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Monday, 7 December 2015

Trip report for Kanchenjunga Circuit trek led by Almas Khan and Jhire Rai in November 2015

Photo: Mt Kanchenjunga northside
In November, we organised our Kanchenjunga Circuit trek in eastern Nepal. This trek was led by Almas Khan and Jhire Rai. Almas has led this trek once before at the same time last year and Jhire has done this trek so many times I have lost count! The cook was Sangram and the Sherpas were Raj and Heavy.

Almas has had a busy year in 2015 leading four treks for The Mountain Company; in April he led a group on Dhaulagiri Circuit (during earthquake); in August/ September he was on Ladakh Sky Trail; in September/ October to Bhutan for his sixth Lunana Snowman trek and then back to Nepal for Kanchenjunga Circuit. We are lucky to work with capable and experienced group leaders like Almas, what a great year he has had!

For our November 2015 Kanchenjunga Circuit there were eight trekkers coming from UK, Canada, Australia and USA. The group arrived to Kathmandu on November 3rd and next morning Almas gave his trek briefing and I also attended. After the briefing people had time to walk into Thamel to purchase items from the trekking stores in Thamel and have lunch at one of the many eateries in town.

On November 5th the group flew to Bhadrapur in east of Nepal and in afternoon drove up to Ilam for the night. Ilam is the main centre for tea growing and over on the Indian side of the border are the famous tea plantations around Darjeeling.

Photo: camp at Lhonak
Throughout the course of Kanchenjunga Circuit trek we received bespoke weather forecasts from Michael Fagin at and this information is sent through to Almas on his satellite phone. Having professional weather forecasts is essential for safety in crossing high passes and for decision making in the field.

With our past Kanchenjunga Circuit treks the weather has been settled and sunny in the dry post monsoon season. We always carefully select the dates to maximise the chance of successfully completing the trip and November has been consistently a good time of year to trek in this region. Almas reports back the following about the weather for Kanchenjunga Circuit November 2015:

“The weather conditions on the trek were very good. It did not rain at all while we were walking. Only cloudy afternoon was the day we walked to Ghunsa from Phole village. We had very clear days above 4,200m although the skies were hazy up to 2500m.The day we walked to Kanchenjunga North Base Camp (Pangpema) it got very windy with sand blasting and head winds on the way back. Apart from that was great, the day over the passes from high camp to Tsheram was still and clear. It was cold on the trek but not more than anticipated (as mentioned on trip notes). At Ramche the temperatures went down close to -8 inside the tent that was the coldest night of the trek.”

This group stuck to the itinerary walking up as planned to Pangpema at Kanchenjunga northside Base Camp on November 16th and then returned to Ghunsa on the next day. Almas decided to keep the group moving and not have a rest day at Ghunsa instead head up to High Camp before Mirgin La. This was a sensible plan as the weather forecasts were fine and sunny so everyone had wonderful views as crossed over Mirgin La on November 18th arriving to Tseram village around 4pm in the afternoon.

On November 20th the group walked up to Oktang for the viewpoint of the south west face of Kanchenjunga and descending to camp at Ramche. From here there is a long walk out and on November 26th this group arrived to Suketar (near Taplejung).

For all of our treks and expeditions in Nepal we use Mountain Hardwear Trango 3.1 tents owned by The Mountain Company. These are three person domed tents where there is plenty of space for two people sharing a tent plus gear. More importantly these tents are incredibly strong and are designed for use on expeditions to the highest mountains. I have used Trango 3.1s on expeditions to Everest, Makalu, Broad Peak and Kanchenjunga. As long as these tents are well anchored they will survive almost any storm.

On November 27th they drove back down through Ilam down to the plains to stay the night at a hotel in Birtamod before flying back to Kathmandu on 28th. On their return Helen and I met up with most of the group in Thamel for an enjoyable meal to hear about the trek and their feedback.

We used SPOT gps tracker for this group, for each night on trek Almas checked in sending a gps signal to us so we could track this group's progress: click here to see the way points overlaid onto a map for Kanchenjunga Circuit

Thanks very much to Almas, Jhire and the rest of the team for their hard work in leading this trek and to the Sherpas, Raj and Heavy, and the cook, Sangram.

The Mountain Company is promoting two Kanchenjunga Circuit treks for 2016 and our departure in April is already guaranteed to run. There is already some interest in our departure in November so I am confident this will run as planned.

Please get in touch with us soon if you like to join our Kanchenjunga Circuit trek in April or November 2016.

Roland Hunter

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