Kangchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world and straddles the border between Nepal and Sikkim. An enormous massif with multiple peaks, ridges and faces it presents an awesome speactacle as seen both from the Sikkim and Nepal side. The trek to the North Base Camp, the famous Pangpema is fabled for the incredible views. The trek is a long one involving a flight from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur and then a nine hour jeep journey to Taplejung the start of the walk. Logistics have now become easier due to the development of basic tea houses providing food and shelter. If you want to get away from the crowds of Everest and Annapurna this autumn then this could be the trek for you.
Who should join this trek?
A good choice for regular hill walkers, high level of fitness required.
1) Walking times: average 6 to 8 hours walking per day (with some longer days one the way down) - two acclimatisation days are included
2) Altitude: up to 5,140 m at the base camp Pangpema. There are no passes to cross.
3) Terrain: for some of the time following well-travelled trails although also likely to encounter rough and rocky conditions. There are steep ascents and descents on this trek especially in the first few days in the valley.
4) Remoteness: the trek is in a remote mountain area and a long distance from the roadhead and the nearest cities. Mobile phone connectivity will work in only a few places.
5) High altitude insurance including emergency evacuation insurance by helicopter is compulsory for this trek.
6) Prior trekking experience is recommended for this trek.
Trek Leader: Sujoy Das Sirdar: Shyam Tamang
KANGCHENJUNGA TREK NORTH BASE CAMP ITINERARY
Day 01 -Kathmandu to Bhadrapur by a forty five minute flight in the morning then lunch at Bhadrapur. Drive in our private vehicle to Ilam (four hours). Overnight in a lodge in Ilam (800m).
Day 02 – Ilam to Taplejung (1870m) by jeep 4- 5 hours and then trek to MItlung (900m) (3 to 4 hours)
We leave Ilam early morning by 7 am and reach Taplejung (1870m) by noon. And then after an early lunch walk a steep downhill to Mitlung three to four hours after lunch. Start at the north eastern end of Taplejung and follow a tractor road through cardamom plantations to Asahangpati (~1550m, 1 hour). Continue on the tractor road until a steep descent starts at ~1400m. The trail makes a lot of shortcuts to avoid zigzags and drops through terraced fields and scattered houses. Cross a suspension bridge and continue the steep descent to arrive at Mitlung, 2 hours.
Day 03 - Mitlung (900m) to Thiwa (1200m) take 6-7 hours. Lunch in the village of Sinwa (3 hours from Mitlung)
Follow the road for 30mins then climb on steps over a bluff for 75mins, and down to busy Sinwa (1055m) with three lodges (Tamor Khola, Paudel, Sinwa). After a total of 3hrs come to an isolated farmhouse with views down the wild Tamur valley. Continue up and down, up and down (this is Nepal!), heading for the obvious right hand skyline ridge, at the base of which lies the pretty thatched village set in a huge rock fall of Thiwa (1200m, Chirwa, Chiruwa ‘corner’) after 1.5hrs. 45mins before Thiwa is a swing bridge from whose southern end a track climbs to Lingkhim (1466m) and thence to Suketar (2420m) if you choose to exit this way. Hotel Tamang) and Hotel Kangchenjunga vie for your custom opposite each other, with verandahs overlooking the main track.
Day 04 Thiwa (1200m) to Lelep (1650m) 4-5 hrs, passing through Tapethok on the way. At Tapethok the restricted area starts and we pass through a checkpoint. As there are no teahouses until Lelep we have both lunch and dinner there.
This is a day of bridges from large to very informal, with some steep up and down. After 15mins take the lower river track and after 1hr cross a wooden swing bridge on a side stream, then after another 1hr cross the Tamor Nadi to the true right on a swing bridge at Tapethok (1322m, Taplethok). There is checkpost for those entering but not for those leaving the area. The track for several hours is now on well-laid flagstones, walking through lovely cardamom groves in the early morning shade with the river roaring below as you climb over a bluff for 1hr. There’s a welcome teashop with bananas to reward you. Make a final short climb into Lelep (1650m) which is headquarters for the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area with a pleasant courtyard and excellent dalbhat at the Lelep Guesthouse.
