Mount Kangchenjunga Expedition

2021-01-12 | Published By: Bold Himalaya
Kangchenjunga is one of the most challenging and technical mountains, and still a dream for many. Climbers need to have strong mountaineering experience and practice to be able to attempt the ascent. Harsh terrain and weather conditions make the Kangchenjunga expedition more challenging, so excellent physical condition is mandatory for this adventure. Kangchenjunga is highly challenging to climb, evidenced by the fact its summit was first reached 50 years after Mt. Everest, in 1953.

- First attempt (1905)

A party directed by Aleister Crowley made the first attempt at climbing Mount Kangchenjunga in 1905. Swiss doctor and photographer Jules Jacot-Guillarmod first posed the idea of an expedition. He proposed his plans to the British occultist Aleister Crowley in April of that year. Crowley and Jacot-Guillarmod had been part of the team attempting the ascent of K2 in 1902. That team reached a predicted altitude of 6,500m/21,300 ft on the southwest side of the mountain before turning back. Yet, the exact elevation reached is somewhat unclear. Some members of the team got over the most difficult part of the climb, and chose to return to Camp 5. Crowley and men carrying packs believed to have reached approximately 7,600m/25,000ft. However, attempting a late descent from Camps 5 to 4, climber Alexis Pache and three local porters were killed in an avalanche. Despite the urging of one of the men that “the demon of Kangchenjunga was propitiated with the sacrifice,” Crowley concluded the expedition unsuitable to proceed. This failure to summit Kangchenjunga rendered the expedition incomplete.

- First Ascent (1955)

The expedition aimed to complete the ascent of Kangchenjunga in 1905 was attempted again in 1955.  Joe and George Band made their first ascent on 25 May 1955, followed by Norman Hardie and Tony Streather on 26 May. The full team also included John Clegg, Charles, John Angelo Jackson, Neil Mather, and Tom Mackinnon. Their expedition had started on 18 April. Moreover, the successful ascent proved that Aleister Crowley’s 1905 route, which had been investigated in 1954, was viable. This expedition route begins on the Yalung Glacier to the southwest of the peak. It then climbs the Yalung Face at 3,000m/10,00ft high. The conditions include trekking on snow, glacier, and one icefall. Additionally, the mountain ridge itself may include some rocky surfaces to traverse

Moreover, the first ascent expedition built six camps over their base camp, two below the Shelf, two on it, and two beyond it. Every member of the expedition team was back to base camp by 28 May.  

Some Remarkable Ascents

After the first ascent in 1955, there were large numbers of successful Kangchenjunga expeditions, but the numbers of successful descents are very low. Other notable ascents include that of Yutaka Ageta and Takeo Matsuda of the Japanese expedition, who summited Kangchenjunga West, also called Yalung Kang, by climbing the southwestern ridge in 1973, though neither man returned to camp. The expedition party concluded that he had fallen during descent and his body was never found. 

An Indian Army team led by Colonel Narendra Kumar marked the second ascent of Kangchenjunga in 1977. The team then completed the northeast spur, which is the difficult elevation that defeated German summit attempts in 1929 and 1931. In 1978, Polish teams made the first successful summit attempts from the routes of Kangchenjunga South on 19 May (Wojciech Wróż and Eugeniusz Chrobak) and Kangchenjunga Central on 22 May (Wojciech Brański, Zygmunt Andrzej Heinrich, and Kazimierz Olech).

The third ascent of Kangchenjunga was on 16 May 1979 by Doug Scott, Peter Boardman, and Joe Tasker. They discovered a new route on the North Ridge. Also, it was the first ascent without supplementary oxygen.

Pierre Beghin made the first solo ascent without using supplementary oxygen in 1983.

A Soviet expedition successfully crossed all four summits of Kangchenjunga that are greater than 8,000m in 1989. Those summits were traversed by the two separate teams climbing in opposite directions.

Marija Frantar and Joze Rozman, Slovenians, attempted the first ascent by a woman in 1991. Later, their bodies were found below the summit headwall. And in 1998, Ginette Harrison was the first woman who climbed Kangchenjunga’s North Face. After that, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, an Austrian mountaineer became the second woman to reach the summit in 2006. Again, reaching the summit in 2009, Edurne Pasaban, a Spanish mountaineer, became the first woman to summit twelve eight-thousanders. Chhanda Gayan became the first Indian woman to summit the Kangchenjunga in May 2014 but was killed by an avalanche on the descent. 

