Having already completed the Annapurna, Everest and Manaslu treks on my three previous visits to Nepal, I was looking for more amazing trekking adventures in this fascinating country when I returned for the fourth time in as many years last autumn to do another formidable walk, this time in the beautiful and remote Kangchenjunga area.
Depending on where you actually start and finish your walking most of what is labelled as the 'Kangchenjunga Trek' takes place within the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area ( KCA ) in the Taplejung District in the far eastern corner of Nepal. The KCA was established as a protected area in 1997 and covers 2035 sq.km bordered by Qomolangma Feng Nature Reserve in Tibet to the north, Kangchenjunga Biosphere Reserve in Sikkim - India to the east and Sankhuwasabha District to the west.
The KCA is home to only a little bit more than 5000 people, most of them living in one of the 35 villages scattered around the area. The Sherpas, Limbus and Rais are the main ethnic groups representing nearly 85 % of the total population. The remaining consists of Tamangs, Chettris, Brahmins, Gurungs and Dalits.
Only approximately 500 tourists visit the Kangchenjunga
Conservation Area each year which is significantly lower than the Annapurna and Everest regions which receive tens of thousands of people every season. We only met one or two organized trekking groups every now and then along the trail and there were days when did not meet anyone.
Kangchenjunga is a remote, unexplored rugged area of steep valleys and high mountains. Despite its poorly developed infrastructure and harsh environment this place is a true treasure. It is not only home to eleven mountains higher than 7000 metres, including the third highest in the world, Kangchenjunga standing at 8586 m. but it also hosts some of the longest non-polar glaciers on earth and a spectacular wildlife not seen anywhere else. Snow leopards, red panda, himalayan black bear, blue sheep, musk deer, grey wolf more than 200 species of birds, more than 20 species of rhododendrons and more than 2000 different flowering plants are just some of the hidden gems in this isolated corner of Nepal.
I did the Kangchenjunga Trek as a teahouse trek together with my guide in October/November 2012. Do not expect any of the luxury found on the more prestigious treks like Annapurna and Everest. In
this part of Nepal the trails a rougher, facilities poorer and everything less developed and less accessible. But, whatever this place may lack in "western" comfort this whole trek, nevertheless, is a true formidable adventure in all its aspects.
Normally one needs to be in a group of two or more to receive a trekking permit for Kangchenjunga, but my agent in Kathmandu was able to organize the trip for me to enter as a single trekker with a guide only. The Kangchejunga Trekking Permit cost USD 20 for 14 days and the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Park Entry Fee was 2000 Npr. I paid a total of USD 1495 for the whole trek which included all the permit fees, airport pickup in Kathmandu, accomodation in the mountains, full board meals and guide for an estimated 23 days with start from Basantapur and finish in Medibung.
Instead of going by bus from Kathmandu to the starting point of my trek ,which would probably take me more than 24 nerve-wrecking hours, I decided to spend some extra money for my own safety and comfort by flying to Biratnagar and take a private jeep from there to Basantapur. This cost me
33.000 Npr ( USD 370 )
This is my story Day 1 : Basantapur 2200 m. - Chauki 2680 m. 4h20m
After arriving quite late to Biratnagar from Kathmandu we decided to go no further than Dharan, spend the night there and continue next morning up into the mountains to Basantapur.
Dharan is a prosperous market town and one of the largest commercial cities in Nepal located about 42 km north of Biratnagar standing literally at the foot of the hills. It is perhaps most famous for being a British Gurkha recruitment centre back in the old days but today most tourists who come here use Dharan as a gateway on their way to trekking-adventures in the far eastern part of the country.
We stayed at New Dreamland Hotel. Although there was nothing fancy about this place it felt luxurious compared to what the following days and weeks would be like.
Early next morning we were finally on our way. After travelling in Nepal for consecutive years I know that the road standards in this country can be really poor and hazardous but with financial support from the British government the sealed road
from Dharan and up into the mountains was surprisingly good by Nepali standards. In less than two hours we reached the hill town of Hile 1850 m. located on a ridge 50 km north of Dharan. From this place we had some fantastic views of the distant Himalaya mountains with the pyramide shape of Makalu looking particularly prominent. In perfect weather it is also possible to see Mount Everest, Lhotse, Kumbhakarna and Kangchenjunga from this lofty spot.
Less than one hour after passing through Hile the sealed road finally terminated when we reached our final destination at the small market town of Basantapur 2200 m. Basantapur is located in the Terhathum district which is the smallest of 6 districts in the Koshi Zone about 90 km north of Dharan. This place had a few lodges and shops, but do not expect anything fancy.
A small snack break, doing some last minute adjustments to the backpack, waving 'goodbye' to our driver and we were finally taking our first steps on to the Kangchenjunga Trek.
We set off from Basantapur at 10 am walking at a moderate pace continuing up on the sealed road which climbed a bit further
gradually and steadily as far as the small village of Deurali 2475, which we reached after 50 minutes. A big yellow information map board at the entrance of the village showed all the trail options in the Tinjure-Milke-Jaljale-area/ridge, also known as the rodhodendron kingdom of Nepal.
This area is apparently home to one of the largest rodhodendron forests in the country covering an area of nearly 550 square km shared between the neighbouring districts of Tehrathum, Sankuwashabha and Taplejung. The Tinjure-Milke-Jalajale ridge run between the Arun river valley which is home to Makalu Barun National Park and the Tamur river valley home to the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area. In spring time when the national flower of Nepal gets into full bloom this place literally burst into beautiful lively colours.
When we left Deurali we would not be walking on a sealed road again until we reached Medibung on our last and final day on the Kangchenjunga trek. Accompanied by some local people heading home to celebrate the Diwali festival with their families we continued uphill on a wide track and did not stop until we reached the small settlement of Ghurbise 2660 m. at 11.55am. about halfway between Basantapur
and Chauki. A convenient place to stop for lunch. A Noodle Soup was 70 Npr and a bottle of Pepsi 70 Npr.
Farming and livestock are apparently the main occupation among people on this part of the Tinjure-Milke-Jaljale ridge and potatoes, maize and cabbage are the major agricultural products being produced here.
With our first Kangchenjunga Trek meal well placed in our bellies we were back on the trail again fresh on energy taking on the last short stage to our final destination this day. Shortly after coming out of Ghurbise we had our first glimpse of some snow clad mountains in the far distance when the clouds cracked up for a few seconds giving us just a tinty little taste of what the views would be like later.
About 40 minutes after leaving Ghurbise we had our first view of Chauki Village and its green pastures on the long ridge down ahead of us. Even tough the village seemed very close from our viewpoint it took us nearly one hour to get there. We finally arrived in Chauki 2680 m. at 2.20 pm.
