Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek
Our Kanchenjunga base camp trek is an ambitious and very enjoyable 26 day holiday, with 21 days of actual trekking around 220 kms in an area which is far less visited by tourists, and includes a wide range of wonderful scenery from lush, tropical jungle through to rhododendron, chestnut and oak forests and high onto the glaciated base camp of the third highest peak in the world.
This trek visits both base camps on the north and south side of the mountain and is generally run for small groups of people looking for custom dates; our expertise is in providing experienced advice and preparation for the trek and a high level of professionalism and care on trek with excellent staff.
History of the trekking region
Spectacular views of the Kanchenjunga range from the summer retreat town of Darjeeling (in India) first raised the curiosity of early British explorers. Then, due to a porous border, easy access to eastern Nepal from bordering Sikkim made adventures to the area possible as early as 1848 (whilst the rest of Nepal was closed to foreign visitors for another 100 years until the 1950s).
For many years Kanchenjunga was considered the highest mountain in the world, until 1856, when Peak XV, (Mount Everest) was discovered. Kanchenjunga literally translates to "Five Great Treasures in the Snow".
There are five peaks within the Kanchenjunga range, and local people believe that each of the five peaks is a repository of different treasures: gold, silver, gems, grains and sacred texts. Kanchenjunga is a sacred mountain, therefore the first summiteers stopped a few meters short of the summit in 1955.
This trek explores Nepal’s border with Sikkim and Tibet. The lower region has a mixed community following Hinduism dominated by ethnic group Limbu and the Rai people who follow animist beliefs. The upper region has a distinct community of Bhote and Sherpa people who follow Buddhism.
When to go?
You can trek the Kanchenjunga Circuit in April, May and early June, and during October and November to early December. During these trekking seasons expect generally stable weather, clear skies, warm days and cool nights. The Kanchenjunga trek is quiet, you will meet other people on the trails and in the lodges but far fewer than in the central region.
- Arrival in Kathmandu then fly to Biratnagae & drive to trek start (days 1-3)
- Trek up to Kangchenjunga base camps (days 4-24)
- Travel back to Kathmandu, spare day and depart (days 25 & 26)
This walk around Mount Kanchenjunga visits both the North and South Base Camps. The route begins by approaching the North side of Kanchenjunga where you will have great views of Tent Peak, Nepal Peak, Cross Peak and then at Base Camp the bulk of Kanchenjunga itself becomes visible.
From Pangpema the trek returns to Ghunsa and then crosses Mirgin La pass over to the south side of Kanchenjunga. Once over this pass, you follow the route through Ramche and Oktang where there are impressive views of the South West face of Kanchenjunga.
The video shows the route on google map visiting north base camp first and then to the south side.
Have a look at these two videos of some trekkers who first went to the North base camp and then the South base camp. They both show the level of trekking, the habitats passed through and the trails very well.
Trekking map of the route and altitude profile
Flora and Fauna
The trek starts from the subtropical region of Taplejung, through beautiful temperate forests of maple, chestnut and birch trees. Even though farming is less productive in the hilly regions, you can still see terraced fields around these lower regions.
Around Chitre you enter the upper temperate climatic vegetation of rhododendron, pine, firs, and orchids. Above here and across the Sele La (pass) towards Ghunsa begins the more subalpine and alpine climatic zone with shallow and dwarf shrubs and open meadows. Base Camp at 5143m is at the snowline with a rocky and icy landscape.
Snow Leopard, Himalayan Asian black bear and red pandas have been seen in this region although they are obviously shy and difficult to spot. Blood pheasant and the Chestnut-breasted partridge are common bird species.
Terrain and fitness and conditions
The Kanchenjunga trek is long and quite strenuous, requiring a good level of fitness needed for several weeks of sustained walking with a backpack. The terrain is often rough with rocky paths and long steep hills and there are a few areas around the base camps where it might be necessary to use ropes to aid moving across rocky terrain. These are for safety, commonly called 'confidence ropes' for assisting people over sections or steps where a fall might be possible.
It is a remote area with little access to medical help, so being fit and having good boots and being used to hiking many days carrying a pack is an important requirement. Training at home with pack on by going on long walks is a good start, plus some leg exercise in the gym and swimming for cardiovascular fitness. Since this is a long trek, do get a health and dental check before going.
The trek is on paths and generally they are in good condition and easy to walk on, however this trek is not as well trodden as other parts of Nepal so they can be rocky and in bad condition. Many paths follow the rivers and valleys and then ascend abruptly over ridges and shoulders, which means steep sets of rough steps and zig zags up hill. Depending on the time of year, you can expect some ice and snow on the ground too, or perhaps leeches and even snakes in the forest. However there are no particular climbing skills needed for the trek; once you reach the base camps they will be rocky and icy so a pair of mini spikes is very useful, and generally using a confidence rope means just holding on with your hands and moving across a difficult section.