Day 05 Lelep (1650m) to Amjilosa (2400m), 5 to 6 hrs. Lunch in Lamatar.
The trail continues through the houses and take the middle path in a bamboo grove to drop about 150m and cross the Tamur river for the last time on a long swing bridge to Hotel Handurung in 20mins. The village of Sekathum (1650m) is to the left but not visible and the remote Tibetan village of Olangchunggola (Walungchungkhola) is further up the same valley. 10mins further on there is another lodge. From here upwards the track follows the Ghunsa Khola, draining from the Kangchenjunga and Jannu glaciers and the major tributary of the Tamur river. Turn right onto a rough riverside track just after the hotel. After 20mins don’t take the wooden swing bridge but 15mins later take the metal swing bridge to the true left then 10mins later cross back to the true right. 15mins after the bridge climb up, still on flagstones, past bluffs where we sighted two musk deer right on the track. After 1hr, cross to the true left – we sighted monkeys on the true right above the bridge. There’s another 1hr of up and down including some exciting riverside trails and informal bridges before the last bridge of the day crosses to the true right and climbs steeply for 400m in 1hr, traversing right over several ridges to Amjilosa (2400m). The lodge is the third building with comfortable 12 beds in 3 rooms and Tibetan hospitality.
Day 06 Amjilosa (2400m) to Gyabla (2725m) 5 to 6 hrs. A cultural change occurs and locals start to be more Tibetan. Lunch in Thangyem. You begin seeing yaks, the symbols of the high Himalaya. This is a day of waterfalls. Sidle the huge visible slip with some exposure and climb further to round a bluff, and then descend up and down across rockfalls set in dense bamboo to arrive at a teahouse after 1.5hrs. Look out all day for the red pandas reputed to be in this area. After 1hr cross a substantial wooden bridge near the third waterfall, 30mins to another wooden bridge and the fourth waterfall, then climb steeply 45mins in a nasty wet gully to arrive in Gyabla (2725m) with 9-bed lodge and expensive Rs 600 dalbhat.
Day 07 Gyabla (2725m) to Ghunsa (3415m). Ghunsa is like the capital of Kanchenjunga. It’s a large Sherpa village, on the Ghunsa River, with a very old monastery. Lunch in Phale (3125m), a 4 hrs walk from Gyabla. From Phale it is 1 hr to Ghunsa.
Descend to the roaring river confined by cliffs and continue up and down on a rocky path. Black bears have been sighted in broad daylight across the river. After about 2hrs arrive at a pleasant sandy beach then climb, cross a slip then an extensive slip and exit at the top of a third slip onto a terrace of yak pastures. It is a very pleasant walk through juniper and rhododendrons to the Tibetan refugee village of Phale (3125m) about 1hr 20 min above the beach. While it is only another hour to the food, shops and bathing delights of Ghunsa, this atmospheric village offers a glimpse of authentic Tibetan culture with two active gompas, carpet-weaving and traditional lifestyle. The friendly Kangchenjunga Folay Hotel is good and there are at least two other good homestays with private rooms.
A very pleasant walk through pines, rhododendrons and the deciduous larches for which this area is famous, although most have lost their colour and needles by the end of November. Look up left after the next bridge to the route to a yak hut just under Nango La (4795m), by which it is possible to reach the ancient village of Olangchunggola (~3000m) in two days. This village is reputed to be the original village settled from Tibet more than 600 years ago but there is no accommodation at present. Later there is a memorial to the many wildlife people killed in a horrific helicopter crash near Ghunsa in 2006. Pass the ancient Tashi Choding Gumba (which welcomes visitors but is usually locked) before crossing a swing bridge into Ghunsa (3415m).
In order from the bottom of Ghunsa, there is the Snowline Lodge (R), Kangchenjunga Guest House (L), Selele Guest House (L), Sherpa Guest House (L), Ghunsa Guest House (L), Yak Hotel (L down lane), Peaceful Guesthouse (R), Phones are available, as well as reliable hydroelectricity and several well-stocked shops.
Day 08 Acclimatization day in Ghunsa, with a day hike to a nearby ridge with excellent views of Jannu Peak. Packed lunches should be taken. It’s 3 hrs up to the ridge and 2 hrs down again.
