Kanchenjunga Circuit – Tseram to Ramche via Kanchenjunga

A highlight of the three weeks I spent hiking the Kanchenjunga Circuit, both scenically and literally, reaching a high point of 4,730m above sea level. I finally got to see Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, from relatively close. It is an extremely well hidden mountain, requiring at least a week of hiking to reach both base camps.

It was a cold night in Tseram, it took my toes a long time to thaw after we set off before 7am hoping to beat the common afternoon cloud. The first rays of light for the day crept above the surrounding mountains.

Ahead were some pretty big mountains, the snow line here is at about 4,500m.

Almost all the streams were frozen or close to, with care required to cross the icy rocks.

It was the perfect morning, with brilliant crisp blue skies, and epic mountain scenery.

We saw a flock of blue sheep, favourite food of the snow leopard, though they’re pretty agile sheep.

By half ten we reached Ramche, at 4,580m, which we would return to to spend the night. Yak dung had been used presumably as insulation on the outside of some of the buildings.

We pushed on up the valley and after turning left finally saw Kanchenjunga in the distance. It was assumed until 1852 to be the highest mountain in the world until more accurate measurements were made. It was first climbed in 1955, and remains one of the least climbed >8,000m mountains, probably in part due to the ~30% fatality rate. In 2019 393 people got permits to climb Everest, whereas Kanchenjunga only had 34 permits.

Though to be honest the other mountains to the right were more interesting. These included Koktang (6,147m), Rathong (6,679m) and the multiple Kabrus at over 7,000m, all of which mark the border between India and Nepal.

There was one final push to climb up onto the moraine wall of the Yalung Glacier, a particularly rocky example.

Where the track finished was a weather worn shrine.

Beyond which was the huge south west face of Kanchenjunga, with its three summits (south, central, and north) only ~100m different in height. The northern one is 8,586m above sea level.

There were a couple of avalanches on neighbouring peaks.

After an hour spent enjoying the views and a packed lunch we returned to Ramche as the clouds gathered.

It was good to see our tents set up at Ramche for our return, though it isn’t a popular camping spot with crews due to the cold. It was possibly the most scenic camp of the whole trip though, with plenty of sunlight, yet surrounded by mountains.

I spotted prayed flags at the top of a nearby ridge and went up to explore, being careful with the steep drop down into the Yalung Glacier on the other side.

There were more epic mountain views from the camp.

There was a handy puddle in front of our tents which offered good reflections of the spectacular landscape.

The day finished with the mountains being lit up with warm light at sunset.

Author: jontycrane

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