In remote, north-eastern Nepal, on the borders of Sikkim and Tibet, the magnificent mountain Kanchenjunga rises to the sky. At 8,598 m (28,300 ft), this is the world’s third highest peak, now part of a conservation area. First climbed in 1955, the region was opened to group trekkers 20 years ago. A climate of high rainfall, humidity, frost and snow together with isolation, has created a region of unique mountain ecosystems, supporting snow leopards, Himalayan black bears, goral, blue sheep, yak, serow and red panda.
The long, arduous trek takes you from from the village of Taplejung, gradually ascending through fertile, cultivated hillsides – rice and cardomom – before entering forests of oak, Himalayan larch, rhododendron and pine. There are 69 varieties of orchid to be found amongst the 1,200 species of flowering plants, and the numerous waterfalls are testament to the heavy monsoon rains.
For the first few days you will camp in villages, mostly populated by Limbu people, recognizable by their topi hats, which are larger and more colourful than those worn by most Nepalis. The Limbus, along with the Rais, make up the famous Gurkhas of the British and Indian armies. As you climb higher, you’ll camp in ever more remote locations, in the midst of magnificent mountain scenery.
Climbing ever more steeply, the forest gives way to high Alpine meadows where yaks graze beside the moraine. You’ll pass lakes, some frozen, ford streams, traverse many high passes and cross the Yalung Ri glacier, shortly after which you’ll suddenly see the immense, southern wall of Kanchenjunga and its three major summits, in particular Jannu and its glaciers. Crossing the Mirgin Pass another spectacle awaits you – the extraordinary sight of Everest, Lhotse, Chamalang, Maluku and Gyankung Kang on the horizon, and mighty Jannu so close you feel you could touch it.
WHEN TO GO:
March to May and late September to end November
TIME IT TAKES:
Two to four weeks
BEST HIGHLIGHTS OF KANCHENJUNGA TREK:
The rhododendron forests in bloom. The Limbus’ famous – and welcome – alcoholic drink tongba. Made from fermented millet seeds, It Is served In a tall, wooden pot, and drunk through bamboo straws.
The outstanding mountain views and the glorious scenery.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
To the locals, Kanchenjunga Is the home of the gods. The name means Five Great Treasuries of the Snow, and the avalanches that occur are said to be the largest in the world.
This area Is also said to be the home of the yeti – perhaps you’ll even see one…