One of the most popular treks among adventure enthusiasts, Kanchenjunga towers at a bewildering height of 8585 meters above sea level, consequently being number three among the world’s highest mountains. Summiting its peak is simultaneously enigmatic as well as life-endangering.
Breath-taking as it is, its avalanches are the worst of its kind. This is why, probably, its local name, ‘Kang-Chen-Zod-Nga’ translates into ‘Five Treasures of Snow’ signifying the snowy cascade. However, according to the locals, it is regarded as a heavenly seat from where the Gods watch over their families and their land.
It is because of this holy belief that way back in 1955, the then Maharaja of Sikkim had asked the first mountaineering team for a word of honor. That if they are able to climb successfully, they will avoid standing on the peak itself. Hence, all treks from then onwards finished a little way before the ultimate point.
Kanchenjunga has 7 peaks in a total of which 5 are most prominent, resulting in another theory about the name ‘Kangchenzodnga’, referring to the five peaks as the ‘Five Treasures of Snow.’ For anyone interested in witnessing these ‘Five Treasures of Snow’, proper planning, training, and acclimatization are required.
The trek commences from the Northside of the mountain, revealing glimpses of Cross peak, Nepal peak, and Tent peak, finally culminating in Kanchenjunga Base Camp, where the mountain itself comes into view. Once, at Pangpema, trekkers need to reroute back to Ghunsa from where the crossing from the Northside to the Southside will be made via the Mirgin La pass.
On crossing Mirgin La, the trek will give way to Ramche and Oktang. These are mainly grazing areas for Yak but at the same time exhibiting spectacular vistas of the South-western side of Kanchenjunga. The trek can also be planned from the southern side to the northern side. In either case, it will end in Birtamod after passing through Taplejung or Khebang (Thorpu).
Even after all the planning, assessing and researching the northern and southern routes as well as complete preparation, a certain amount of unflinching will power is mandatory for anyone gearing up for this trek. It is a place where time stands still, preserving several years of old traditions and culture.
It is not an easy feat to rest on its snow-clad peaks, in the purview of the ‘White Ghost’, breathing under an array of constellations with the warmth of a crackling fire nearby. An experience aptly documented by English mountaineers like Eric Shipton, Bill Tillman, and Tom Longstaff. They were so mesmerized by the journey that they even started learning the local tongue and had immense respect for the age-old traditions and culture of the region.
These are the popular options:
Kathmandu to Bhadrapur by air
The fastest way is to catch the 1.5 hours flight from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur, followed by a 45minutes drive (by Nepal standards) via Birtamod and Phidim to the starting point of the trek at Taplejung. The afternoon flight takes off from Kathmandu at 3.00 pm to land at Bhadrapur at about 4.20 pm.
Flights are usually regular unless unprecedented strikes take place. However, it is advised to book beforehand during the festive season to avoid the last-minute rush.
It is best to spend the night at Birtamod and board the bus for Taplejung. The bus journey is approximately 10 hours on a smooth road.
Kathmandu to Biratnagar by air
In case flight tickets for Bhadrapur are unavailable, the Biratnagar route is a second option. This route was used due to some political activity in India. After reaching Biratnagar, it is a two days journey to Taplejung on a jeep.
Alternatively, the jeep can be hired till Ilam or Phidim from where a bus ride can be taken to Taplejung, the next day. While at Ilam, the tea gardens are a must-visit.
A third option is Suketar airport that is located midway between Biratnagar and Taplejung. However, there is no fixed schedule so flight bookings may be uncertain. On the contrary, flights can be chartered here but it is not a very viable option.
Khebang (Thorpu) to Taplejung
In case the trek finishes at Thorpu, two things can be done. The first option is to trek from Yamphuding to Taplejung while the second is to trek to Khebang. It is important to keep in mind that Taplejung takes two more days than Khebang. Taplejung is a 15 hours road journey from Khebang (Thorpu) side with the first few miles being treacherously rough dirt tracks.
Some Highlights of This Amazing Trek
- The third highest mountain in the world at 8,586m.
- The least busy trekking trails with a picturesque view of mountains.
- Holiest mountain, as each of its five summits, corresponds to five treasures of snow in the form of gold, silver, gem, grain and holy books.
- Most wild and unspoiled conservation areas in the country.
- A wide variety of ethnic minority groups.
- Enjoy a truly genuine Nepali hospitality in remote picturesque villages.