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Kangchenjunga Magic & Tengkoma Climb 6215m
The snow squeaks coldly beneath our crampons, the air is bitingly fresh and
the subtle colours of dawn envelope us. Himalayan ice castles crowd around and glaciers fall at our
feet. The summit is tantalisingly close but already the sensation is glorious. It is a privilege to
experience the full grandeur of the majestic Himalaya, and to be able to say "I did it!".
The Kangchenjunga region offers fantastic unspoiled trekking. Only opened in 1988 to organized groups, it offers some of the best high altitude trekking and exploring in Nepal. The sight of Kangchenjunga, seen from Pangpema (the north base camp) is unforgettable, as is the north face of Jannu, a worthy destination itself. Kangchenjunga is the third highest mountain on the planet but unlike Everest and K2, the trek to its base camps has been strangely neglected.
Tengkoma peak was first climbed in 1933 and was all but forgotten until 1998 when it was reopened to climbers. In many ways Tengkoma is a peak similar to the over-popular Island Peak in the Everest region. It is a glaciated peak with steep rock approaches, but on closer inspection is a surprisingly straightforward climb. In 1999 we were only the third team to have officially ascended it.
This is a fairly demanding trek and so you should be reasonably fit, or know that you can get fit quickly. It isn't possible nor necessary to get truly trekking fit before the trek. We trek a daily itinerary that suits loaded porters, who, carrying 30kg loads cover more distance that you might think, but not so much so as to finish you. Over the course of the first week you'll be amazed at how your fitness improves.
On the climbing side, no experience is necessary, however you must be familiar with alpine environments and must understand the risks that camping and climbing above the snowline pose. Previous Nepal or Pakistan trekking experience, or long route hiking experience is desirable. If you have any doubts, please discuss with us.
You are more than welcome to join for the trek only, and while the climbers are climbing we suggest that you visit Jannu Base Camp, for stupendous views of its North Face. Alternatively near Pangpema there is a peak that is a rock scramble to 6000m for the so inclined.
We have designed the best itinerary that will fit into a 4 week holiday from home, and still enable the climb of a 6000m mountain. Being way out in east Nepal, we have chosen to fly there and back rather than add two days bus journey and three days walk to get to the airport. This distance from Kathmandu, which adds to logistics and the fact that Suketar airport is still five days walk from the heart of the mountains, unlike the Everest region's Lukla which is one and half, mean that the Kangchenjunga region is still mercifully lightly trekked. So while Everest is packed in October - 20 to 40 people a day climbing Island Peak and 20 to 30 on Mera Peak, and Annapurna's Jomsom trail groans under the weight of trekkers, while trekking at the very best time of the year we will only meet a smattering of groups.
In addition because we begin at a time that is hot in the low country, we will trek an innovative 2 day route to the main Tamur river valley with the added bonus that we get excellent mountain views along it, where normally there would be none... And this route isn't mentioned in Lonely Planet's Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya, the reason virtually no groups have thought of taking it.
Providing you have sent us your arrival details, you should be met at the airport and escorted to the hotel. Normally Joel, Kim or Jamie will met you there. Extra nights at Hotel Dynasty cost US$25 a single, $32 a double, booked thru us. (The normal rates are over $50).
Day 1 - Arrive Kathmandu 1350m
Arrive in Kathmandu. You’ll be met at the airport by one of our local staff, so look out for a Project Himalaya sign with your name on it. Normally we met you at the hotel and then introduce you to Thamel, the main tourist area of Kathmandu.
Thamel is a mass of energy and chaos with a myriad banners, signs, pumping music shops, bakeries, internet cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels and eccentrically clad backpackers. Over dinner we check your insurance details and equipment – and get to know each other over a beer.
Day 2 - Kathmandu 1350m
Today we’ll explore the sights of Kathmandu and the valley (opens in a new window) with a good local guide. We match the sightseeing itinerary to what people haven't seen before; many trekkers are already familiar with Kathmandu. In the late afternoon we can sort out any equipment that you need.
Day 3 Fly Kathmandu to Biratnagar
We take an afternoon flight to Biratnagar, the eastern regional capital. The domestic flight is by propeller-powered planes, sometimes by an old Avro, sometimes a Twin Otter. Arriving in Biratnagar, we step back a few more decades. We overnight here in a pleasant hotel, giving us the chance to discover there isn't much to the town.
