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Kanchenjunga from Tiger Hills.JPG
Kangchenjunga viewed from Tiger Hill, Darjeeling, India
Highest point
Elevation 8,586 m (28,169 ft) [1]
Ranked 3rd
Prominence 3,922 m (12,867 ft) [2]
Ranked 29th
Isolation 124 km (77 mi)  OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Coordinates 27°42′09″N88°08′48″E / 27.70250°N 88.14667°E / 27.70250; 88.14667 Coordinates: 27°42′09″N88°08′48″E / 27.70250°N 88.14667°E / 27.70250; 88.14667 [2]
Sikkim relief map.svg
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Location of Kangchenjunga
Nepal Province No 1 rel location map.svg
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Kangchenjunga (Province No. 1)
India relief location map.jpg
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Kangchenjunga (India)
Nepal rel location map.svg
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Kangchenjunga (Nepal)
Location Taplejung District, Province No. 1, Nepal;
Sikkim, India [2]
Parent range Himalayas
First ascent 25 May 1955 by Joe Brown and George Band on British Kangchenjunga expedition
(First winter ascent 11 January 1986 by Jerzy Kukuczka and Krzysztof Wielicki)
Easiest route glacier/snow/ice climb
Kangchenjunga and surrounding peaks at sunset from ISS, December 2019 Kangchenjunga and surrounding peaks at sunset.jpg
Kangchenjunga and surrounding peaks at sunset from ISS, December 2019

Kangchenjunga, also spelled Kanchenjunga, is the third highest mountain in the world. It rises with an elevation of 8,586 m (28,169 ft) in a section of the Himalayas called Kangchenjunga Himal delimited in the west by the Tamur River, in the north by the Lhonak Chu and Jongsang La, and in the east by the Teesta River. [3] [1] It lies between Nepal and Sikkim, India, with three of the five peaks (Main, Central, and South) directly on the border, [4] and the remaining two (West and Kangbachen) in Nepal's Taplejung District of Province No. 1. [5]


Until 1852, Kangchenjunga was assumed to be the highest mountain in the world, but calculations based on various readings and measurements made by the Great Trigonometrical Survey started by the British infantry officer William Lambton came to the conclusion in 1849 that Mount Everest, known as Peak XV at the time, was the highest. Allowing for further verification of all calculations, it was officially announced in 1856 that Kangchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world. [6]

Kangchenjunga was first climbed on 25 May 1955 by Joe Brown and George Band, who were part of the 1955 British Kangchenjunga expedition. They stopped short of the summit in accordance with the promise given to the Chogyal that the top of the mountain would remain intact. Every climber or climbing group that has reached the summit has followed this tradition. [7]


Kangchenjunga is the official spelling adopted by Douglas Freshfield, Alexander Mitchell Kellas, and the Royal Geographical Society that gives the best indication of the Tibetan pronunciation. Freshfield referred to the spelling used by the Indian Government since the late 19th century. [3] Alternative spellings include Kanchenjunga, Khangchendzonga and Kangchendzönga. [8] [9] [10]

The brothers Hermann, Adolf and Robert Schlagintweit explained the local name 'Kanchinjínga' meaning “The five treasures of the high snow” as originating from the Tibetan word "gangs" pronounced  [kaŋ] meaning snow, ice; "chen" pronounced  [tɕen] meaning great; "mzod" meaning treasure; "lnga" meaning five. [11]

Local Lhopo people believe that the treasures are hidden but reveal themselves to the devout when the world is in peril; the treasures comprise salt, gold, turquoise and precious stones, sacred scriptures, invincible armor or ammunition, grain, and medicine. [12]

Kangchenjunga's name in the Limbu language is Senjelungma or Seseylungma, and is believed to be an abode of the omnipotent goddess Yuma Sammang.[ citation needed ]