Day 09 Ghunsa (3415m) to Khangbachen (4145m) 5-6 hrs. A packed lunch is needed as there is nothing in between. We cross several wooden bridges and a section prone to landslides which can alter the trail. We cross 4000 metres for the first time. Take the obvious track up through Ghunsa and cross a bridge, icy in the mornings. The autumn larches above are like sunlight along the Ghunsa Khola in October-November, one of the highlights of many visits to Nepal. Gentle pleasant walking through larch, rhododendron, silver pine and cedar forest, with yaks coming down loaded with potatoes and the valley ahead blocked by the huge Jannu terminal moraine. After 3hrs cross a cantilever bridge to the true right, circle two big slips with significant rock fall danger and striking views of Jannu (7711m ) and climb steeply. Then stop and admire the best views of Jannu! Traverse and eventually cross a small stream into Khangpachen (4145m; Khambachen) with about 10 stone houses. The Kangchenjunga White House run by welcoming Norbu Sherpa has now 7 rooms with 16 beds, excellent food. Call Norbu at +977.993242319 (Ghunsa) 993244578 or 993244579 (Khangpachen). The valley northwest up the Nupcha Khola calls out for an afternoon ramble.
Day 10 Another rest day, to acclimatize at Khangbachen. There is also an excellent side trip from Kambachen which is very similar to Ghunsa except with views towards Kanchenjunga An interesting side trip for a Khangpachen rest day will bring you closer to Jannu. Check in Khangpachen for the current location of a seasonal bridge over the Ghunsa Khola. Cross the meadow after the bridge and walk uphill on a trail to the northern side of the Kumbakharna (Jannu) Glacier. After about 2.5hrs reach a shrine (~ 4650m) marked by many prayer flags, bells, tridents, letters and other objects of worship. Rest and enjoy the view of Jannu and its neighbours. It is possible to continue for at least another hour but the ground is prone to landslides. Return to Khangpachen in about 2hrs. Elevation gain and loss is about 600m.
Day 11 Kambachen (4145m) to Lhonak (4792m) 5 to 6 hrs. We trek up a wide valley next to the glacier with excellent views on both sides. The trail becomes rough with large boulders and accommodation in Lhonak is basic but views are great and a large grassy plain which has a few lodges. Climb past the chortens above Khangpachen then steadily on the true right bank with beautiful icy rocky peaks all around, though big areas of sea-buckthorn that fruit prolifically in October but are not harvested locally. There are at least two large flocks of blue sheep. At times there may be avalanche snow across the track that can make crossing streams problematic The last 30mins traverses a loose and exposed gully wall at length, crosses a rude bridge and then a sandy plain to seven scattered huts of Lhonak (4792m). One hut has a triple bed room, and two dark twin beds. Walk up towards the Lhonak Glacier for the afternoon but take your warm clothes.
Day 12 Lhonak (4792m) to Pangpema (5140m) and back to Lhonak at night, 3-4 hrs along a well formed trail. Accommodation at the teahouse in Pangpema is not guaranteed, it might be closed or full. Because of this we normally do a day trip but depending on the situation, you can also spend a night in Pangpema. We have a packed lunch at Pangpema, take a thousand pictures of the Kanchenjunga North Face and then return to Lhonak. About two-thirds of the walk is on grassy terraces. The views of Kangchenjunga and the glacier are stupendous. We also saw Himalayan pika (rock rabbits), a big covey of chukar (Himalayan snow partridge), and more blue sheep. There is a single hut in Pang Pema (5140m) which is open from September to sometimes mid-November and in April to May and sometimes March and serves noodles for lunch (Rs500). A limited number of people could sleep inside. We regret that we didn’t plan to spend a night here, although the altitude may make for a restless night. Pang Pema is generally regarded as the north base camp since it provides a complete view of the north face of Kangchenjunga, but it is possible to go further on deteriorating moraine walls – probably better to spend the time climbing the rocky ridge above Pang Pema for wider and wider views if you have the energy. Retrace your steps for a second night in Lhonak, usually into the up-valley wind after 10am.
