The Injustice about Goechala

goecha la trek

Something is terribly wrong at Sikkim. The government, the trekking agencies and the local guides seem hell bent on ruining the trekking world of Sikkim.

The first one really gets my goat. Trekkers on the Goechala trail are in for a shock on the final day of the trek. Trekkers are encouraged to start at three in the night from Lamune (the last camp) to get to view point 1. When trekkers get there most guides are reluctant to go ahead. Some show trekkers view point 2 and 3 with a wave of the hand.

The usual answer is, “the view is the same and not different from here”. If pressed, trekkers are taken to view point 2. Rarely do they venture to view point 3 (and no one knows where it is). God forbid if it is cloudy. On a murky day guides quickly bundled down trekkers from wherever they are saying since there is no view so there is no point in going ahead.

What is going on here?

What happened to Goechala, the pass the whole trek is named after? Suddenly on the final day no one talks about the pass, or even makes a reference of getting there. Some of the guides are audacious enough to say that it is dangerous and tricky to go to the pass. Some say it is too far. Or trekkers are taken to a high point and told, this is Goechala.

Here are some truths about Goechala: There is nothing called view point 1, 2 or 3. Understand this clearly. The view points are a total figment of imagination of the local guides. You either get to Goechala or you don’t. Calling spots on a trekking trail as viewpoints is a gross injustice to the trek. Every good trek has vantage points from where you get grand views. But using them as substitutes of being to Goechala is unfair. Even the internet forums are now so full of these viewpoints that the joke is now becoming a reality.

You get to Goechala only when you climb past the beautiful green Goechala lake (not to be mistaken for Samiti) and get to the last ridge. That’s the start of Goechala. Anywhere past that is Goechala and it is ok to return from there but not before that. The view and the ambience are indeed spectacular at Goechala and totally different from what you see at these so called view points. Just to see the snow encompassed Goechala lake would be worth the effort to get there.

More than the views the thrill is in climbing your way past the big snow field, around the flanks of a great moraine and climbing the ridge above the lake. These are classic trekking moments. I have always been surprised why everyone camps at Kockchurang after their return from the view points. Now I realise they haven’t trekked much! If trekkers have truly reached Goechala then Thansing is the appropriate camp on return. Reaching Kockchurang would be too tiring!

Is it difficult to reach Goechala? Is it technical and risky? Is it far? None of these are true. Goechala is in fact easier than most high altitude treks. There is nothing risky. From the so called view point 1 it is another two hours to Goechala over some wonderful landscapes on moraine.

Not getting to Goechala is like missing the last half hour of a spy thriller. The fun, thrill and adventure are all in the last bit.

The second injustice about Goechala is intriguing. Camping is not allowed at Samiti lake though it is one of the most picturesque places to establish camp. In addition it makes trekking to Goechala a lot easier. The local administration says the lake is getting dirty by trekkers. That’s far from the truth. The camping site of Samiti is almost 400 meters from the shores of the lake. How does the lake get dirty from such a distance? If a ‘flourishing’ trekkers hut can be maintained at Kockchurang and Tshoka, is it difficult to maintain one at Samiti? Can’t toilets be maintained at Samiti? Why are trekkers paying such a big environment fee to the government then? These are questions the administration hates to answer.

The third injustice makes me livid! Foreigners are shamelessly fleeced in Sikkim. To do the Goechala trek a foreigner cannot trek alone or join a group. He needs to be accompanied by another foreigner (apparently for his safety). He needs an inner line permit to enter Sikkim. While this is somewhat agreeable, he needs to get another trekking permit from Gangtok. For this he needs to get there a day in advance. Trek permits that cost only a few hundred rupees are charged Rs 4,000 – Rs 6,000 from foreigners. There is no direct window from where a foreigner can buy a trekking permit. The government has made a rule that only trekking agents of Sikkim can get permits for foreigners. This produces a vicious cycle of corruption. Agents charge a hefty fee for this service. A trek that could cost a reasonable amount suddenly starts costing Rs 18,000 upwards for a foreigner. Foreigners, naturally, are getting wiser. When they see the time, travel and trek cost, they rather go to other parts of India to trek. Sikkim was always a wonderful alternative to trekking in Nepal. But trekking in Sikkim is now more of a pain. The last thing we need is Sikkim trekking ruining itself.

Editor’s note: Indiahikes is working with local agents to make it a fair proposition for trekkers. We are insisting that trekkers go up to Goechala. We are also working with the ministry and the government to make a transparent window for securing permits. We hope to succeed in this effort.

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27 thoughts on “The Injustice about Goechala

  1. Thank you for your honesty. Good luck with achieving the desired results for making trekking in Sikkim friendlier to foreigners.

    1. This is an eye opener insight to help us trek enthusiast choose correct trekking partner. I’m sure lots of research has gone behind this. Goechala has been on my bucket list for a long time. Thanks to India hikes for bringing this to public notice.