When approaching Base Camp, the exposure to altitude makes the walking harder and the likelihood of altitude sickness higher, so it's necessary to allow rest days and walk slowly. The trek will have a wide range of temperatures depending on the altitude and the time of day. In the mountains between 1,000m and 3,500m, the nights will be cool, normally around 5ºc, and during the day temperatures sometimes rise to 25ºc. At higher altitudes temperatures range from about 15ºc to -20ºC at night so it will be important to have a good selection of clothing to provide layers and protection against the cold and the sun.
Accommodation is in lodges which offer western and Nepalese food and sometimes camping when our staff will cater for you. On this trek the lodges will be more rudimentary than in the Khumbu region and more likely to offer only Nepali food, which means lots of rice and dal bhat. We recommend using boiled water on the trek or using good quality water purifiers, and we do not recommend buying bottled water in plastic containers.
The itinerary is designed to allow for optimal acclimatisation to the altitude gain, and we do carry drugs like Diamox and Dexamethasone for managing high altitude sickness. Our staff are also trained in mountain first aid. The best advice is to go slowly, eat well, drink well and sleep well. There are no vaccinations needed for visiting the Kanchenjunga region.
Clothing and kit
The basic idea of the kit is to keep you warm, dry, protected from the sun, able to move efficiently on the mountains and able to be comfortable in the evenings and night. Your daypack should weigh around 8 - 10 kgs and your main duffle bag should weigh around 15kgs.
Generally speaking a good pair of trekking boots, thermal wear, fleece jacket, down jacket, light weight wind cheater, trekking trousers and shorts, long sleeved and short sleeved T-shirts, duffle bag and day sack, gloves, enough pair of socks, sunglasses, headlight, woollen beanie caps, water bottles, personal toiletries, gadgets and books.You can split your requirements into sections:
- BAGS - Duffle bag ~80L (for a porter) + Medium Daypack ~40L (carried by you)
- SHELL - Top and bottoms to keep dry from wind/rain/snow
- INSULATION - Warm layered system of fleeces, trousers, tops and gloves and hats for sun and cold
- BASE LAYER - Thin layers to wick away sweat and wear on very cold mornings or evenings
- FEET - good quality waterproof ankle high boots and camp/lodge shoes
- SLEEPING - Warm 3 to 4 season sleeping bag and a full length sleeping mat
- DRINKING - Water bottles and purifiers
- WASHING & MEDICAL - wash kit and personal first aid and items for personal hygiene
We recommend reviewing our Nepal Trekking Kit List Guide so you know what you'll need for this journey.
Description of the peaks
Mount Kanchenjunga lies on the eastern end of Nepal, near the border with Sikkim, a tiny Himalayan state in the north-east of India. Until the mid 1800s Kanchenjunga was thought to be the highest peak in the world but it is actually the third and it is a sacred peak which means mountaineers generally avoid standing on the summit itself.
The main peak is 8586 metres, but the massif has four subsidiary summits exceeding 8000 metres, including Kanchenjunga West, also known as Yalung Kang (8,505m). Around the massif and seen on the trek are around twenty peaks more than 7000 metres high,the highest being Kambachen (7,903m) and also including legendary Jannu (7,710m) and Jongsong (7,483m), Kabru (7,353m), Tent Peak (7,365m) and the Twins (7,350m).
Five major glacial systems are found in this huge cluster of peaks and of these Zumu, Talung and Rathong flow into Sikkim while to the west, the Kanchenjunga and Yalung glaciers descned into the Tamor River of Nepal.
- Perosnal advice and assistance from company director and mountain guide Gavin Bate who has been climbing in Nepal since 1992.
- Excellent local guides who we have employed for many years and who speak good English and understand visitors requirements. Indeed we don't outsource to other local companies, Adventure Alternative Nepal has been established for many years and we have all been working together for many years.
- We have a strong ethical stance on tourism and we do look after our staff and invest in their futures, and provide good salaries and good quality equipment.
- We are a fully registered operator with financial bonding tour operator insurance.
- We're a very friendly company and we spend time talking with people about their holidays and plans; most of our trips nowadays are for private itineraries and groups.
"Just a quick note to say thanks for getting my "missing bag" up the mountain for me. What initially looked like a disaster at the start of my trek turned out to be the most fantastic 3 weeks I have ever spent anywhere so far. The whole trek just blew my mind, from the culture, scenery and most of all the people, especially the Adventure Alternative sherpas & porters. I dont think I could praise enough the likes of Pasang, Jangbu & Gelgun who looked after us at times above & beyond the call of duty. Please pass on my sentiments to all of the crew out there". (Richard O'Donovan)
DAY BY DAY ITINERARY
Day 1 Arrive Kathmandu. Hotel.