Day 4 Fly to Suketar (Taplejung) then trek to Jogidanda 2059m
The half hour flight by the 16 seat twin-engined Twin Otter to Suketar drops us in the heart of the middle hills. The porters and crew, who walked in, will be waiting for our arrival. After landing we take an early lunch, while the crew sort the newly arrived gear.
In the afternoon we blow out the cobwebs with a good 3 to 4 hours walking down through terraced fields and small villages to camp in a school yard at Jogidanda. (Note that this is a fine weather flight only and infrequently there are delays. All flying is visual, and there are mountains in those clouds! An alternative is to bus up a new but very rough road to Taplejung).
Day 5 trek through small villages to Chirwa 1800m
Continuing along the trail we descend to Chhiruwa (Chirwa). Chhiruwa is a village set among huge boulders where the majority of the houses are made from bamboo. We will spend the night in a grazing field.
Day 6 trek to Sekathum 1650m
The descent we have made brings us along side of the Tamur Nadi (river) at 1360m. Here we meet the more usual trekking trail. In the low country it is hot and perhaps we can find a swimming hole. In the shaded forest it is pleasant, the ideal conditions for the spice cardamom, or as the locals call it, olanchi (elachi, elanchi). Used in Indian cuisine, especially for chicken tikka masalas and to give Kashmiri tea its distinctive flavour, it is grown everywhere here as a cash crop. Soon we cross over the Simbuwa Khola river by a suspension bridge which is used by more than just people! The Simbuwa Khola originates from Kangchenjunga's south side, and then only 3/4 of an hour later, we cross the Ghunsa Khola river originating from Kangchenjunga's north side. Quite a fluke of nature that they meet so closely. Here at the confluence of the Ghunsa Khola and the Tamur, we camp by a couple of small teahouses. The women here dress in typical tibetan/sherpa fashion with a grey Anki (front-wrap dress) and aprons front and back tied with a single silver clasp, a sign of marriage. The rear scarf is to keep the kidneys warm. The main sherpa village of Sekathum is 200m, or a good half hour walk above.
Day 7 trek to Amjilosa 2460m
The Ghunsa Khola valley is deep and steep-sided and the old trail up the valley had a bit of a reputation, with many steep climbs and descents. The new trail deserves one. Despite local assurances that it is flat, it is anything but, but it is an improvement as it crosses the khola many times rather than climbing unnecessarily. Our goal for today, the 3 house hamlet of Amjilosa is still where it was, high on the grassy hillside, so we end with a stiff climb.
Day 8 trek to Yangswa (Gyabla/Kyapra) 2800m
You will be pleased to know that most of yesterday's ascent isn't wasted. After traversing through mixed Himalayan Oak, Rhododendron and bamboo forest we meet the valley base, which has risen steeply. We pass more camping places while climbing on a pleasant trail and eventually come to Yangswa, a sparse sherpa settlement below the village of Gyabla.
Day 9 trek to Ghunsa 3400m
The climb continues steadily, but relatively gently to the village of Phale, where we have lunch. Phale is in two parts, the traditional winter village for the people of Ghunsa, and a Tibetan village of refugees displaced by China's invasion of Tibet. We relax and enjoy Phale before setting off for the short hours walk to Ghunsa. The trail is through beautiful, peaceful forest, mainly juniper with some hemlock and several different types of rhododendrons. Ghunsa is a picturesque Tibetan village. Prayer flags flutter from the wooden houses and there are two gompas. One of the local specialities is 'tongba', a curious alcoholic drink. A jug or large bamboo cup is filled with fermented millet seed and boiling water poured over. The flavour and alcohol seep though while you sip it with a special straw.
Day 10 short day to Rampuk Kharka 3800m
The morning is to recover from hangovers and perhaps wash, and during the afternoon we gently ascends through beautiful pine and rhododendron forests, passing many mani walls and chortens. Rampuk Kharka is at just the right altitude for acclimatizing.
