Kanchenjunga Trek Information

Nepal’s Kanchenjunga region offers incredible trekking, and now in addition to the traditional full camping trek style, it’s possible to teahouse trek the region as well. Here is all you need to know!

The trek around Kangchenjunga can be done entirely as a basic lodge/tea-house trek in September-October-November and in March-April-May.

Kangchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world at 8586m/28,169ft and is on the border between Nepal and Sikkim (India). We only cover trekking in Nepal on this site. The usual trekking destinations are the viewpoint near the climbing base camps on the south and/or north sides of this massive mountain.

Initially, this website was based on the Kangchenjunga Trek Notes PDF kindly provided by Sue and Howard Dengate detailing their trips to the region on October-November 2012 and November-December 2013. They say:

“We found that the traverse between these [base camps] was also highly enjoyable, making for a very satisfying and wild experience. Don’t expect the formed tracks of the Everest and Annapurna regions, although tracks are being rapidly improved up the north side. If you are grateful for a stone hut, wooden bed, evening dal bhat and daily wilderness, you will greatly enjoy this remote trek.

Even today, only about 1,000 trekkers a year visit this place compared to over 35,000 in the Khumbu, so it is possible to walk blissfully all day and see nobody else. Most people you will meet will be in camping groups but you may meet some independent trekkers with their guides and/or porters.

Note that there is considerable exposure on many of the tracks, so don’t go if you have vertigo or a fear of heights. This matrilineal Limbu (‘the bearer of bows and arrows’) homeland is not highly populated, particularly on the south side, and the people follow animist, Buddhist and some Hindu beliefs. Phale and Ghunsa on the northern side are uniquely Tibetan in architecture and religious practice but we were surprised by the general lack of outward religious signs that characterise the Khumbu region, for instance.

There is a focus on tongba, warm millet beer served in brass-decorated wooden pots with a straw. The around Kangchenjunga Trek can be done entirely as a lodge trek in September-October- November and in March-April-May. At the start and end of these periods there may be some lodges closed, particularly at higher altitudes. Always enquire before relying on these notes. There are toilets in nearly all places and phone access, limited on the south side. There is mobile reception (NTC but not NCELL) on most of the north side and at the start of the south side.

My wife and I trekked the Kanchenjunga trek south-to-north route described below in October-November 2012 with a good friend from Germany and the north-to-south route in November-December 2013. The weather was superb both times. The first time we did 16 (should have been 17) days actual walking including some long days, plus 2 rest days and 4 days for travel to and from the walk. So we were 22 days from Kathmandu but had allowed some extra days for illness and bad weather if needed.

The second time, due to strikes, we had to walk in from the airstrip at Tumlingtar, which required an extra 4 walking days and led logically to the north-to- south route, taking 18 walking days with no rest days. We were 26 days from Kathmandu. We have now trekked Kangchenjunga south-to-north and north-to-south and these track notes separately cover both directions.

However on balance, we would definitely choose to trek to the southern side first, then cross to the northern side and exit down that valley. Some people regard the steep climb above Cheram as being a show-stopper, but these people generally came DOWN this climb. It is probably easier to climb than descend. If you climb it, then within 2-3hrs the day’s climbing is over and you can enjoy the most marvellous traverse. Some people who had descended to Cheram chose not to go up to the south base camp because they were too tired, which is a great pity – another reason to trek south then north!

An alternative view is that north-to-south is better for acclimatisation, if that is a known issue. More details below. We hope that these track notes will make this trek more popular and so improve the lives of villagers and the number and standard of the lodges. It is a great and memorable trek that we hope you will enjoy.

Lodges vary and menus and showers are an exception. You can certainly raise dalbhat, tsampa, noodles, omelette and roti at most places, but coffee is rare and you may want to take your own. There are very few shops and often stocks are limited to noodles, biscuits, toilet paper, tobacco and alcohol. Water, batteries and soap are not always available. Porridge, muesli and pancakes are arriving on the repertoire of many kitchens.

Track times given are actual hours walking, with brief rests. The times do not include lunch, for instance, which may add two hours if you are ordering dalbhat. This can be an issue: your guide and porter expect to eat at 10am or 11am depending on how early you start and often they use this waiting-for-lunch time to wash themselves and clothes. Our solution is to make a rule to walk for at least 3 hrs before stopping, which makes sure some good progress is made and then feel happy about a long lunch.”

Sue and Howard Dengate mention that all changes, comment and corrections are welcome at confoodnet@ozemail.com.au

18 Responses

  1. Kavita Nahar said on December 3, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    I have been wanting to trek this route for umpteen number of years but felt it may be too difficult. We are now in our 50’s and not too fit. We have trekked in the Everest region and Annapurna in the past. How difficult is this trek compared to the other two in your opinion.
    Thanks

    Reply
  2. Jamie McGuinness said on December 5, 2014 at 4:09 am

    The trekking is no more difficult than trekking around the Annapurna Circuit but you definitely want reasonable fitness for the Kanchenjunga treks, and indeed any trek in Nepal. If trekking on a fully organized camping trip then the itinerary is set in advance and seems easy enough, although even easier days do build up. If you feel fit enough to trek your previous Everest trek again, then go for it. Or get training!

