GHT Khang La start

khang la border nepal india kanchenjunga region

The map shows the Kanchenjunga South-north trek and the relative location of the Khang La; east is up on the map.

At Cheram on the Kanchenjunga south side base camp trek a valley runs up to the India border, the Khang La, and this is probably the best start/end point for the Nepal Great Himalaya Trail. It is a two to three day trek above Cheram (Tseram).

The Nepal GHT as envisaged by Robin Boustead starts/ends at the top eastern corner of the Kanchenjunga region, the Jhinsang La, a formidable 6164m/20,200ft pass however this is extremely tough to reach (I, Jamie McGuinness have tried), illegal to cross and is unlikely to ever be opened by India as it is also close to the point where India, Nepal and Tibet (China) meet. Lastly until or unless the pass does become legal for crossing, it is also out of character with the rest of the GHT trek in this region. So I have always suggested the Khang La as the best current start or end point for the Nepal GHT. The trouble is, I haven’t been to the top and hadn’t met anyone else who had. Now Jussi and Helena (who trekked with me in Ladakh prior) have checked it out.

(This route also offers an interesting but completely illegal backdoor route from Yalung valley in Kanchenjunga region to Sikkim in India.)

See Jussi’s captioned photos (in English) on his blog (in Finnish) and you can see there was plenty of snow.

Jussi writes:

Just before Cheram as coming from Tortong you can see a bridge across what is called Simbuwa Khola in GHT-maps. That is where the trail to Khang La starts.

About half an hour after the bridge there is a Kharka with one ruined wooden shelter at equal altitude to Cheram and is a possible camp site. Soon trees and rhododendrons are left behind and the alpine semi barren valley opens ahead of you. There is a faint trail on the other side of the Yamgachha Khola but better to stay on the northern bank of the river. In about one and a half hours after the bridge there is an other Kharka at 4110m/13,500ft offering good camping. After the kharka and a short while on a boggy ground there is the first step, a steep climb to a next flat area in valley at around 4400m/14,432ft. We camped here, not because it’s the best place but a tropical cyclone was coming in at it started snowing heavily.

Continuing, after some flat grassy terrain the river turns to NE with series of waterfalls gaining almost 200m/650ft of altitude. Still stay on north/left side of the river. This is also where the trail starts to fade out, so good trail nose is required. After the step there is an other flat grassy but slightly boggy. This is first point where Khang La is visible, though still more than 2 hours away. In fresh snow we couldn’t see any kind of trail from now on but from the north after the tributary there is a moraine ridge almost touching the stream. On the side there is one cairn, though it’s not necessary to climb that high, just traverse the ridge. After the traverse there are good campsites. From now on moraines on the both sides of the river becomes extremely rough. We found it easiest to negotiate our way through large boulders on the bottom of the valley still following the river. After this narrow place the going gets easier, though steeper, and we saw lots of cairns pointing the way to the pass, still clearly visible. At the source of the river, a spring under the moraine, there is space for couple of tents. The route now follows south/right side of the valley and getting steeper. Half an hour before the pass there is small but beautiful lake at 4800m/15,745ft, from there is still 175m/575ft or 30 minutes to the top marked by numerous cairns.

The descend to Indian side looked reasonable easy, but we didn’t want to go for exploring as clouds were still looking pretty wild and didn’t have valid visa in our passports 🙂

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