The Kanchenjunga area was first opened to organised trekking in 1988. Prior to that, the only westerners to have explored the area were those on mountaineering expeditions.
"Kang-chen-zod-nga", meaning "Five Great Treasuries Of The Snow", actuallys, has seven major summits. To the locals Kanchenjunga (8585 m.), the third highest mountain in the world, is the abode of gods who bestow prosperity and benovelence on them and their lands but, to climbers of this mountain the phrase "Five Great Treasuries of the Snow" takes on a slightly more ominous tone. The avalanches that Kanchenjunga throws down are said to be the largest anywhere! Since the locals venerate the mountain, there is a tradition among mountaineers not to stand on the actual summit. All "successful" assaults have stopped just short of the summit honouring an old promise made by the leader of the first successful attempt in 1955 to the maharaja of Sikkim.
Kanchenjunga is on Nepal's eastern border with the Indian State of Sikkim. The lowland areas are culturally rich but there are few good mountain views. There are shops, but these are geared to cater to the local inhabitants and not the tourist. One must always carry all of one's provisions into the region. Your last shopping chance will be at Kathmandu.
The major ethnic group inhabiting the Kanchenjunga region is the Limbus who along with Rais belongs to the broader "Kiranti" group. Both these peoples have earned respect as fearless infantry men-the "Gorkhas". Infact, till some years ago, the only serving Victoria Cross holder in the British Army was a Limbu. The Limbus can be recognised from their headgear "topi" which is identical to the national headgear of Nepal but taller and more colorful. If you are lucky to pass through major Limbu villages during the first of the Nepali month you may be able to witness village fairs which mainly serve as an excuse for the younger generation to go courting. Nevertheless, these are fun times and offer great photo opportunities.
By far the more famous contribution of Limbu culture is the millet drink "tongba" which is served in special wooden "tongba pot". Fermented millet seeds are put in the tall pot and hot water added. Then the potent brew is drunk via a thin bamboo straw, with tiny holes, which act as filters and keep the seeds out. When all the liquid in one pot has been drunk, hot water is added to it again and the process repeated. Look out for this speciality north of Basantapur. Please seek your sirdar's advice on the quality of the brew and consume sparingly.
Your journey to unlock the secrets of this remote area begins with a flight from Kathmandu to Taplejung (Suketar) in the east of Nepal. From Suketar you head to Chauki annd from there through the villages of Mitlung, Ghunsa, Khambachen and Lhonak to Pangpema (5140 m.) which is also the Base Camp for expeditions attempting the North Face of 2Kanchenjunga and the culmination of the first part of the trek.
This strenuous and extended trek visits both sides of the peak but, as with all treks that spend protected times at high altitudes it requires determination and some luck to complete the trek successfully. The crossing of high passes requires good weather - snow could mean that the trail has become dangerous for travel and heavy rains often cause landslides that wipe out whole sections of trails. Protracted stays at high altitude requires that participants on this trek be in peak physical condition and the duration of the trek requires that no member of the party falls ill. These factors, of course, can not be controlled or predicted. Medical facilities are few and far between and emergency evacuation involves great cost and mind boggling logistics. Therefore, it is highly recommended that each and every participant on the trip have trip cancellation insurance, which also covers emergency evacuation, by air.
Day 01: Arrive at Kathmandu & Transfer to Hotel.
Day 02: Full day guided sightseeing around the Kathmandu valley.
Join us for the welcome dinner with live Nepali cultural program at evening. Hotel Overnight.
Day 03: Flight: Kathmandu (1300m)- Taplejung (Suketar Airport, 2320m).
Start the Trek. Continue to Lali Kharka (2276m / 2 to 3 hrs).
A direct flight from Kathmandu to Taplejung (Suketar) takes you to start this journey. The one and a half hour flight by the 16 seat twin-engined Twin Otter to Suketar drops us in the heart of the middle hills. The porters and crew, will be waiting for our arrival. After landing we take an early lunch, while the crew sort the newly arrived gear. In the afternoon we blow out the cobwebs with an easy 2 to 3 hours along the ridge line to Lali Kharka, a grazing area, where we camp.
Day 04 Trek to Khesewa (2120m / 5 hrs)
After traversing the hillside a short way, we descend to the village of Pakora along the Phawa Khola, crossing a suspension bridge before beginning the steep climb up towards Kunjuri. Lunch will be taken somewhere below Kunjuri and the afternoon's walk takes on up a short distance over the crest of the ridge then to our campsite at Khesewa. We get our first views of Kanchenjunga, and should be able to clearly make out the south and main summit along with Yalung Kang.
