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Kangchenjunga Photo Gallery - 1. Kathmandu to Ghunsa

In October 2004, I trekked to Kangchenjunga's North and South Base Camps.

Kangchenjunga 01 01 Kathmandu Boudhanath Long View Boudhanath is the largest stupa in Nepal and one of the largest in the world. With three square tiers surrounding the central circle of the dome, Boudhanath is built in the form of a mandala, a symbol of the universe that is often used in Buddhist meditations. I watched the young schoolboys at the lower left as they circumambulated Boudhanath several times.

Kangchenjunga 01 01 Kathmandu Boudhanath Long View

Kangchenjunga 01 02 Kathmandu Boudhanath Statue Around the base of the Kathmanduís Boudhanath Stupaís circular mound are 108 niches, each containing the Dhyani Buddha Akshobhya, with a decidedly Hindu flavour. Akshobhya is blue with his right hand touching the earth while his left hand holds a begging bowl. He is the Buddha of the East and is dedicated to helping you overcome hatred, anger and aversion.

Kangchenjunga 01 02 Kathmandu Boudhanath Statue

Kangchenjunga 01 03 Kathmandu Mountain Flight Boarding Buddha Air Jerome, alias Big Nose, Danger Dangles and the Zig-Zagger prepare to board Buddha Air for the mountain flight from Kathmanduís domestic airport in October 2004.

Kangchenjunga 01 03 Kathmandu Mountain Flight Boarding Buddha Air

Kangchenjunga 01 04 Mountain Flight Shishapangma Long View Shishapangma, the 14th highest mountain in the world at 8012m, shines in the early morning sun from Kathmanduís Mountain flight. The steep and treacherous southwest face is in shadow on the left. The north face is just visible in the sun on the right. On the far right the pointy rocky peak is Phola Gangchen (7716m), first climbed in 1981, and to its left is Shishapangmaís East face.

Kangchenjunga 01 04 Mountain Flight Shishapangma Long View

Kangchenjunga 01 05 Mountain Flight Shishapangma Close Up Here is a close-up of the summit area of Shishapangma, the 14th highest mountain in the world at 8012m, shining in the early morning sun from Kathmanduís Mountain flight. The steep and treacherous southwest face is in shadow on the left. The north face is just visible in the sun on the right. The peak to the right of the sloping long sunny ridge in the middle right is Pungpa Ri (7445m), first climbed in 1982. On the far left below Pungpa Ri with its west face in shadow and the east face fully lit is Nyanang Ri (7071m), called the Rock Tooth.

Kangchenjunga 01 05 Mountain Flight Shishapangma Close Up

Kangchenjunga 01 06 Mountain Flight Cho Oyu The U-shaped valley on the far left is the Nangpa La pass (5800m), which leads from Tibet to the Solo Khumbu region of Nepal by way of Thame and Namche Bazaar. The highest mountain above the pass is Cho Aui, (7350m) and then Cho Oyu (8201m).

Kangchenjunga 01 06 Mountain Flight Cho Oyu

Kangchenjunga 01 07 Mountain Flight Makalu West Face As the mountain flight from Kathmandu turned around, Makaluís (8463m) west face and pillar was vaguely visible in the too-bright morning sun from the southwest. The dome on the left with just a touch of sun is Kangchungtse (7640m, also called Makalu II), with the Makalu La just below. Above that, but slightly higher, also with just a patch of sun is Chomolonzo (7790m).  The regular Northwest ridge route is pretty much the left skyline, but partly hidden. Right of that is the famous west face and then the stunning West Pillar ridge jutting out. Right of that again is the south face and the right skyline is basically the southeast ridge.

Kangchenjunga 01 07 Mountain Flight Makalu West Face

Kangchenjunga 01 08 Mountain Flight Everest and Lhotse In October 2004, Mount Everest and Lhotse glisten from Kathmanduís Mountain flight. The famous South Col is the flat snowy area at the bottom of the U-shape. The bump near the summit of Everest is the South Summit. The normal climbing route to Lhotse is to the right of the U-shape, while the treacherous south face plummets to the clouds below. The two peaks to the right of Lhotse are Lhotse Middle and Lhotse Shar. Nuptse is the mountain at the far left along the long ridge from Lhotse.

