Mt Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, is not really a peak, it is like a mountain range. The astounding thing is that most of its 25-km jagged ridgeline is above 8,000m, spanning the Nepal-Sikkim border. The traverse of this great knife-edge is regarded as the most challenging unclimbed mountaineering feat left. The northern approach is wholly within Nepal, and accessible from Taplejung in a week’s trek. Since it is situated in eastern Nepal, where the annual rainfall is three times that in Kathmandu Valley, the biodiversity here is unparalleled in the Himalaya. Many of the species of orchids, flowering plants, amphibians, reptiles, insects and mammals found in this area occur nowhere else in the world.
The Kangchenjunga Conservation Area has at least 69 varieties of orchids, 30 types of rhododendrons and 15 out of 28 endemic plants of Nepal. Due to its remoteness, only 300 trekkers visited the region last year. The newly black-topped airfield in Taplejung is still not operational, and the ride from Bhadrapur takes 12 hours, with a night stop in Ilam. The Great Himalayan Trail starts at Kangchenjunga Base Camp (KBC), and has brought more tourists. On a recent trip, we were among many Nepali trekkers doing the standard route from Taplejung to KBC.
PHOTOS by SUDHIR LIMBU
Mt Jannu 7,710m (right) and Kangchenjunga, from near Lhonak.
Kangchenjunga North Base Camp with glacial meltpools, looking southwest.
Selele Pass with Mt Jannu in the background.
Kangchenjunga South Glacier, from Oktang.
Lodging in Gyabla.
View northeast from Selele Pass.
Ramche, on the way to South Base Camp.
Oktang, near South Base Camp of Kangchenjunga
Descending into Lhonak from North Base Camp.
Trekkers en route to Ghunsa.
Early morning frost in Lhonak, looking south.
Unleashing Kangchenjunga, Anurag Acharya