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Thursday, 27 November 2014

Trip report for Kanchenjunga Circuit led by Jill and Tom Lawson in October/ November 2014

Photo: TMC 2014 Kanchenjunga team at Pangpema
As usual for our trips we had an international mix of trekkers for our 2014 Kanchenjunga Circuit group with people coming from UK, Australia, Canada and USA. A few of the group had already travelled with us before joining our treks to K2 & Gondogoro La, Everest Base Camp, Dhaulagiri Circuit and Manaslu Circuit. We are always very grateful when people come back for more than one trek with TMC and we really appreciate their trust and support.

Our leaders for this group were Jill and Tom Lawson, they led separate groups for TMC in October (Jill led Ama Dablam BC and Tom led Dhaulagiri Circuit), and in November they joined forces to lead our Kanchenjunga Circuit group. Supporting Jill and Tom were our superb Nepalese crew with Jhire Rai as Sirdar and Sangram as the head cook. The Sherpa guides were Khumbu, Kobe and Pasang, all these guys and Jhire are from the same village, Gudel, in Solu Khumbu.

The group arrived to Kathmandu on flights throughout the day of October 28th and in the evening met up together with Jill and Tom for a meal at Hotel Tibet. On morning of 29th Jill and Tom gave their briefing to the group and I also was in Kathmandu so I attended this meeting too. In the evening we all met up for a group meal at Rumdoodles restaurant in Thamel, I enjoyed meeting the group as well as catching up with those were coming back for repeat treks with us.

On October 30th the group flew to Bhadrapur airport in east of Nepal then in the afternoon they drove up to Ilam. This town is located in the tea growing region of Nepal and they stayed here in a hotel for one night. On 31st they continued the bus journey arriving to Taplejung to meet the rest of the trek crew, in afternoon they walked downhill to their first night’s camp at Mitlung at an altitude of only 921m. During this section of the trek the trail passes through large cardamon fields. Cardamon is a new cash crop being grown in this region and is bringing more prosperity as cardamom sells for a high price in India.

On their return to Kathmandu after the trek I enjoyed meeting the group for a meal at KToo restaurant in Kathmandu to hear about the trek and their feedback on how it went. Everyone I spoke to was very positive and told me how they really enjoyed Kanchenjunga Circuit. As you can see from the photos on Kanchenjunga Circuit webpage this trek visits a beautiful, unspoilt and remote region of Nepal that combines walks to both Base Camps of the third highest mountain in world. Kanchenjunga Circuit is still a quiet trek with only about 500 trekkers each year compared to over 77,000 in the Everest region. From speaking to Jill I gather during their time away they only saw about 90 other trekkers.

This group were blessed with twenty three days of sun and blue skies which gave them tremendous views during the trek. The condition on the trail was excellent with both Pangpema and Mirgin La free of snow. This was rather different from the conditions experienced by Almas group last year as there was still snow around after Cyclone Phailin, to read Trip Report for Kanchenjunga Circuit November 2013.

I gather from Jill jokingly the group very quickly realised they were actually on an eating holiday which involved eating lots for breakfast, going for a walk, stopping for a huge prepared lunch then walking a bit more for afternoon Pringles and biscuits then followed in the evening bu a huge three course dinner. The group renamed the trip as the 'fat camp' thanks to Sangram's excellent cooking! Daily fresh coffee was a huge success within the group. At Kambachen the group were joined for afternoon and morning coffee by another TMC leader Ade Summers who was at the same overnight camp with a different group.

We have carefully designed our itinerary for gradual acclimatisation to the high altitude as well as several rest days to allow for recovery from the longer days and also as a buffer in case of delays along the way due to bad weather or conditions etc. Almost the whole group trusted our well designed itinerary of acclimatisation days to adapt naturally without taking diamox. Our itinerary proved itself again as there were few symptoms of mild altitude sickness and everyone successfully completed the trek.

During the trek Jill and Tom gave a demonstration of the PAC/ gamow bag and I gather the group found this session informative and interesting. For our remote treks like Kanchenjunga Circuit we always bring Thuraya satellite phone for communications and TMC office kept in daily contact with Jill. Jill also had a  GPS spot tracker and checked in each night so we were able to follow the groups progress, please click here to view SPOT Adventure online map. Having this equipment and level of back up support gives everyone the confidence in case required in an emergency.

During this trek we had some issues with the porters as on several days a small group of them were late getting into camp. Luckily for one day of the trek to Yamphudin village when two porters were very late arriving with Jill’s and a member’s bag there was a lodge for them to use nearby until their gear arrived. In the past we never had problems with porters on Kanchenjunga Circuit trek however it is getting increasing challenging to get reliable porters in this region. One of the main reasons is there is now other work opportunities especially with cardamom plantations so there is other less strenuous work available. We will carefully consider our approach to porterage for our Kanchenjunga Circuit trek in 2015 and it is likely we will bring more porters from Kathmandu.

I gather Jill and Tom helped the group learn basic Nepali each day, this is a wonderful idea as helps everyone to communicate with the crew and locals they meet along the way. Tom trained as a geologist and enjoys passing on his knowledge to the group, in particular he is well known for his “rock of the day". A rock is selected from the day’s walk and passed around after supper for analysis and identification. This was a huge success and I gather the Sherpas also started to get involved and enjoyed learning about their environment.

I would like to congratulate the group for successfully completing this trek, I heard they worked as a team and got along well together. I gather the crew appreciated the group helping out at times to pitch the tents and other jobs around camp. Of course I would like say a huge thanks to Jill, Tom and Jhire for their leadership and hard work throughout the trek. I would also like to thank the rest of the trek crew.

Our next Kanchenjunga Circuit trek is in late October 2015 and this group will be led by Almas Khan. Almas knows this trek well as he led our successful Kanchenjunga Circuit group in Autumn 2013, I know he is very much looking forward to doing this trek again. Please get in touch soon if you would like to join our Kanchenjunga Circuit group in 2015.

Roland Hunter

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