Protected areas

The Kangchenjunga landscape is a complex of three distinct ecoregions: the eastern Himalayan broad-leaved and coniferous forests, the Eastern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows, and the Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands. [13] The Kangchenjunga transboundary landscape is shared by Bhutan, China, India, and Nepal, and comprises 14 protected areas with a total of 6,032 km2 (2,329 sq mi): [14]

These protected areas are habitats for many globally significant plant species such as rhododendrons and orchids and many endangered flagship species such as snow leopard, Asian black bear, red panda, white-bellied musk deer, blood pheasant, and chestnut-breasted partridge. [14]


Panorama Kangchenjunga from Darjeeling.jpg
Panorama of the Kangchenjunga massif from Tiger Hill, Darjeeling

The Kangchenjunga Himal section of the Himalayas lies both in Nepal and India and encompasses 16 peaks over 7,000 m (23,000 ft). In the north, it is limited by the Lhonak Chu, Goma Chu, and Jongsang La, and in the east by the Teesta River. The western limit runs from the Jongsang La down the Gingsang and Kangchenjunga glaciers and the rivers of Ghunsa and Tamur. [1] Kanchenjunga rises about 20 km (12 mi) south of the general alignment of the Great Himalayan range about 125 km (78 mi) east-southeast of Mount Everest as the crow flies. South of the southern face of Kanchenjunga runs the 3,000–3,500 m (9,800–11,500 ft) high Singalila Ridge that separates Sikkim from Nepal and northern West Bengal. [15]

Kangchenjunga and its satellite peaks form a huge mountain massif. [16] The massif's five highest peaks are listed in the following table.

Name of peakHeight (m)Height (ft)LocationProminence (m)Prominence (ft)Nearest Higher NeighborLocation (political)
Kangchenjunga Main [2] 8,58628,169 27°42′11″N88°08′52″E / 27.70306°N 88.14778°E / 27.70306; 88.14778 3,92212,867Mount Everest – South Summit North Sikkim, Sikkim, India / Taplejung, Province No. 1, Nepal
Kangchenjunga West (Yalung Kang) [17] 8,50527,904 27°42′18″N88°08′12″E / 27.70500°N 88.13667°E / 27.70500; 88.13667 135443Kangchenjunga Taplejung, Province No. 1, Nepal
Kangchenjunga Central [18] 8,48227,828 27°41′46″N88°09′04″E / 27.69611°N 88.15111°E / 27.69611; 88.15111 32105Kangchenjunga SouthNorth Sikkim, Sikkim, India / Taplejung, Province No. 1, Nepal
Kangchenjunga South [19] 8,49427,867 27°41′30″N88°09′15″E / 27.69167°N 88.15417°E / 27.69167; 88.15417 119390KangchenjungaNorth Sikkim, Sikkim, India / Taplejung, Province No. 1, Nepal
Kangbachen [20] 7,90325,928 27°42′42″N88°06′30″E / 27.71167°N 88.10833°E / 27.71167; 88.10833 103337Kangchenjunga West Taplejung, Province No. 1, Nepal
Kangchenjunga map by Garwood, 1903 Round Kangchenjunga; a narrative of mountain travel and exploration (1903) (14771327254).jpg
Kangchenjunga map by Garwood, 1903
Southwest (Yalung) face of Kangchenjunga seen from Nepal Kangchenjunga South Face.jpg
Southwest (Yalung) face of Kangchenjunga seen from Nepal

The main ridge of the massif runs from north-northeast to south-southwest and forms a watershed to several rivers. [16] Together with ridges running roughly from east to west they form a giant cross. [3] These ridges contain a host of peaks between 6,000 and 8,586 m (19,685 and 28,169 ft). The northern section includes Yalung Kang, Kangchenjunga Central and South, Kangbachen, Kirat Chuli, and Gimmigela Chuli, and runs up to the Jongsang La. The eastern ridge in Sikkim includes Siniolchu. The southern section runs along the Nepal-Sikkim border and includes Kabru I to III. [1] This ridge extends southwards to the Singalila Ridge. [21] The western ridge culminates in the Kumbhakarna, also known as Jannu. [1]

