On the Kangchenjunga Trail

Tent

Most visitors on a Nepal tour limit their stay to Kathmandu and Pokhara. However, there’s a lot of adventure in other parts of the country, too. East Nepal may be a bit far from the capital, but it has some amazing culture that sets it apart, and yes, it has Kangchenjunga, the world’s third highest peak at 8.586 meters. The Kangchenjunga trek would be the ideal way to experience all this.

It takes part, on the most part, within the environs of the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area (KCA, est.1997) in Tapeljung district, which spreads out over about 2,035 square kilometers. Plenty of space, but it’s pretty sparsely inhabited; with Sherpas, Limbus, and Rais being in the majority their distinct culture and lifestyle could add to the charms of your Nepal tour.. Compared to the popular Everest and Annapurna regions, which tens of thousands of tourists visit every year, even a thousand going to KCA is a big deal, which means that you get to be an explorer. Besides Kangchenjunga, you’ll also see 10 other mountains that are more than 7,000 m tall. Wildlife includes red panda, grey wolf, snow leopard, blue sheep, musk deer, and Himalayan black bear, along with a variety of birds. The flora is diverse and includes some 20 species of rhododendrons.

Flowers in Kangunjunga

Well, now you know what to expect, let’s see what entails a Kangchenjunga trek. First, you fly to Biratnagar, from where you drive to Dharan, scarcely an hour away, and spend the night there. Come the dawn, you drive to Hile (1,850 m; 50 km), and then to Basantpur (2,200 m; 40 km). Have a cuppa and some snacks, and then it’s time to lace up your hiking boots and make your backpack comfortable—the adventure begins!

First you hike to Deurali (2,475 m; 50 minute) and about an hour later, you stop for lunch at Ghurbise (2,660 m). After you start hiking again, you come to Chauki (2,680 m; one hour), from where you get good views of Makalu, Chhamlang, and Chomolonzo. Spend the night in a lodge. Early morning, and you’re off again. First you reach Mangalbare (2,635 m; 35 minutes); and then on, the track begins to rough up a little. You are now on the ‘rhododendron trail’ in what’s known as the Tinjure-Milke-Jaljale area. About two hours later, you stop at Gupha Pokhari (2,890 m) for lunch. Now, the trail narrows somewhat and takes you to Deurali pass (3,000 m), from where you descend to the Tamur River. On the way down, hunker down for the night at Gurja (2,000 m). Next morning, the hiking is all downhill for a couple of hours before reaching Dobhan (640 m), after walking across a swaying suspension bridge over the Matwa Khola. A lot of diversity, you’ll agree, and that’s why, this time, your Nepal tour is going to be more memorable.

Farmhouse

Now, across the river, you take a dirt track going upwards along the Tamur River’s eastern banks, and some 35 minutes later, you’ll be at Handrung; it’s an easy walk. However, soon enough, the trail narrows and is quite slippery, and the hiking becomes harder, Two hours of this, and you’ll to be in Mitlung (800 m). The following morning, you’ll be walking along the right side of the Tamur River, and reach, Sinwa (980 m; one hour). Around two-and-a-half hour later, you’ll come across a gate with a sign reading: “Welcome to Kangchenjunga Conservation Area”.

Kanchangunja

Further on, have lunch at Chirwa (1,190 m), and then, after an hour’s hiking and walking across some bridges, you’ll come to Tapethok (1,320 m). The next hour is an easy hike on a flat trail. However, you then ascend quite a bit before reaching Lelep (1,687 m), where you’ll be spending the night. So, now you wake up to your fifth day on the Kanchenjunga trek trail, and you’re feeling pretty good, right? All that exercise! This day starts with a descent for some 15 minutes to a suspension bridge, and then a couple of bridges more. In about two hours, you’ll come to Jaubari where there’s a cascading waterfall to look at while having a snack or two.

