Our itinerary is well planned with appropriate time for acclimatization to altitude and the multiple rest days can handle unscheduled delays, and there is a variety in the length of trekking
days with some half-days to/from villages, giving time to further wander around locally and enjoy.
Prior to your arrival in Kathmandu we send out an email with detailed arrival instructions including the visa on arrival procedure, meeting our staff, contact details and changing money etc.
This detailed itinerary is a work in progress...
Day 0 - early arrival
Arrive early to recover from long flights.
Day 1 - arrive Kathmandu 1350m
We meet you at the airport and introduce you to Thamel. We take your passport for the final issuing of the permits. You don't need your passport to change money, although it is always a good idea to have a photocopy of your passport with you, and your travel insurance.
This evening, we have a briefing at our delightful hotel (details in the email we send prior, however normally 6pm in the lobby or rooftop bar). Alternatively, if everyone has arrived early, we can arrange dinner (and an experience) at Boudha, below.
A stormy evening at Boudha stupa
2 - fly Bhadrapur, drive Fikkal/Ilam
In the morning the various permits are issued, which the office handles, then we take the afternoon flight to the warm but relaxed Bhadrapur and immediately begin driving to the cooler, scenic hills. It is a very long drive to Taplejung so we usually break it up, stopping sometime in the evening in Ilam or Phidim or similar. Be warned, the accommodation tonight will be simple!
3 - drive Taplejung 1820m
Is Kanchenjunga shining, dominating the horizon, on the morning drive? Soon after arriving at Taplejung, we wander through the picturesque market town. If we have arrived quite early, we might take a jeep to Chirwa and then we have a day in hand.
4 - drive Sukethum 1380m
Prior to 2020 we trekked this section however now the very much under construction highway to Tibet heads up valley to Sukethum. Thankfully we branch off when we cross the river to Sekathum as the road construction continues up the main valley heading towards Olangchung Gola and Tibet. We don't hear or see the road again as we head up the valley to Ghunsa and Pangpema.
The green middle hills - Jamie
5 - trek Amjilosa 2460m
We are now on small trails, some forest then huge grassy slopes, and with an almost 1000m gain in altitude, and it is a good workout today, especially for our first day. We are also heading into cooler, drier air
A cute bridge - Jamie
6 - trek Gyabla 2800m
Always gaining altitude, we walk alternately through thick tussock grass and the primary forest for a great days trekking... There is a good lodge in Gyabla.
Dawa drinks a tungba, the local millet beer around here - Jamie
7 - trek Phale 3240m
Although this is a necessary acclimatization stop, it is also a delightful area. The village is in two parts, Tibetans who fled Tibet in the 1960's live permanently here, whereas the separate ramshackle, abandoned-looking houses will spring to life in the winter as everyone from Ghunsa scuttles down to here and lower for the harshest part of winter. There is more sun here than in shaded Ghunsa.
8 - trek Ghunsa 3420m
The shorter trek day to the main village of the region allows time to explore or more usually relax and wash, have a good clean up and wander around the village tomorrow.
The dual bridges into Ghunsa - Jamie
9 - rest Ghunsa 3420m
We take a full day here for acclimatizing to altitude, which is mandatory, and it is a good break to wash clothes, have a shower even, and let the worked trekking legs recover. Ghunsa has some of the best trekking lodges on our route too.
The village itself sits in a steep-sided valley, so steep that the sun hits late and leaves relatively early too, the one downside to this otherwise wonderful place. Previously, families would have to send their children away to get a decent education however HDFA (Australia) and other NGOs have given substantial assistance to upgrade the school facilities, and working hand in hand with the locals, there is now a school to be proud of, enabling everyone to get a good education.
Visiting the gompa back across the bridges is another idea.
A good dal bhaat at Ghunsa - Jamie
10 - trek Kangpachen (Khambachen) 4100m
Oh, those autumn deodar colours!
Today, we weave between forest and more open country then close to Kangpachen, suddenly, we are face to face with huge real Himalayan mountains. The White House lodge in Kangpachen is one of our favourites, and features good trekking meals. (Jamie first met the owner several decades ago!)
