Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Green Lakes Trek in the Zemu Valley, North Sikkim

A team from South Col Expeditions, trekked to the north east base camp of Kanchenjunga in the Zemu Valley  in October-November 2014. Here is  the day wise  description of the route and the trek schedule:


Day 1: Gangtok to Lachen by road 
The drive from Gangtok to Lachen takes around six hours with a lunch stop at Mangan or Rang Rang Bridge.

 Day 2: Lachen (2700 m) to Zema by road and then trek to Tallem (3250 m) (5–6 hours)
The road continues along the North Sikkim Highway to Zema for half an hour. From Zema, take the trail west along the right bank of the Zemu Chu through landslide debris and boulders which can be quite difficult. After around three hours of walking, the boulders end and there is a clearing which serves as a lunch stop near the river. The trail then leaves the valley and climbs steeply through the forest to reach Tallem in about an hour.

Day 3:  Tallem to Jakthang (3430 m) (3 to 4 hours) 
This is a short day and Jakthang is reached by lunchtime. Soon after leaving Tallem, cross the Lhonak Chu on a temporary log bridge and then follow the path along the river for an hour. The path then climbs through the forest for an hour until a saddle is reached from where the trail drops for about half an hour and crosses two small streams. It then levels off and enters the clearing of Jakthang with a ruined hut which can be used for cooking and shelter.  

 Day 4: Jakthang (3430 m) to Yabuk (4040 m) (41/2 to -51/2 hours)
 Follow the trail out of Jakthang along the river for about twenty minutes. The path then climbs to a small saddle where there is an indistinct trail going to the right to Muguthang. Do not take this right fork but instead  go left and down to a stone bridge over the river which is visible  from the top. From the bridge follow the well defined trail through rhododendron forests climbing gently for about two hours with the Zemu Chu on your left. The path then leaves the river and makes a sharp ascent for about an hour and reaches a broad meadow at the edge of the tree line with a ruined double storied hut which is Yabuk.

Day 5: Acclimatization day at Yabuk (4040m)  
You can spend the rest day walking up the valley, bird watching or just lazing at camp.  

 Day 6: Yabuk (4040 m) to Rest Camp (4500 m) (4-5 hours)  
From Yabuk walk across the meadow and then start climbing to a small pass at the head of the valley which should take about seventy five minutes. From the pass the first view of the Zemu peaks are visible. Fifteen minutes later you reach a broad meadow which is Sona Camp. The trail then climbs for an hour and reaches a broad river bed covered with white stones. From here a climb across scrub and dwarf rhododendron forest for another hour reaches a clearing with some ruined stone shelters which is the Rest Camp across the valley from Siniolchu.

 Day 7: Rest Camp (4500 m) to Green Lakes (5050 m) (4 to 5 hours)  
The trail to Green Lakes is often indistinct and a guide who has trekked this route before is essential.  Leave the Rest Camp walking through scrub and moss with your feet often sinking into the brush. In 30 minutes you will reach a river bed with some streams flowing across. Cross the river bed and reach a grassy meadow in about ninety minutes. The path then climbs gently before reaching another river bed which you should follow for around 30 minutes. Another level meadow is reached and at the end of the meadow is the Zemu glacier just below,  a fascinating view point. Swing sharp right at this point and again navigate through brush/grass/scree on a faint trail for an hour walking to the end of the valley which is the Green Lakes camp.

Day 8: Rest Day at Green Lakes 
Spend the day lazing in the sunshine and watching the peaks. The more intrepid can climb the hill behind the camp for about an hour or so to come to a high point with magnificent views both towards Kangchenjunga as well as down the valley. The Zemu Gap that links the Zemu valley to the Talung valley is clearly seen from this high point.

 Day 9: Green Lakes (5050 m) to Yabuk (4040 m) (5-6 hours)
It is possible to make the march from Green Lakes to Yabuk in one day, as the trail is mostly downhill. More intrepid trekkers and porters could try to reach Jakthang on the same day.

 Day 10: Yabuk (4040 m) – Tallem
The march down to Tallem would take about five hours and drop in altitude is welcome.

Day 11: Tallem to – Lachen (2700 m) (3 hours) trek and then to Gangtok by road
From Tallem retrace your steps to Zema, which is the road head.  Have an early lunch in Lachen and then drive back to Gangtok the same day and reach in time for dinner.

It is possible to do the trek in 10 days Gangtok to Gangtok if you skip the rest day at Green Lakes.

For more photographs of the Green Lakes trek do visit

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