An hour so later, after yet another suspension bridge, the trail goes up steeply along a narrow gorge to Amijlosa (2,498 m; one hour). Have lunch here. For the next three hours afterwards, you’ll be walking sometimes up and sometimes down before reaching Gyabla (2,730 m) where it’s time to call it one more day.

Your sixth day begins with walking downhill to Ghunsa Khola, and thereon along the river to reach Phole (3,080 m)l. Next, the trail takes you to Ghunsa (3,410 m) and that’s the end of another day on the Kangchenjunga trek trail. You take a rest day here to acclimatize in preparation of higher altitudes ahead.

Day eight dawns, and now you start off for Khambachen (4,145 m; three-and-a-half hours). The first couple of hours you walk through lovely pine forests, and then crossing a wooden bridge, the climb begins. You get your first view of Kumbhakarna (a.k.a. Jannu; 7,711 m) and walk on a narrow trail before arriving at Kambachen (4,145 m).

Day nine of your Kangchenjunga trek takes you to Lhonak (4,792 m), then to Pang Pema (5,140 m), and back to Kambachen again. It’s ten-and-a-half hours of hiking. You get to see the massive Kambachen peak standing tall at 7,903 m and Pathibahara Khas (a.k.a.Pyramid Peak; 7,140 m), as well as Kirant Chuli (7,365 m), Nepal Peak (7,168 m), Gimmigela Chuli (7,350), Taple Shikhar (6,447 m)., and Wedge Peak (6,802 m).

8000m-peak

Day 10 involves about seven hours of hiking from Kambachen to Ghunsa and then on to Selele (4,130 m) on a hard trail. You’ll be walking along the western side of the Tangbharma Danda Ridge from where the landscape below is just fantastic, as is the view from the Sele Pass at 4,290 meters. Eventually, after about 40 more minutes you reach Selele.

The next day, the trail takes you to Tseram (3.138 m) via Mirgin La (4,460 m), and Sinelapche La (4,663 m). You’ll get lovely views of Nyukla Lchun (6,012 m), Pholesobi Thongje (6,645 m), and Kumbakarna (7,710 m). However, it’s when you reach the high passes that the view really becomes out-of-this-world: Kangchenjunga (8,586 m), Talung (7,349 m), Kabru I, II, III, and IV, and Rathong (6,682 m). After admiring this awesome sight, you start hiking down for quite some time, and then up again to Tseram, passing Chachung Lake on the way.

Helping-hands

Day 12 is a nine hour trek to Tortong (2,980 m) via Oktang (4,740 m). First the trail goes along the Yalung Glacier to Ramche (4.620 m) and Oktang, and then you return back to Tseram to hike down to Tortong through the Simbuwa Khola Valley. You’ll have amazing views of Kangchenjunga’s massive south side with its five summit peaks, as well as of Rathong (6,682 m) and Kokthang (6,147 m).

Yak

Day 13 starts with a descent to a bridge and then a tricky path through a forest, before climbing up to Lasiya Bhanjyang (3,415 m). After lunch here, you head down to Yamphudin (1,690 m) in the Anji Khola Valley. After bunking down for the nigh, the next morning you cross a suspension bridge and carry on to Ghatichhinne Bhanjyang (2,157 m), and then to Ekchana Bhanjyang (2.070 m). Next comes Khebang (1,910 m), after which, you descend down to Dobhan and walk across two suspension bridges before climbing up to Khanidingbe and then Dandagaon (a.k.a. Harandi).

On the 15th, and final, day of your Kangchenjunga trek, you walk for some 30 minutes downhill, cross a couple of suspension bridges, and continue hiking to Medibung (a.k.a. Tharpu), and now you know you are out of all that magnificent wilderness of the past two weeks. There’s asphalted road, motor vehicles, noise; and, reluctantly, you catch a bus to Ilam carrying unforgettable memories of your 15-day Kangchenjunga trek, the highlight of your Nepal tour, undoubtedly.
End-of-the-trek

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