Kangpachen sunset - Jamie
11 - Kangpachen (hike Jannu viewpoint) 4100m
The more energetic can trek up to the stunning Jannu viewpoint on this mandatory acclimatization day. This really is one of the most impressive day trips, and that sheer face of Jannu? Wow!
The Kanchenjunga region really is one of the best snow leopard sanctuaries in Nepal and over the years we have had a surprising number of encounters, and here up this side valley was my very best. On our 2001 exploratory 42 day trek, we had rearranged the itinerary slightly, and so most of the team headed down valley to recover but Wanda and myself took a tent to stay overnight up the valley. I was expecting to see skittish yaks as we had on a previous trek but instead the rock that seemed to keep moving in the distance, once I checked with binoculars, was actually a snow leopard sitting on that rock, almost invisible, initially. And it wasn't just one, there two - and their cubs!!!
We moved closer fairly stealthily, although they could definitely see us, and watched them play. After quarter of an hour or so, we started to wonder how we were going to trek across that narrow grass area to where we needed to camp. What a dilemma! Snow leopards are not known to attack humans, however, we were in an unusual situation. The animals looked surprisingly big and were with young, perhaps we would be the very first if we tried sneaking by? After some time, still enjoying the incredible scene but wondering what to do, suddenly there was a huge crack and roar, and a truly massive avalanche swept down Jannu's face. It was so huge that when it hit the bottom, the rubble-covered glacier, it seemed to just keep going. I knew the blocks of ice couldn't roll up the other side to where we were but a huge ice cloud did, coating us with a heavy dusting of snow. That scared the snow leopards, as it did us, and we wandered past, looking down on where they might be, realizing that there was another level to the grassy moraine, inaccessible to us but as footprints showed, only a couple of leaps for one of the snow leopard.
If you are a day ahead, staying an extra day here is a good idea, as there is a lot to explore around here and conditions are not too harsh.
Jannu and the bridge near Kangpachen - Jamie
12 - trek Lhonak 4760m
We gain plenty of altitude today however there is nowhere to stay between, hence spending two nights here at Lhonak and spending two nights at Kangpachen. There is one particularly loose and dangerous slope to cross, keep a lookout above using a buddy system and beware of rockfall. It is areas like this that prevent the usage of mules for load carrying, thank goodness.
We transition from the taller alpine shrubs around Kangpachen to the truly alpine today and at Lhonak there is only grass, tussock and dwarf rhododendrons. The lodges also reflect this simplicity and are much more on the basic side although the are being updated. It is going to take considerable investment to make comfortable lodges up here in this extreme environment.
Yesteryear memories; we set up tents several hundred metres from where the lodges are now and imagine our delight at sunrise to find snow leopard tracks in the snow dusting between our tents!
An icy early morning at Lhonak - Jamie
13 - Pangpema day trip, stay Lhonak 4760m
This is the big day and we take a day trip to Pangpema 5140m for stunning Kanchenjunga views. Neither sunset nor sunrise are spectacular from Pangpema, so this middle of the day visit catch the mountains in the best light. Combined with the altitude, this is a long and tough day, do bring plenty of snacks and water. Your guide will advise on whether the simple lodge at Pangpema is open, or not, for lunch.
This is also snow leopard country and it is common to see blue sheep today, the main meal of snow leopard. Blue sheep mostly don't mind your voices or presence, and if you move closer, move slowly but in full view of them but try not to get so close that you scare them. As you might find, they are more comfortable around people than snow leopards :)
The spectacular view a little above Pangpema - Jamie
14 - trek Ghunsa 3420m
Heading down for lunch at Kangpachen then onwards to Ghunsa shows how much easier it is to descend, it feels like you are moving lightly, and although we haven't spent a long time in the more barren alpine altitudes, somehow you still really appreciate the forest. This is a full day's trekking, our second full day in a row.
Back to Ghunsa and a good meal - Jamie
15 - trek Selele camp 4220m
After yesterday's longer day, this is a half day walk and a slower start works ok, too. There is an intially steep climb through the forest, then a little surprise, a pretty forest and open area followed by more steep ascent, and although the altitude is not particularly high, the trail can sometimes be icy in this shaded area. Cresting a ridge with a good snack spot, is a great birds eye view that looks down onto our trail of days 7 and 8.