There are many other remarkable ascents of Mt. Kangchenjunga. Despite using more advanced climbing equipment, the death rate of climbers attempting to summit Kangchenjunga is high. And since the 1990s, more than 20% of people have died while climbing Kanchenjunga Main.

- Highlights of Mt. Kangchenjunga expedition

  • Kangchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world 

  • Adventurous climbing experience, technically difficult to climb 

  • Joe and George Band made the first ascent on 25 May 1955

  • Yutaka Ageta and Takeo Matsuda of the Japanese expedition summited Kangchenjunga West in 1973

  • An Indian Army team led by Colonel Narendra Kumar marked the second ascent of Kangchenjunga in 1977

  • A new route was discovered on the North Ridge during the third ascent of Kangchenjunga on 16 May 1979 by Doug Scott, Peter Boardman, and Joe Tasker

  • Pierre Beghin made the first solo ascent without supplementary oxygen in 1983  

  • A Soviet expedition successfully crossed all four summits of Kangchenjunga that are greater than 8,000m in 1989

  • First ascent by a woman, Ginette Harrison, was in 1998

  • Climbers can enjoy a 3600 view from the Kangchenjunga Summit  


Kangchenjunga is actually the third highest mountain in the world and was considered the highest in the world up until 1852. Calculations, based on multiple readings and measurements made by the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India in 1849, concluded that Mt. Everest (known as Peak XV) was truly the tallest. After that, in March 1856, Kangchenjunga was declared to be 8,582m/28,156 ft, while Peak XV (Mt. Everest) was measured to be a height of 8,840 m (29,002 ft). And Kangchenjunga officially became the third highest mountain in the world. Now, the height of Mt. Everest is known to be 8,848.86m/29,031.69ft and Kangchenjunga is 8,586 m (28,169 ft).

Expedition routes


Kangchenjunga is one of the most exciting mountain expeditions in the Great Himalaya range. Kangchenjunga expeditions are both challenging and technical. There are four main expedition routes to reach the summit of Kangchenjunga, which ascend in Nepal from the southwest, northwest, and northeast, and one from northeastern Sikkim in India. The northeastern route from Sikkim has been successfully used only three times in total, with this route being closed since 2000 as the Indian government has banned expeditions to Kanchenjunga.

Northwest and Southwest routes in Nepal is very popular among climbers. These two routes are safer than the one in India, yet still, hold elements of risk. Nothing is predictable when climbing in the Himalayas. Following are details of the most popular routes of the Kangchenjunga Expedition. 

Kanchenjunga South Face Route Camps

Kangchenjunga Expedition through the south face route is considered as an easier route in comparison to Kanchenjunga North Base Camp. This course crosses through the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area, with simple trekking routes that precede Kanchenjunga Advanced Base Camp. Expeditions to the summit commence from the Kanchenjunga Advanced Base Camp.

Kanchenjunga Advanced Base Camp (5400M/17,717ft)

Following approximately two weeks of trekking from Kathmandu, climbers will reach the Kanchenjunga Yalung Base Camp. It lies on a rocky moraine and holds astonishing views of the Kanchenjunga range. Climbers will spend most of their time acclimating to the higher altitude at base camp. Generally, on any long expeditions, base camp becomes a home away from home.

Kanchenjunga Camp 1 (6,200m/20,341ft)

You will have either basic and also advanced mountaineering training by your climbing Sherpa guide at Yalung Glacier before embarking to Camp 1. Upon its completion, you will be ready for your attempt to climb to Camp I (6200m/20,341ft). In this part of the climb, you will encounter diverse terrain, traversing rocks and ice regions. In the first section of rocks, climbers will encounter green slopes, rock slabs, and moraine.

Above the base camp, up to 6000m, the route follows a rocky spur. After that, the trail turns into steep slopes, and a serac up to a snow ridge at 6200m. This is where Camp 1 will be established. For average climbers, it takes about four hours to reach Camp 1. Importantly, Camp 1 is regarded as a very safe camp.

Kanchenjunga Camp 2 (6,400m/20,997ft)

Camp 1 to Camp 2 involves a technical climbing segment on Mt. Kanchenjunga from the South Face. The route from Camp 1 follows a short, horizontal ridge and descends on a plateau. The first part of climbing involves slogging over snow for about 20 minutes to get down on the glacier. Then climbers encounter some steep segments of ice. After crossing the plateau, climbers reach Camp 2. It is located at the end of the plateau at the bottom of the face. You encounter the heart of ice and snow during this section. There are small sections of the icefall that do not require ladders; fixed ropes and big steps will suffice. Most of the route has fixed climbing with Sherpa guides, on a 30-35º slope.