In Kangchenjunga terms Chauki is a medium sized village with at least
20 houses and some simple lodges. We stayed at the friendly Blue Sky Lodge which also had a small grocery store selling some very basic items like noodles, cookies, soda, beer, chocolates and a few other things. One Pepsi & one waterbottle cost me 125 Npr.
The views of Makalu, Chhamlang and Chomolonzo from Chauki are specatacular ! Day 2 : Chauki 2680 m. - Gurja 2000 m. 7h15m.
I woke up to a wonderful morning of clear blue skies as I rolled out of my sleeping bag ready to take on my second day on the Kangchenjunga trek. The view of Chhamlang, Mera and Makalu from the chilly streets of Chauki was top class and I just could resist venturing outside before breakfast was served to grab some photos of this beautiful line-up.
I could still feel the spices from the noodle soup on my lips when we left our guesthouse at 6.50 am. At the checkpost office at the end of the village I noticed in their register book that there had not been any other tourists coming through here for almost a week which surprised me a little bit. Maybe the
majority of foreign trekkers start their trek from Taplejung ?
The grand views of Makalu and its snow clad neighbours in the north-western direction was an excellent backdrop as we walked on a broad dirt track which soon started to bend right heading towards Mangalbare 2635 m. a small village located on a ridge. This place had a few basic shops and lodges. It had taken us only 35 minutes to reach the village from Chauki on an easy straightforward track, but after passing through the wide main street of Mangalbare we had to put a little bit more effort in as the broad track started to climb up some naked terrain.
We did not meet anyone else after this and we had ,what has been described as the " Rhododendron Trail of Nepal ", all to ourselves. With nearly 30 species of rhododenrons covering the Tinjure-Milke-Jaljale areas this is a botanical paradise among those with a passion for flowers.
As we approached our lunchstop this morning we eventually started too see a few people again and when we arrived into Gupha Pokhari 2890 m. at 9.35 am we were welcomed by some shy kids with a
curious focus on the camera I was carrying in my hand. We settled down at the basic Makalu Hotel & Lodge.
As the lodgeowner was preparing our dahl baht I went up to the nearby lake which is supposed to be holding a buddhist shrine with religious significance in this area. 'Pokhari' actually means lake in Nepali but to me it looked more like a small pond shimmering gently in the wind. On a quiet clear day the stunning views of Makalu Himal in the west are reflected in this water which makes it a popular spot for photographing. Today, however, the clouds had already embraced the ridge of Gupha Pokhari and neither Makalu nor the Kangchenjunga massif in the east were visible from where I was standing.
Gupha Pokhari is in the Sankuwashabha district and is a convenient connection point between Tumlingtar in the Arun river valley and Taplejung on the Tamur river valley side. The village has severeal lodges and shops. A Pepsi cost 80 Npr and a small package of biscuits 15 Npr.
After getting our permits checked again at the checkpoint office at the end of the village we cut off from the
main track and on to a more narrow trail heading east towards another ridge covered in forest that eventually took us up to the Deurali pass at approximately 3000 metres. From here we started a long descent that eventually would take us to the Tamur river at the bottom of the valley. To save and protect our knee caps we decided to go no further than halfway down this long slog and stop in the tiny village of Gurja 2000 m. at the Sonam Tashi Lama Hotel.
A group of french people coming in the opposite direction on their last stages on Kangchenjunga trek were about to put up their tents at the nearby campsite when we arrived at 2 pm. Again we were the only persons to sleep in the teahouse itself.
In between the accumulation of clouds beyond the world of green hills and valleys the impressive Kumbhakarna/Jannu really stood out in its characteristic shape and form for the first time on this trek. From this particular angle and distance it really is a formidable-looking mountain, one that really makes a star impression with its 'head & shoulders ' look-alike similar to that of Ama Dablam
in the Khumbu region. Day 3 : Gurja 2000 m. - Mitlung 880 m. 7h10m
The team of porters in the french group were doing their final finishing touches to their heavy loads and were just about to leave the campsite when we were sitting down for a bowl of noodle soup for breakfast. After literally walking on a ridge for two days I was really looking forward to todays challenge which would take us down to the lowest point on the Kangchenjunga trek and in to the deep,narrow Tamur Kosi river valley.
We left Gurja at 7.20 am and for the first few hours it was all downhill walking through neat bamboo forest, passing some picturesque colourful houses, cutting through lovely rice fields, greeting 'Namastee ' to by passers and avoiding a big black snake which had put all his lenght across our pathway.
A few minutes before reaching Dobhan we had to present our papers again at yet another checkpoint office which was a little bit tricky to find. After getting our permission to continue we just had to cross the Maiwa Khola on the nearby suspension bridge and walked straight into Dobhan 640
m. at 9.35 am, the lowest point on the Kangchenjunga Trek.
In Nepali language Dobhan means 'where two rivers meet' and the village sits rightly so at the confluence of Maiwa Khola and Tamur Khola. The village is a popular destination and starting point for rafting enthusiasts and a number of people come here each year to challenge the force and power of the river. The Tamur Khola is apparently the sixths largest river in Nepal and by a adding all its tributaries its mass of water orginates around the snow and ice of Kangchejunga and travels all the way out into the mighty Ganges River in India.
Dobhan was basking in sunshine this morning with a lively small village atmosphere. A decent number of shops and lodges were lining the stony main street. We decided to break for lunch here. As I was eating my spicy noodles and rumours started to circulate that there was a Norwegian in town I was approached by one of the locals who wanted to show me something in his house. Curious as to what this could be I accepted his invitation and was escorted into his living room. There he pointed
at the wall and to my big astonishment there was a large framed picture of a tiny fishing village in Norway hanging there ! How on earth did that thing make its way to this remote secluded part of the world !!!
Our target this day was to reach Mitlung a little bit further up the valley from Dobahn and by looking at the map this seemed to be a fairly easy undertaking. Before leaving Dobhan we were given an update on the trail situation along the way which did not match my KANCHANJANGA - MILKE DANDA*MAKALU 1:1250000 MAP I had bought in Kathmandu just a few days ago. Instead of following the Tamur Khola upstream on the left side of the river which my map suggested we crossed the suspension out of Dobhan and proceeded up on the right hand side of the river instead following local advice. In these areas trails may vary and change from day to day especially during monsoon season when pouring rain hit these places really hard causing landslides and disruptions to its land and poor infrastructure. The eastern part of Nepal receives more rain than any other part of the country.
Luckily the monsoon season had finished some time ago already and today the sun was beating down at us making it almost uncomfortably hot as we left Dobhan behind ascending gradually on a wide dirt track up along the east bank of Tamur Khola. Within 35 minutes we reached the tiny settlement of Handro/Handrung which had a small shop selling soft drinks and snacks. This was one of the few places I came across until we reached Medibung which had waterbottles for sale. One bottle was 35 Npr.
