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 firstname.lastname@example.org