Kanchenjunga is also known under similarly-spelled names, such as Kanchenjunga or Kinchinjunga. Situated within the Great Himalayan Range, it is the world’s third highest peak. The peak’s massif consists of four summits, three of which are over 8,000 metres high. Kanchenjunga I is the highest, at 8,586 metres. Kanchenjunga West takes second place at 8,505 metres. Next is Kanchenjunga South – 8494 metres. Finally, the lowest one is Kangbachen 7,903 metres.
The summits’ location resembles a cross, with each summit signifying one arm. There are four main ridges connecting the summits to adjacent peaks. Kanchenjunga’s ridges are rich in glaciers. Once assumed to be the highest mountain in the world, Kanchenjunga, meaning ‘five treasures of the high snow’ is located between Nepal and India. This magnificent mountain was first climbed in 1955 by Joe Brown and George Band of the British Kanchenjunga Expedition– 50 years after the first expedition made an attempt in climbing Kanchenjunga in 1905.
As the most remote 8,000 metre mountain, the approach on the Kanchenjunga expedition takes you to the eastern border of Nepal, trekking through unspoiled and remote areas in the Arun valley before arriving at the base camp. The trek to base camp leads through one of Nepal’s most beautiful routes, including the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area. The Area is rich in various vegetation forms, from cultivated lands to lush forests. It is also home to such magnificent animals as the snow leopard or the red panda. The Conservation Area is part of the Sacred Himalayan Landscape. Climbing Kanchenjunga is intricate mixed climbing at first and then later involves one of the longest horizontal climbs above 8,000 metres, making it a very demanding mountain that requires well planned logistics and a good, strong support. Probably that is why, despite being the 3rd highest mountain in the world, Kanchenjunga sees very little traffic.
The expedition lasts nearly ten weeks, so you should take into account the changing weather conditions. Before the final departure, make sure to be prepared for snow storms, as during the summer monsoon season there is heavy snowfall. In the winter, the snowfall is less burdensome. Nevertheless, the weather at Kanchenjunga can be quite unpredictable. The Kanchenjunga ascent is a tricky one, you need to be prepared for the risk of falling ice or avalanche. Apart from the weather dangers, the air is extremely thin at such high altitudes, which further obstructs the climb. It is imperative to have reliable, professional support in such harsh conditions.
A short flight past the Everest region takes us Bhadrapur, where we use local transport to transfer us to Birtamod for the night.
Terraced rice fields and tea plantations serve as a serene backdrop as we head out past Gumpas and prayer wheels on the long jeep drive to Taplejung.
Our trek starts today with a hike through layered landscapes and lush jungle fringed by distant views of the ever-present Himalayas, passing by the riverside village of Siwan and the suspension bridge that leads us across to Chirawa, the day’s destination.
With permits checked at the regional park office we head into the conservation area that protects the Kanchenjunga region and forge ahead over a bridge and through the scenic sub-tropical landscape until we reach Lelep.
A series of impressive suspension bridges leads us back and forth across the Ghunsa Khola to Jaubari, then across another bridge to the narrow trail leading up the steeply sided slopes to Amjilosa and its yak pasturelands.
Onwards and up through the thickly forested region of dense rhododendron and venerable oak trees, past myriad waterfalls and the scattered villages lying quietly below the mountains in their peaceful valley. Eagles soar lazily above us, yaks graze solemnly in green pastures, and occasional signs of wildlife come into view among the trees or high on the slopes as we slowly make our way towards Gyabla.
The morning is spent walking steadily to the Tibetan village of Phole, and then we make the steady climb to the picturesque town of Ghunsa and its superb view of the surrounding countryside.
Today is a designated rest day to help the body acclimate to the high altitude, and Ghunsa is perfectly suited to the task by virtue of its scenic alpine surroundings and points of cultural interest, including the local gompa.
Emerald green forests concede to the frost-browned vegetation of the alpine regions of the Kanchenjunga region as we climb steadily to the upper glacial valleys on our path, with mighty Jannu standing before us in all its glory as we trek through the scenic landscape towards Khambachen.
A day of astonishing views as we trek into the heartland of the towering Kanchenjunga massif, gradually ascending to the base of the mountain’s forbidding glacier and on past snow-fed waterfalls and occasional glimpses of highland wildlife such as blue sheep perched high on the slopes. If there’s snow about and we’re extremely fortunate we might even sight the light footprints of the region’s most mysterious creature, the enigmatic snow leopard.
The day’s first order of business is the steady climb to the lofty and isolated outpost of Pangpema, where we pause for lunch before heading out on the final push to the trek’s ultimate goal of Kanchenjunga Base Camp. The fluttering colors of the prayer flags eventually guide us into the site at the very threshold of the towering peak, with magnificent panoramas of the surrounding region’s snow-capped peaks providing the icing to the cake on the day’s journey.
This is the time period where you will be involved in the Mount Kanchenjunga summit.
Our trail leads out through woodland until we clear the tree line and approach the moraine field of Yarlung Glacier, with Jannu, Kanchenjunga and other peaks in the area soaring high above us in the valley.
We descend markedly today, leaving behind the alpine regions and dropping down into the lush surrounds of the lower foothills with their dense forests of rhododendron and pine. The rushing waters of the Simbuwa Khola become our steady companion as we continue on down until we reach Tortong.
Another day of hiking on an undulating trail, our path taking us along tree-lined slopes and grass-green pastures hanging precariously to existence on the steep inclines. Our arrival at Yamphuding brings us back to the main road running through the region.
After the experience and thrill of the alpine heights the terraced fields, peaceful villages and vivid colors of the lower ranges make for a relaxing hike as we slowly wind our trek down to its conclusion.
Our last day of trekking as we hike through Limbu villages and a steady patchwork of farmland and pastures, with the smiling faces of the ever curious locals greeting us as we walk by. Our arrival in Kamdine gives us pause to relax and reflect on an amazing journey through one of Nepal’s most remote regions.
A long day sees us make the bumpy ride to the main road, then turn towards Birtamod.
A short drive takes us to Bhadrapur, where we pick up our return flight to Kathmandu in plenty of time to relax, unwind, and perhaps celebrate the trek with friends over dinner.
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