It all felt like an easy walk in the park as we continued along the river through some beautiful green and lush terrain enjoying every step and every second. Perhaps we were getting too comfortable in our environment and once the trail gradually started to narrow down and we hit what I would describe as a jungle our comfortable easy walk gradually turned into a much more difficult and strenous affair. Suddenly we found ourselves in the middle of thick forest vegetation loosing our tiny strip of trail on several occasions, balancing across steep nervy and slippy edges, negotiating awkward obstacles afraid I might twist my ankle at some point and
getting drained by the hot and humid conditions and the 18 kg backpack I was carrying. Getting through this part of the trail felt like an eternity but after more than two hours of hard and difficult work it all eased a little bit as we reached more solid ground.
When we finally reached Mitlung 880 m. at 2.30 pm we were very pleased to finally put our bags down for the day, rehydrate ourselves with something fresh to drink and find a place to sleep.
A freezing cold shower and a big portion of dhal baht in the evening with some tasty bananas for desert would hopefully recharge my engine and legs a bit by tomorrow and I knew for sure I would sleep like a rock tonight :-) Day 4 : Mitlung 880 m. - Lelep 1687 m. 8h05m
My body was aching. Not from yesterdays strenous walk through dense forest, but as a result of spending almost 10 hours sleeping on a flat rock hard bed with not even an inch of comfort. It took me a typical nepali-style breakfast of chapati and noodle soup followed by some much needed body stretching to
shake of my worst hit sore spots this morning.
From Taplejung it takes just a few hours to drop down to Mitlung and some trekkers use this trail option when starting of from the district headquarter. Outside our teahouse a yellow sign saying " Way To Kangchenjunga ", was the first one of its kind since leaving Basantapur a few days ago, suggesting that we were now approaching the heart and soul of the Kangchenjunga area.
We left Mitlung at 7.00 a m following the Tamu Khola River upstream on the right hand side . In a little more than one hour we reached Sinwa 980 m. , a medium sized village in Kangchenjunga terms with approximately 300 people. Again I had to get my permit checked at the checkpoint office in the village.
The trail continued up and down after Sinwa crossing a small bamboo bridge, passing the lonely Patangwa Guesthouse at 9.30 am before reaching a yellow gate at 10.20 am greeting us with " Welcome to Kangchenjunga Conservation Area ". A little bit further on and in perfect time for lunch we reached the small sunny village of Chirwa 1190 m. ( 10.50 am
) which had at least two guesthouses and a few shops. We sat down at the Tamang Guesthouse and by reading its advertisement board this place offered lunch, dinner, breakfast,tea soft drinks and even hard drinks. Definately the longest list of offers so far on this trek. I opted for some fried potatoes, a nice break from the never-ending noodles and dal bhat. A bottle of sprite was 100 Npr and a bottle of water 80 Npr.
It was almost too comfortable sitting outside on the wooden terrace in beautiful sunshine watching life and loaded donkeys passing by but we were only halfway to our destination this day and had to move on.
From Chirwa we had to walk across several landslide-ridden areas and crossing a few bridges before eventually reaching Tapethok 1320 m. one hour later ( 1 pm ). Again we had to present our permits and papers at yet another checkpoint office.
A wooden sign in Tapethok saying " Way to Ghunsa, Olangchung-Gola and KCAP HQ " took us across a suspension bridge to the left side of the Tamur Khola and we continued on a fairly flat and very nicely laid out trail
for almost an hour. The last section which took us up to Lelep was definately the most energy draining climb so far this day and with a 18 kg backpack sleeping on my shoulders the slopes consumed a lot of power. When we finally reached Lelep 1687 m. at 3.10 pm and our guesthouse at the village entrance we were more than content with today's effort and decided to stop here.
In Lelep a Coca Cola cost 130 Npr Day 5 : Lelep 1687 m. - Gyabla 2730 m. 7h50m
The variation of food in most teahouses on the Kangchenjunga is very limited but for those with a big appetite for noodles and dal baht then this is your kingdom. My breakfast this morning would never have reached a Michelin star for its taste and presentation but as a guest and visitor to this poor and far away part of the world I am sincerely thankful for what these people can come up with from the very little they already have.
The sun was sweeping over Lelep when we left our guesthouse at 7.15 am taking on our fifth day of walking in the remote Kangchenjunga
The trail dropped downwards as soon as we had left the village and within 15 minutes we reached a suspension bridge at the bottom of the valley at the point where the Tamur Khola River and the Ghunsa Khola River connect and come together. Walking across the bridge we passed the lonely Hotal Handurung, which seemed to offer some very basic facilities, before crossing Gunsa Khola on another bridge soon after. After following the Gunsa River upstream for a short while on its eastern side we were suddenly facing a very scary looking wooden bridge which barely seemed to hang together in one piece. Not even my guide looked very convinced that this structure of rotten wood would be safe for us to cross and for a while we were standing there negotiating our options. A few days ago we were almost stepping on a snake, now another delicate little challenge was standing in our way. My guide insisted that he would go first manuevering safely and carefully across on the wobbling passage soon followed by me and my heavy backpack holding tight and firm on to the cable handrails moving across as light as possible. We made it
The next hour we moved up the narrow valley on the left side of the river on a good laid out trail before crossing to the right hand side again on a much better suspension bridge than the previous bringing us up to a few simple wooden houses at Jaubari ( 9 am ). In Jaubari we had a quick snackbreak overlooking a nice waterfall coming down the vertical mountain side on the other side of to the valley.
According to the Lonely Planet guidebook " Trekking In the Nepal Himalaya, 2009 Edition " we should have been walking high above the river, up there near the waterfall somewhere, on a completely different trail than the one we were at right now, but in Jaubari we were told that the high route trail was not a safe or doable option any longer. A "new" and less dangerous/damaged trail following the right hand edge of Gunsa Khola was now the offical way to go and we really had no other choice but to follow local advice.
The new trail proved to be fairly challenging and had some narrow, edgy and a bit tricky places which we had
to manuever across. Walking on this bumpy trail for about an hour we eventually reached another suspension bridge ( 10 am ) which took us to the left side of the river again and from here the trail suddenly started to climb steeply up along the narrow gorge taking us slowly into sunshine territory and finally to the grassy hillside of Amjilosa 2498 m. ( 11.00 am. ) The climb from the river and up here was really hard work and took us almost 1 hour !
