I was feeling really tired, for I had been trekking for the entire day. So far, I had walked 19 kilometers. Thankfully the weather favoured me so far, but in the mountains, no one can guarantee the weather’s mood, as it can change at any time. Aha! Now the destination is much closer, a green hut; my shelter for the day. I am going to the second highest peak of Singalila National Park – Phalut.
Mt. Kanchenjunga is my all-time favourite and I love to call this mountain as a ‘queen’. Whenever I get a chance to witness this great creation of nature, I ensure that I don’t miss it. Today I had a great morning at Sandakphu, the sky was very clear and the view was spectacular. I wanted to see my ‘queen’ more closely, and thus wanted to go to Phalut. It is 21 kilometers ahead of Sandakphu and can be reached in a single day. It is unfortunate that many trekkers turn back from Sandakphu. But, if you are a true mountain lover and wanted to enjoy mother nature’s beauty, you should continue your trek to Phalut.
The name of ‘Phalut’ is derived from a Lepcha word ‘Fak-Luk’, which literally means Barren Peak. Though a trek 21 kilometers long, the trail is not very strenuous. The reason being Phalut (3,600 meters or 11,800 feet) is slightly lower than Sandakphu (3,636 meters or 11, 929 feet). The best part of this trek is that you will be constantly rewarded while walking inside of the green meadows, forests of Oaks, Magnolias, and Rhododendrons (only in the month of April and May).
With a heavy breakfast and a happy mind, I started my day from Sandakphu. The weather was truly awesome; red rhododendrons were blooming almost everywhere and the best part was that the ‘queen’ was always with me. The world of resplendent greenery started after a continuous walk of two hours. Now the stony trail was magically transformed into a lush green field. My guide told me that the name of that lush green meadow is ‘Charati’. It is actually Indo-Nepal border area.
We walked further and were suddenly faced by a big meadow. To my amazement, all the trees there were burnt. Again, my guide told me that this is a pro-thunder area and all trees had been burnt by the ‘Nature’s axe’ – the thunder. Needless to say, I started walking faster.
After walking for some more kilometers, we found a BSF check post. I registered my name there. Our Jawan brother told me that yesterday night up in the Molly, an old foreigner lady passed away. He was not very clear about the reason of her death, but he assumed it must be due to the low oxygen. AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness is a major problem in the high altitudes. All trekkers should be acclimatised well to avoid this silent killer. I wanted to fill my bottle and was touched with their warm hospitality. They are truly our heroes; thousands of kilometers away from their homes and families, near the top of an isolated mountain, risking their lives, they are protecting us 24×7. A small thanks to their service is only a gesture of my obligation to them. We started walking further.
The first halting point comes by after walking for approx 14 kilometers, in the form of Sabargram (locally also known as Sabarkum). It is actually forest department check point. Seeing a small hut beside the check post, I asked for some food and the person inside the hut was ready to offer me noodles and hot tea. While I was blessing myself with a bowl of hot noodles; the local forest officer told me that the Molley rest house also offers a great view in the morning. Molley is further down from Sabargram. I resumed my journey after the short break; Phalut was just 7 kilometers from there.
Till then, I had not halted anywhere. After crossing the serpentine trail, I reached Phalut around noon. There are two rest houses in Phalut. From a distance, those two rooms look like isolated siblings on a mountain top. A dorm room in a trekker’s hut was pre booked. I was extremely tired, and after getting a room I threw myself on the bed. Till now the weather was good!
The experience of spending a night in Phalut is unique. The reasons are aplenty – there is no electricity, (not even solar light like Sadakphu), the temperature is close to Zero and the wind here roars like a MAD BEAST. I was seated in front of a natural oven and chatting with the hut manager. In his words, ‘life is very difficult here, food is limited and water has to be used rationally. Even cooking takes more time due to the low air pressure. But he enjoys staying here as he can interact and serve many tourists here.’ I completed my candle light dinner early. For the ease of digestion, I thought of venturing out fora short walk. With adequate protection, I came outside. It was pitch dark and there was absolute silence. My bones stared rattling. I gave up my idea of this adventure at night after walking a few steps and come back and surrendered myself to the warm bed. I prayed for tomorrow – the ultimate reward of all the hard work today will be reaped tomorrow, when I will stand on the 2ndhighest peak of West Bengal and witness the majestic Mt. Kanchenjunga.
It was roster’s crowing which helped open my eyes at five in the morning. Like Sandakphu, the view is not available from the trekker’s hut. For the magnificent view, I had to climb to the top of Phalut which is 1 km from the trekker’s hut. I collected all my resolve and stepped out of the hut. The cold outside was nerve wracking; and the chilly wind was behaving like a sharp scalpel. Slowly the sky palate was changing its colour and glorious sun had started to peep intermittently from behind the clouds.
After a sharp climb, I was on the top of Phalut. The ‘queen’ is now in front of me, and this time it is slightly bigger. Alas, this time luck was not with me, as the sky was not as clear as in Sandakphu.
After another heavy breakfast, I started my descent. This route is also very refreshing as it goes through dense forests of bamboo and oak. The first stop will come after descending for around 15 kilometers in the form of a beautiful village called Gorkhey. Like any other small Himalayan village, this village is also very beautiful. Some trekkers descend further and stay at Rambam. My evening at Gorkhey was peaceful and relaxing. On the morning of the next day a short trek led me to Rimbik and from thereon, I continued on my journey towards Darjeeling.
Few tips for visiting Phalut
21 kilometers trek from Sandakphu to Phalut is not difficult but very strenuous. Trekkers should be mentally be prepared for this.
- There are limited halting places in Phalut, it is always better to book trekkers’ hut in advance. Specially in the season it is strongly recommended to book.
- There will be no food before Sabargram. Even some time finding drinking water can be difficult. Trekkers should carry adequate water and some snacks.
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