Kangchenjunga. Mountain in Asia


Mountain in Asia

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Kangchenjunga is considered to be the 2nd highest mountain in Nepal, after Mount Everest, and is the 3rd highest in the world. Standing at an elevation of 8,585 meters, Kangchenjunga is part of the Himalayan Mountain Range and is comprised of five summits, which are Kangchenjunga Main (8,586 meters), Kangchenjunga West (8,505 meters), Kangchenjunga Central (8,482 meters), Kangchenjunga South (8,494 meters) and Kangbachen (7,903 meters).
Kangchenjunga is also considered the tallest mountain in India as the three main peaks (main, central and south) falls on the border of North Sikkim and Nepal while the other two falls in Nepal.


The name ‘Kangchenjunga’ is derived from Tibetan words, which means the ‘The Five Treasures of Snow’. Kangchenjunga is considered sacred by the people of Darjeeling (Wikipedia Article) and Sikkim. It is, because of the holy nature, that it becomes impossible to obtain a permit to climb to the summit of this awesome peak in Sikkim.

Geology and Geography

Kangchenjunga is made up of Ordovician and Neoproterozoic rocks. This mountain receives heavy snowfall during the summer season in comparison to the winter, when the snowfall is light. The individual summits of Kangchenjunga are connected to four neighboring peaks, which also resulted in the formation of four glaciers. They are namely Kangchenjunga in the north-west, Yalung in the south-west, Zemu in the north-east, and Talung in the south-east of the mountain.

	Himalayas - Kangchenjunga
Kangchenjunga, Himalayas. Photo by A.Ostrovsky

History and Expedition

Though the local people have always considered Kangchenjunga as a deity, the British were more interested to explore this mountain range. The first explorer who studied Kangchenjunga, in detail, was the famous British botanist named J.D. Hooker who made two consecutive journeys in 1848 and 1849. His exploration led him to the development of the first detailed topographical layout of this land. He also made a sketch of the peaks of Kangchenjunga from the Mon Lepcha Pass.

Kangchenjunga with Janak Himal - Kangchenjunga
Kangchenjunga with Janak Himal - Kangchenjunga. Photo by John Town
The next person to become interested in this peak was Captain W.S. Sherwill, who crossed the Singalila range from the Kulhait River to examine the geological formation of the Kangchenjunga range.

In the year 1855, the Schlagaintweit brothers from Germany attempted to climb this peak from Sikkim, but they were denied permission by the local government officials due to the sacredness of this landform. However, on the advice of the superintendent of Darjeeling during that time, they embarked on a hike up the small peak of Tonglu and finally reached Phalut, where the view of Kangchenjunga and Mt. Everest is most fascinating under a clear blue sky. It was from this location, that Schlagaintweit first painted the panoramic view of the range, which is considered to be one of the rare pieces of landscape art. Schlagaintweit attempted to move further towards Kangchenjunga, but unfortunately he had to drop the idea because of the objection from the Nepalese soldiers who guard and protect this land.

However, the first successful ascent of Kangchenjunga was accomplished in 1955, by George Band, Joe Brown, and their teammates.
They were later followed by several further notable ascents to Kangchenjunga over the course of many years, while some succeeded in the exploration, others perished along the way.

Darjeeling with the Himalayas and the
	Kangchenjunga in the backdrop - Kangchenjunga
Darjeeling with the Himalayas and the Kangchenjunga in the backdrop. Photo by Judith

Kanchenjunga Tourism

As this mountain is located on a remote landscape, not much attempt has been made to reach the summit. This is one major reason as to why Kangchenjunga is revered as a Godly figure by the Sikkim’s tribes. Nevertheless, some of the best places to view Kangchenjunga are from Darjeeling, Phalut, and Sikkim. Earlier, applying for a permit to trek in the Kangchenjunga base camp was a major problem. Recently, the Sikkim government showed some laxity as trekkers can now reach the base camp with great ease. Obtaining permission to scale this peak from Sikkim’s side is rarely given by the Sikkimese government. Even if one gets the permit, they have to stop five feet away from the summit and therefore, are unable to set foot on the highest peak of the mountain.
One of the famous treks to view Kangchenjunga is the Goecha La (Wikipedia Article) trek, which reaches the Goecha La Pass, located right in front of the Kangchenjunga South Summit Zone.

How to Reach Goecha La Pass

The trek to Goecha La starts from Yoksum, a quaint village in Sikkim. Yoksum was once the capital of Sikkim and it is one of the best places to relax amidst the tranquil beauty of nature. The total trek time to reach Goecha La and to return to Yoksum is around 9 - 10 days.

How to Reach Yoksum

Mt. Kangchenjunga -
Mt. Kangchenjunga - Kangchenjunga. Photo by Matt Stabile
  • Flight: The nearest airport to Yoksum is at Bagdogra in New Jalpaiguri (Wikipedia
	Article) (NJP). From the airport, you can hire a private car to reach Yoksum. The distance between the airport and Yoksum is around 170 kilometers. Bagdogra, near Siliguri town, is well connected with other major cities of India. It is advisable to avail of a morning flight because it takes around 6 hours to reach Yoksum from the airport, via Jorethang (Wikipedia Article). Being a small village, the area is poorly lit and it is advisable to reach Yoksum before sunset.
  • Train: The nearest rail head to the village is New Jalpaiguri (NJP) and it takes around 6 – 7 hours to reach Yoksum. From the station, you can opt for a shared jeep, SUV or hire a private car to reach the location.
  • Bus: There are regular bus services from Kolkata to reach New Jalpaiguri or Siliguri and it takes around 10 hours to reach both of these destinations. However, the road condition on the way is simply horrible with giant pot-holes all around, which eventually leaves you exhausted when you finally reach NJP.


Yoksum only has three hotels and it is ideal to book accommodation beforehand. The hotels are Hotel Tashi Gang, Hotel Demazong, and Hotel Yangri Gang. Besides, there is also a guest house of the Sikkim government having two dormitories with six beds in provision.

What to Eat

All the hotels offer dining facilities and you can experience both vegetarian and non- Sikkimese vegetarian dishes, which are most often than not- extremely hot.

Important Note for Trekkers

If you are planning for a trek up to Goecha La in order to view the Kanchenjunga range be sure of the followings:
  • Visit the police station and register for your journey. You will need proof of identification in the form of photographic documentation and three copies of the original proof.
  • You will need to pay a fee at the forest check post before you embark on the journey.
  • As a foreigner, you will not be allowed to trek alone and the permit should be taken from Gangtok (Wikipedia Article), the capital of Sikkim. The best option is to plan the trek through a tour operator as they will arrange everything needed on this trek for you.

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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Dec 09, 2014

Pictures of Kangchenjunga

The Kang grants us an audience - Kangchenjunga
The Kang grants us an audience - Kangchenjunga. Photo by Amar Chandra


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