Camp 2 lies over the snowy terrace at the middle bottom of the range. This section of climbing takes about 2½ to a maximum of 3 hours for slow climbers.

Kanchenjunga Camp 3 (7,100m/23,294ft)

This section of the climb is the longest distance on the route. Climbers face an altitude gain of 700m/2,297ft. Climbers encounter the base of the large serac at 6800m, which is roughly 20m high and overhanging at the edge. This part of the climbing does not require any ladder crossings. Yet there are several crevasses of roughly a half meter on the way, and each must be jumped across.

Most climbers feel at ease in this section. The climbing is still on supported slopes, with exposure to cold and wind, so it is not to be taken lightly. The tracks are solid and the route to pass the first serac is easy. This is the camp from where approximately 10% of climbers plan for the summit push. But all climbers must first take a rest.

Kanchenjunga Camp 4 (7550m/24,770ft)

Camp 4 is the last step ahead of reaching the summit of Mt. Kangchenjunga. The distance between Camp 3 to Camp 4 seems like short climbing. Continuing on the plateau from Camp 3, climbers must make their way through crevasses and seracs before reaching the base of a spur, at the base of the big passage. Camp 4 can be fixed around 7,550m/24770ft.

Additionally, oxygen levels are very low at this elevation. So it is expected that whatever effort, no matter how minimal, will feel strenuous. On steep snow that is 50-55º, the climb will take three hours in this section.

Kanchenjunga Summit (8,586m/28,169ft)

Climbing from Camp 4 to the summit of Mount Kangchenjunga: summit day! This day is the main goal of all days of climbs. Most climbers begin their summit attempt at 11:00 pm. Climbers reach the summit between 7-9 am if all goes well. From Camp 4, you will climb the couloirs up to 8,250m. The couloirs split in two, and you will take the right side and traverse diagonally to the base of a steep wall at around 8,400m. Then, you climb the wall (a grade IV) and continue to a rocky tower at about 8,450m. More climbing to a short, snowy ridge and then traverse to the right to a chimney at about 8,500 m. Rappel down the chimney, traverse to the right on mixed terrain to then join a snow slope leading to the main summit at 8,586 m. The climb crosses the false summit and ends on an exposed ridge to the true summit for a panoramic view of the mighty Himalaya.

Best Time for Mt. Kangchenjunga Expedition

Mountain expeditions in the Himalaya are not easy tasks. You cannot just pack your bag and choose to go climbing. There are many things that must be considered before starting your climbing journey, including picking the best season for climbing, which makes your expedition more exciting for a greater chance to be successful. However, it does not guarantee a 100% success rate.

Not every season is suitable for mountain or peak climbing. The Mt. Kangchenjunga expedition is considered one of the most challenging and technical mountains to summit. Autumn and spring are the best seasons for most mountain expeditions in Nepal. Also in these seasons, April to May and also mid-June to August are the best suited time periods for climbing Mt. Kangchenjunga. Throughout these months, the days will be sunny and warm in the Himalaya. Just as importantly, the skies will be clear and the atmosphere will be most amenable to climbing during these periods of time, with great views of the mountains. 

Challenges and Technique


Climbing Kanchenjunga is difficult, with mixed climbing initially and one of the longest horizontal climbs above 8,000m further on. These make the Kangchenjunga a very demanding mountain that requires well-planned logistics and solid, strong assistance. This is why, despite being the third highest mountain in the world, Kanchenjunga is the least summited mountain after Mt. Annapurna (8,091 m).

Weather conditions should always be taken into account when planning for your expedition. As it lasts nearly ten weeks, it is important to keep in mind that Kangchenjunga is known for its high-risk, unpredictable snowstorms. Through the summer monsoon season, there is dense snowfall. In the winter, the snowfall is less burdensome. Nevertheless, the weather at Kanchenjunga can be quite unpredictable. Listed are reminders of some challenges experienced during the Kangchenjunga expedition:

       Extreme and unpredictable weather. The climate, including a snowstorm, gives rise to challenges while climbing and attempting to         summit. There are numerous records of deaths in Kangchenjunga due to bad weather, snowstorms, and avalanches.

       Kangchenjunga is a very demanding and technical mountain

       It is an extremely high elevation journey of over 8,000m to reach the summit

       A strenuous trek to even the first base camp

       Altitude sickness for climbers is common

              There are many techniques that you should consider while preparing for the Kangchenjunga Expedition. Some of them include:

       Physical and mental fitness: Every climber should be physically and mentally fit for any mountain expedition.

