November 12, 2022
Kanchenjunga lies at the far northeastern provinces of Nepal sharing the borders of Tibet and India. Standing at an elevation of 8,586m, it is one of the most visually attractive mountains of the world. But despite its charming beauty, the region is quite remote and isolated from the outside world, making it one of the most challenging treks in Nepal.
The Kanchenjunga trek takes you into the heart of the Kanchenjunga region as you walk through one of the best off-beaten trails of Nepal. However, since the trek involves passing high passes, wild forests and remote paths, it poses as quite a hefty challenge, even for the experienced trekkers. On the other hand, if you’re a novice trekker, it is best to opt for some less extreme treks before signing up for this one.
The Kanchenjunga Trek might not be the most physically challenging trek out there, but it is definitely not a walk in the park! Two major factors play a role in making the Kanchenjunga trek difficult. These mainly are the lofty altitude and harsh, unpredictable weather. That being said, with proper equipment, physical endurance, and accurate guidance, the trek is totally achievable! So let’s look a little deeper into the difficulties of the Kanchenjunga Trek and how you can overcome them!
One of the things that causes a significant issue in almost all the treks is altitude sickness. Altitude sickness is a condition that occurs when your body fails to get an adequate amount of oxygen. It usually happens at high altitudes when the air becomes thinner.
Talking about Kanchenjunga, the highest point you will be venturing during the trek is 5200m, which is quite a substantial number! Also, we will be climbing about 500-700m every day on an average which further increases the risk of altitude sickness. For someone who is not used to this kind of sudden altitude changes, the risk of altitude sickness further increases.
However, the good news is that you can minimize the chances of catching altitude sickness with proper acclimatization. With appropriate acclimatization, your body gets used to the changing atmosphere. So even during the Kanchenjunga trek, be sure to take a few days off the busy itinerary for acclimatization days.
The Kanchenjunga Trek is one of the longest trekking routes in Nepal. Hence it demands extreme physical strength and endurance. The total trek covers a distance of about 200kms with roughly about a 100kms to reach from the North to South.
The trek also demands you to cover a distance of 9-11 kms every day which takes about 6-7 hours excluding the acclimatization days. For people having good physical stamina, this won’t pose much of a problem. However, for individuals who are not used to such long walks and have below-average strength, the trek can prove to be tiresome within a few days!
You can opt for the Kanchenjunga trek from the Northern or the Eastside. The northern side is a bit more challenging with a higher elevation and a longer distance. However, it offers a much more magnificent view from Pang Pema at an altitude of 5200 meters.
Overall the Kanchenjunga trek is quite physically demanding and requires adequate endurance and stamina. Even though the trails are off beaten and mostly plain, there are occasional steep ascents and descents which contributes to the challenges.
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Due to its proximity to the Himalayas, the Kanchenjunga region has an unpredictable and ever-changing weather. Thus it is always best to travel during the favourable seasons when the weather is more suitable. These typically fall during the autumn and spring season.
Trekking in monsoon brings a certain degree of risks, including floods and landslides. The trails also become very slippery, which can create potential chances of slipping. Furthermore, frequent rainfall can cause unwanted delays in your itinerary or flight schedules.
Trekking in winter has a possibility but comes with more complexity. During mid-autumn and winter, the temperatures around the base camp drop around -12 degrees Celsius. Also, the occasional heavy winds around the region makes trekking more difficult and risky.
However, the temperatures in the lower elevations are much better fluctuating between 5-8 degrees. However, these temperatures drop drastically during sundown. So for novice trekkers, trekking during the winter season might not be the ideal option!
Another issue that the cold weather brings is the heavy snowfall at the higher elevations! This makes crossing the high passes very challenging and extreme. During the Kanchenjunga trek, we require to cross two significant passes, namely, the Sele Pass and the Pang Pema.
But, due to the heavy snowfall, crossing these passes can really be tricky! On the other hand, the base camps also are covered in thick layers of snow, dropping the temperatures and making the site difficult to set camp on.
Despite its majestic sceneries, the Kanchenjunga trek is one of the most remote treks of Nepal! Due to the less number of tourists every year, the accommodations here are not at their best. You might find some basic accommodations in the lower elevated areas. But as you go higher, you will have to camp and cook all by yourself or with the help of your local guide.