Day 05 Trek to Mamankhe (1920m / 5 hrs)
From Khesewa the path traverses steep hillside through terraced fields high above the Kabbeli Khola. There are some ups and downs crossing side valleys but there are many shady spots to rest. After lunch at one of these we pass the village of Anpan, before descending to cross the Kashawa Khola (stream) and then, finally, we climb again through terraced fields to camp at the village of Mamankhe or nearby. En-route we have our first glimpses of the awesome Jannu (Khumbakarna), 7710m.
Day 06 Trek to Yamphudin (2080m / 6 hrs)
Beginning with an easy climb, the walk to Yamphudin is along a track which contours the hillside above the Kabeli Khola. The path has several ups and downs as we cross the ridges and stream beds that make up the valley sides, but generally the route is flat and the river eventually becomes level with the trail a couple of hours before Yamphudin. At last we can stop to bathe in one of the many clear pools in this beautiful river. It is a truly idyllic spot and after lunch by the river we complete the day's walk to Yamphudin. Yamphudin is the most remote settlement in this area and the last village we will see until we reach Ghunsa. Needles to say, it is a charming place tucked away beneath the ridge of the Deorali Danda, which we must cross next.
Day 07 Trek to Chitre (2962 / 5 hrs)
Beyond Yamphudin the trail ascends a steep spur, a gentle introduction for what will come. Leaving villages behind we trek through pleasant forest, stopping for lunch in a meadow atop this spur which commands fine views, north and south. A steep descend to the river and an interesting bridge across the Omje Khola bring us to our campsite in a clearing in Chitre.
Day 08 Trek to Tortongn (3010m / 6 to 7 hrs)
We climb a real hill today, 3 hours of steep ascent to the crest of the Deorali Danda, in dense forest much of the way. From the 3230m pass we see Jannu again, definitely closer! We descend across some steep and exposed scree before entering the forest again. The steep descent through beautiful forest continues down into the valley of the Simjua Khola. Across the 'interesting' wooden bridge is Tortongn, a camping place with numerous rock shelters amid towering conifers. The steep hills make today a tough 6 to 7 hours trekking.
Day 09 Trek to Tseram (3870m / 6 hrs)
We follow the river through more beautiful forest, the conifers giving way to rhododendron forest. The valley climbs fairly steeply and as the day progresses the trees become more stunted and scattered, giving us glimpses of the snow-capped giants ahead and of the massive snout of Yalung Glacier. Just before Tseram the towering heights of Kabru and Rathong peak start to peep over the moraine. Camping at Tseram, a grazing area, the night temperatures will remind us that we are really gaining height.
Day 10 Trek to Ramche (4580m / 3 hrs)
It is a shorter day's walk up the final 600 metres to Ramche where the trail to Kanchenjunga South Face Base Camp turns dangerous. The scenery is magnificent as we ascend past snout of the Yalung Glaciers and into a series of ablation valleys which give easy walking and good camping. A frozen lake, clear streams and views of Koktang, Rathong and Kabru are the highlights of this stroll. Expect to feel the altitude today.
Day 11 Explore around Ramche (4580m). Yalung Ri Glacier. Trek to Oktang (4730m / 4 hrs)
Setting off early we have our first close encounter with Kanchenjunga. Following the ablation valley round there is stunning south face of Kanchanjunga and Jannu. We get across the Yalung Ri Glacier and continue by a sweeping curve, at Oktang, 4730m, we are suddenly confronted with the southern wall of the mountain. This vast ridge forms a cirque over 15 kms long, nowhere less than 7500m high and with the three main summits of Kanchenjunga at 8420m, 8586m, and 8474m! It is a breathtaking mountain panorama and especially impressive is Jannu (Khumbakarna) and the glaciers flowing from its east face. We then return to our camp.
Day 12 Trek to Yalung Ri Base Camp (5400m). Explore around the Yalung Base Camp
This extended part will take you to the high altitudes. It requires determination and some luck too. The crossing of high passes requires good weather, and of course perfect logistic support. Expect to get acclimatized with the altitude today.
Day 13 Trek back to Ramche (4580m / 5 hrs)
Yalung Glaciers and into a series of ablation valleys, give good walking and perfect camping. A frozen lake, clear streams and magnificient views are the highlights of this stroll.
Day 14 Trek to Sallerle over the Mirgin La (4480m / 6 to 7 hrs)
Leaving behind our campsite we trek down the valley, passing the turn off to the high and challenging Labsang La route to Ghunsa and the north side of Kanchenjunga. This pass is rough and dangerous, especially for porters so we take the more southern set of passes, beginning with the Mirgin La. After an initial very steep climb and several false summits we reach the Mirgin La. Apart from the magnificent Jannu, on the horizon are Makalu, Gyakung Kang, Everest, Lhotse and Chamalang. To the south it is possible to see right down to the Terai, a panorama worth the effort. Our campsite will be beyond the pass, after 6 to 7 hours tough walking.