Amjilosa is a small Tibetan settlement with a few houses nestled on a steep slope high above the Ghunsa Khola. After a very demanding walk up here we could not have asked for a better or more convenient place to have lunch this day. A plate of fingerchips, a Coca Cola 250 Npr and a Snickers 80 Npr in beautiful warm sunshine while overlooking the narrow green Ghunsa Khola valley felt like heaven on earth.
From my cosy and comfortable position on the lawn outside the teahouse I could see a huge scar on the hillside ahead of me created from massive landslide which semed to have smashed everything on its
way down the hill. When I heard that our trail was passing through this, by the look of it, sketchy area I wondered how that could be possible :-)
The rest and refill at Amjilosa did wonders to my legs and fluid balance and at 12 pm we were ready to hit the trail again fresh on new energy and optimism. The landslide-ridden section was easier to cross than what I had anticipated and the rest of the 3 hour walk to Gyabla I would best characterize as a Up-and-Down-Up-and-Down-Up-and-Down walk, until we spotted some prayer flags and walked into some open land at Gyabla 2730 m. ( 3.05 pm ). Our teahouse was located at the far end of a nicely laid out stone path which cut through the village area and when we arrived a german trekking group had already established themselves on the premises. With the few guestrooms already occupied I was given a bed in the family's living room downstairs together with porters, guides and everyone else.
Gyabla is also known as the village of Red Panda and a big poster outside the guesthouses reminded us that this beautiful creature should be treated with
peace and highest respect.
If you are extremely lucky there is a tiny chance you may spot this shy and elusive mammal in this particular area. The panda population in world is believed to be only an estimated 10.000-20.000 and Nepal is one of the few places where this animal can be found in the wild . The nepalese word for red panda is " nigalya poonya " which means 'eater of bamboo '. Due to its habitat loss and poaching the number of pandas in the wild continue to decline and initiatives has been set up in the Kangchenjunga area to protect the panda and its fragile environment. Day 6 : Gyabla 2730 m. - Ghunsa 3410 m. 4h45m
I could barely breath ! If there had been a smoke alarm in this house it would have gone off with a bang. I had hardly slept all night. My eyes were sore, my nose was runny and my alveolis were screaming for fresh clean air. When the first sign of light was starting to touch the ground outside I just could not stay inside this poorly ventilated smoky environment any longer and had no choice
but to surrender. Once I managed to crawl myself out of my sleeping bag and stepped outside of the teahouse my lungs were literally embracing the pure cold mountain air.
Now I understand better why indoor air pollution is a major environmental health problem in Nepal causing a high number of deaths and severe health diseases every year. Most households in the country seem to rely on cheap wood , crop residue and dung cakes to meet their energy demands and when used in poorly ventilated kitchen and houses this contributes to dangerous indoor pollution and consequently a significant number of health related issues among people.
Frost was still covering the ground but sunlight was slowly and gradually starting to creep down from the upper mountainslopes and I imagined it would not take long until the valley got nice and warm again like yesterday.
The german group along with its team of guides and porters had already left 5 minutes ago when when we waved goodbye to Gyabla at 7.45 am. The trail dropped immediately down to Ghunsa Khola and before reaching the river we had already passed the slow moving Germans.
The trail continued alongside
the river passing several landslides as we gradually made our way upstream until the valley suddenly opened up and we reached the first building since Gyabla at 10 am which had " 3080 m. " painted on the wall. This marked the begining of Phole, a scattered village inhabited by tibetan refugees who settled here after the chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959.
Surrounded by prayer flags, yaks and beautiful warm sunshine we decided to sit down for lunch at the friendly Kangchenjunga Folay Hotel. A dal baht 450 Npr and a Coca Cola 300 Npr. From my position on the bench outside I could see the Tangbharma Danda Ridge going up to Selele and looking north Nango Paungsa 5140 m. was towering above the pastures of Phole.
Compared to some of the other walking we had done so far on the Kangchenjunga trek the last bit of steps from Phole and up to Ghunsa was a comfortable stroll. Within one hour we reached the suspension bridge which took us across into Ghunsa 3410 m., the largest sherpa village on the north side of Kangchenjunga. We decided to check in at the friendly Yak Hotel & Lodge at
the entrance of the village. This is also one of the first buildings in Ghunsa to receive sunlight in the morning !
Ghunsa is a village rich on tibetan and buddhist culture and is the highest permanent settlement on this side of Kangchenjunga with a population of around 250 people. It has a good selection of lodges, a school, a health clinic and a small hydro station providing electricity to its inhabitants. Day 7 : Rest day in Ghunsa
Having walked for six days in a row with a big heavy backpack through some bumpy and sometimes difficult terrain it felt great to have a rest day doing nothing except relaxing, wandering around in the village and taking a short acclimatization trip to a collection of prayer flags at +-4000 m. on the slopes of Nango Paungsa directly north of Ghunsa.
Acclimatization is crucial at this stage of the trip and most people who come up here on the same route as ours spend a minimum of two nights in Ghunsa to prepare and adjust themselves to the higher altitudes. Failing or ignoring to do so can have severe consequences. Day 8 :
Ghunsa 3410 m. - Khambachen 4150 m. 3h35m
Today was one of those days I really had been looking forward to. For the first time on this exciting trekking adventure we would get a close up view of some of the finest and most spectacular mountains on the whole trek and for me the formidable Kumbhakarna would be one of the definite highlights of the day.
As we knew were coming back to Ghunsa in only a few days time I decided to leave all my unneccessary stuff at the lodge and take only the most essential things with for the walk up to Kambachen, Lhonak and Kangchenjunga Basecamp. Learning from past experiences travelling light at higher altitudes makes the effort a lot more manageable and doable physically. Avoiding unneccessary stress on the body is an important factor in reducing the risk of getting altitude sickness as atmospheric pressure drops the higher you go up.
After stocking up on chocolate bars and different flavours of biscuits we left Yak Hotel & Lodge in Ghunsa at 7.25 am. Despite a cold morning I was warmed up by my own excitement of what was head of me further up
the valley this morning.
The first two hours of walking through open pine forest alongside a fairly quiet Ghunsa Khola was pretty easy by Kangchenjunga standards and by the time we reached a wooden bridge taking us to the left side of the river we were accompanied by some beautiful sunshine as well lifting our spirits even more.
After crossing the bridge the trail started to climb. As we were approaching some of the more steep exposed landslide sections, the first close view of Kumbhakarna 7711. suddenly appeared on the skyline ( literally ) to the right ahead of us, standing there with its typical head-and shoulders look-alike shape. The mountain looked awesome !
In native Limbu language Kumbhakarna is called Phoktanglungma - " Phoktang" meaning shoulder and "Lungma" meaning mountain. To most people the mountain is probably best known as Jannu. Getting to the summit is apparently very difficult due to its complex structure and early expedtions labelled it as "Mystery Peak" 'and "Peak of Terror". It is the 32nd highest mountain in the world and the 15th highest mountain in Nepal !
