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Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Mountaineering Associations, Regulations, Fees, and Permitted Peaks

Sikkim, mountaineering associations, regulations, fees, and permitted peaks. The Sikkim Amateur Mountaineering Association (SAMA) was founded in 2001 and recognized by the Sikkim Home Department in 2003. It is a small but growing association that aims to promote mountaineering and provide training for local people, as well as protecting the mountain environment. It advises the Home Department on issues concerning access to the mountains and the opening of more peaks for local people and visitors. In addition, it runs training programs for the Sikkim government. We found its assistance invaluable in arranging mountaineering permits with the Home Department and for undertaking the logistics of getting us to base camp. Its members include experienced mountaineers who are competent instructors. The current president is Kunzang Gyatso Bhutia (kunzong_gtk@yahoo.com); the vice president and treasurer is Sagar Rai (south- spur@yahoo.co.in). Sikkim Holiday Tours and Treks works closely with SAMA and is a reliable tour operator (www.sikkim-holidays.com; sikkim_holidays@yahoo.com).

Visitors to Sikkim are required to have an Inner Line permit. Indian missions abroad are authorized to issue a 15-day permit, which can be stamped in your passport when you obtain your visa. It is also possible to get a 15-day permit from the Sikkim Tourist Office in Delhi, Kolkata, or Siliguri. A permit will be issued on the spot if you present copies of passport and visa details, along with two passport-sized photos. Moreover, if you arrive at Rangpo, the state border, without an Inner Line permit, the Tourism Officer stationed there can issue a permit, valid for 15-days, allowing you to enter the state. In Gangtok you can extend the permit for two further 15-day periods.

Climbing in the Chaunrikiang Valley means entering the Kangchenjunga National Park. Foreigners are required to register at the park headquarters in Yuksum and pay a fee: 250R for the first six days in the park and 50R per day thereafter. Within the park are basic wooden shelters, providing floor space, at the main overnight rest spots on the trail and also tent sites. A caretaker resides at each campsite and collects the fees: 50R per person per night at the shelters or 30R per night to pitch a tent.

The Home Department of Sikkim has designated five newly opened Alpine Peaks to encourage small expeditions. They are:

West Sikkim:

Frey Peak 5,830m (Chaunrikiang Valley)

Tinchenkang 6,010m (Thansing Valley)

Jopuno 5,936m (Thansing Valley)

North Sikkim:

Lama Wangden 5,868m (Lachen)

Brumkhangse 5,635m (Yumthang)

The peak fee is relatively modest at $350 US for a team of four. The regulations for climbing these peaks can be found at http://sikkim.gov.in. Go to Government and click on Old Gazettes. Then click on 2006, and the gazettes for that year will appear in a PDF document (http://sikkim.gov.in/asp/Miscc/sikkim_govtgazettes/GAZ/GAZ2006/GAZ2006.pdf). Go to page 90 and the gazette dated March 29, 2006, which contains application forms, guidance notes, and fee schedules.

It should also be noted that under the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991 and the State Governments Notification No.59.Home/98 dated 26.10.1998, certain peaks are classified as sacred, and the “scaling of the sacred peaks” is banned. These peaks include Kangchenjunga, main, south, and west summits; Narsing; Kabru (a.k.a Gabur Gangtsen), north and south summits and Kabru Dome (but see the report earlier about a recent ascent of Kabru North by an Indian expedition); Pandim; Simvo; Goecha Peak; Fork Peak; Paohunli; and Siniolchu.

Roger Payne, Switzerland