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Kangchenjunga - The Third Highest Mountain in the World

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Can a mountain claim to be the first, second and third highest mountain? You would be surprised that Kangchenjunga, one of the eastern-most peaks of the Great Himalayan Range, sharing the territories with Nepal and Sikkim in India, qualifies for this unique claim. 
It is the highest peak in India, the second highest peak in Nepal (after Mt. Everest) and the third highest peak in the world (after Mt. Everest and Mt. K2).
Like Mt. Everest, Kangchenjunga too, has great religious significance for the natives. In her article ‘High on Kangchenjunga’ Persis Anklesaria states, “It (Kangchenjunga) is to Sikkim what Everest is to Nepal”, but more so, since mountaineers never set foot on the very top, respecting this sacred summit by leaving it untrodden.
It is no wonder travellers, adventures, mountaineers, hikers and climbers of all levels pack their bags, activate their PeakVisor Apps, and start a journey of wonderful exploration.
The Best Time to Visit Kangchenjunga
The best season for climbing Kangchenjunga is from March to June.

Kangchenjunga Fact File

Continent:  Asia
Country:  India / Nepal
Province/State:  Sikkim/Eastern Nepal
Location:  In India, it lies 74 kilometers (46 miles) north-northwest of Darjeeling in Sikkim. In Nepal it lies southwest of Taplejung, and north of Tseram, Miring La and Pang Pema. 

Latitude:  274209; Longitude:  880925

Height:  8586 meters (28,169 feet)
Range:  Eastern Himalayan Range
Prominence:  Highest mountain peak in India, second highest in Nepal and third highest in the world. 

Recommended Travel Apps

To make the most of your journey, we recommend installing the Routes.Tips App, as well as the PeakVisor App which greatly helps in explaining the names and heights of peaks and mountains around you.

Other Nature Info

The Kangchenjunga National Park, encompassing the mountain, covers an area of 22,000 square kilometers (8,494 square miles) of which 65% is covered by rocks and ice and the rest by forest. 

The park extends almost 14,000 square kilometers (5,406 square miles) into India, 3,700 square kilometers (1,429 square miles) into Nepal and 4,600 square kilometers (1,776 square miles) into Bhutan. 
The climate varies from tropical to cold alpine, making it one of the most important ecological sites hosting over 1500 species of exotic fauna and flora. Little wonder Eastern Himalayas is the World Wildlife Fund’s ‘Global 200’ most important eco-systems on earth.

The Origin of Kangchenjunga

  • The word ‘Kangchenjunga’ in of Tibetan origin and means, ‘Five Treasuries of the Great Snow,’ in reference to the 5 over 8,000-meter (26,247-feet) major peaks surrounding it. 
  • The north peak lies in Sikkim, India, while the center, main and south peaks are located in Taplejung, Nepal. The great ridges running from east to west and north to south form an enormous ‘X’. 
  • The east ridge in Sikkim has one of the most visually appealing mountains in the world called Siniolchu. The west ridge holds Jannu, officially renamed as Kumbhakarna. 
  • On the south ridge is Kabru and on the north ridge are the two peaks called The Twins and Tent Peak that extend up to the Tibetan border.

Kangchenjunga Geology and Formation

The Great Himalayan Range, along with Kangchenjunga and other peaks, rose to its present height, when the Indian plate collided with the Eurasian plate at the present-day Tibet plateau at a snail’s pace of 6 inches per year, billions of years ago. To this day too, the Indian plate continues to push up the Himalayas and Kangchenjunga and other peaks at a rate of about half an inch every year. 
  • The Kangchenjunga mountain is composed of rocks dating back to Neoproterozoic (late Precambrian) and Ordovician ages.

Climbing (or Hiking) Kangchenjunga

Had it not been for the daredevilry and spirit of adventure of the fearless mountaineers, Kangchenjunga, nay all the high mountain peaks, would have remained unconquered and unexplored. That Kangchenjunga is most challenging to climb is evident from the fact that it took 50 years to conquer, even after the conquest of Mt. Everest in 1953. 
  • It was only in 1955, that Charles Evans led a British expedition to the summit under the aegis of the Royal Geographical Society and London’s Alpine Club. 
  • The first woman to climb Kangchenjunga was the Briton Ginette Harrison, who performed this feat in 1998. Unfortunately, she died in an avalanche in Nepal a year later. 

How to Climb / Hike Kangchenjunga 

That Kangchenjunga is more challenging and deadlier than Mt. Everest is a fact known to all. Many attempts to climb have resulted in deaths in this avalanche prone area that is hazardous and has no direct route to the summit. The death rate on this mountain has been posted at 22% since 1990. 
Despite this, Kangchenjunga attracts serious climbers and trekkers to test their endurance and skills. If you are one of them then start with meticulous preparations. The more prepared you are, more are the chances of success.
What all you can encounter while climbing this gruesome mountain from its southwest face is amazingly captured in this video of the French-Swiss expedition, 2011.

Hiking Trails on Kangchenjunga

For mountaineers the climbing routes are:

● Southwest and Northwest routes: These are from Nepal side and are the safest, but not the easiest, routes. 
● Northeast route from Nepal: This is not as popular as the southwest and the northwest routes. 
● Northeast route from Sikkim, India: A difficult route that has recorded only 3 successful attempts till date. It has been banned since 2000.  

For trekkers, trekking options are:
Kangchenjunga circuit trek:  This 23-day trek takes you to North and South base camps.
Kangchenjunga north trek:  This is an 18-day trek.
Kangchenjunga south trek:  This is a 16-day trek.

Climbing or Hiking Kangchenjunga – Our Top Tips

  • The best trekking months are from September to November and from March to May.
  • Two separate permits are needed per person for trekking – Special Restricted Area entry permit to be renewed weekly and Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Project entry permit. 
  • Nepalese Government insists on a minimum of two trekkers accompanied by an authorized company guide. No TIMS (Trekkers’ Information Management Systems) card is required. 
  • It is important to buy travel insurance to cover medical expenses and emergency evacuation. 
  • The essential items for the trek include Kangchenjunga guidebook, map, heavy duty sleeping bag that can endure minus 20°C, down jacket, trekking poles, antiglare sunglasses, headlamp with spare batteries, first aid kit and other essentials.
In Conclusion
Kangchenjunga is a challenge that discourages even seasoned climbers, compelling them to choose easier options. Like someone very rightly said, “It is one of those mountains which shall be climbed not for fame or glory, but for one self.”  

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