Thrilled and excited by the captivating mountain views emerging I really had
to change my focus once we entered the most exposed part of todays walk taking us up on a narrow trail which looked very prone and vulnerable to rockfall. As always when I am coming through suspectible areas like this I try to complete the sections as quickly as possible not spending any unneccessary seconds and thereby minimizing my exposure.
Once we reached safer ground the short walk in to Kambachen 4145 m. was easy and we arrived there at 11.10 am.
Kambachen is a small settlement of 10-15 stone and wooden houses located at the confluence Nupchu Khola and Ghunsa Khola. People from Ghunsa live here during the summer and autumn to watch their yak and earn some money from the few tourists who visit this place in the trekking season.
From the meadows of Kambachen there are some excellent views of Kumbakharna 7711 m. , Pholesobi Thongje 6652 m. and Ghabur 6305 m. in the southeast and the Sharpu peaks in the northeast.
There were already quite a few tourists in Kambachen this day most of them doing camping-style-trekking. Among them a group of people from the WWF doing reasearch in the area.
The basic Kangchenjunga Guesthouse with its 3 rooms ( 5-6 beds) was the only teahouse option in the area and I was lucky to get one of them. According to the manager this teahouse is only open between Sept-Oct-Nov and April-May each year. I was surprised to see that this place even had their own menu with a variety of drinks and dishes on offer. After having tried and tasted some of their food this was easily this the best kitchen on the whole Kangchenjunga trek ! Pizza can be made on special request :-) Day 9 : Kambachen 4145 - Lhonak 4792 m. - Pang Pema 5140 - Kambachen 4145 10h20m
To optimize acclimatization it can be a wise idea to spend one extra night in Kambachen before proceeding further up and if I had more time available I think I seriously would have considered that option. It will certainly increase your chances of having a relatively safer and comfortable stay in Lhonak and Pang Pema.
I woke up to another day of beautiful and clear weather and with perfect conditions like this we would try to make the most out of this excellent opportunity to
walk as far as Pang Pema and return to either Lhonak or Kambachen depending on how much time and energy we would have left.
After a breakfast of tibetan bread and tomato soup we left Kambachen at 6.50 am.
The walk up to Lhonak was not very difficult but it nevertheless had its share of landslide ridden slopes which required careful attention and some delicate footing. A waterfall before Ramdang had created an obstacle of snow and ice which was a bit tricky to negotiate and it took us some time to find a healthy way of getting across.
As we approached Lhonak the massive Kambachen Peak 7903 m. emerged up on the right and ahead of us we could see the guardien angel rock formation overlooking the Kanchenjunga Glacier and a line up of impressive snowy peaks with Pathibahara Khas 7140 m. ( Pyramid Peak ) looking particularly photogenic from my position.
At 9.55 am we arrived at the grassed sandy flat place of Lhonak 4792 m. This place is home to a few small stonehouses spread out on an open field with some brilliant distant views of Kirant Chuli 7365 m. and Nepal Peak
7168 m. Nights are known to be very windy and cold up here !
With weather still at its best and not even a single cloud around we decided to sit down for a quick lunch break and then continue on towards Pang Pema. Perfect clear conditons like we had this day is not always a guarantee up here and I did not want to risk this golden opportunity to get uninterupted views of this amazing area.
The walk towards Pang Pema goes up alongside the Kanghcenjunga Glacier passing gracing yaks and very few other tourists in a formidable landscape. The trail was pretty much straightforward and easy to follow except for a few scary looking scree slopes which required good balancing skills.
After walking for nearly two hours we had some wonderful views of Kirant Chuli 7365 m. , Nepal Peak 7168, Taple Sikhar 6447 m., Gimmigela Chuli 7350, the northern tip of Kangchenjunga and Wedge Peak 6802 m. from where we were standing just a short distance from Pang Pema. Happy and satisfied with todays quest we decided that this would be our turning point this afternoon !
The return to Kambachen via Lhonak
took us 4h20min and we arrived back at the Kangchenjunga Guesthouse a little bit after 5 pm, just before it was starting to get dark outside. Instead of spending a potentially restless night up at Lhonak we would now be sleeping at a more comfortable altitude. I must admit I was very tired after walking effectively for almost 10 hours non-stop this day and if I will not reccomend this to anyone. It is definately not worth it and if I had more time I would have spent 2 nights in Kambachen acclimatizing before moving on to Lhonak better prepared and spend at least one night there before Pang Pema.
In Kambachen there was only me and one other tourist left in the village this afternoon. Day 10 : Kambachen 4145 m. via Ghunsa 3410 m. - Selele 4130 m. 7h10m
Yesterdays long and energy draining walk up and down the Kangchenjunga glacier valley was probably the main reason why I did not have a very good nights sleep inside the cold stone building in Kambachen, but I nevertheless felt surprisingly well once was I got of my warm sleeping bag ready to take on another
beautiful day of trekking. Today we would retrace our steps back to Ghunsa and then make a hard climb up to Selele on a trail which connects Kangchenjunga North and Kangchenjunga South.
Oat porridge is always a welcoming break from the never ending noodles and the excellent kitchen staff at the Kangchenjunga Guesthouse provided me with a big tasteful bowl more than enough to keep me going all the way down to Ghunsa this morning.
We left Kambachen at 6.50 am. My only slight worry on my descent to Ghunsa was coming down those steep landslide ridden slopes which looks quite suspect from above and require a good sense of care and concentration to get across. A wrong step here can be fatal.
We managed to get down the "bad" sections in one piece and the remaining walk was easy and comfortable. A few other trekking groups were coming in the opposite direction but other than that we were only accompanied by some grazing yaks and a quiet pine forest.
The sun had just reached the outer rim of the village when we arrived back at the Yak Hotel & Lodge in Ghunsa at 9.10 am.
Again we were welcomed by the friendly owner and his family who were already outside doing their daily routines and business.
Since there were no other facilities between Ghunsa and our next camp at Selele we decided to take our lunchbreak at the lodge and continue after that. When my fingerchips were served I was instantly joined by the two family baby goats who were eager to get a taste or two from my plate and soon I was surrounded by a handful of hungry chickens as well hopeful that they would get their share of the goodies :-) It would not surprise me if the family yak came lurking around the corner soon too . . :-)
My backpack definately felt heavier after I had added my storage things at the lodge and for a while I was regretting having bought those Christmas presents in Kathmandu fuelling my bag with all that extra weight. The walk up to Selele would definately be a strenous affair !