    Reply
  3. Peter H said on December 12, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    Hi – I was wondering about trying to do this as a cross between a camping and tea house trek – to try and save money. I’ve trekked in the Everest region and around Annapurna and know here are loads and loads of tea houses there – but are there sufficient tea houses and places selling food in the Janchenjunga region.

    I’m organising a trek for me and 15 mates – on a tight budget – hence my questions. Any advice anyone who has been tere could offer would be greatly appreciated. We plan to go for 3 weeks in May 15 – from the UK.

    Pete

    Reply
    • kanchenjunga-trek said on December 14, 2014 at 2:40 am

      Yes, food is not an issue. If you carried tents and ate dal bhat in tea-houses, then that could work. Sleeping space is an issue sometimes so tents would help.
      Will have more information soon about specific places and what is available from someone who has just returned.

      Reply
      • Pete said on December 15, 2014 at 11:52 am

        Hi thanks very much for the information. I’m a big fan of Dhal Bhat so eating in the tea houses and camping outside would be a great option. Do you know when the tea houses close for the season (as I mentioned before we are planning to go the last 3 weeks in May).

        Also can porters be hired in the Taplejung Area? Or would you recommend organising this trek through a formal company – is this something your company could offer?

        Pete

        Reply
        • kanchenjunga-trek said on December 19, 2014 at 10:09 am

          I think, but I am not sure, about end of May. It should be fine as then yaks are taken up to high pastures, so there are always people around.

          Probably better to go through a company in order to get reliable people. There are companies in Taplejung. We’ll try and find out in due course some of their contact details. No need to book too far in advance for that as low season.

          Reply
    • Holger said on January 11, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      Hello Peter,
      I am also planning to do the Kangchenjunga hike in May…. How firm are your plans? Can I join you? My direct email is tuin94115@yahoo.com

      Reply
  4. Kim Allan said on December 17, 2014 at 8:20 am

    Great site.

    Reply
    • Sam Sockwell said on December 23, 2014 at 4:04 pm

      Wondering if anyone here has done Manaslu/Tsum- we loved it, and were wondering about doing it again versus Kanchenjunga. Anyone have thoughts?

      Reply
  5. Julie West said on August 17, 2015 at 4:21 am

    Hi. Firstly thanks for the great information on Kanchenjunga. We are a family of 4 heading to Nepal in 2weeks (1st Sept 2015). Originally we were going to do the Manaslu trek but since the earthquake Manaslu has been closed. I am trying to find a similar type of experience. What are your thoughts? We have 6weeks in Nepal, which includes rafting, Bardia national park and some chillout time. Also does the scenery change regularly on Kanchenjunga? Thankyou Julie

    Reply
    • kanchenjunga-trek said on October 3, 2015 at 3:14 am

      Sorry, we missed this comment. Hope you found some nice places to trek.

      Reply
  6. deborah heaysman said on September 30, 2015 at 4:35 am

    hi, I’m super keen to trek and Kanchenjunga sounds ideal. However, I had to be carried down from ABC due to severe HACE, then flown to Kathmandu hospital. I had no definitive symptoms of any altitude sickness until i hit ABC. Would you recommend this trek to me or should i stick to lower altitude??

    Reply
    • kanchenjunga-trek said on October 3, 2015 at 3:13 am

      Hello – hard to say. How fast did you climb to ABC? At which heights did you sleep?

      Reply
  7. Nick Miller said on October 6, 2015 at 12:08 am

    have you any advise on health risks and precautions on this trip. Would you advise rabies vaccination for instance?

    Reply
  8. Karna Rana said on November 15, 2015 at 6:28 am

    I just recently (3rd October 2015 to 29 October 2015) visited Kanchenjunga Trek. At first, we flew Kathmandu to Bhadrapur and long drive Birtamod to Taplajung. We enjoyed very much nature, culture and Mountain scenery. We visited to Saouth Base Camp and North Base Camp via Sele La pass. When back to Kathmandu we able to find the flight Suketar to Kathmandu after upgraded airport. This is real Nepal trekking. You will enjoy ever best.

    Reply
  9. Ben Li said on November 21, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    Great site. Thanks for putting this together. Five of us did north-south last month. For those interested, you can find my photo stories at this link, including details on itinerary/routing etc. Cheers.

    http://bit.ly/1OkxNMS

    Reply
    • kanchenjunga-trek said on November 22, 2015 at 1:20 am

      Thanks for sharing Ben.

      Reply

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