Day 13 From Lhonak it is 8 hrs walk back to Ghunsa, mostly downhill, back to civilization. Don’t forget to collect any equipment left there. We have lunch in Kambachen on the way down.
Day 14 Ghunsa (3415m) to Amjilosa (2400m), 7-8 hrs mostly downhill. We can have lunch in Gyabla.
Day 15 Amjilosa (2400m) to Thiwa (1200m) 6-7 hrs walk back down, and out of the restricted area of Kanchenjunga.
Day 16 Thiwa (1200m) to Sinwa to Mitlung (900m) 6-7 hrs.
Day 17 Mitlung (900m) to Taplejung (1870m) 4 hrs steep climb. We reach Taplejung by lunch and leave after lunch for Ilam which we reach in the evening.
Day 18 We drive from Ilam early morning and reach Bhadrapur by lunch time. We then take an afternoon Buddha Air flight back to Kathmandu.
USD 1475 (INR 95,000) Indian Citizens and US$ 1875 for foreign passport holders ( Meals not included). Please budget an additional USD 500 for meals, hot water in flasks, battery charging, wi fi charges, hot showers if possible in lodges for the trek.
The cost is per person for Kathmandu to Kathmandu (18 days) as per the itinerary given. Taxes included.
Costs given above are at current rates and may change without notice. Changes if any will be notified 2 months before the trek.
Flight costs from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur and back and transport cost from Bhadrapur to Taplejung and back to Bhadrapur in our own private vehicle.
All permits including Kangchenjunga Restricted Area permit, National Park permit and TIMS as applicable.
All accommodation on the trek on twin sharing basis. There are no luxury lodges on this route and accommodation will be basic without attached bathrooms.
Hotel accommodation in Kathmandu one night on the way in and one night on the way out is covered in a good hotel with breakfast.
Cost of porters/guides for the trek. Please note that porters will carry one duffel bag or backpack not exceeding 10 kgs in weight for each trekker comprising of personal items, clothing, sleeping bag etc.
Costs not included
Meals in Kathmandu
Breakfast lunch and dinner on the trek is not included. Desserts, drinks, and exotic items listed in the lodge menus are not included. Alcohol, cold drinks (coca cola, sprite, beer), juices, ice cream etc on the trek. Bottled drinks; boiled, filtered or bottled water; alcohol; snacks etc
Client travel and medical insurance of any kind. Emergency evacuation costs if needed.
Hot showers (Rs 200-300 per shower) as available; Personal clothing and equipment; sleeping bag; down/ goretek jacket, medicines for personal use etc.
Air fare from residence country to Nepal and back
Tips to porters and guide at the end of trek. Please budget USD 50 per head as tips to the common pool
|Duffle Bag||All the equipment listed below other than what you need for the day should be packed into a duffle bag, locked and handed over to the porters in the morning. In case you cannot get a duffle bag in your home country these are available very cheap in Kathmandu and I can help you with this. The duffle bag should not weight more than 10 kgs!|
|1||Sleeping Bag||Warm sleeping bag is needed at least three season rated to 15F|
|2||Daypack or Hipbelt||To carry water, one jacket some nuts, chocolates, cap, camera to keep with you in the day, maybe gloves and cap as well, hiking poles etc.|
|3||Boots or Trekking Shoes||one pair|
|4||Slippers or Sandals for camp||lightweight to wear in the evenings|
|5||warm Socks||2 pairs to carry and one pair to wear|
|7||Underwear||1 to wear and 2 to carry|
|8||Warm Cap||one- Wool or fleece is usually good|
|9||Heavy jacket||the warmest you can get as nights and early mornings are cold - down is usually preferred otherwise a warm synthetic filled jacket.|
|10||Thermal Underwear ( top and bottom) - long johns||inner layer to wear at night and early morning ;|
|11||Mid Layer||Usually a jacket of fleece or wool which can be worn over a thermal layer or by itself while walking|
|12||T shirts for walking||one to wear and 2 to carry - if the sun is hot you can walk in a T shirt|
|13||Trousers /tights etc||one to wear and one to carry light weight preferred|
|14||One Rain Jacket /Wind Jacket/Soft Shell jacket||useful in case of wind ... you may need it in light rain though we would usually take shelter and wait for the rain to stop. Our trek is not in the rainy season though some light rain/snow in the late afternoon evenings cannot be ruled out.|