Day 2 Rest day and acclimatisation to jetlag, sightseeing plus trek briefing.
Day 3 Kathmandu – Biratnagar
Flight to Biratnagar which takes around 1hour and 30 minutes.
Day 4 Biratnagar – Suketar – Mitlung (5 – 6 hours) 921m
Flight from Biratnagar to Suketar (airfield above Taplejung). It is possible to fly direct to Taplejung, however, at times flights to Biratnagar can be delayed due to bad weather. After the flight, it is quite an easy day of trekking to Mitlung along the Surke Danda ridge.
Day 5 Mitlung – Chirwa (5 hours) 1270m
Quite a challenging day beginning on rough paths high above the river. The route passes through the villages of Sinwa, Tawa and Porke and the valley narrows while passing over old landslide debris. The trail then descends across the Thiwa Khola River on a wooden bridge and follows a few more ups and downs before arriving at Chirwa. The village of Chirwa, set among huge boulders and houses made from bamboo, has a bazaar and a few shops where you can buy souvenirs.
Day 6 Chirwa – Sekathum (5 – 6 hours) 1660m
The day begins by follwing the Tamur River and climbing steeply before descending to the Simbua Khola (the river that comes from the Yalung Glacier on the south of Kanchenjunga). The trail then crosses a ridge and joins the steep and narrow Ghunsa Khola Valley and on to the Tibetan village of Sekathum, for an overnight stay. From here you will have incredible views of the high Himalayas, including Jannu.
Day 7 Sekathum – Amjilossa (5 – 6 hours) 2510m
Another day of following a steep and narrow trail, up the north bank of the Ghunsa Khola to the Tibetan village of Amjilossa.
Day 8 Amjilossa – Gybala (5 hours) 2730m
On leaving Amjilossa, there is a short ascent through oak, bamboo and rhododendron forests offering a great view of the south western side of Kanchenjunga. The route makes numerous steep climbs and short descents and passes a beautiful large waterfall before the final steep climb up to Gybala.
Day 9 Gybala – Ghunsa (4 – 5hours) 3595m
From Gybala, the trail carries on to the village of Kyapra and then climbs easily up the right bank of the river. The trail crosses a large meadow past few villages and ascends a gentle hill before descending across the river into beautiful village of Ghunsa. This Tibetan village has several lodges, gompas and shops where you can buy a few souvenirs.
Day 10 Ghunsa – Khambachen (5 – 6 hours) 4100m The route climbs gradually along the south bank of the Ghunsa Khola, through beautiful rhododendron and pine forests, passing many mani walls, colourful prayer flags and chortens along the way. The trail climbs steeply up scree slopes to reach the Tibetan settlement of Khambachen, providing wonderful views of the huge north face of Jannu.
Day 11 Rest day at Khambachen.
A day of rest and relaxation after a week of trekking. There is an optional day walk to the high ridge behind the village for impressive views of the surrounding Himalayas.
Day 12 Khambachen – Lhonak (5 hours) 4785m
From Khambachen the trail climbs up through exposed rocky fields to the village of Ramtang and then crosses North West of the Kanchenjunga Glacier and past large stone huts to the village of Lhonak. From Lhonak there are impressive views of the Himalayas, including Wedge Peak (6750m), Mera Peak (6344m), Nepal Peak (6910m) and Twins (7351m).
Day 13 Lhonak – Pangpema (Kanchenjunga north side base camp) (5 hours) 5143m
An early start for the trek the Kanchenjunga north side base camp at Pangpema (5143m), for majestic views of Tent Peak, Nepal Peak, Cross Peak, the Twins and the impressive Kanchenjunga, and returning to Lhonak for an overnight stay.
Day 14 Lhonak – Ghunsa (5 – 6 hours) 3595m
Return to Ghunsa, following back along the same path for around 5 hours.
Day 15 Ghunsa – High Camp (5 hours) 4100m
From Ghunsa, the trail climbs a steep 500m to a high camp, for an overnight stay in preparation for the trek to Mirgin La Pass.
Day 16 High Camp – Mirgin La Pass 4663m – Tseram (5 – 6 hours) 3870m
For impressive views of the Himlayas the route crosses five passes, first Tamo La (3900m), an unnamed pass (4115m), Mirgin La (4663m), Sinion La (4660m) and another unnamed pass at 4724m. From this last pass there is a steep descent of 1000m to the small settlement of Tseram, high above the Simbua Khola.