We left Ghunsa at 10.25 am. Coming out of the village a moderate climb alongside the water canal which provide electricity to Ghunsa took us up to an open field
with some nice open views back towards the Nango La and Nango Paungsa. A yak was standing all by himself in the middle of this open area as we walked across and I saw the opportunity to get some really good pictures of it in these beautiful surroundings. As I was getting ready to press the button the big shaggy animal suddenly turned his face and attention towards me seemingly annoyed and irritated by my attitude and presence. Looking increasingly uncomfortable he started to scratch his foot to the ground, making furious grunting sounds and presenting a body language similar to that of a jumbo-jet standing at the start of a runway before take-off ready to fire on all engines. When the yak all of a sudden started making furious steps towards us we had no other choice but to run like hell and just hope for the best. With no place to hide or cover my guide and I ran desperately towards the edge of the forest and counted ourselves very lucky to escape from the whole situation. Having walked hundreds and hundreds of miles in Nepal over the last few years, passing hundreds of yaks along the way
this is definately the closest I have been to a yak attack.
With heartbeats still flying high we needed to calm down a bit before moving on and a 5 minute break in the safety of the forest was necessary to shake off the worst fear from our close encounter.
The pine-and rhododendron forest we were sitting in marked the beginning of a fairly long and quite strenous climb up to the Tangbharma Danda Ridge, but after about 1 hour of hard work we eventually emerged at a nice open viewpoint with birds eye views of Nango La, Nango Paungsa and the Ghunsa Valley almost as far as Kambachen. Some porters were sitting around relaxing in the nice warm sunshine listening to the sound of nepali music coming from their pocket radios and were probably just as happy as us that the hardest part of the walk from Ghunsa to Selele now was behind them.
When we proceeded we found ourselves walking in open terrain on the western side of the Tangbharma Danda Ridge. Down to our right we had some superb views of Phole village and Ghunsa Khola and far ahead among some snowy peaks we
could sense that the Mirgin La Pass was located somewhere.
About 1hour20 minutes after leaving the tones of nepali music at the viewpoint we reached a ridge with a collection of prayer flags believed to be Sele La Pass 4290 m. From this point we had some superb views towards our camp at Selele and the slopes going up to Mirgin La.
The final walk to our campsite this day took us only 40 minutes and we arrived at Sele 4130 m. at 2 pm.
Selele is located about halfway between Ghunsa and Tseram which makes it a very convenient stopping place on the route between Kangchenjunga North and South. There are 3-4 small and very basic stonehouses on the site and there is plenty of space to put up a tent. In this time of the season Selele is staffed between September until late November. The kitchen was located inside the the "main" building serving dal baht , noodles and fingerchips ( on request ). A bottle of Coca Cola was 350 Npr. There were other soft and hard drinks for sale as well but only a very limited selection.
This afternoon there was only
me and one other person from France staying as teahouse guests at Selele in addition to a couple sleeping in tent. When the sun left the area at 4 pm the temperature dropped significantly and the best place to be was inside the kitchen area alongside all the porters, guides and staff congregated around the fireplace. After a big load of dal baht I escaped into the dark empty neighbouring stone hut, jumped into my sleeping bag hoping to get some quality sleep on the hardest and most uneven sleeping-surface so far on this trek. Day 11 : Sele 4130 m. - Tseram 3138 m. via Mirgin La and Sinelapche La 5h55m
A mouse was constantly crawling around in my room throughout the entire night using my sleeping bag as part of his path keeping me awake for much of the time. Luckily it never ventured inside my warmly lined property, but if it had I definately would have kicked it out the door
The air was cold and the moon was still visible on the sky when I stepped out of my little stone hut leaving my annoying little creature behind in the dark room greeting
and applauding another wonderful clear day in the nepali mountains.
After a quick breakfast of noodle soup and some crispbread I had brought from back home we were the first people to leave the grassy field of Selele at 6.45 am.
The trail was fairly obvious and climbed quite moderately in a rocky-grassy terrain. About one hour into the walk the sun eventually joined us on the slopes adding some wonderful extra comfort and looking to our left the magnificient peaks of Nyukla Lachun 6012 m., Pholesobi Thongje 6645 m. and Kumbakharna 7710 m. was gradually emerging in an epic line-up.
Views only got better and better as we approached the fluttering prayer flags on the Mirgin La Pass making this stage one of the definite highlights on the entire Kangchenjunga trek. At 8.15 am we finally reached Mirgin La 4660 m. With the brilliant views all around us, a break here was absolutely mandatory.
Looking south-east we could see the trail ahead of us moving as a strip along the slopes of Phokte Danda and after spending some time taking pictures and admiring the white majestic Kumbakharna and its neighbouring peaks we were ready to
We proceeded very slowly taking our time to enjoy the walk and scenery getting some fine distant view of Chamlang 7352 m., Makalu 8405 m. and Chomolonzo 7540 in the west along the way.
At 9.50 am we reached another unnamed pass with cairns and prayer flags running into a group of british trekkers coming in the opposite direction. Again views were superb and after taking a short break and sharing the latest trail news my guide and I continued our walk descending a bit initally before making a moderate climb towards our last pass this morning. In less than 1 hour, walking at slow pace, we reached Sinelapche La 4663 m. at 10.45 am.
Standing on the pass we had some amazing views ahead of us and this time the cracking line-up of Kangchenjunga 8586 m, Talung 7349 m., Kabru I-II-III & IV and the beautiful Rathong 6682 m. presented themselves in the best possible way like massive formidable mountains standing there like giants.
Looking south we could see down towards the Simbuwa Khola Valley where we would be walking tomorrow and a piece of the huge landslide ridden slope near Lasiya Bhanjyang where
we would be heading towards in two days from now.
Still stunned by the overwhelming views we started our long and difficult descent towards Tseram which was literally a 1000 metre drop down to the valley floor. Steep and a bit awkward in places with a pretty heavy backpack tied to my shoulders I had to move down with a little bit of care. I wondered how they felt those heavy loaded porters coming up towards us combating the nearly vertical terrain with all that extra weight attached to their bodies. I have heard that a porters salary can be as low as 1000 rupees pr.day and with one meal of dal baht costing between 300-400 rupees in the higher sections of this trek there simply is no more money left in their pockets at the end of the day. These people deserve much much better !!!
About halfway down to Tseram we reached Chachung Lake a, small tarn with some nice reflections of Kabru and Rathong shimmering in the water. Looked like a nice place to camp.
The remaining walk down to Tseram was as steep as it looked like and when we eventully arrived Yalungkhang
Guesthouse in Tseram 3875 m. at 12.40 pm my knees were probably the happiest structures in my body that todays walk had finally come to an end.
