Photo by  Carsten.nebel

Photo by Carsten.nebel

Kangchenjunga sits below only Everest (8,848m/ 29,029ft) and K2 (8,611m/ 28,251 ft) in the list of the world’s tallest mountains.

Name: Kangchenjunga (or Kanchenjunga)
Height: 8,586 m (28,169 ft)
Location: In the Kangchenjunga Himal, on the border between India and Nepal.
First Climbed: 25 May 1955 by George Band and Joe Brown
Climb Time: 30+ days
Best Time to Climb: September to November.

Kangchenjunga was actually believed to be the tallest mountain in the world, until an 1852 survey proved otherwise. 

It is the second highest mountain in Nepal (K2 being in Pakistan) and is the easternmost 8,000m (26,250 ft) peak. It has five main peaks, four of which are members of the eight-thousanders’ club.


Kangchenjunga’s five main peaks are:
• Kangchenjunga Main – 8,586 m (28,169 ft).
• Kangchenjunga West – 8,505 m (27,904 ft).
• Kangchenjunga Central – 8,482 m (27,828 ft).
• Kangchenjunga South – 8,494 m (27,867 ft).
• Kangbachen – 7,903 m (25,928 ft).

Kangchenjunga is also full of treasure…ok, not literally! It’s name means ‘Five treasures of snow’ in Tibetan, and comparing its five peaks to the five treasures: gold, silver, precious stones, grain and the holy scriptures. 

But don’t be fooled – Kangchenjunga is anything but generous. With only 187 successful ascents, no direct route to the summit and a death rate (22%) that, unlike other mountains, has not decreased with improved technology, this is a mountain that reminds you who’s in charge! It has a high risk of avalanches and very unpredictable weather.

Kangchenjunga is located on the border between the Indian state of Sikkim and eastern Nepal. The five peaks of the massif are connected by four long ridge lines and four large glaciers flow down from these. The peaks are arranged like a cross, with a vast array of smaller satellite peaks along each ridge.

Climbing Kanchenjunga.

Kangchenjunga has frustrated more climbers than it’s rewarded. There is no direct route to the summit, and most expeditions follow different parts of former expeditions’ routes to try and find safe passage.

The first attempt on the summit was in 1905, but it was only first successfully climbed fifty years later, by two British climbers: Joe Brown and George Band. 

This ascent included scaling a highly-technical rock section (Class 5.8) just below the main summit. They stopped a few steps below the summit on 25 May 1955, thus fulfilling their promise to the Maharaja of Sikkim not to defile the summit with their feet. This is a tradition that many, though unfortunately not all, climbers have followed since.

The more difficult north-east spur was not successfully climbed until 1977, when an Indian army expedition did so. Only on 18 May 1998 did the first woman reach the summit, (Ginette Harrison) making it the last of the eight-thousanders to be climbed by a woman. 

Trekking around Kanchenjunga.

An excellent trekking option is the Kangchenjunga trek. With only 1,000 visitors to the region per year (compared to 35,000 in Khumbu [Everest]), this is also an adventure offering an experience of solitude amongst Himalayan giants. 

But this is still a challenging trek, so arrive prepared for a long adventure. Depending on which route you take, this trek normally lasts for between 18-24days. You will need a permit and to hire a local guide, while taking advantage of the option of staying at local tea houses along the route.