Day 11 trek to Khambachen 4100m
We begin with a tricky section across conglomerate landslides but on the other side soon Jannu's astounding north face slowly revealing itself. Nestled in this truly alpine terrain is the small summer settlement of Khambachen. On a small grassy plain with a sparkling stream with mountains all around, it is a beautiful spot.
Day 12 rest day at Khambachen 4100m
Soak up the sun, explore the valleys and revel in the mountains, it is your choice for our acclimatization day here. Although it is a tough day it is possible to visit Jannu base camp.
Day 13 trek to Lhonak 4760m
Expect to feel the altitude a little today, and we have a long dangerous slide area to cross. The breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains provided added incentive for numerous rests. Our lunch stop is Ramtang, from where the incredible fluted summit of Wedge Peak first becomes visible and during the afternoon Nepal Peak, the Twins, Mera and the White Wave all come into view. The campsite at Lhonak is on a windy grassy plain that overlooks the Kangchenjunga Glaciers opposite of the Wedge Peak. The walk should take approx 5 to 6 hours.
Day 14 rest day at Lhonak 4760m
Another acclimatization day. There are plenty of options for exploring including a very unlikely gorge that actually goes, leading to a high sanctuary-type alpine valley. On my last trek there Rodney and I saw some blue sheep disappear up there and resolved to follow them. We were astounded when we broke out into grazing area above and thought to ourselves surely no other foreigners have been crazy enough to find this place. While having a drink with Doug Scott he also mentioned this tight gorge that surely no-one else had been mad enough to explore. Both of us were rather surprised!
Day 18 spare day
A day for all those just in case's.
Day 19 trek to Ghunsa
What was a long walk up requiring two days and many rests becomes a pleasant stroll now that we are used to the altitude.
Day 20 trek to Amjilosa 2460m or a forest camp nearby
With the porters lightly loaded and everyone is fit, we return to Suketar at a faster pace. We walk more steadily but the days aren't much longer since descending is much less effort than ascending.
Day 21 trek to Sakathom 1600m
After a short traverse we begin the steep descent that will take most of the day. We reach the confluence of the Tamur and Ghunsa Kholas, where we camp. Approx 4 to 5 hours trekking.
Day 22 trek to Chhiruwa (Chirwa) 1200m
Down, down and down! After being in the alpine regions for so long it amazing how much you appreciate trees. From Tapethok we take the standard trail down the valley beside the Tamur, instead of the Pathibhara variation we took on the trek in. Chhiruwa is a village set among huge boulders where the majority of the houses are made from bamboo.
Day 23 trek to Phuromba
The villages are beautiful today, pure middle hills. We camp at Phuromba school.
Day 24 trek to Suketar 2420m
Traversing in an out of minor valleys, we pass thru a succession of picturesque villages on our way to Suketar.
Day 25 fly to Biratnagar then Kathmandu
Royal Nepal's morning Twin Otter flight returns us to Biratnagar where we have an afternoon flight to Kathmandu. Again, infrequently flights are delayed.
Day 26 Kathmandu
A free day for shopping and in case any flights are delayed.
Day 27 depart
We hope (we know!) you had a fantastic trek!
For the price and trip dates please refer to Our treks.
The cost includes all airport transfers in Kathmandu, sightseeing tour of Kathmandu, all guiding and portering, all accommodation and meals while trekking, all fixed ropes, climbing ropes and associated protection needed for the climb, all group transportation including the return Taplejung flight and all local taxes, climbing permit fees, trekking permit fees and entrance fees.
Not included: international airfares, meals in Kathmandu, equipment rental, alcohol, laundry, tipping and other items of a personal nature.
Climbing equipment not included: plastic boots, crampons, ice axe, harness and locking karabiner, although we have limited gear available.
For this trek we rely on porters to carry sometimes heavy loads, and our staff work in sometimes challenging conditions but we truly care about them. We ensure that all porters going above the tree line are given wool sox, spare shoes (usually given at the beginning of the trip), wool gloves, wool hat, jacket and pant set, sunglasses, have adequate shelter and all have access to our medical knowledge and supplies. Jamie was a representative of the International Porters Protection Group (IPPG) and runs this trek according to the letter and spirit of their guidelines. Sure, this costs a little more, but my - our - conscience is clear. We care. More (opens in a new window)...
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