Tseram was by far the busiest campsite so far on this trek. For some reason I do not know, only the Yalungkhang Guesthouse was up and running when we were there despite there being at least one more in the area, The Bluesheep Hotel & Lodge. Since all the rooms were already occupied the guesthouse provided me with a solid and comfortable Ozark tent which also included a tempure matress.
The guesthouse had a small shop with a limited selection of groceries. A Coca Cola was 300 Npr and a dal baht close to 500 Npr. Day 12 : Tseram 3875 - via Oktang 4740 m. - Tortong 2980 m. 9h55m
Equipped with a only daypack and wearing all my warmest clothes my guide and I were the first people to start moving from the frosty campsite at Tseram 6 am in the morning. Today we would walk as far as Ramche and Oktang alongside the Yalung Glacier before returning back to Tseram and descend down the Simbuwa Khola
Valley to Tortong. Our reward would be some outstanding close range views of Rathong, Kabru and the massive south wall of the Kangchenjunga.
After getting in to the habit of walking long distances every day for the last 11 days the 6 km hike up to Ramche felt easy. Overcoming some moderate climbing at first the gradient eased pretty quickly and suddenly we had the magnificient Rathong 6682 m. standing right in front us, providing the best backdrop on the entire Kangchenjunga Trek.
Crossing some frozen streams, passing a frozen lake, taking a lot of pictures and enjoying the epic background we eventually reached the open grassland of Ramche 4620 m. at 7.55 am. A single stone building, a few tents and some other tourists sitting outside drinking their morning tea, this place felt much more quiet and less crowded than Tseram. The long Simhalila Range which separates Nepal from India makes a fine background from the campsite and in addition to Rathong the mountain of Kokthang 6147 m. is one of those peaks standing out. There is a trail apparently slicing in between the two known as the Rathong La Pass taking the potential adventurer all the
way into India.
With all the unhealthy smoke coming out of the stone building it reminded me of a steam locomotive pumping its fume into the air and it was fairly obvious they were using dry yak dung as fire for heating and cooking. I did not really feel tempted to step inside this smoky environment and found it much more appealing to sit outside instead admiring this great vast area while having my first meal this morning, a 50-50 combination of cabbage and noodles mixed in a bowl. The taste did certainly not match the scenery but with all the hard work behind the meal I was more than thankful. Not only have all the food been carried for many many difficult days to get here but even water needs to be chunked out from the nearby glacier and then melted to provide tea and coffee for thirsty and hungry travellers.
At 8.30 am it was time to move on. The walking was easy and enjoyable With the trail bending left taking us gradually up alongside the Yalung Glacier. Within a short while we had the massive Kangchenjunga South wall in front of us dotted with its
five summit peaks, four of them above 8400 metres. The main peak at 8586 m. was sitting slightly to the right.
Kangchenjunga is apparently the second least climbed peak of the 14 peaks over 8,000 meters in the world and Annapurna is the only one which has been climbed less.Avalanches and inclement weather makes Kangchenjunga a very dangerous mountain to climb and up until now only an estimated 250 people have summited the third highest mountain in the world.
We reached the windy point of Oktang 4740 m. at 9.30 am. A collection of prayer flags, coins, photos and other items attached to a cairn/chorten located on the very edge of the glacier marked the end of our trail and at the same time providing a wonderful panorama viewpoint across this huge massive area. Coming up here is definately well worth the effort !
To reach the actual basecamp requires crossing of a crevassed Yalung Glacier and Oktang is usually the highest visited point at the southern flank of Kangchenjunga.
It took us less than 3 hours to return back to Tseram via Ramche. Except from a few porters, guides and tourists coming in the opposite
direction the trails were empty, peaceful and easy to walk.
Back in Tseram at 12.20 pm we had a big portion of dal bhat before continuing 9 km downstream on the right hand side of the Simbuwa khola river crossing an endless number of landslides, walking through nice forest and seeing the beautiful Kabru fading away behind us. When we reached Tortong 2990 m. at 3.55 pm I was more than happy with todays effort and great experience. Checked in at the Sherpa Alpine Lodge which had small simple wooden rooms.
Tortong is located in a deep dark valley forest containing one or two guesthouses, a campsite and two shops with a limited selection.It is a very convenient stopping place on the route to/from the Kanghenjunga South and today the small area was pretty crowded with groups going up and down the valley. Day 13 : Tortong 2990 m. - Yamphudin 1690 m. 6h30m
The spicy breakfas noodle soup was burning badly on my lips suggesting that I had not been careful enough with my sun protection on yesterdays thrilling walk up and down from Oktang.
We left Tortong at 6.35 am descending to a
nearby bridge crossing to the left side of Simbuwa Khola and then following a wet and slippy trail through forest alongside the river. It did not take long until we skirted away from the river and started to climb fairly steeply towards Lasiya Bhanjyang, our highest point on todays walk.
As we were pushing ourselves up the trail we passed an orange plastic shelter used by a family of herders who were here in the middle of nowhere grazing their animals. Some Austrian trekkers coming down this way yesterday told me they had bought some delicous yak cheese at this place !
From the shelter we still had some altitude metres to cover before reaching our highpoint this morning and the trail gradually turned from wet to frozen giving evidence that we were moving up into higher and colder environment. In little more than one hour ( 8.35 am ) we finally reached the top of this long slog suddenly finding ourselves on the very edge of the biggest landslide ridden valley/gorge I have ever seen in my whole life. This huge massive gap was an absolutely overwhelming sight and a reminder that the Kangchenjunga area can be
a brutal place to be amidst earthquakes and monsoons.
Some porters and trekkers were balancing their way carefully in the opposite direction on the edge of this big ravaged hole and we descended to the wooden bhatti at Lasiya Bhanjyang 3415 m. which we reached at 8.50 am. Bhanjyang means 'saddle' in Nepali.
The sun had already reached the pastures of Lasijya Bhanjyang when we arrived and from our position we had some wonderful views north towards Kumbhakarna and its shoulders. Knowing that there was still some hours of walking left we decided to sit down and have some early dal bhat outside on the doorsteps in the lovely sunshine. The bhatti only had a few items like biscuits for sale.
Rehydrated and fresh on energy we left the barren Lasijya Bhanjyang at 10 am heading down the long way to Yamphudin some 2000 altitude metres below in the Amji Khola Valley.
Views across the green nepali mountain landscape were great as we started our tiring descent. Somewhere far down there I could spot some scattered houses which I believed had to be Yamphudin .
The combination of a heavy backpack and a dry steep
scree-like trail caused be a few problems going down and on more than one occasion I nearly slipped on the tricky surface. A mistake down some of the endless switchbacks could be potentially disastrous and I counted myself lucky to escape with only minor scratches when I suddenly lost my footing and dived awkwardly into some bushes.