       Suitable clothing and equipment: Having the right clothing and equipment for high-altitude trekking or a mountain expedition makes             the journey easier. You must ensure that you are as comfortable and warm as possible. Climbing above 8,000m is not an easy task. 

       Maximum acclimatization: Climbers need to have maximum acclimatization time for Mt. Kangchenjunga. Spending less time                             acclimatizing runs the high risk of getting serious AMS and other high-altitude sicknesses.

       Stay well hydrated: Make sure you are well hydrated. Besides that, avoiding excessive sun and preventing sunburn is important. These             are essential to remember on any high-altitude trek.

       Pick the right month: Though the weather and climate of high-altitude climbing are unpredictable, picking the right month can make a           huge difference.

       Prepare for unpredictable weather: Snowstorms are the main cause of death during Kangchenjunga expeditions. It is imperative to stay           calm in those situations and be well-prepared for any unpredictable events on the mountain.

Expedition Duration

The Kangchenjunga expedition takes 50-60 days to complete, depending on the route you choose. The Kangchenjunga expedition is not as easy as trekking the base camp. It is considered one of the most difficult mountain expeditions; more challenging than reaching the top of the highest mountain in the world. The weather and temperature, combined with climbing requirements on a Kangchenjunga expedition, are demanding. You must have a long acclimatization schedule before you can hope to reach the summit successfully and descend successfully, as well. Even with a successful ascent, a successful descent is not assured. Climbers must be extra careful while descending from the summit.

The process of climbing and acclimatizing to such an altitude takes time. It is critical to consider that the journey to the summit and back down to the base can be deadly. In truth, the fatality rate of climbers attempting to summit Kangchenjunga is high. Climbers must be in extremely fit condition in order to attempt this expedition. Weather conditions, health conditions of each group member, and unexpected natural disasters, as well as other unknowns, can each cause changes in the duration of the expedition.   

Cost of Kangchenjunga Expedition

This highly technical and challenging expedition costs $30,000 to $35,000. This amount can increase as per your choice of facilities. The expedition cost also varies with the number of group members. A higher number of expeditions in the same party can slightly decrease the cost of the expedition. The expedition cost encompasses the following:


Climbing Royalty above 8,000m for a foreign climber is $11,000 in high season and half of that price in other seasons. There are additional permits also required for the expedition journey.

Food and accommodation

The fee quoted includes three meals a day for climbers (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) throughout the journey. Climbers also get a comfortable and warm room at night before and after the expedition requires the use of tents at the various Camps. Food and accommodation is charged at double the price at high altitude.

Climbing gear

Kangchenjunga climbing is challenging and technical. Climbers need proper climbing gear for a successful expedition. It is preferable for you to bring your own climbing gear, however Bold Himalaya can outfit you with climbing gear, for an additional cost.


Guides and porter

Bold Himalaya has special Sherpa guides for mountain climbing. Climbing with an experienced guide makes your journey much easier, and is imperative for an expedition as highly technical as Kangchenjunga.     


Climbers should be in top physical form prior to arriving in Nepal. The company provides pre-training for climbing upon arrival.


The Kangchenjunga expedition cost also includes your transportation while in Nepal. The climbing party will travel to various places by bus or plane during an expedition journey, starting on the first day. 

When you choose to climb the third highest mountain in the world, there is a cost for the privilege. Yes, Kangchenjunga Expedition is quite expensive, but it is an experience of a lifetime.



A special permit is required for the Kanchenjunga expedition. The Kanchenjunga region is listed as a conservation area to help preserve its environmental and cultural importance. There are various police checkpoints during the Kanchenjunga expedition route to check that permits are in order.

Kanchenjunga Restricted Area Entry Permit

Kangchenjunga Region is a restricted area and trekkers and climbers must have a Kanchenjunga Restricted Area Entry Permit to enter the region. 

Kanchenjunga Conservation Area Entry Permit

As the trail to Mount Kangchenjunga passes through Kangchenjunga Conservation Area, climbers must have the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area Entry Permit to progress further.

NMA permit

Including Mount Kangchenjunga, there are other 26 mountain peaks of Nepal for which the Government of Nepal has authorized NMA to issue climbing permits. A permit with an authorized signature is required from NMA for the Kangchenjunga Expedition.

Royalties of Mountain Climbing permits

In climbing Mount Kangchenjunga, mountaineers/climbers are required to pay a royalty fee to the Nepalese government. This fee is $11,000 in spring, $5,500 for autumn and $2,750 for winter seasons.

Additionally, there are several other documents required for processing of the Kangchenjunga Expedition.