  2. Absolutely right. When we did last year, we reached up to the Goechala pass after the lake and it is spectacular. But most people stops at Samiti lake or the pass after that. The route from the first pass to the Goechala is one of the best scenes in my life. And it is pretty difficult to reach Kokchurang after Gochela. In my case, I had the lunch when we reach Lamuney back and I slept over the table for an hour before going back to Tansing on the same day! Goechala trek absolutely wonderful. Feels like I should go back to Yuksam!

  3. The way India hikes take up the issue and being honest is commendable. While going through this; I remembered during my Hampta pass trek this year I met one of the trek leader and he told me that this is one of the most ethical company in trekking industry in India and I agree.
    Not only that, I have seen the treatment trekker gets on the mountain slops during trek & is very much appreciated. The trek leader & the other team members were very helpful even to me(though I was not trekking with them) and even go extra mile to help a fellow trekker in need.


  4. thanks a lot, in nov 2011 i was mislead my guide and went up to so called view point 2 only, with this information this year i defiantly pass the goechala lake (my guide told me there was no such lake,there is only a pass with the name) and reach the mighty goechala pass ,thanq very much

    1. Hi! That depends on the team, honestly. It is not fixed– the Trek Leader takes a call on the slope. We either camp at Kockchurang or Thansing, depending on how the team is doing after Goechala. If they are too tired, then we halt at Thansing. If they can push further to Kockchurang, we camp there. It is a better camp to rest at- lower in altitude, and temperatures. 🙂

  5. Hi,
    One question..!!

    What is the name of the lake before the actual Goechala Pass we are talking about.
    Is it Sikkim Green Lake??

  6. This article was written 5 years ago. I recently read somewhere that going beyond the so called view point 1 is banned now due to snow leopard concerns. How true is this?

      1. Hello, i am interested in the Oct batch. Is there any update on whether the shut down has been lifted?

  7. Hi,
    I am planning on going the next 21st April 2019 to Sikkim and would like to go all the way up to “Goechala Pass”, not just the so called “view point 1”. I mean all the way up. I don´t mind going with a group as it seems to kinda be compulsory at the moment, but I really want to pass The Goechela Green Lake all the way to Goechala Pass. How can I make this viable? My second question is, If I go with a group do I have to follow their pase (wait for them) or can I go on my own pase as it seems there are some options of how much distance to make per day.

    David Patterson

    1. Hi David, I’m afraid it’s impossible to make it all the way up to Goechala, whether you’re trekking alone or in a group. The state government has put up this rule of not going beyond View Point 1, and all trekkers have to stick to that.

      Also, if you’re trekking in a group, you can follow your own pace. However, there will be certain rest points where everyone will regroup. From our experience, both average trekkers and fast trekkers are comfortable with this. The everyday distances, however, are fixed. You cannot change the distance you climb each day. This is because the campsites are fixed based on water availability and also the altitude at which you camp. They are fixed in such a way that you acclimatise well.

      If you’re trekking solo, you could consider the Annapurna Base CAmp trek. IT’s a great option because it has tea houses / lodges all along the way. You won’t be held back by a group. And you can maintain your own pace. You’ll find details about it here –

  8. I too was surprised when I demanded to go beyond point no. 2, my guide started fighting with me in front of all stating, there is no way to go further. I wasn’t sure, therefore, couldn’t insist further. But, I am totally with Arjun that if you don’t go to point 2, you have missed some excellent routes. Also the site on reaching point 2 is absolutely breathtaking!
    Thanks Arjun for bringing out this point.

  9. Arjun is passionately arguing to go past view 1 and to Goechala lake but I am surprised to find that the India hikes iternary itself talks about view 1 and return from there.
    i expected India hikes to take care of the same point and include the view point 2, 3 and Goechala lake and pass…
    At the same time in one of the responses someone says that it is not allowed as per the local state regulations….
    How did therefore Arjun go there….???
    And if is not allowed why build a case for the same ..???
    His angst is against the local guides and not the state govt. in his article….
    So what is the correct position and why blame the guides if the local regulations do not allow to go beyond view point 1….

    1. Hi Manish, in case you missed it, Arjun wrote this post in 2012, the Goechala trek was a lot longer then, when trekkers could actually go to Goechala and see the Goechala Lake and Pass and return. The ban on going further from View Point 1 came in last year, in 2018. It’s a rule put forth by the governing authority there. No trekkers are allowed to go beyond View Point 1 any more.

  10. Hi,
    In the pictures of “View Point 1” only a part of the Kanchenjunga range can be seen (Rest is covered by another peak in front of it). Is that the best view of the peak that we get from there? Or is there a view of the entire mountain as well?

    1. That is true. Technically, you cannot see the whole range from View Point 1, like you can at View Point 3. You can see only a part of the Kanchenjunga range. Unfortunately, no trekkers are allowed beyond View Point 1 anymore and have to relish the view from there.