Singalila Pass & Phoktey Dara Trek
Upcoming Spring/Summer Treks to Singalila Pass & Phoktey Dara:
Trek Code SL17SP1 – 15th Apr (Day 1) to 21st Apr’17 (Day 7)
Trek Code SL17SP2 – 30th Apr (Day 1) to 5th May’17 (Day 7)
Trek Code SL17SP3 – 7th May (Day 1) to 13th May’17 (Day 7)
Cost : Rs 11800 (Hilley to Uttarey) + 9% Service Tax
(Book for 3 persons and get a discount of 5%; Book for 5 or more to get a 10% Group Discount)
Download PDF Brochure FOR BRIEF ITINERARY, COST INCLUSIONS AND EXCLUSIONS.
To Book Click here
Fixed Departure Trek: Please see the “Fixed Departure Treks” link for the schedule or click here
Customised Trek: We are pleased to offer customised tailor made trekking trips to Singalila Pass & Phoktey Dara for individuals and small group of people according to their preferred dates and service.
The Trek Highlights:
About Singalila Pass – Phoktey Dara Trek: A prevalent pristine jungle trek with charming beauty of panoramic High Nepal/Sikkim ranges is mere to describe this trail. Staying entirely at campsites inside treeline is an ideal beginning for many trekkers. This trail starting from Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary goes through the last few remaining undisturbed patches of pure forests in Sikkim. Forest types ranging from Montane Wet Temperate Forests, Mixed Coniferous Forests, Sub-alpine Birch-Fir and Conifer Forest and Moist Dry Alpine Scrub (Rhododendron and Juniper scrubs) in varying altitude. The atmosphere inside dense forests are mostly wet and damp, age old trunks with clinging ferns, growing mosses and lichens. Rhododendrons trees or scrubs ( on higher altitudes) and giant Magnolias blossom in spring. Rich ground flora comprised of primulas, potentillas, gentians, poppies and aconites. Even during winter the forest remains deep green in contrast with Maple foliage during fall. Clouds hover around from spring to fall ! Forests are full of life, thanks to the rich biodiversity. Flycatchers & Warblers, Sunbirds, Thrushes & Babblers, Tits & Fiches tweet and sing relentless. Colourful flowers attract hundreds of butterflies. Spreading accross an area of 104 Square Km, this sanctuary is home to endangered Red Panda, Barking Deer (Kakar), Himalayan Black Bear, Marbled Cat and many other mammal species. But this is just one side. Due to the proximity of Sikkim and Nepal High Himalayas, the views of High Himalayan ranges are fascinating. Singalila Pass and Phoktey Dara the two spurs offer majestic views of gigantic massif of Kanchendzongha range in a famous “Sleeping Buddha” formation. Sunrise and sunset panorama are surreal and profound. On a clear day, 4 out of the 5 highest peaks in the world, Mt. Everest, Kanchendzongha, Lhotse and Makalu are distinctly visible. Campsites are strategically on glades to enhance the grandeur experience. Jannu (Kumbhakarna), Pandim, Kabru North/south/Dome, Simvo are noteworthy in the vicinity. This less trodden trail is devoid of any human existence, grazing cattle and is uncommon to find other group(s) travelling alongside. For amateur and experienced photographers the route is bountiful of wild life, flowers, panorama and certainly the Himalayan ranges and peaks. This is indeed a must trek for Himalayan nature lover, botanist and birders.
Access to Hilley (The trek base) & Return: We will arrange a pickup and drop from New Jalpaiguri/Sliguri to Hilley and back from Uttarey to NJP. This will be shared by the team members on actual basis. One side is Rs 4500 for a Ta Ta Sumo/Mahindra Maxx.
Otherwise if a trekker wants to reach Hilley by public vehicle then here is how:
1) Reach NJP in the morning and take a shared auto to Siliguri Junction/SNT(Sikkim Nationalised Transport/Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminus. From there board a shared vehicle to Jorethang in South Sikkim. This is the entry point for South & West Sikkim. If you reach there by Noon then probably you will get your seat in one of the few jeeps plying Between Jorethang and Ribdi. From Ribdi you have to book a vehicle for Hilley which is 10 Km apart.
2) While returning from Uttarey you can book a seat in the shared vehicle which leaves for Jorethang by 6 am in the morning. From Jorethang you will get vehicle for Siliguri till 3 pm.
Important Notes on Camping grounds:
This trail inside Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary has limited water source at intervals. The streams are seasonal and it is difficult to get water around Kharkha Dara and Kalijhor campsite apart from months of April to September. For camping, proximity of water is a must and we may have to camp accordingly as required. However we will cover Phoktey Dara top and Singalila Pass as mentioned in the itinerary.
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.
P.S: Altitudes and distances are approximate and may not be exact.