The Sandakphu-Phalut (Singalilia) Trek

Trekking the Sandakphu-Phalut (Singalilia) Trek

Darjeeling, West Bengal, India

The Sandakphu-Phalut (Singalila Ridge) trek was an absolutely amazing experience and exceeded our expectations. The weather and views could not have been more perfect and let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to see Mt. Everest at least once in their lifetime?!

So if you want to trek in India, consider Sandakphu-Phalut! You can read about our itinerary and review below:

Trekking Company: Trek Mate

Trekking Guide: Amar

Total cost:

This trek offers views of four of the five highest peaks in the world. You can see Mt. Everest, Kanchendzonga, Lhotse and Makalu, not to mention the numerous other peaks associated with both these ranges.

I would personally rate this trek as moderate overall, with a few moderate-difficult sections as you ascend the ridge to Sandakphu, but nothing someone with a moderate physical fitness level couldn’t handle. We decided to complete the trek in 6 days, because we wanted to spend as much time on the trail and in the mountains as possible, however many people also complete it in 4 or 5 days as well. I believe the most popular option is 5 days, but each length is generally a different route, but all culminate in Rimbik, the terminus of the trek. Although we do recommend the longer option, we also recommend choosing whichever length fits your timeline and budget best.

Since this trek passes through the Singalila National Park and also crosses back and forth along the Indo-Nepali border with multiple checkpoints, we were required to have a guide. Usually if we have the choice, we would opt to trek on our own, without a guide.

We were both pleasantly surprised however with our guide, Amar. He was never overbearing, yet very attentive, making sure our needs were always met. He was knowledgeable about the trek, extremely friendly and had the most pleasant smile and laugh.

To book our guide, we went thru Trek Mate, a local company in Darjeeling. They were willing to work with us and we were able to negotiate a fair price that worked within our budget. Some of the other companies we inquired with quoted us 2-3 times higher! With our package, we had transportation to the start of the trek from Darjeeling and back after completion. It also included all of our lodging and three meals per day. I would not consider this a luxury trek by any means, as the lodging and meals were simple, never extravagant, and for us it was perfect.

With this said, there is the option of finding your own transportation to the start and hiring a guide on the spot from Manebhajang. Many of the guides, including ours, belong to the Highland Guides & Porter’s Association (?), a union of sorts, that ensures you receive a government trained guide and/or porter and that they are paid a fair wage for their services. Although we did not go this route, I believe they offer a fair price as you deal more directly with the guides, cutting our the middle-man, the trekking agencies. If you would prefer to go through a trekking agency however, we do highly recommend Trek Mate. You can also find numerous others just by walking around Darjeeling, looking in Lonely Planet or doing a simple Google or Trip Advisor search. Choose your own adventure…

There are companies out there that will provide more luxury if you’re willing to pay for it, we were not. In addition to your guide, you can also higher a porter to carry your bag if you wish. This was not an option we chose, as we both feel that if you’re going to trek, it is your responsibility to carry what you bring. With that said, I still do feel that hiring a porter is a great option for some people and by no means takes away from the overall experience.

In conclusion, we would highly recommend the Sandakphu-Phalut trek to anyone traveling to Darjeeling with a few days to spare and looking for a little adventure. There are numerous options for hiring a guide and everyone we talked with on the trek was quite happy with their decision.

The sunrises and views are breathtaking, and the experience is one that will last you a lifetime. We had a truly fantastic experience and hope you do as well!

 

La Plata Peak – 5th Highest Peak in CO!

This past weekend we hiked La Plata Peak outside of Twin Lakes, CO. It is the 5th highest peak in Colorado… and the best part of the trip… it wasn’t crowded! Even though it was over the 4th of July weekend.

We hiked about two miles in on Saturday afternoon with our two pups. It was a gorgeous evening and we were so excited that after 2 miles of pretty much straight uphill, it evened out into a meadow across the stream.

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Crossing one of two bridges on the way up 

We found a little trail leading across the stream and set up camp for the evening. We had it all to ourselves 🙂

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La Plata is in the background allowing us to mentally prepare for tomorrow’s summit 🙂 

After hanging our food and the dogs’ food in a tree so that a bear doesn’t get it, we snuggled into our sleeping bags, look up at the stars and enjoyed the sounds of the wilderness.

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The next morning, we started hiking around 7am. The hike is pretty solidly all uphill – and it’s steep. You gain almost 1,000 ft. of elevation every mile.

Around 10:00am, we reached the summit and it’s breathtaking views. Nothing beats the wide open view of the Rocky Mountains.

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Noticing some rain clouds in the far distance, we began our descent. It took us much less time to descend and we were down at our campsite around 12pm. We ate some snacks, packed up camp, let the dogs rest for a second and were off again.

We reached the car at 2:30pm and our pups (and us) were so happy to be back. It was awesome to get away from the hoards of people that usually climb fourteeners. If you are looking for a more remote but still very doable and accessible trail, this is it! The trail was one of the best we have ever hiked on a fourteener. IMG_0389

Getting there – from Denver: 

Head west on US-285 heading towards Fairplay and Buena Vista —  Turn right on US-24 which will lead you through the town of Buena Vista — Turn left onto CO-82 W which will lead you through Twin Lakes — Drive on CO-82 W for appx. 15 miles until you see a sign for La Plata Peak — the parking lot is located on the left of the highway

OR

Head west on I-70 — Take exit 195 for CO-91 S towards Copper Mountain/Leadville — Continue on US-24 E which will take you through Leadville — Turn right onto CO-82 W which will lead you through Twin Lakes — Drive on CO-82 W for appx. 15 miles until you see a sign for La Plata Peak — the parking lot is located on the left of the highway

Total miles: 9.5

Estimated hiking time: 4 hours up, 2.5 hours down

Total elevation gain: 4500 ft.