The world’s third tallest mountain, Kanchenjunga, resides in India, Nepal and Tibet. Not only do people trek to see it but many trek routes are weaved around the mere chance of spotting its silhouette. They say the sunrise at the peak is a marvellous one as the sunrays glisten off of its many twists and turns.
How to reach: Kanchenjunga’s presence in Sikkim is a matte of pride to the picturesque state. If you are looking to visit the formidable mountain through the course of this north-eastern sister then you can either fly down to Bagdogra airport or take a train till New Jalpaiguri and thereafter travel by road till Yuksom in order to commence your trek. In the 4 climbing routes to the peak, 3 start from Nepal and one from Sikkim in India.
Best time to visit: May to June, August to October.
Shrouded in a mist of such scenic beauty and adventurous spirit, today, let’s have a look at some interesting facts about this renowned peak!
1. While we often speak of Kanchenjunga as if its singular, it is actually a Himalayan mountain range comprising of 5 peaks. Its name if broken into Kang (Snow), chen (Big), dzö (Treasury) nga (Five), altogether standing for “The Five Treasures of the Snow” in the Tibetan language. Each of the treasures is a repository believed to be held by God himself. These include gold, silver, gems, holy books and even grains. Amongst the 5 peaks, 3 of them stand across the Indian and Nepalese border between North Sikkim and the Taplejung District of Nepal. The remaining two are completely in Taplejung. The names of the 5 are – Kanchenjunga Main, West (Yalung Kang), Central, South and Kangbachen. Kanchenjunga Main stands at a height of 28,169 feet, bagging the status of the third tallest peak globally.
2.The ethnic communities here are made up of the Rai, the Limbu and the Sherpas. Meanwhile, its name in the local Limbu language is Sewalungma. This stands for “Mountain that we offer greetings to”. This name thus highlights its religious significance. The locals and those who practice the Kirat religion thus deem the mountain to be a sacred one. Further, they say that the Sanskrit language traces the name Kanchenjunga to kanchana which means gold and junga is for the river Ganga. Their take is that the name means “the river that shines like gold” a factor attributed to the meandering waterbody’s golden appearance during the sunrise hour.
3.Though today you and I know Mount Everest as the world’s tallest mountain, up until 1852 Kanchenjunga was the one to hold this prized position. In the 1800s the Britishers conducted the Great Trigonometric Survey which then revealed Everest (back then, Chomolungma) to be the tallest. So, if you and I were born 2 centuries ago we would live knowing another mountain to be the world’s tallest! Makes one think that what if after our time another peak stumps the presently titled one, doesn’t it?
4. A reason behind this late discovery was also on account of the religious beliefs of the locals who believing the mountain to be sacred didn’t climb them for a considerable amount of time. This was respected when George Band and Joe Brown became the first ever people in the world to climb Mount Kanchenjunga in 1955. They adhered to the Sikkimese customs and stopped their summit a few feet away from the actual tip which remains a virginal point to this day.
5. Though the 1955 attempt was the first successful one, the first attempt at climbing Kanchenjunga ever was made by Aleister Crowley and team in 1905. On August 31st the expedition touched an altitude of 21,000 feet but was forced to retreat because of the likelihood of an avalanche. The following day on the 1st of September they estimated that they reached approximately 25,000 feet but again had to retract themselves on account of the deteriorating weather. Unfortunately, in this attempt climber Alexi Pache and 3 porters lost their lives.
6. The second successful attempt was by none other than the Indian Army! In 1977, Colonel Narendra Kumar led a team to make the second successful summit to Mount Kanchenjunga. This success came after the predecessors of a German expedition had not been able to reach their destination twice in 1929 and 1931. It is still relatively lesser climbed when it comes to the 8,000 metres club (mountains above an altitude of 8,000 metres) and ranks as the second least climbed one amongst them.
7. Since it lays approximately 125 kilometres eat-south-east of Mount Everest, trekking up to Kanchenjunga also rewards mountaineers with the sighting of Mount Everest’s east face which is a unique and lesser spotted side of the mountain. Further, the alpinists are even bestowed with a view of the world’s fifth tallest peak which is called Mount Makalu.
8. In the list of the inhabitants in and around the peak, the blue sheep, musk deer, snow leopard and red panda are included. The Nepalese government funds a conservation project in the region to preserve the red panda species. It is also the state animal of Sikkim in honour of which the annual Red Panda festival is hosted. Conservation efforts need a focused and strong approach as the number of red pandas across the globe is less than 10,000! Additionally, the Kanchendzonga National Park in Sikkim was granted a UNESCO World Heritage site status in 2016 in the hopes of better preservation.
9. As with all things of beauty and intrigue, Kanchenjunga too is burdened or laced with certain myths and beliefs. For instance, some believe that on its slopes is a valley of immortality. Referred in Tibetan as Beyul Demoshong, this valley is said to be hidden. And while there is no factual proof of its existence, it is a fact that in 1962 a Tibetan lama named Tulshuk Lingma led over 300 followers to the peak’s slopes in the aims of opening this valley!
10. A bipedal demon is said to have been spotted here by some mountaineers. And yes, I’m sure you like me are thinking of the yeti. Whether it is the favourite Himalayan mythical creature itself roaming about the Kanchenjunga range, one doesn’t know. But the tribes have gone onto say that this demon is actually a protector. From a shape-shifter, to a demon or rakshasa and even a protector although a demon, these are the various forms the said creature has taken as per the local legends. How much these legends lend to facts, you and I do not know, but they do make us think of all the possibilities, don’t they?
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