Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Elevation (feet):
Elevation (meters):
Sikkim-Eastern Nepal Himalaya
Major Mountain Expedition
Best months for climbing:
April, May
Year first climbed:
Convenient Center:
Hille, Nepal via Dharan Bazar
Nearest major airport:
Kathmandu, Nepal Description
Kangchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world. From 1838 until 1849, it was believed to be the highest. It is an enormous mountain mass, and many satellite peaks rise from its narrow icy ridges. It is located on the border of Nepal and Sikkim, just 46 miles northwest of Darjeeling. It is the most easterly of the great 8,000 meter peaks of the Himalaya. Though not successfully climbed until 1955, it was first attempted in 1905, but four members of that international party were killed in an avalanche. The threat of avalanches and mudslides is omnipresent in the area, which receives very heavy precipitation throughout much of the year. As inspiring as Kangchenjunga's beauty is that at least the first three parties to ascend the mountain never attempted the final few feet to the summit out of voluntary respect for the Sikkimese, who consider the summit sacred. The successful British expedition of 1955 set the standard by stopping a few feet short of the actual summit, in honor of the local religion. The next two ascents were teams led respectively by India's Colonel N. Kumar in 1977, and by British climber Doug Scott in 1979. These parties also honored the tradition. Various origins of the name Kangchenjunga have been debated, but it is often translated as Five Treasuries of the Great Snow, a reference to the five high peaks that rise from the surrounding glaciers.
Climbing history
Kangchenjunga summit from Sikkim c. 1857

Kangchenjunga from Chouda Pheri.

Kangchenjunga from Goechala La, 4,940 m.

Samiti lake near the Kangchenjunga base camp, Sikkim

[edit] Early reconnaissance and attempts
1854 Joseph Dalton Hooker the famous British botanist, explored parts of the eastern Nepal, hitherto completely unknown to Europeans. He made repeated tours of the river valleys into the foothills leading up to Kangchenjunga and the passes into Tibet which was his ultimate objective.
1899 The British explorer Douglas Freshfield and the Italian photographer Vittorio Sella are the first to circumnavigate the mountain. They are the first mountaineers to view the great Western Face of Kangchenjunga.
1905 The Kangchenjunga expedition (1905) was the first attempt, headed by Aleister Crowley. Unsuccessful, it reached 6,500 metres on the southwest side of the mountain. Climber Alexis Pache and three local porters were killed in an avalanche.[3]
1929 A German expedition led by Paul Bauer reaches 7,400 m (24,300 ft) on the northeast spur before being turned back by a five-day storm.
1930 An International Expedition led by George Dyhrenfurth, German Uli Wieland, Austrian Erwin Schneider and Englishman Frank Smythe (who published "The Kangchenjunga Adventure" in the same year). The attempt failed due to poor weather and snow conditions.
1931 A second German expedition, led again by Paul Bauer, attempts the northeast spur before being turned back by bad weather, illnesses and deaths. The expedition retreats after climbing only a little higher than the 1929 attempt.
1954 A reconnaissance of Kangchenjunga's southwest side is made by John Kempe (leader), J.W. Tucker, Ron Jackson, Trevor H. Braham, G.C. Lewis, and Dr. D.S. Mathews. [4] This reconnaissance led to the route used by the successful 1955 expedition.

[edit] The first ascent
In 1955, Joe Brown and George Band made the first ascent on May 25, followed by Norman Hardie and Tony Streather on May 26. The full team also included John Clegg (team doctor), Charles Evans (team leader), John Angelo Jackson, Neil Mather, and Tom Mackinnon.
The ascent proved Aleister Crowley's 1905 route (also investigated by the 1954 reconnaissance) was viable. The route starts on the Yalung Glacier to the southwest of the peak, and climbs the Yalung Face, which is 3,000 metres (10,000 ft) high. The main feature of this face is the "Great Shelf", a large sloping plateau at around 7,500 metres (24,600 ft), covered by a hanging glacier. The route is almost entirely on snow, glacier, and one icefall; the summit ridge itself can involve a small amount of travel on rock.[3]
The first ascent expedition made six camps above their base camp, two below the Shelf, two on it, and two above it. They started on April 18, and everyone was back to base camp by May 28.[3]

[edit] Further ascents
1973 Climbers Yutaka Ageta and Takeo Matsuda of the Japanese expedition, summit Kangchenjunga West (Yalung Kang) by climbing the SW Ridge.
1977 The second ascent of Kangchenjunga, by an Indian Army team led by Colonel Narinder Kumar. They complete the northeast spur, the difficult ridge that defeated the German expeditions in 1929 and 1931.
1978 A Polish team makes the first successful ascent of the south summit (Kangchenjunga II).
1983 Pierre Beghin makes the first solo ascent and without oxygen.
1986 On January 11, Krzysztof Wielicki and Jerzy Kukuczka, Polish climbers make the first winter ascent.
1991 Marija Frantor and Joze Rozman attempt the first ascent by a woman but their bodies are later found below the summit headwall. The same year, Andrej Stremfelj and Marko Prezelj complete a perfect, technically demanding, elegant alpine style climb up the south ridge of Kangchenjunga to the south summit (8,494 m).
1992 Wanda Rutkiewicz died on a summit attempt after she refused to descend in an approaching storm.
1995 Benoît Chamoux, Pierre Royer and their Sherpa guide disappeared on October 6 near the summit.
1998 Ginette Harrison becomes the first and only woman to reach the summit. Until then Kangchenjunga had been the only eight-thousander that had not seen a female ascent.
2005 Alan Hinkes, a British climber, is the only person able to summit Kangchenjunga in its 50th anniversary of first ascent.