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Thread: Kanchenjunga High Passes by Oli

  1. #1
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    Post Kanchenjunga High Passes by Oli

    Crossing the passes...

    15th Nov
    Breakfast on Tibetan bread & tea at the "Top of the World" lodge in Ghunsa(3595m), bid farewell to our hosts & start on the trail. Cold morning, the sun doesn't rise above the valley walls to warm the village until about 10.30am. We climb steeply up through a forest in the shaded flank of the ridge. To keep warm we set a good pace and soon pass groups of trekkers and porters on the way up. We occasionally get increasingly good views up the Ghunsa Khola valley and also the Yamtari Khola and the path up to Lapsang La(5110m). After an hour or two we reach Tamo La(3940m), a point where the trail snakes over a prominant outcrop at the end of Tangbjarma Danda. We are around the bottom of the clouds, no views up and across the valley, but we have a good view down onto the village of Phale(3140m), 800m almost straight below us. We countour along the South West side of the ridge, slowly up into the clouds, the views from Sele La were(4290m) uninspiring. The campsite at Sele was shrouded in mist, just a few rough & temporary huts next to a stream, but a magical place. The lads from our lodge in Ghunsa knew a shortcut up here and were ready with lunch when we arrived, boiled potatoes, noodle soup & chang - a good sherpa lunch This was the only night on the trek I camped, in a rather small & light tent that rather amused the other sherpas more used to seeing trekkers in top of the range expedition tents. This place has a resident population of zero, but that night there were 15 trekkers and probably around 60-70 Nepali from the trekking groups and up from Ghunsa to provide services (a "shop" for trekkers & raksi for the porters).

    16th Nov
    The temperature was between -5 & -10, but I was comfortably snug for the night. We drank soup for breakfast & departed early, first on the trail. It was still misty but as soon as we started to climb up we rose through the top of the clouds and began to get fantastic views of the mountain range, Jannu(7710m) looked particularly stunning, and rivers of cloud pooling around in the valleys. We continued to climb, though not steeply, and countour around the side of the hill, over a side ridge at Sinion La(4440m). I was pondering where to put my my prayer flags, my guide suggested Miring La(4480m), and of course he was right - it was THE place on todays trek. Just before we reached the place the view was revealed to us, a huge panorama - to the North the spine of the Himalayas with Jannu and Kanchenjunga, the valleys in between the mountains and all around us were filled with a sea of cloud, far off to the East like an island was the distinctive white bulk of Makalu, and to the West and South off into the horizon just clouds covering the low country of Nepal and off over India. It was an absolutely breathtaking sight, one of those few places that will have it's image etched into my heart & mind. We put up our prayer flags, when the first of the group porters arrived we had them take our photo and departed whilst we still had the mountian to ourselves. Well, almost to ourselves, further on down the trail we came across the fresh tracks of a snow leopard, but no other sign of the animal. At Sinelapche La(6440m) we are treated to great views up the Yalung Glacier, Ratong in prominent view with the massive bulk of Kabru to its left and beyond that Kanchenjunga, can see down into the Simbuwa Khola valley and the ridge of mountains on the other side that form the border with Sikkim. The trail down to Tseram(3870m) is very steep, we pause on the way down to watch blue sheep leaping with amazing grace and agility up and down over the rocks. We arrive in Tseram around midday, just in time for lunch.....

  2. #2
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    Aug 2004
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    Default A pic to go with that....

    It is difficult to find photos that do justice to the vistas on this part of the trek, I can't post my 13 shot 360' panorama but here is a small sample. The snow peak on the extreme left is Makalu, 100km away to the west.
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by Oli; 2nd January 2005 at 06:09 PM. Reason: typo

  3. #3
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    Dec 2004
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    Kathmandu
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    Default

    Hi Oli,
    Thanks for the KachanJunga updates.it was good to know throught your experience in Kanchanjunga,I want do that but I never got oppertunity.this makes me going there soon.I will put the updates if I never get there.
    Rajendra

  4. #4
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    Default Many more pictures

    (After much delay) I have uploaded all my photos from this trek onto the interweb.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/oliphant/sets/1805530/

    I'll try to post more info on the rest of the trek, but please don't hold your breath waiting.

    Oli

  5. #5
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    Nov 2005
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    England
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    Default Photos

    Great photos Oli

    What time of year did you say it was, Nov? It looks a wonderful part to explore, the list just keeps getting longer!

    Julia

  6. #6
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    Default date

    Yes, dont worry, i see that it was November!! Takes a while for the brain to get going in the mornings....

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Kanchenjunga High Passes by Oli

    Somewhat belated I have some more rough notes relating to this trek that may be of some interest. Posted in response to interest in Kanchenjunga in this thread.....

    We flew to Suketar, then walked via Chiruwa and Ghunsa up to the north basecamp at Pangpema (Lonak was the highest overnight stop). Then back to Ghunsa and over the passes of Selele La, Mining La etc to Tseram. We didn't make it to South BaseCamp, being too underequiped and the weather looked a bit dicey. Returned via Yamphudin, back to Suketar/Taplejung, then a bus to Kathmandu.

