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Mountains, Glaciers & Passes

Mountain

Sikkim has a very rugged topography and the flat lands are difficult to come by. The towering mountains that define this paradise of the nature also create a barrier to efficient agriculture.

The two mountain ranges are :

Singalila: on the western boarder
Chola: on the eastern boarder

The Singalila Range is an enormous spur of the Great Himalayas. The crowning glory of this range is the 8596 m elevated summit, of Mount Khangchendzonga. This peak - the third highest in the world, is a difficult mountain to climb, because of unpredictable weather and winds. The Sikkimese believe that it is not meant to be climbed, but only worshipped, as it is the abode of five treasures of the snows. In deference to local sentiments, no expedition has set foot on the summit- but remained a few meters below. For those of us who cannot attempt the climb, the 5000 m high viewpoint at Goechela (the Lock Pass) offers a superb alternative. A depression, between Mount Pandim, and a spur of the Kabru Peak form the pass. It looks down into the Talung Valley, with the mighty Talung Glacier, winding its way down below. One is surrounded by great white peaks - Khangchendzonga (8596 m), Simvo (6811 m), Siniolchu (6888 m), Pandim (6691 m), Kabru (7338 m) and Rathang (6087 m). The awe inspiring sight, instills a feeling of standing in the very lap of Khangchendzonga, and gazing up at its face.

Glaciers

Glaciers are moving mountains of ice. There are many of these in Sikkim among which the most important ones are Zemu Glacier, Rathong Glacier and the  Lonak Glacier in North Sikkim.

Zemu Glacier:
The Zemu glacier is the largest and the most famous glacier of the eastern Himalayas. It is 26 km in length and is situated in a large U-shaped valley at the base of the Khangchendzonga massif in northwestern Sikkim. The Teesta River rises from the snout of this glacier.

Many tributary glaciers feed the trunk glacier. The side valleys in which these glaciers lie open into the main Zemu Valley from different directions. Icefalls and waterfalls have formed at the junction of the tributary glaciers with the Zemu glacier.

Passes

The mountain ranges are interspersed with the passes which can be used to cross from one side to another. On the Eastern Chola range the most important passes are the Nathu La and Jelep La both at an altitude of about 15,0000 ft. and Bhutah La at an altitude of about 13,000 ft. The first two lead to Tibet and the third to Bhutan.

On the west boarder of Sikkim and Nepal, the most important pass is Chiwabhangjang, which has an altitude of 10,300 ft. The other passes on the west is Kang La. In the north one of the important passes is the Kongra La.

Nathula Pass
Five kilometers to the north of Jelap la pass , on the same altitude on a range that runs into Tibet, is the rarely used Nathula pass on the Sikkim-Tibet frontier. The zig zag track becomes steeper as it leaves Gangtok, but makes up in the changing landscape which becomes more sublime with  ever inch of ascent till it reaches the calm waters of the lake. Nuk Tahyi in a region, bleak and dismal. from the submit two roads from both Jelap and Nathula passes unit in a track leading to the Chumbi Valley of Tibet. On the one side stands a change of imposing peaks dividing from Tibet, on the other yawning abyss of ravines and gorges. 

At Nathula the Chinese and the Indian troops face each other almost at breathing distance. It was in the news quiet a lot when skirmishes between the two countries occurred on this pass. Jelap la was used by Younghusband to attack Tibet in 1903 and to commemorate this the path through Jelap la is called the Young husband track. Nathula and Jelap la passes for a part of the trade route between India and Tibet till 1962 .


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