Following Mount Everest and K2 (Godwin Austen), Kanchenjunga is the third tallest mountain in the world. With an altitude of 8,586 meters (28,169 ft), the word Kanchenjunga stands for the “The Five Treasures of Snows”. The mountain comprises five peaks. Of the five peaks, four of the peaks have an elevation of more than 8,450 meters. The resources symbolize five deposits of God, and they are silver, gold, grain, precious stones, and sacred books.

About Kanchenjunga

The coordinates of Kanchenjunga are 27°42′09″N and 88°08′54″E.

In the indigenous Limbu Language, Kangchenjungha is known as Sewalungma, which interprets as “Mountain that we offer greetings to”. In the Kirant faith, Sewalungma or Kanchenjungha is regarded holy.

Three of the five summits of the Kanchenjungha (main, central, and south) are lying on the boundary of the North Sikkim district in Sikkim, India and the Taplejung District in Nepal. The two other peaks are entirely situated in Taplejung District.

The Kanchenjunga Conservation Area Project is being run in Nepal under the supervision of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in collaboration with the Government of Nepal. The wildlife sanctuary houses rare species like the Red Panda and other montane creatures, flora, and avifauna. India’s portion of Kanchenjunga also features a reserved park area, known as the Khangchendzonga National Park.

In spite of the fact that Kangchenjunga is the formal spelling espoused by Douglas Freshfield, the Royal Geographical Society, and A.M. Kellas that offers the best hint of the accent in Tibetan language, there are various substitute spellings such as Khangchendzonga, Kangchen Dzö-nga, Kachendzonga, Kanchenjanga, Kangchanfanga or Kanchenjunga. The last expression on the usage of the name Kangchenjunga was offered by Sir Tashi Namgyal, His Highness, the chogyal or Maharaja of Sikkim. He mentioned that despite junga had no implication in Tibetan language, it essentially should have been Kang-chen (snow, large) Zod-nga (wealth, five) to communicate the implication precisely. After a series of discussions with J.L.R. Weir, Lieutenant-Colonel (Her Majesty’s Government political agent to Sikkim), he concurred that it was apt to keep it as Kangchenjunga and therefore, the name stayed so by recognition and convention.

Till 1852, Kangchenjunga was believed to be the tallest mountain in the world. However, measurements performed by the British Great Trigonometric Survey in 1849 arrived at the decision that Mount Everest (also named as Peak XV during that period) was the tallest mountain in the world and Kanchenjunga was the third tallest peak. George Band and Joe Brown, both from a British mountaineering team, were the first to mount the Kangchenjunga on May 25, 1955. The British voyage respected the convictions of the people of Sikkim, who view the peak as holy, by halting one or two feet ahead of the original peak. Since that time, every triumphant peak expedition has abided by this custom.

Geography of Kangchenjunga

The five summits of Kangchenjunga with their elevations are mentioned below:

Name of summit Height (meter) Height (ft)
Kangchenjunga Main 8,586 28,169
Kangchenjunga West (Yalung Kang) 8,505 27,904
Kangchenjunga Central (Middle) 8,482 27,828
Kangchenjunga South 8,494 27,867.
Kangbachen 7,903 25,925

The enormous geological formation of Kangchenjunga is reinforced by huge edges moving around north to south and east to west, creating a huge “X”. These edges include a number of summits with elevations between 6,000 and 8,000 meters. On the eastern fringes of Sikkim, the Siniolchu peak is located. The elevation of the peak is 6,888 m/22,600 ft. The western edge ends in the spectacular Jannu. The elevation is 7,710 m/25,294 ft and it is famous for its magnificent north side. Towards the south, distinctly observable from Darjeeling are the Kabru South (7,316 m/24,002 ft), Kabru North (7,338 m/24,075 ft), and Rathong Peaks (6,678 m/21,910 ft). The northern edge, once it moves through the small sub peak Kangchenjunga North 7741 m/25,397 ft), is home to the Tent Peak and The Twins. The edge also rises to the boundary of Tibet near the Jongsong La, which is a passageway extending for 6,120 m (20,080 ft).

Kanchenjungha is famous for its picturesque sights from the hill station of Darjeeling. On a bright and sunny day, the mountain offers a picture not to the extent of a peak but of a white fence dangling from the sky. The inhabitants of Sikkim worship Kanchenjunga as a holy mountain. Approval to ascend the mountain from the Indian territory is uncommon. However, on certain occasions, it is permitted.

Due to its isolated position in Nepal and hard approachability from India, the area of Kanchenjungha is not cultivated by the hikers. Hence, the peak has maintained the major part of its immaculate splendor. At present, hiking has been allowed in Sikkim in the Kanchenjunga area. The Goecha La trail is garnering significant fame with the travelers. The trail moves toward the Goecha La Pass, situated just opposite the enormous southeastern side of Kanchenjunga. One more trail to the Green Lake Valley has lately been introduced for hiking. This moves towards the northeastern face of Kanchenjungha beside the renowned Zemu Glacier.

The Kangchenjunga Conservation Area (KCA) encompasses a region of 2,035 km², bordering the mountain on the Nepalese area.