Day 17 Tseram – Ramche (5 – 6 hours) 4580m
The route passes the nose of the glacier into an ablation valley, offering magnificent scenery and views of all the peaks to the east along the India-Nepal border, such as Koktang (6147m), Rathong (6679m) and many more above 7000m. It then follows along a lake, meadow and stone houses to reach Ramche, for an overnight stay.
Day 18 Day trek to Oktang (4 - 5 hours) 4730m
Leave early in the morning and follow the ablation valley to Oktang for a view of the south face of the magnificent Kanchenjunga and the climbing route to the summit, first climbed in 1953. From Oktang, the views of the surrounding Himalayas are incredible; the whole cirque is above 7500m. After spending some time in Oktang, we trek back to Ramche to rest for the evening and stay overnight.
Day 19 Ramche – Lamite Bhanjyang (5 – 6 hours) 3310m
The trail descends steeply through rhododendron forest to Torontan, and then climbs up through mossy forest to reach the pass at Lamite Bhanjyang after around 5hours. From here, there are fantastic views of Kanchenjunga and Jannu.
Day 20 Lamite Bhanjyang – Yamphudin (5 hours) 2080m
The trek descends over 1000 metres today, beginning with a steep descent to Imja Khola, and then crosses along the Dubi Pass. From here there is a further descent for a couple of hours until reaching the village of Yamphudin.
Day 21 Rest day at Yamphudin.
Take a day’s rest and some time to explore this beautiful village, home to a mixed community of Sherpas, Gurungs, Rais and Limbus.
Day 22 Yamphudin – Ponphe (5 hours) 1900m
From Yamphudin, the trail descends steeply to the Kabeli Khola River and crosses a log bridge before reaching the village of Mamanke. From here, the trail then enters a side canyon and crosses a stream over a long suspension bridge, then climbs up steeply to Ponphe village for an overnight rest.
Day 23 Ponphe – Khunjari (5 – 6 hours) 1928m
The trail climbs high to two tea shops on the ridge above the village, and then crosses through a series of valleys and past numerous villages. The route continues down to Bhanjyang and crosses a ridge to descend steeply to the Limbu village of Khunjari, where you will spend the night.
Day 24 Khunjari – Suketar (4 – 5 hours) 2300m
The route descends to the Pha Khola and then climbs steeply through Pokhara and Shimu villages to Thenbewa. The trail continues through forest to Lali Kharka and on to a ridge, then follows a gradual descent to Suketar for an overnight stay and to prepare for the early flight to Kathmandu in the morning.
Day 25 Flight from Suketar to Biratnagar, then another flight to Kathmandu.
Day 26 Depart Kathmandu. If you leave in the morning it is possible to arrive in London the same day, or arrive home on day 27.
Kangchenjunga Base Camp Trek - £2995.00 per person
- Airport transfers
- All accommodation in lodges/tea houses and in tents on the camping days
- All meals on trek, either from the menu in the lodges or prepared by our staff at the camps
- National Park Fees and permit for Kangchenjunga area
- Sherpa guides (English speaking, trained in first aid) and porters
- Internal flight to Biratnagar
- Staff insurance
- First aid kit and group equipment
- International flight to Kathmandu
- Hotel in Kathmandu - we have a choice of options available during booking or you can book yourself
- Personal costs on trek - hot and cold drinks, hot showers, charging, wifi, snacks.
- Travel Insurance
The price is based on minimum two people, it will be more expensive for a solo traveller and there would be a discount for larger groups over six. If you would like a western guide to accompany the group then there is an additional expense, which generally occurs with large groups.
We try to make our prices competitive and good value, and we offer quality, service, security and an ethical stance on tourism in a developing country. We don’t want to be so expensive to end up running fewer trips and have our staff idle, but on the other hand we can't run cheap trips that compromise standards and promote the practise of skimming budgets which would result in the porters getting next to nothing. We also do not operate kitties because we believe it is better to offer an all-inclusive price that reassures people they have all their accommodation and food covered.
Additionally we plan treks with sufficient rest days and with achievable daily altitude increases in order to acclimatise. Reducing the number of days may make the price cheaper but the chances of successfully completing the trek also greatly reduce.
We include professional staff and a porter for each member.
We have our own licensed company in Kathmandu, Adventure Alternative Nepal and full time staff to operate all our treks, climbs and tours in Nepal.
Choose a scheduled date or contact us to set up private dates or a bespoke itinerary. The minimum deposit is £100.00 and the balance is due six weeks before travel.
- Trekking days 21 days
- Highest altitude 5388m
- Trekking grade Stenuous
- Accommodation Lodges and camping
- Best time April-June, Oct - Dec
- Region Eastern Nepal
- Local airport Biratnagar