Kanchenjunga Circuit – Khambachen to Ghunsa

My second day at the remote Tibetan village of Khambachen started with a beautiful sunrise and play of light on the mountains.

I slept for over ten hours again, trying to shift the head cold. Today was the worst day of it, my fourth unwell spell in just two weeks on the trip (fatigue, light headedness, stomach bug, and head cold). I hoped the second half would better as being ill while hiking above 4,000m isn’t much fun.

I headed up 300m (though it felt like much more) on a 13km return acclimatisation walk to Jannu Shrine. This was way tougher than it should have been thanks to the cold wiping me out, but I struggled up, not enjoying it at all other than for the views. Just heading out of Khambachen was pretty spectacular.

Almost the whole way has a wide stone path, which must have involved a huge amount of effort to construct, particularly given the size and weight of the boulders, probably moved by hand.

The steams were mostly frozen on the way up, understandably before 9am, but were still frozen 3 hours later on the return.

There was an epic panoramic view behind of endless mountains behind Khambachen, probably above 5,000m to have that amount of snow cover.

Jannu was ahead, but backlit by the sun most of the day made photography tricky.

To the right was the sizeable Kumbhakarna Glacier, which had a few icy sections, and the odd small lake, but was mostly a huge mass of rock.

At the end of the track were a couple of accommodation buildings under construction and a memorial.

A little further on was the shrine itself, a well decorated large boulder.

From here were possibly the best views of the surrounding mountains, a pretty epic place.

I had been looking forward to the downhill, finding it much faster and easier on the breathing. What I hadn’t expected though was that due to the cold I really struggled to equalise (as you do on planes). Every ten steps or so I can to stop and pinch my nose and yawn to try and sort my ears, otherwise it was incredibly uncomfortable.

So the Jannu Shrine walk for me definitely a type two fun experience, no fun at the time, but rewarding now looking back at the photos.

After an afternoon of much needed rest I caught even better sunset light on my second evening in Khambachen.

The next day I headed up the track toward Ramtang, with he morning shadows added drama to an already dramatic landscape.

After an hour and a half I spotted the rest of my group descending, and waited for them before this rather nasty land slip which was sending rocks tumbling down.

Communications are a little trick up here, Ghunsa was the last spot with mobile reception, so expensive satellite phones are the only option. The group knew that I was on the mend but not that I was definitely going to rejoin so it was a little surprise for them. It was good to be back in the fold, support up here, both logistically and emotionally is important.

It was a long way down from here though, retracing my steps, and the wonderful views back to Kambachen.

Then back down to Ghunsa, which felt longer than on the way up (which had already felt quite long!). It is a very pleasant valley to walk down though.

The slips were nastier than I remembered from the way up.

After nearly eight hours walking, it was a relief to finally get back to familiar Ghunsa by 5pm. Two days ago this place had felt freezing but compared now to Kambachen it felt positively balmy!

Author: jontycrane

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