The trail now eases off, still ascending, but less steeply now as we traverse around the ridge amid semi-alpine plant and open views across the smokey middle hills in the distance. The couple of simple lodges appear suddenly after a rise, and probably not a moment too soon for well worked legs. Dawa, the friendly lodge owner, is an expedition cook and whips up a storm in his simple kitchen. Snow leopard have been seen from this camp in the last couple of years!
16 - trek Tseram 3880m via Mirgin La 4480m
Crossing the series of passes, there are relatively minor ups and downs, all the while with a spectacular Jannu backdrop, and this is a particularly panoramic day - did you spot the rarely seen Kangshung face of Mt Everest?
Then there is a real descent to Tseram, have that knee-saving trekking pole handy. It is more likely we stay at Tseram, however if everyone is moving particularly well, trekking up valley that extra 45 minutes to the very simple lodge at Ramche is possible.
17 - trek Ramche 4100m/Tseram via Oktang
This is definitely a longer day's hiking, do bring plenty of snacks and water. The sunset can be good from Oktang but it is a long way back into darkness to the very basic lodge at Ramche, factor that in!
More conservatively, hike for a packed lunch at Oktang (there is no lodge) and descend to Ramche before darkness sets in. Again, if you already stayed at Ramche last night, then you might be able to descend to Tseram instead.
18 - trek Torongtang ~3000m
Whether starting today from Tseram or Ramche, it is an easy day descending through delightful sections of thick forest to the couple of lodges at Torongtang, which has various spellings. Sometimes there is a lodge open at Anda Phedi, although don't count on this, so have snacks with you. Torongtang is the best base for tomorrow's long, tough trek.
Rhododedron leaves - Jamie
19 - trek Yamphudin (Sherpa Gaon) 2200m via Lasiya Bhanjyang
This is a long, tough day with a big climb and sometimes steep descent. Start smartly, carry snacks and move steadily, and heed advise on which trail to take around the huge landslide near the top of the pass. Once over, there is a lunch place but order noodle soup; anything else will take an age. If we are a day ahead then a rest day at Yamphudin can feel like luxury, down at this warmer altitude, and looking across to the Kabru peaks.
The view down south while crossing the last pass, the Lasiya Bhanjyang - Jamie
20 - trek Khebang ~1700m
After the pleasant lodge at Yamphudin, the trek out is a bit of a let down in terms of lodges. They tend to be on the simple side and the people not as friendly as the true high country. We will likely stay at Khebang, the 2019 roadhead but Happu Khola is the alternative, and the road might be slightly better from there.
Fresh veg back in the warm middle hills - Jamie
21 - drive Thumbeding / Phidim
High five for completing the trek! The "road" from Khebang/Happu Khola is horribly rough, be mentally prepared for this shock to the system. We drive to where we can reach, today.
22 - drive Bhadrapur
Road trip! Regardless of where we ended up last night, today is a driving day, taking most of all of the day to reach Bhadrapur. We climb over ridges and and descend in and out of valleys, seemingly randomly, however, the road does take the best route, and is scenic. The farther away you are, the bigger the Kanchenjunga massif looks, impossible though that seems ...
Down in the flat country on the last bumpy section to Bhadrapur, the terrain should be familiar from the start of the trek, however that seems such a long time ago now, and perhaps you now have a better appreciation of the flat Tarai. It is also warm, or hot even, definitely worthy of a cold beer!
23 - fly Bhadrapur-Kathmandu
We probably have a mid-morning flight to farewell to Kanchenjunga, so no morning rush. Welcome back to crazy Kathmandu!
On arrival, we arrange the details for the transfers tomorrow, and the office will arrange a last night group dinner with a short debrief.
Day 24 - depart
You are free to leave any time today, and our staff will come to the hotel with a car for your last journey with us, to the airport. Alternatively, you are welcome to stay on longer and we can assist with hotel bookings and sightseeing suggestions.
Farewell, tashi delek and namaste!