Kangchenjunga 01 08 Mountain Flight Everest and Lhotse

Kangchenjunga 02 01 Stuck On Drive To Basantpur In the afternoon, we took a 40-minute Buddha Air flight to Biratnagar, Nepalís second largest city, on the flat Terai. The next day our Royal Nepal flight to Suketar was cancelled. The day after that Gyan went to the airport at 5:30 - the Royal Nepal plane wasn't there. Bastards! Gyan negotiated a 4-wheel drive to Basantpur (2200m) for 3600 rupees. We left Biratnagar at 12:00 and drove through very fertile fields. After 35 minutes, we entered a forest with very high trees, and left the Terai behind after an hour. We climbed steeply up the foothills to the Nepal I know - uphill and downhill, uphill and downhill, ... . We left the paved road at Hille (1850m) and now we needed the 4-wheel drive. The road was atrocious and our 4-wheel drive got stuck, with a local farmer helping us get out. We finally arrived in Basantpur at 18:05.

Kangchenjunga 02 01 Stuck On Drive To Basantpur

Kangchenjunga 02 02 Makalu South Face From Basantpur Alpenglow lights the south face and southeast ridge of Makalu (8463m) from the southeast, just before we reached Basantpur (2200m).

Kangchenjunga 02 02 Makalu South Face From Basantpur

Kangchenjunga 02 03 Relaxing in our lodge in Mitlung Our first day trekking: clouds, fog, Maoists, rain, no mountains - yuck! Some trekking days are just hard work; this was one of them. The second day trekking was brutal! We descended 1360m straight down from Gurja (2000m) to Doban (640m), where I met the rest of our crew. We then bushwhacked our way in blazing heat, along a new temporary trail by the river, to Mitlung (880m). I drank all of my water in just over an hour and was deliriously dehydrated for the next four hours. When I got to Mitlung, I drank a litre of Pepsi. Hereís the hanging Zig-Zagger, Big Nose, and a cool Danger Dangles relaxing in our lodge in Mitlung (880m) after an extremely hard trekking day.

Kangchenjunga 02 03 Relaxing in our lodge in Mitlung

Kangchenjunga 02 04 Log Bridge on the way to Chirwa The next day, we trekked from Mitlung (880m) to Sakathum (1640m) in just over seven hours, ascending only 760m. The morning is perfectly clear after yesterday evening's rain, and so out came the camera. Some of the bridges aren't for the faint of heart like this log one on the way to Chirwa. Hey, to make it a snap, there's a bamboo hand rail.

Kangchenjunga 02 04 Log Bridge on the way to Chirwa

Kangchenjunga 02 05 Typical Nepalese Terraced Village Near Chirwa A typical Nepalese terraced small village shines in the morning sun on the trek from Mitlung to Chirwa (1190m) on the way to Kangchenjunga North Base Camp.

Kangchenjunga 02 05 Typical Nepalese Terraced Village Near Chirwa

Kangchenjunga 02 06 Amjilassa House The next day we trekked from Sakathum (1640m) to Gyapra (2730m) in seven hours, ascending 1230m. Merciless! Climb 100m only to descend 80. Climb 200m only to descend 150. The so-called flat parts were even up and down.  The actual number of metres ascent to Amjilassa was probably double the absolute difference of 890m. The good news was that the vertigo-inducing trail has been replaced with a new normal trail. If I'm ever reborn a chicken, a Nepal village like Amjilassa (2490m) would be ideal. You can go wherever you want, instead of being 'coop'ed up. Hey, look at some of those clothes on the line, they look familiar.

Kangchenjunga 02 06 Amjilassa House

Kangchenjunga 02 07 Phole Gompa Easy! Just a gentle uphill at the rate of the river - no ups and downs. With a new trail along the same side of the river, we arrived in Phole 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Phole (3210m) is long scattered village of Tibetans who fled here in 1959 following the Chinese invasion. In Phole I visited the Tashi Chombel Gompa, which currently thrives with six monks.

Kangchenjunga 02 07 Phole Gompa

Kangchenjunga 02 08 Phole Gompa Maitreya The Tashi Chombel Gompa in Phole (3210m) houses one of four Buddha Maitreya statues dating back to the eight century. The other three are in Lhasa, Beijing and Dharamsala. We finally arrived in Ghunsa (3410m), the main village of the valley, and what I consider to be the start of the trek - the work is over, and the pleasure begins. The trek from Gunsa was a little hard because my reflexes were a little off due to the increasing altitude.

Kangchenjunga 02 08 Phole Gompa Maitreya