Reasons (not) to climb Kangchenjunga

Ten reasons for not climbing Kangchenjunga…

  1. It’s not high or famous enough. It lacks the fame of Everest and the ‘prestige’ of K2. As an Everest summiteer you’ll be the hero of your neighbourhood. As a K2 summiteer you’ll gain respect from fellow climbers… but if you mention back at the office that you’ve spent two months climbing a peak called “K-A-N-G-C-H-E-N-J-U-N-G-A”, you’ll get a ‘whaaaat ???’
  2. It’s too remote. Just to get to Base Camp requires a long (around 15 days) and difficult approach. The Kangchenjunga trek to SW side is one of the less frequented in Nepal. There are no lodges and no roads. You’ll spend several days on a huge glacier, which can be very difficult in bad weather.
  3. It’s located in an area where you cannot find Sherpa porters or climbers because it is too far away from the Khumbu valley or touristic places.
  4. There is no easy way to the summit. No matter what side or route you choose: climbers must find their way through difficult terrain – each step will be more and more difficult to the very top. First ascent was completed through the SW face in 1955. Sikkim face was first climbed through the North East Spur by an Indian Army team in 1977.
  5. It can’t be easy ‘tamed’ with fixed ropes. Only some passages can be fixed by the usually small teams, and climbers must be prepared to progress self-sufficiently without ropes.
  6. Commercial outfitters usually don’t offer expeditions to Kangchenjunga. Logistics are too complicated and it would be difficult to find guides who had previously summited the mountain – and willing to repeat the experience.
  7. Media are typically not interested in covering an expedition to a mountain they can’t even spell properly. Base camp would be too quiet for journalists and filming on higher attitudes might be too hard for almost any cameramen.
  8. Even if you do climb it, there are too many possibilities of not reaching the summit. Too long, too high, too cold, too hard…
  9. Even if you do reach the summit, there are too many possibilities of not getting back safely. Exhaustion, confusing sections in bad weather and avalanches have taken the life of more than a few climbers. Up till 2018 only 312 climbers have summited Kangchenjunga with an overall summit/fatality rate of about 21%. According to statistics, K2 and Nanga Parbat used to be more dangerous, but while the death toll is decreasing on both these mountains, recent statistics shows that Kangchenjunga’s rate actually has increased over the last decade. Only deadly Annapurna is still on top of the danger list…
  10. It’s expensive. Stats on failed attempts and moral accidents are so scary that few sponsors are keen to invest money in the adventure. The entire history of the mountain is spilled with blood. And Nepal climbing permits for 8000ers cost more than €10000.

Some good reasons to climb Kangchenjunga

  1. It’s one of the least climbed 8000 m peaks, only second to Annapurna. For every twenty five people that attempt to climb Everest less than one tries to summit Kangchenjunga. Why do so few people climb Kangchenjunga? Because it is very remote, because it doesn’t have the same reputation as Everest or K2 and there is no ‘easy’ route, the approach is long and challenging, and you really need to know how to climb. That’s exactly why I want to climb it…
  2. It’s incredible beautiful. The area is wild and rugged, almost untouched by tourism and true to its Tibetan roots. This is one of the only places in the world where you can find red pandas, bharals (blue sheep), and even the snow leopard. Kangchenjunga is isolated from the other 8000 m giants and towers above all the sub-peaks around it.
  3. It is a very significant mountain to the local people the Sikkim. The first expedition was only allowed because they promised the Chogyal,  the monarch of the Sikkim, not to stand on the true summit as this is God’s place. A tradition that remains to the present day… Kangchenjunga is the untrodden mountain.
  4. It’s the ‘home mountain’ of Namgya, my sherpa-brother, with whom I climbed Everest three times, since Namgya was born on Kangchenjunga’s lower flanks. It will be both an honour and a privilege to join him on his first ascent of the mountain.
  5. Until now, Kangchenjunga has, despite several attempts, never succesfully been climbed by a Dutchman. So I hope to become the first Dutchman ever to summit it…
Kangchenjunga – the untrodden mountain