Day 15 Trek to Ghunsa (3475m / 4 to 6 hrs)
Although there four more passes, there is little descent between them, so in effect it is a high scenic traverse. After lunch a short steep descent brings us to Lamba Sumba Kharka where there are more views of the awesome Southwest Face of Jannu. From the Kharka, the going is easy again down a pleasant forested trail to the village of Ghunsa, where we camp in the village. Ghunsa is a picturesque Tibetan village, prayer flags flutter from the wooden houses and there are two gompas, and is a welcome sight after the many days of wilderness. One of the local specialities is 'tongba', a curious alcoholic drink. A jug or large bamboo cup is filled with fermented millet seed and boiling water poured over. The flavour and alcohol seep though and you drink it with a special straw. You might need a drink after the tough 4 to 6 hour walk.
Day 16 Trek to Kambachen (4040m / 6 hrs)
The trail gradually ascends the south bank of the Ghunsa Khola and crossinga flood plain emerges on a pasture on the north side of the river. Then the trail makes a steep climb to a scree slope from where it crosses a slide and then descends to Lakepo. A short climb from here to the village of Kambachen (4040m).
Day 17 Exploration / Rest day at Kambachen
This day is spent acclimatising to high altitude. It also doubles up as a rest day and can be used for a short morning hike to explore the area around Kambachen. Those who feel the urge should be able to catch up on their laundry. Otherwise, a good book should get you through the day perfectly. It is essential to acclimatise to the higher altitude as you have been spending a lot of time at lower altitudes.
From here, there are good mountain views of the peaks near Kanchenjunga. Khubur (6332 m.), Phole (6445 m.), Nango Ma and the tip of Jannu (7710 m.) are visible. You can hike up the ridge above the village for better views or take a day hike to the Jannu Base Camp. The Nepali name for Jannu is Kumbakarna.
Day 18 Trek to Lhonak (4790m / 6 hrs)
A gradual climb through rocky fields gets you to Ramtang (4240 m.) Then crossing moraines northwest of the Kanchenjunga Glacier you reach Lhonak (4790 m.). Lohnak is on a sandy plain near a dry lakebed. You will camp between the boulders here to stay out of the wind. There are beautiful mountain vistas all around. Water is very scarce in Lhonak and you will need to use only as much as absolutely necessary.
Day 19 Trek to Pang Pema (5140m / 4 hrs)
The main Kanchenjunga peak is only visible from Pang Pema, which is the base camp for expeditions on Kanchenjunga. From Lhonak, the trail gradually ascends across the plain but soon gets steeper as it follows the moraine. Pang Pema is at a height of 5140 meters.
Day 20 Explore around Kanchenjungha Base Camp / Retrace your steps to Kambachen
In the morning those who would like to take a morning hike up a ridge, north of Pang Pema. It is a climb of 200 or 300 meters and provides a great vantagepoint with views of Kanchenjunga, Wedge Peak, the Twins and Tent Peak. As usual the descent goes faster and you can reach Kambachen the same day.
Day 21 Retrace your steps to Ghunsa.
More descent thru magnificent sections of forest and as long as we make Amjilosa tomorrow it doesn't matter where we stay. From Ghunsa an hour down we pass through Phole, a village in two parts. The upper section are Tibetans, refugees who are now well established, the second is the winter village of Ghunsa. Further down is Yangswa, a great and warm camp.
Day 22 Trek to Amjilosa (2460m / 4 hrs)
Initially we pass thru beautiful forest then this opens out to steep, grassy hillsides where Amjilosa is perched.
Day 23 Trek to Sakathum (1600m / 5 hrs)
Down, down and down! After a short traverse we begin the steep descent that will take most of the day. We reach the confluence of the Tamur and Ghunsa Kholas, where we camp.
Day 24 Trek to Chhiruwa (Chirwa) (1200m / 4 hrs)
Less than an hour down we cross the Simbu Khola, which originates from Kanchenjunga's south base camp, the khola that we followed up from Torontan. It is pleasantly warm at these low altitudes and cardamom grows freely in the moist shaded forest. Crossing numerous small tributary streams we reach Chirwa, a village set among large boulders. We camp in a field out of the village. This is an easier day.
Day 25 Trek to Suketar (2420m / 6 hrs) - End of Trek
The villages are beautiful today, pure middle hills. We camp at Phurumba school. Traversing in an out of minor valleys, we pass thru a succession of picturesque villages on our way to Suketar, we should reach there around late afternoon.
Day 26 Fly to Kathmandu. Transfer to Hotel. Enjoy on your own.
Day 27 Free day to enjoy Kathmandu. Buy souvenirs and etc.
Day 28 Final Departure.