Four main glaciers radiate from the peak, pointing roughly to the northeast, southeast, northwest, and southwest. The Zemu glacier in the northeast and the Talung glacier in the southeast drain to the Teesta River; the Yalung glacier in the southwest and the Kangchen glacier in the northwest drain to the Arun and Kosi rivers. [22] The glaciers spread over the area above approximately 5,000 m (16,000 ft), and the glacialized area covers about 314 km2 (121 sq mi) in total. [23] There are 120 glaciers in the Kanchenjunga Himal, of which 17 are debris-covered. Between 1958 and 1992, more than half of 57 examined glaciers had retreated, possibly due to rising of air temperature. [24]

Kangchenjunga Main is the highest elevation of the Brahmaputra River basin, which forms part of the southeast Asian monsoon regime and is among the globally largest river basins. [25] Kangchenjunga is one of six peaks above 8,000 m (26,000 ft) located in the basin of the Koshi river, which is among the largest tributaries of the Ganges. [26] The Kangchenjunga massif forms also part of the Ganges Basin. [27]

Although it is the third highest peak in the world, Kangchenjunga is only ranked 29th by topographic prominence, a measure of a mountain's independent stature. The key col for Kangchenjunga lies at a height of 4,664 metres (15,302 ft), along the watershed boundary between Arun and Brahmaputra rivers in Tibet. [28] It is however, the 4th most prominent peak in the Himalaya, after Everest, and the western and eastern anchors of the Himalaya, Nanga Parbat, and Namcha Barwa, respectively. [29]

Climbing routes

Kanchenjunga-north from base camp in Nepal Kanchenjunga-north.jpg
Kanchenjunga-north from base camp in Nepal

There are four climbing routes to reach the summit of Kangchenjunga, three of which are in Nepal from the southwest, northwest, and northeast, and one from northeastern Sikkim in India. To date, the northeastern route from Sikkim has been successfully used only three times. The Indian government has banned expeditions to Kanchenjunga; therefore, this route has been closed since 2000. [30]

Climbing history

Painting of Kanchinjinga as seen from the Singalila Ridge by Hermann Schlagintweit, 1855 Kanchenjunga summit ca. 1857.jpeg
Painting of Kanchinjínga as seen from the Singalila Ridge by Hermann Schlagintweit, 1855
Sunset on Kangchenjunga, 1905 Sunset on Kinchenjunga.jpg
Sunset on Kangchenjunga, 1905
South face of Kangchenjunga seen from Goecha La, Sikkim at 4,940 m (16,210 ft) Kangch-Goechala.jpg
South face of Kangchenjunga seen from Goecha La, Sikkim at 4,940 m (16,210 ft)
Kangchenjunga seen from Darjeeling War Memorial Kangchenjunga From Darjeeling War Memorial.jpg
Kangchenjunga seen from Darjeeling War Memorial

Early reconnaissances and attempts

First ascent

A sign board on the last traversable road to Kangchenjunga Kangchenjunga Sign Board.jpg
A sign board on the last traversable road to Kangchenjunga
First ascent reunion of 1990- front (left to right): Neil Mather, John Angelo Jackson, Charles Evans and Joe Brown and rear (left to right): Tony Streather, Norman Hardie, George Band, and Professor John Clegg. 1990 reunion of the Kangchenjunga climbers.jpg
First ascent reunion of 1990– front (left to right): Neil Mather, John Angelo Jackson, Charles Evans and Joe Brown and rear (left to right): Tony Streather, Norman Hardie, George Band, and Professor John Clegg.

