This is the last leg of our journey during our tour of North Sikkim, we have already covered Lachen, Gurudongmar Lake & Lachung. Out last stop was at Yumthang Valley and then finally at Zero Point. From Lachung there is also another option that of Katao but it’s not a common tourist trail and would require a separate military permit as it’s a high altitude training camp and not always open to tourists. We were informed by the hotel staff that in order to visit all these places we had to start early and breakfast will be packed so that we can have them on the way. Hotels insist on taking snow boots since most time of the year Zero Point is covered in snow and unprotected footwear should be avoided. However, I would suggest that you go to Zero Point and hire them there since it would be much cheaper out there.
We were ready by 6 AM in the morning and with food packets ready we set out towards Yumthang Valley first. All our travel documents were already checked at the check post after which only you are allowed to proceed. For breakfast it was just some cold slices of bread with a thin layer of jam thus would suggest making your own arrangements instead of banking on the hotel menu.
After resting for a couple of hours I was finally back on my feet after the mammoth journey to Gurudongmar Lake. Suraj our driver had asked us to be ready by 1 PM for our journey from Lachen to Lachung so that we could reach Lachung before nightfall and that we could look around the village. We had light lunch and packed our luggage for our next leg of the journey.
We were told to sleep early by our driver since we planned to start our journey towards Gurudongmar Lake as early as possible. Starting early is important since there is a very short window of opportunity within which tourists need to visit Gurudongmar Lake and return. Usually, at this altitude of 17,000 feet deep within the Himalayan range the weather can dramatically change and the best bet would be to start early and return early. The entire movement of tourists is carefully controlled and monitored by the Indian Army since its close proximity to China border and also the high altitude requires them to double check on all visiting tourists.
It was in the year 2014 and I still had not decided where to go along with my family for Puja vacations. “Gurudongmar” my colleague whispered in my year, “have you been there?” he asked. Honestly, I had been thinking about it for quite some time but the thought of climbing up to an altitude of 17,800 feet gave me cold feet knowing that during my Nathula Pass trip which was at around 14,000 feet I had acute altitude sickness. After a lot of convincing I finally booked a trip to North Sikkim covering Lachen –>Gurudongmar Lake –>Lachung –>Zero Point.
No sooner I stepped outside the vehicle and started walking I started feeling dizzy, suddenly everything started slowing down and everything felt so confusing. My wife had walked ahead and was asking me to hurry up but all these seemed so much in slow motion. Actually, this was my first experience with AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness. Not everyone falls victim to this but somehow I am quite prone to it. AMS mainly occurs at 2400 meters and we were at 4300 meters at Nathula Pass.
I don’t mean to scare you, this differs from person to person and while I was breathless I saw some jumping and doing push ups so do not worry just maintain some basic discipline and you will be absolutely fine.
I was finally marrying the girl of my dreams and I wanted to make it real special for a very special holiday and the first choice that came to my mind was Sikkim. This was way back in 2007 and Internet at that time was not what we see today. The availability of information for any tourist destination was much less and most of the time the content available in guide books were old and outdated. With a lot of research and information from friends who had travelled recently, I managed to plan out the entire trip.