September 28, 2016Samrat Chakraborty

Danphebir La | High circuit of Sikkim | hidden lakes and Kanchendzonga

Walk along the ridge and savour the spectacular vista

Danphebir La is one unique region that hosts several pristine, large high altitude lakes and boasts one of the best views of Himalayas.

For over the years , Danphebir La trek has remained a route far less traversed by city trekkers. However, the route that runs through the upper Singali La ridge, is as pristine and wildly beautiful if not more, as some of the best high-altitude treks in the Himalayas.

The landscape is a collection of typical sub-alpine mountain forests,  long stretches of rock strewn ridge with alpine shrublands, alpine meadows, pristine high-altitude lakes and rugged rocky hills with patches of snow and ice. The region harbors a rich variety of flora and fauna.

Danphe-Bir La trek being a strenuous one , good fitness level is required.

 

TREK DETAIL:

Trek begins at ~  Uttarey, a small town in west Sikkim. Elevation 2100 meters. It takes roughly 8 hours in a Jeep to reach Uttarey from New Jalpaiguri.

Time of year ~ May-June

Day wise brief activity log follows –

Day-1: Chewa Bhanjang (3000 m.)
It was a warm morning of May when we started our hike from Uttarey. We crossed the army quarters, followed the beautiful stream for a while and then started climbing gradually to the north. Our route went through the dense forest of mostly conifers laden with orchids and mosses. In a couple of hours, we reached the army camp of Chitrey(2700 m.) on a green meadow. From here it is a half an hour long steep hike to Chewa-Bhanjang (3000 m.) , a pass to enter Nepal. Chewa camp serves as a border post between India and Nepal. This is where we first set foot on the ridge named Singali La.

We camp here near the security post. It rained night-long but we managed some sleep in our tiny two men tent.

Day-2: Dhur(3700 m.)
We start early, continue to the north-east direction , following the faint trail which is created mostly by grazing cattle. We follow the ridge and cut across the ridge in places. The trail climbed up and down for hours while the north sky remained bleak and air humid. We stopped for taking rest where the red and pink rhododendrons bloomed in huge numbers.

After walking for 8 hours through the ridge we reached our camp site Dhur(3700 m.) in evening.  Settled in a half broke cattle herders’ stable, locally called Guth to spend the night. This old stable and a foot-long concrete post marking the Indo-Nepal border were the only two human-made structures on this remote ridge top.

Dhur is a camping site with views of Lhotse-Makalu-Everest on a clear day. One can feel the true presence of nature’s forces if time is spent exploring this desolate, craggy , windswept part of the ridge.

Day-3: Meghu(3900 m.)
At sunrise, we could see the faraway gigantic peaks of Mount Everest-Lhotse-Makalu and other giants to the east, clearly. As we started we could see smallish alpine meadows and small lakes hidden amongst craggy rocky humps of bizarre shape and signature. Pale yellow and bright red rhododendrons bloomed by the side of the trail. Our hike seemed easy as the trail climbed gradually. Today’s destination was a small herders’ camp site called Meghu(3900 m.) along the indo-Nepal border. This site is situated on a big flat plain above the ridge. As we reached the camp site we saw that the camp area and nearby mountains had received a splash of fresh snow recently. We camped in the only herders’ stable for the night.

This area is a beautiful example of a pristine high altitude valley. The mind-blowing scenery is observed when in summer many small streams of melt water flow through the entire valley and flowers bloom. To the north, icy Lampokhri region is visible from here.

 
Day-4: Lampokhri (4200 m.)
It was around 9 o’clock in the morning as we started walking through the flat plains of Meghu. This partly grassy partly stony valley gently climbs up to the LamPokhri-LachmiPokhri-ZomleyPokhri region(4100-4300 m.) along Singali La ridge. As we walk towards the end of the plain we find patches of melting snow, which made the trail slippery and tricky for hikers. Quietly but suddenly weather deteriorated and clouds came in. A strong wind started to blow from the north , slowed our pace. We continued hiking up slowly through fresh snow and reached the banks of the turquoise blue lakes on the base of Danphebir La.

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Lam pokhri

We set up our camp just beyond the banks of Lam pokhri. We set the kitchen in a rock cave which protected from the gale wind. We pitched our tent in a small depression by the side of a small flow of clear water coming out from the lake.

Day-5: Danphebir La
The day started early. We woke up before first light and started our climb towards Danphebir deurali. Chandrakant Rai and Lakhpa were showing our way through the shady ice-clad rocks as we approached the pass. As we gained height for 3/4th of an hour we came to a saddle. From here could see Simovo, Tenczen-Khang and Pandim peaks to the right.  After climbing a steep, craggy, rocky ridge-wall for another  half an hour we reached Danfe Bir Pass at an elevation of 4800 meters.

The view from the top of the pass is absolutely breathtaking and dreamy. Me, who’s trekking for more than a decade in the high Himalayas, is compelled to admit that this is by far the best “viewpoint” I saw in my entire trekking career. 

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A look to the north

To the dead east, the giants Lhotse(8516 m)-Everest(8850 m)-Makalu(8481 m) is seen (from left to right). The stretch from northwest of the sky till north-east is covered by the other gigantic structures. These peaks are Jannu(7710 m), Rathong(6678 m), Kabru(7412 m) , Kanchenjongha(8595 m), Simvo(6812 m), Pandim (6691 m), TinchenKhang(6010 m), Siniolchu(6888 m) etcetera as seen from Danphebir (from left to right).

This is the highest point of Singali La ridge. The trail goes down from here and meets Tigip-La route to Nepal or Djongri-La route or the route to the HMI basecamp in Sikkim. However, we had plans to down-climb back to the base camp by the lake as we had to return to Uttarey within two days of time.

Day-6: Meghu (3900 m)
Early start from basecamp. Climb down till we reach campsite Meghu. Stay in a wooden stable.

 

Day-7: Gairey (3300 m)

Start from Meghu early. Descend down cross Dhur camping site and reach Gairey(3300 m.) which is situated on the ridge, in-between Dhur and Chewa-Bhajang. Night stay at a tent.

Day-8: Uttarey (2100 m)
Early start from Gairey. 3/4 hours of steep down-climb brings us back to the road head, Uttarey.

Highlights:

–As we climb up the ridge, we see several high altitude old glacial lakes, with calm crystal clear meltwater fed by mountains. It is a rare and spectacular phenomenon that so many of these sparkling high altitude lakes are found here together.  

Danphebir  can be approached from other road heads also, namely Yuksam and Nambu, both in west Sikkim.
–We spotted Wild dogs(dhole) half digested regurgitated food right on the middle of the trail while hiking from Gairey to Uttarey. The dogs were in the middle of feeding the puppies while we hit that part of the trail. They had their burrows somewhere nearby.
This, however, reasserts the presence of amazing wildlife in the region.
–Temperature can climb down to sub zero at nights.
–Rainproof clothing is a must in summer.

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About the Author

Samrat Chakraborty
Samrat Chakraborty Nature lover, naturalist, explorer, reader, writer. Likes sketching landscapes. Occasionally a singer. Loves playing football. A trekker!

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