one person.
Note - There is no discount available if the group size is 9 or less than that.
You can register the entire group and send us an email. If the group is registering individually, then the primary participant needs to send an email to the Trek Coordinator with the list of trekkers from the same group.
If you want to make the payment individually, then individual registrations have to be done.
This will be the case for a group of 10 trekkers. So if you have a group of 20 trekkers, then we will waive off the charges for 2 trekkers.
What will the pick up point be? How is travel arranged? Can I be picked up from Bagdogra or Darjeeling if I want to?
Indiahikes will organize transport to and fro the base camp Jaubhari, from New Jalpaiguri railway station, on the first day of the trek. This will be in 5-6 seater vehicles. The cost of each vehicle transport one way is Rs 5500. It will be shared among co trekkers in the same vehicle. The same thing applies to the return journey.
We do organize a pick-up and drop from Darjeeling/Bagdogra on request.
They will be in 5-6 seater vehicles, like the Tata Sumo or Bolero.
The cost of one vehicle from Darjeeling to Jaubhari will be Rs 1500, and Bagdogra/Siliguri to Jaubhari will be Rs 3300.
Sepi to Darjeeling will be Rs 3300 per vehicle.
Sepi to Bagdogra/Siliguri will be Rs 5500 per vehicle.
If you are the only trekker from Darjeeling/Bagdogra or a group of 2-3, then the cost of one vehicle will have to be shared among you alone.
How do I prepare for the trek, it is my first trek. What is the difficulty level?
Sandakphu is considered a moderate trek. This is because the distance covered on most days is long, an average of around 10 km. This makes the ascents on the trek strenuous. It is a good trek for fit first timers.
You will need at least 4 weeks of solid preparation for this trek. You can begin preparation by going for brisk walks and then do brisk jogs to improve your cardio. Your target should be to cover 5 km in 35 minutes comfortably by the start the trek.
Is there an option to not carry my backpack and do the trek?
Yes this is called offloading your backpack. It means a porter or a mule will carry it for you. You will receive it at the end of the day at each campsite. It is at an extra charge of Rs 1575 and is for the entire duration of the trek. You need to book and pay for this beforehand online.
Can I bring luggage I do not require on the trek and leave them somewhere before the trek begins?
Yes we have an option of leaving behind extra luggage you do not need on the trek, at our base camp, Jaubhari. Ensure you leave no valuables (laptops, cash, electronics) in this luggage. There is no extra charge to leaving this luggage at the base camp, and you do not have to pre book it anywhere.
On the way from Sepi to Bagdogra Airport, at the end of the trek, you will be stopping at Jaubhari to collect back this extra luggage.
What do I need to bring on the trek, and what can I rent with Indiahikes?
You will need to bring everything mentioned on the things to take tab.
We have trek poles, shoes, backpacks and padded jackets on rent.
All rental gear needs to be booked and paid for online on your dashboard. It will be provided to you at the base camp before you begin the trek.
Here is what trekkers have to say about their experience at Sandakphu Phalut
Video by Champak Chaki
Video by Incurable Wanderlust
Click on available dates to Register
- What the colours mean
- Available:Registration is on.
- Waitlist:The group is full, but cancellations are likely to happen. We have 5 waitlist slots for every group. You may register for the group. Waitlist slots confirmation chances are high if booked more than 30 days in advance.
- Full:Indicates the group is full. No further slots are likely. A full group has 18 members.
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