Green Lake

'I believe any trip in search of wildlife can be coupled with physical activity and elements of cultural diversity to form a thrilling opportunity '
John H.Eickert

There is something about the smell of orchids when they bloom. The smell is springtime lingering in the air, and combining youth with hope. In Sikkim , north of Gangtok the Teesta River drains a large and rarely adventured region of the Himal. Most trekkers follow the path up through the yak pastures to the south side of Kangchendzonga up and past Yuksom. Few take the a four wheel drive up the river to the junction near Chungthang, then following the left fork and ending at Lachen. Lachen is a remote community with some interesting monasteries. It is also the jumping off place for a trek to Green Lake and the north side camp for Kangchendzonga.

Before we start for Green Lake , I would like to back down the Teesta to Chungthang. The right fork of the rough road there leads up past Yumthang over Gurudongmar La to Gurudongmar Chho. Gurudongmar La is the second highest motorable pass in India after Khardong La north of Leh. Near Gurudongmar La is Chho Lhamo, that lake is the source of the Teesta. The area around Chho Lhamo is being considered for national park status as Chho Lhamo Cold Desert National Park . I have never been over the pass to either lake, but have been told the area is remote and rich in wildlife. I am wishing a reader, may be able to provide me with more information. I hope so. This sounds like a place I would like to visit, especially in the spring if possible.

Sikkim is renowned for its orchid varieties so it would be important to time a trek to Green Lake , or a visit to Chho Lhamo, with the spring and the scent of flowering orchids. Of course, the weather is far better in the fall, but the meadows in spring are a riot of flowers and scents. I think it is worth it to brave the spring weather. The trek up to Green Lake from Lachen takes from 15 to 18 days and I am glad to hear trekking permits are once again being given. The trail is steadily up passing the villages of Tallem, Jakthang, and Yabuk. Above Yabuk, the trekker only encounters herder's huts and meadows of orchids. From Yabuk there is the need for one camp along the trail before Green Lake . The camping at Green Lake is spectacular. Be sure and spend days acclimatizing in Yabuk and perhaps again at the camp along the trail before reaching Green Lake . Above Green Lake , and hanging under the north face of Kangchendzonga is Zemu glacier. It is a nice day hike from Green Lake to Zemu for those who have acclimatized properly. All in all, the trek to Green Lake is a most wonderful experience as it is untouched and remote, most trekkers preferring the shorter trek to Kangchendzonga from Yuksom. The real reason for the trek may be the orchids; indeed, the villagers here refer to the area as ‘Nye-mae-el' meaning paradise! Absolutely! Cheers!

( Photograph of orchids by Susan Sharma )

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