I took us 1hour30 minutes to reach the bottom of the valley from Lasijya Bhanjyang and from there we crossed a small river and continued on to a narrow undulating trail above the Amji Khola River. Passing a few farmer buildings and crossing some bridges we eventually emerged at the Yamphudin Guesthouse in Upper Yamphudin at 12.30 pm. The guesthouse had a big campsite and seemed like a very nice place to stay with a scenic atmosphere and some good views back across the valley. Some refer to this place as Sherpa Village.
A steep descent took us down to our destination this day at Lower Yamphudin located just above the Amji Khola River, consisting of a few scattered houses, a big schoolyard and checkpoint office. We arrived to our guesthouse at 1.05 pm checking in to a nice comfortable room
with some incredibly nice owners. Apparently there are about 1000 people living in the Yamphudin area.
In Yamphudin I had my first shower since Mitlung almost 10 days ago and despite the freezing cold water it felt lovely. Our guesthouse had a small shop selling a few items. A Coca Cola cost 100 Npr. Day 14 : Yamphudin 1690 m. - Dandagoan 8h15m
Looking at my map I could see that my trekking adventure in the mighty Kangchenjunga hills was soon coming to an end and with only an estimated 2 more days of walking left this would be my last chance to get a glimpse into this fascinating area.
Fried noodles for breakfast was a welcoming break from from the never-ending noodle soups which had been chasing me for almost 2 weeks now and I saluted my guide and the kitchen staff for preparing the best breakfast so far on this trek.
We left our guesthouse in Yamphudin at 6.55 am. From the village we crossed a suspension bridge to the left following the river downstream for a while until the trail split into two. We picked the indistinct trail going up and for
a while I really thought we were heading up in the wrong direction. My guide assured me that this had to be the right wat I was not very convinced until the trail started to improve and we reached Ghatichhinne Bhanjyang at 8.10 am , a saddle sitting at 2157 m. with only a few buildings. We were welcomed by an old local man sitting outside in the sunshine who could tell us that not many tourists travel through this area.
From our position we had good views across the valley to our next pass Ekchana Bhanjyang 2070 m. To get there we had to descend 20 minutes to the few hamlets at Otham before climbing a series of switchbacks reaching Ekchana Bhanjyang at 9.20 am. This place seemed like a small settlement and had some excellent views back towards Lasiya Bhanjyang and behind there the tip of Kumbhakarna was popping up as a small white dott on the horizon as well. Ahead of us all we could see was more green hills and deep valleys but just below from where we were standing I could spot some scattered houses which I believed had to be Khebang.
took us 25 minutes of downhill walking to reach the colourful village of Khebang 1910 m.( 9.50 am). Inhabited mainly by brahmins and chetris this seemed to be the biggest village since Ghunsa with small shops ( Pepsi 150 Npr ), lovely houses, nice gardens and even a big schoolyard with kids playing soccer and people cheering. This seemed like a great place to stay overnight. My pick of the day !
I could not have asked for a better lunch spot this morning sitting outside in warm beautiful sunshine in this wonderful little village which is seldom visited by foreigners.
A little bit reluctantly we left Khebang after finishing our dal bhat at 11 am and proceeded through more lush and colourful countryside passing rice terraces and charming houses enjoying every single step along the way.
The trail descended gradually at first before dropping down through more terraced fields quite steeply reaching the small settlement of Dobhan at 12.50 pm located at the bottom of the valley on the banks of Kabeli Khola river. A pepsi in Dobhan was 80 Npr.
From Dobhan we crossed one of its two suspension bridges and climbed up through
more farmland on the right hand side high above the river.
At 3.10 pm we reached the busy village of Khanidingbe which has a gravel road connecting with the tarmac road running between Taplejung and Ilam. I guess this drive would take a couple of hours.
We were debating wether to stay here but decided to push on a little bit further and walked for 30 more minutes until we reached Harandi/Dandagaon (?) and was invited to stay in a family house located next to the gravel road. Day 15 : Harandi/Dandagaon - Medibung/Tharpu 2h
Our long and strenous walking adventure in the magnificient eastern corner of Nepal was finally coming to a conclusion. After spending more than 2 weeks in one of the most remote and remarkable trekking areas in the country we were finally connecting with the hustle and bustle of the "real" world again.
We left our guesthouse at 6.45 am. A 30 minute downhill walk through rice terraces and gardens eventually brought us down to a long suspension bridge which took us across a quiet part of Kabeli Khola river. About 25 minutes later we had to cross a second bridge
( 7.45 am ) before starting the long and tiresome walk up to Medibung/Tharpu.
It was obvious that we were approaching more civilization as we worked our way up through more gardens, farming terraces and green lush vegetation passing small family houses and shacks seeing people getting on with their everyday life.
Behind us in the green ocean of hills and steep valleys the white magnificient world of Kumbhakarna and Kangchenjunga was gradually making the most epic and award winning backdrop that could easily have made the front page of a National Geographic Magazine. Simply phenomenal !
At 8.45 am we finally reached the finishing line of our truly amazing 15 days adventure in this remarkable area and walked into the village of Medibung/Tharpu. The noise and dust from cars and motorbikes had literally put us on to a whole new different scene, breaking weeks of silence and solitude.
We decided to walk on the gravel road from Medibung/Tharpu all the way out to where it connected with the Taplejung tarmac road, to catch a local bus from there down to Ilam. This walk took us a little bit more than 1 hour. Along the way
the monumental views of Khumbhakarna and Kangchenjunga embracing the imposing nepali countryside like the most beautiful necklace was absolutely incredible, marking a perfect end to yet another amazing trek in Nepal :-) Top 8 list : 1. Best views
: Kumbhakarna seen from Kambachen and Mirgin La, the views of Kabru and Rathong from Sinelapche La, the views of Rathong on the way to Ramche, Kangchenjunga South wall from Oktang, the views up to Kangchenjunga North 2. Best lodge :
Guesthouse in Yamphudin 3. Best Food :
Kangchenjunga Guesthouse in Kambachen. Pizza on request ! 4. Biggest disappointment :
Disappointed by my own decison not spend a few more extra days on the Kangchenjunga North side 5. Biggest surprise :
The few people visiting this amazing area 6. Hardest walk :
Kambachen- Lhonak-Pang Pema-Lhonak-Kambachen in one single day. This is not reccommended ! 7. Easiest walk :
This is not an easy walk ! I would rate it as the hardest walk I have done in Nepal. With lots of steep uphill and downhill to negotiate every day and trails which are exposed and in bad condition at times this is not
a walk in the park. 8. Annapurna Circuit+Basecamp vs Everest Basecamp vs Manaslu Circuit vs Kangchenjunga
: All of them !!!
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