Mountaineering history of Kanchenjungha

Early exploration and efforts

Given below is a timeline of the previous exploration and efforts on the mountain:

  • Joseph Dalton Hooker (1848/49) discovered areas of east Nepal, which were earlier entirely unidentified to the Europeans.
  • Herrmann von Schlagaintweit from Germany in 1855 was designated as the chief of the Magnetic Survey of India.
  • In 1882/83, W.W. Graham, also known as the British trailblazer of Himalayan mountain climbing, stated to have traveled around the mountain in March 1882. He also made an attempt to climb the mountain in 1883 with two guides from Switzerland.
  • In 1899, Italian photographer Vittorio Sella and British adventurer Douglas Freshfield were the first to travel around the mountain. They were also the first climbers to see the impressive western side of Kanchenjunga.
  • In 1905, the Kangchenjunga expedition was the earliest endeavor to ascend the mountain. The expedition was led by Dr. Jules Jacot-Guillarmod and Aleister Crowley (who was a part of the group trying the climb of K2 in 1902).
  • In 1929, a German group was headed by Paul Bauer. The team attained 7,400 m (24,280 ft) on the steep northeast edges prior to being driven away by a tempest that went on for five days.
  • In 1930, a global voyage was headed by Uli Wieland from Germany, George Dyhrenfurth, Erwin Schneider from Austria, and Frank Smythe from England. Frank Smythe had released the book “The Kangchenjunga Adventure” in 1930. The endeavor was unsuccessful because of inclement climatic and snow situations.
  • In 1931, a second German group, once more headed by Paul Bauer, tried to climb the northeastern cliff prior to being driven away by inclement weather, infections, and casualties. The group withdrew after mounting just a bit more than the effort in 1929.
  • In 1954, an exploration of the southwestern side of Kangchenjunga took place. The trip was led by John Kempe (leader), and others who took part included Ron Jackson, J.W. Tucker, G.C. Lewis, Trevor H. Braham, and Dr. D.S. Mathews. This exploration produced the route followed by the victorious expedition in 1955.

The first ascent on Kangchenjunga

In 1955, George Band and Joe Brown were the first to climb the mountain on May 25, succeeded by Tony Streather and Norman Hardie on May 26. The entire group also comprised Charles Evans (team leader), John Clegg (team doctor), Neil Mather, John Angelo Jackson, and Tom Mackinnon.

The climb established that the 1905 route of Aleister Crowley (also explored by the 1954 expedition) was feasible. The itinerary begins on the Yalung Glacier towards the southwestern slopes of the mountain, and ascends the Yalung Face. The elevation of the Yalung Face is 3,000 meters (10,000 ft). The principal attribute of this face is known as the “Great Shelf”, which is a big slanting flat terrain at approximately 7,500 meters (24,600 ft), blanketed by a dangling glacier. The itinerary is almost wholly covered by glacier and ice. There is one icefall; the peak edge itself can engage a little bit of trekking on stones.

The first climbing voyage required six camps over their base camp and two under the Shelf, two on the Shelf, and two over it. They began on April 18, and all of them returned to the base camp by May 28.

Ascent by the British Army

Robert D. Leakey in his book “Mossdale and other caving and climbing miscelania” which is about to released in 2011, has written about the chronicles and pictures of an informal trip to the peak by a team of army men during the 2nd World War.

Other famous climbs

  • 1973 - Mountaineers Takeo Matsuda and Yutaka Ageta of Japan reached the top of Kanchenjunga West.
  • 1977 - The second climb of Kangchenjunga by an Indian military group headed by Colonel Narinder Kumar.
  • 1978 - Groups from Poland made the first victorious climbs of the peaks Kangchenjunga South (Eugeniusz Chrobak and Wojciech Wróż 19 May) and Kangchenjunga Central (Zygmunt Andrzej Heinrich, Wojciech Brański, and Kazimierz Olech, 22 May).
  • 1979 - The third climb, on May 15, and the first with no oxygen, by Peter Boardman, Douglas Scott, and Joe Tasker creating a new itinerary on the North Ridge.
  • 1983 - Pierre Beghin made the first individual climb and the first climb with no oxygen.
  • 1986 - On January 11, Jerzy Kukuczka and Krzysztof Wielicki, mountaineers from Poland, made the first winter climb.
  • 1991 - Joze Rozman and Marija Frantar tried the first climb by a woman but their corpses were subsequently discovered beneath the peak headwall.
  • 1991 - Marko Prezelj and Andrej Stremfelj finished an alpine-pattern ascent up the southern crest of Kangchenjunga to the south peak (8,494 m).
  • 1992 - Carlos Carsolio was the only person to reach the peak that year. It was an individual ascent in absence of additional oxygen.
  • 1992 - Wanda Rutkiewicz, the first lady to climb and come down from K2 and a famous Polish mountaineer, lost her life when she refused to go down despite an imminent snowstorm.
  • 1995 - Pierre Royer, Benoît Chamoux, and their Sherpa guide were lost on October 6 close to the peak.
  • 1998 - Ginette Harrison became the first lady to attain the peak. Till that time, Kangchenjunga was the sole eight-thousander that did not witness a feminine climb.
  • 2005 - Alan Hinkes, a mountaineer from Great Britain, was the only individual to reach the peak in the 50th anniversary of first climb year.
  • 2006 - Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, a climber from Austria, was the second lady to attain the peak.
  • 2009 - Mattias Karlsson and Jon Gangdal climbed the peak, becoming, consecutively, the first Norwegian and Swedish climber to reach the peak.
  • 2009 - Edurne Pasaban, a climber from Spain, attained the peak, becoming the first lady to peak 12 eight-thousanders.
  • 2009 - Kinga Baranowska became the first lady mountaineer from Poland to attain the peak of Kangchenjunga.

Last Updated on 02 February 2011