|15||Torch or headlamp||one small needed carry one set spare batteries|
|16||Sun bloc||one small tube should be ok spf 30 or 50|
|17||some essential medicines||vitamins, headache, fever, pain killers, diamox for altitude, your own specific medicines etc|
|18||Hiking poles||if you have bad knees then this is recommended especially on the down hills!!|
|19||Water bottle||one no 500 ml or 1 litre is ok you can use the 500 or 600 ml empty coke or pepis bottles|
|20||Sun glasses||the sun is strong in the day|
|21||Cap for the sun||ditto!|
|22||small towel||for baths and wash up in case you can use the hot shower|
|23||toothbrush, paste, soap, shampoo, vaseline, comb||and any other toilet items you may need!|
|24||wet tissues - wet ones for bathroom||called wet ones in India|
|25||some washing powder surf etc small||to wash clothes en route if needed|
|26||Nuts, raisins etc all mixed up||can be divided into small packets for daily use|
|27||Chocolates /Energy Bars/Amul cheese slices/tea bags||Carry some chocolates or energy bars to have on the way. Amul cheese slices are very useful and can be had as snacks when you are tired of sweets!|
|29||Volini gel/ Bengay etc for aches and pains||or any other equivalent|
|30||Iodine or chlorine tablets for water purification||available in Kathmandu- this is important as mineral water bottles are expensive; for overseas visitors you can get iodine tablets in REI and other large outdoor outlets|
|31||Electral or any other rehydating salts||Carry a few small packets of electrolyte - useful to have mixed with water if dehydrated|
|32||some spare plastic bags to pack wet stuff, dirty clothes etc|
|33||Book in case you want to read on the way and IPOd for music optional!|
|34||Two small locks one for your duffle bag and one for your room in case the lodge does not have a lock|
|35||Clothes line with hooks on either side in case you want to hang up your wet clothes to dry outside!!|
|36||Super Glue||To patch up boots that may give way!|
|37||Face mask||For dust, cold winds etc available in kathmandu|
|38||Extra shoe laces||one pair|
India: +919831054569; Nepal: +977 9818037020
Nepal: +977 9851022984
The cancellation policy and refunds available are given below:
0-7 days before the start of the trek =75%
8 -15 days before the start of the trek = 50%
16-30 days before the start of the trek = 35%
31-45 days before the start of the trek = 25%
46 days and above = 15%
IN CASE OF LEAVING THE GROUP
If due to illness or any other reason a client has to leave the group and go down or wait at a lodge for the group to pick him/her up on the way back or return to Kathmandu, all expenses including lodging, fooding, transport and any porter/guide related expenses if any are to be borne by the individual client over and above the trek fees paid for the trek. There are also no refunds for leaving a trek before completion.
HIRING OF PONIES ETC
In the eventuality of a client needed the services of a pony to come down to lower altitudes, the cost of hiring the pony will be paid by the client.
EVACUATION BY HELICOPTER
In the eventuality of not being covered by emergency helicopter evacuation insurance and an evacuation is considered necessary, the cost of the evacuation will be paid by the client in advance to the helicopter company/travel agent etc as deemed necessary.
DELAYS DUE TO BANDHS, STRIKES AND OTHER FORCE MAJEURE EVENTS
In the event of a delay in starting or ending the trek due to issues beyond the control of South Col, additional costs if any arising out of the same would have to be borne by the clients.
LODGES ON THE TREK
The choice of lodges to be used on the trek will be decided by South Col and clients will have to stay at these designated lodges. Clients are not permitted to choose their own lodges on the route.
The trek route and day wise schedule will be fixed by South Col and will have to be followed by the client.
RISKS AND LIABILITY
The trek is in a remote mountain area and has certain additional dangers and risks, some of which include: physical exertion for which the client should be prepared; weather extremes subject to sudden and unexpected changes; remoteness from normal medical services; evacuation difficulties.
In the event of injury or illness South Col Expeditions (Sujoy Das) or its Staff can, at the clients cost arrange any medical treatment and emergency evacuation service as it or they deem necessary for the health and safety of the client.