Kanchenjunga Circuit – Ghunsa to Tseram

A couple of super cold but scenic days hiking at over 4,000m on the Kanchenjunga Circuit. We had spent a week and a half venturing up a single valley system but would now cross four passes in two days to cross over into another valley system to head out from. These were hard days as I was still fighting off a nasty cold. This would have been annoying at home, but hiking 5-8 hours up and down mountainside at altitude was seriously tiring.

From Ghunsa there was nearly 900m of climbing to reach Sele La High Camp at 4,100m above sea level. There were well built stone steps passing through atmospheric woods, endlessly up.

The slog was worth it to reach this viewpoint high over the valley we’d spent the first half of the trip travelling up. Below was the village of Phole, Ghunsa was hidden but a bit further up, and to the far right was the glacier just before Kambachen. It didn’t look that far from above but the altitude and height gain made it slow going.

There was plenty more up across the rocky landscape before reaching Sele La Pass at 4,290m.

Just before the pass we stopped for our lunch, with a couple of crows joining us.

It wasn’t far from here to High Camp at 4,100m, one of the coldest camps on the circuit.

Two of the group had their birthdays today so the cooks somehow rustled up on their twin gas cookers a pair of birthday cakes with icing in the middle of nowhere!

In the morning the cloud cleared and there were big mountains visible in the distance, including Makalu (on the left), the fifth highest mountain in the world, 8,481m high. There is an epic 42 day (36 days hiking) trip from Kanchenjunga Base Camp to Malaku Base Camp which would have once appealed, but not after this experience, particularly as it repeats the first 16 days of this trip.

Despite the early sunshine this was a damp, cold place, and It took a while for my toes to thaw out as we headed up through a boulder strewn landscape.

There were some big mountains around, including the distinctive Jannu.

There was a bit of a climb up to the 4,440m Sinion La Pass, which offered much better views of Makalu.

The 4,480m Mirgin La Pass in comparison was a bit of a non event as a pass but had good views.

The final pass was the 4,840m Sinelapche La Pass.

Beyond this was a quite staggering view of Koktang (6,147m), Rathong (6,679m) and the Kabrus at over 7,000m.

From here it was down, down, down, a relentless near 1,000m decent with impressive views, and only one flat place to offer respite for my toes and knees. Though as well as a respite the flat spot offered sublime reflections on this alpine lake, complete with prayer flags.

Apparently the prayer flags were installed in winter when it froze over so they didn’t get wet.

Then the big but scenic descent continued, with the camp at Tseram below looking so close yet still took over an hour to reach.

This was another damp, cold spot. Atmospheric when it stared to gently snow, but another cold night ahead beckoned.

Author: jontycrane

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