In 1955, Joe Brown and George Band made the first ascent on 25 May, followed by Norman Hardie and Tony Streather on 26 May. The full team also included John Clegg (team doctor), Charles Evans (team leader), John Angelo Jackson, Neil Mather, and Tom Mackinnon. [8] The ascent proved that Aleister Crowley's 1905 route (also investigated by the 1954 reconnaissance) was viable. The route starts on the Yalung Glacier to the southwest of the peak, and climbs the Yalung Face, which is 3,000 metres (10,000 ft) high. The main feature of this face is the "Great Shelf", a large sloping plateau at around 7,500 metres (24,600 ft), covered by a hanging glacier. The route is almost entirely on snow, glacier, and one icefall; the summit ridge itself can involve a small amount of travel on rock. The first ascent expedition made six camps above their base camp, two below the Shelf, two on it, and two above it. They started on 18 April, and everyone was back to base camp by 28 May. [40] Other members of this expedition included John Angelo Jackson and Tom Mackinnon. [41]

Other notable ascents

Kangchenjunga 3D Kangchenjunga 3D.gif
Kangchenjunga 3D

Despite improved climbing gear the fatality rate of climbers attempting to summit Kanchenjunga is high. Since the 1990s, more than 20% of people died while climbing Kanchenjunga's main peak. [57]


The Kangchenjunga Mountain Range as seen from Tiger Hill, Darjeeling Mount Kangchenjunga seen from Tiger Hill.jpg
The Kangchenjunga Mountain Range as seen from Tiger Hill, Darjeeling
Kanchenjunga as seen from Gangtok, Sikkim Kangchenjunga-from-Gangtok.jpg
Kanchenjunga as seen from Gangtok, Sikkim
Kangchenjunga, seen from Teesta Barrage, Nilphamari, Northern Bangladesh Kangchenjunga From Teesta Barrage.jpg
Kangchenjunga, seen from Teesta Barrage, Nilphamari, Northern Bangladesh

Because of its remote location in Nepal and the difficulty involved in accessing it from India, the Kangchenjunga region is not much explored by trekkers. It has, therefore, retained much of its pristine beauty. In Sikkim too, trekking into the Kangchenjunga region has just recently been permitted. The Goecha La trek is gaining popularity amongst tourists. It goes to the Goecha La Pass, located right in front of the huge southeast face of Kangchenjunga. Another trek to Green Lake Basin has recently[ when? ] been opened for trekking. This trek goes to the Northeast side of Kangchenjunga along the famous Zemu Glacier. The film Singalila in the Himalaya is journey around Kangchenjunga.

In myth

Five Treasures of Snow Five Treasures of Snow.jpg
Five Treasures of Snow

The area around Kangchenjunga is said to be home to a mountain deity, called Dzö-nga [58] or "Kangchenjunga Demon", a type of yeti or rakshasa. A British geological expedition in 1925 spotted a bipedal creature which they asked the locals about, who referred to it as the "Kangchenjunga Demon". [59]

For generations, there have been legends recounted by the inhabitants of the areas surrounding Kanchenjunga, both in Sikkim and in Nepal, that there is a valley of immortality hidden on its slopes. These stories are well known to both the original inhabitants of the area, the Lepcha people, and Limbu people and those of the Tibetan Buddhist cultural tradition. In Tibetan, this valley is known as Beyul Demoshong. In 1962 a Tibetan Lama by the name of Tulshuk Lingpa led over 300 followers into the high snow slopes of Kanchenjunga to ‘open the way’ to Beyul Demoshong. The story of this expedition is recounted in the 2011 book A Step Away from Paradise. [60]

Kangchenjunga seen from Tetulia, Panchagarh, Northern Bangladesh. Kangchenjunga from Bangladesh.jpg
Kangchenjunga seen from Tetulia, Panchagarh, Northern Bangladesh.

In literature

East face of Kangchenjunga, from near the Zemu Glacier, Sikkim Kangchenjunga East Face from Zemu Glacier.jpg
East face of Kangchenjunga, from near the Zemu Glacier, Sikkim

Further reading

View of Kangchenjunga as seen from Darjeeling Mt. Kanchenjunga.jpg
View of Kangchenjunga as seen from Darjeeling

The above Himalayan Journal references were all also reproduced in the "50th Anniversary of the First Ascent of Kangchenjunga" The Himalayan Club, Kolkata Section 2005.

See also

Related Research Articles

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