    [Day 1 = 4thNov]
    1] Kathmandu, fly to Suketar, walk to Mitlung
    2] Mitlung to Chiruwa
    3] Chiruwa to Sekathum
    4] Sekathum to Amjilosa
    5] Amjilosa to Gyabla
    6] Gyabla to Ghunsa
    7] rest day in Ghunsa
    8] Ghunsa to Kambachen
    9] Kambachen to Lonak
    10] Lonak to Pangpema & back down to Kambachen
    11] Kambachen to Ghunsa
    12] Ghunsa to Selele La
    13] Selele La to Tseram
    14] rest day, hiked up valley to between Lapsang and Ramche
    15] Tseram to Tortong
    16] Tortong to Yamphudin
    17] Yamphudin to Phumphe
    18] Phumphe to Sinchewa(?)
    19] Sinchewa to Lali Kharka
    20] Lali Kharka to Taplejung
    21-23] Taplejung to Kathmandu by bus

    There isn't too much scope for varying the itinerary. Quite often you have to stop at those places because there is nowhere in between.
    From Sekethum to Phale (2-3 days) the valley is unbelievably steep and there are few places where you could find somewhere flat enough to pitch a tent. Coming back from Tortong to Suketar there are more villages along the trail and so more chance to vary where you spend the nights.

    It took 40 minutes to fly from Kathmandu to Suketar, and 40 HOURS on buses to get back from Taplejung. I did have the opportunity to blag a seat on a plane back to KTM but I wanted to go back home with the lads rather than abandon them for the easy option. It is a long journey back by road - on the first day we averaged only a few miles/hour, setting off before dawn and were still north of Ilam when we were stopped by a police checkpoint at dusk. Next day we got to Birtamod and got seats on an overnight bus via Bharatpur (near Chitwan) back to Kathmandu for midday. Quite a journey!

    Regarding tents and accommodation - Normally this trek is done in a group with tents and a full crew of guides, porters and a kitchen
    etc... But as there was just me and two Nepali it was possible to find some locals to feed and shelter us. My man in Kathmandu assured me that we wouldn't need tents, I was rather skeptical about that and insisted that we should take one "just in case". We made a bet that I'd pay its cost if we didn't use it and he would waive the expense if it did prove to be necessary after all. As we went along I was pleasantly surprised to find that we really could local food and shelter just about anywhere.

    There are a couple of 'lodges', but they aren't like you'd know from the main tourist trails, there is no "menu & orderbook" system. Other times we stayed with local families, at Gyabla we stayed with the local "womens social group", at Lonak I slept in what could be described as a yak herders hut but on the night was also serving as the local pub! The one night were I actually did use the tent was at Selele La, to be honest I could have slept in a shed or lean-to shelter without lowering my comfort standards too much, but the place was a bit crowded and the tent was slightly the better option. So as it turned out I did use the tent but didn't strictly need it - I paid Soman a few more dollars for hire of the tent and my porter a few more rupees for making him carry it.

    Please note that if there are more than 2 or 3 of you in your group then there may well be some nights where it may be difficult to find a bed, and even then some nights you may be sleeping on a mat on the floor of a hut because that is all there is. If one of the locals is good enough to give you their bed then they may well be sleeping on the floor - you have to be prepared to rough it a bit, but the usual friendly welcome makes it all worthwhile.

    There are very few people in this area that speak any English - so you must rely on having a decent guide to arrange your needs along the way. Not least a bed and food for the night, but also as there are no 'teashops' along the way we quite frequently persuaded local households to share their mid-morning dhal bhat with us. I don't really know what our daily living expenses amounted to as I trusted Krishna to take care of that, certainly it was much less than teahouse trekking to Everest and I believe that the locals were generally pleased to earn some rupees.

    We ate dhal bhat every day, often twice a day. I hope you like spinach as all to often it was just saag, rice & dhal. But sometimes the cook did an amazing job of producing a great dhal bhat from almost nothing. And I ate more meat on this trek than during the month before when I was trekking in the Khumbu. One afternoon I was helping the local kids round up chickens little realising that a couple of hours later we'd be eating one of them. Kumar, our porter, often worked as an expedition cook so he would sometimes assist the didi to prepare something more familiar to my western tastes. We also ate fried egg and chapati, lots of noodle soup, delicious boiled potatoes, and in Ghunsa we managed to obtain pasta.

    For permits your will need one from the Dept of Immigration in Kathmandu, and agency or qualified guide should have the necessary contacts to obtain one of these. They are issued for a minimum of two people, but if you are on you own then a means will be found to match you up with another solo trekker or as an addendum to a larger group list - just let the Nepali sort that out for you. And you'll be expected to pay a fee for entry to the Kanchenjunga national park / conservation area (I paid at the office in Ghunsa).

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Kanchenjunga High Passes by Oli

    Very useful stuff. And very enticing...
    yakshaver

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Kanchenjunga High Passes by Oli

    Oli, when you say the valley is steep, or the trail down to Tseram was very steep, what do you mean? What is the quality of the trail?

    I did some mountain walking in the NZ Alps, the European Alps and the Carpathians 20-30 years ago on steep, narrow and downright dangerous trails, bordering to needing technical equipment. Is this what you mean? Or is it just mindboglingly hard on the knees...
    yakshaver

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Kanchenjunga High Passes by Oli

    "Steep" as in "I didn't realise that trees could grow on 60' slopes". I think their root systems are all that stops the whole mountainside sliding into the river.


    Valley sides below Ghunsa.

    There was one occasion when we spent 20-30 minutes climbing (zig-zags to vertical) on the southern hillside, then a 2-3 minute "flat" bit as we crossed above a rock spur that prevented a lower path, then we decended immediately back down to the river (almost as steep as the ascent) crossed to the north bank and started climbing. Soon after we were high above the river again and I was thinking "jolly glad I've got a porter to carry my bag!"

    The descent from Sinelapche La (the last pass) down to Tseram is also very steep. We were watching blue sheep (mountain goats) jumping around on sections of the hill that were almost vertical yet not that dissimilar from out trail.

    I would not say that any of the trail is "technical", just some of it is very steep.

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