Also, you will hardly find dense settlements as you ascend towards the base camp, with only scarce views of the local shepherds moving about. The place feels solitary and disconnected from the outside world. As a result, the government has banned this area for solo travelling! If you want to opt for this trek, you will need to be in a group of at least two trekkers travelling with an experienced guide.
Let’s dive into it.
Travelling with a guide is more of a necessity than a recommendation! Due to the site’s remoteness, the government has imposed a rule for all foreign trekkers. The rule states that every trekking group must have at least an experienced guide or porter for travelling to the Kanchenjunga region. But don’t worry as there are many positive sides of taking a porter or guide to the Kanchenjunga trek.
Firstly, the trails of the Kanchenjunga are very remote, making navigation very difficult. But, travelling with a guide eliminates this risk as they are well familiar with the problematic route. This way, navigation won’t be an issue. Similarly, guides also act as a translator, so you can interact with the local people and share your stories with them!
Furthermore, guides are most beneficial when it comes to unforeseen emergencies. These emergencies can be altitude sickness, medical emergencies or unpredictable delays. Guides can help in swift and efficient evacuation for such emergencies.
If you want a little more budget-friendly option, you can opt for porters. Porters are a lot useful as they help to share your load, which allows you to travel lightly. Porters can carry loads up to 15-20 kgs enabling you to travel with absolute amenity!
Hiring a porter or a guide can be a little heftier to your wallet but also come with great benefits. Guides usually cost around 20-25 USD, and porters a little cheaper, ranging around 15-20 USD.
As we discussed before, good physical endurance and stamina are a must on this trip. Thus hitting the gym a month before the trek can prove to be very beneficial! Make sure to perform exercises regularly, which focus on building your physical endurance and stamina. This way, you will not get fatigued quickly during the trek.
Additionally, you can perform many yoga exercises or stretching exercises. These exercises help to build your flexibility! Having greater flexibility reduces the chances of muscle injuries during the steep climbs.
If your work schedule does not allow you to commit time in the gym for the exercises, you can opt for them when you are at home. Additionally, you can perform other stamina building exercises. They can be running, jogging, skipping, bicycling or swimming!
Now, this is something many trekkers fail to take into consideration, which further causes many issues. One thing that you have to remember is that the Kanchenjunga trek is a lesser-known and remote trek! Thus, you won’t find much basic stuff throughout the route. So be sure to pack all the necessary items before you begin travelling!
Aside from the essential items such as clothing and toiletries, carry additional items like water purifier, sleeping bags, and a first aid kit. You can bring other secondary items as per your choice. These items can come handy in unpredicted circumstances.
No matter how much you love travelling, one thing to consider is that every high altitude trek has some potential risks! They might be miniature, but they are present! So the first thing to do before any trek is to get proper travel insurance.
Travel insurances are highly beneficial as they cover the cost of all the unwanted issues. These comprise of cancelled flights, evacuation costs, oxygen costs and many more. Since the trek is at a considerable altitude, travel insurances can help a lot, especially during medical emergencies!
The Kanchenjunga takes you above the 3000m altitude mark! This naturally increases the risk of altitude sickness. However, there is a simple method of reducing the potential chances of catching altitude sickness! That is by acclimatizing correctly
Acclimatizing helps your body to get used to the changing oxygen levels and helps your body to behave accordingly. Many people ignore acclimatization and try to climb as quickly as possible. It usually results in individuals succumbing to AMS (Altitude mountain sickness).
Talking about this trek, be sure to choose a suitable itinerary which provides at least 2-3 acclimatization days! It significantly reduces the chances of catching altitude sickness and ensures that you can travel in good health!
Additionally carrying Ibuprofen and Diamox tablets can be of great benefit. However, if you still feel some signs of altitude sickness, even after taking all the necessary precautions, alert your guide!
Travelling during the unfavourable seasons can bring many risks. They consist of unwanted delays, snowfalls blocking the path, landslides, and avalanches. These risks can range from mild to even life-threatening circumstances! So always be wise and travel to the Kanchenjunga region when the climate is quite suitable!
Kanchenjunga trek might be one of the most beautiful treks in the world but comes with numerous obstacles! However, it is not unachievable! With intense physical endurance and confidence, you can conquer this trek satisfactorily! So, if you are looking forward to the Kanchenjunga trek anytime soon, be sure to understand the difficulties and train yourself beforehand to battle against the challenges!
Contact us if you need any information regarding the trek, we are happy to help.