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Backpacker Magazine – January 2013

The Path to Shangri-La: Eastern Tibet's Unclimbed Peaks

Climb hiker-friendly 16,000-foot summits--and maybe nab a first ascent--on a shoestring budget, plus get an unchaperoned glimpse of Tibetan culture.

by: Mark Jenkins

Nyambo Konka'a south ridge (Photo by Mark Jenkins)
Photo by JAN13TIBET_Jenkins_135_445X260
Nyambo Konka'a south ridge (Photo by Mark Jenkins)
Unnamed Peaks south of Minya Konka (Photo by Mark Jenkins)
Photo by JAN13TIBET_Jenkins_500_445x260
Unnamed Peaks south of Minya Konka (Photo by Mark Jenkins)

After working hard to reach the top of my nameless peak, I was in no hurry to leave. I sat on a rock and stared south at a sea of virgin summits. One, about 17,000 feet high, was the spitting image of the Grand Teton. Another of similar height resembled a crumbly Mt. Whitney. Glaciated peaks that looked like the Cascades’ big brothers towered to the southwest. And, directly west, a thin ridge connected my summit to other beckoning peaks. The ridge seemed eminently doable.

Joel and I had agreed to meet back at the tent for lunch, but I unilaterally changed my plans with no way of telling him. I wasn’t worried. We were partners, not codependents. Who knows, maybe he was tempted by a detour to his own private summit?

For the next four hours I traversed along the lip of a north-facing cirque, summiting one point after another, four in total. I don’t know if they were first ascents. They were not technical, so sometime in the past millennium some wandering monk or lovelorn yak herder might have climbed them. But it’s not likely. Most Tibetans view mountains as the abode of the gods, best left alone; they typically don’t go any higher than their yaks can graze.

On the highest peak, at 16,057 feet, I sprawled out on my back, closed my eyes, and dozed.

At some point a shadow cut across the sun and my eyelids sprung open. A bearded vulture, with a 10-foot wingspan, soared directly above me. I sat up immediately so that this immense bird would know I was not dead. According to Tibetan custom, when a person dies the corpse is taken to a certain class of monks for a “sky burial.” High on some remote hill, the monks dismember the body with meat cleavers and the vultures carry away the parts. I’ve seen the process in central Tibet. It’s organic, if macabre.

The bearded vulture, or lammergeier, is a scavenger that survives almost entirely on bone marrow. If a bone is too big to devour, the vulture will carry it into the sky and drop it over rocks, smashing the bone and exposing the fat-rich tissue. I’ve seen this as well. The bird circled so close I saw its head twitching and its orange-rimmed eyes blinking. I thought it might open its large, sharp beak and screech at me, but it didn’t. It just floated in circles. After five minutes, it sailed away, hardly flapping its enormous wings. Perhaps in my younger years, on past expeditions to Tibet, I would have thought of the encounter as some kind of omen, creating out of this bizarre meeting between earth-bound man and sky-borne beast something Buddhist-like, mystical, portentous. But no longer. I knew better. We were both simply following our natures: The bird was hunting and I was climbing.

After a summer of rigorous shakedown trips in the Rockies, Joel and I departed out of Denver International Airport in mid-October. We each had a 52-pound backpack plus a 10-pound carry-on containing mountaineering boots, chocolate, magazines, more chocolate, books, and maps—1/10th the weight of the average load for a traditional Himalayan expedition. And for $1,200—1/10th the cost of such an expedition—we flew to southwestern China’s Chengdu, a densely packed city of cranes, cars, and some 14 million souls. We caught a bus to Ya’an, a taxi to Luding, and that same taxi the next morning all the way to the trailhead in western Sichuan’s Daxue Shan Mountains (a range running north/south located northeast of the central Himalayan chain).

Setting out with 10 days of food and fuel, we had Plan A and Plan B. Plan A was to attempt an unclimbed 20,000-foot peak (yes, that’s higher than I previously suggested, but I had a grudge to settle). Hence, for the first week we endeavored with single-minded intensity to ascend a horrifically rotten ridge on Nyambo Konka, a satellite peak of 24,790-foot Minya Konka. We bailed at 18,000 feet, just before killing ourselves. That’s when Plan B happily became Plan A: peakbagging. But we needed a couple of days to lick our wounds, so we headed to the Minya Konka Monastery, a two-day hike up-valley. Like the unknown peaks, this remote, 700-year-old monastery was one of the draws for reaching this off-the-radar range.




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Kanchenjunga Trek 2000$
Jun 16, 2014



Kanchenjunga Trek (North & South Base Camp) - 24 days
• Details
Highlights:
30 minutes flight to Biratnagar or Bhadrapur with stunning view of Himalaya ranges including Mt. Everest
Ilam Tea garden on the way drive to Taplejung
Close interaction with local people
Stunning view of Mt. Kanchenjunga, the World's 3rd highest mountain
Visit of North and South base camp of Mt. Kanchenjunga
Warm hospitality of Sherpa, Rai & Limbu people
High mountain passes of Sele La & Mirgingla
Spectacular forest of rhododendron & Pine
• Kanchenjunga Trek (North & South Base Camp) - 24 days
from US$ 2820.00
Overview:
The Kanchenjunga Trek - 24 Days of pure raw adventure. this trip will, most probably, help you get rid of your demons, if any
Description:
Eastern Nepal is wonderfully known by its greater diversity on many accounts; ethnic groups such as the Rai, Limbu & Magar communities, a fertile range of flora due to the higher summer rainfall in the region, and some of the most breath-stopping mountain vistas anywhere in the Himalaya. By following the glacial torrent of the Tamur and Ghunsa Rivers to their source on the North West side of the Kanchenjunga Himal, we enter into a lesser known world where the beauty of the landscapes is downright rugged…but simply beautiful…& breathtakingly awesome.
Dwarfed by an alpine opulence in almost every direction, peaks such as Pyramid Peak, Jannu, the Twins and of course Kanchenjunga (8586m) dominate the regal skylines of this region. It is no less dramatic on our southern traverse of the mountain on the return journey by way of the Mirgin La Pass at (4500m). This is a challenging traverse through a region seldom frequented in recent years…this adds up to the uniqueness of this area…where its just ‘us & the mountains & everything else it has to offer.

This trek approaches the North Face Base Camp of the world's third highest peak, Kanchenjunga (8598m) which lies in the eastern frontier of Nepal. Mt. Kanchenjunga, one of the world's most challenging peaks to climb, geographically lies on the Nepal-Sikkim (India) border. The trek gets into gear right after arriving in Taplejung and goes through captivating green, crop growing villages and immaculate forests to the awe-inspiring North Face Base Camp at Pangpema (5065m), before crossing to Oktang – 4370m) the South Base Camp of Kanchenjunga via 3 PASSES OF SINION LA (4440m), MIRGIN LA (4480m) and SINELAPCHE BHANJYANG (4646m).

Day 01: Arrival day in Kathmandu, pickup assistance and transfer to hotel.

Day 02: Trek permit preparation and guided city tour of Pashupatinath, Boudhanath, Swoyambhu & Kathmandu Durbar Square. Overnight at hotel.

Day 03: Flight Kathmandu – Bhadrapur or Biratnagar and drive to Phidim (6-7 hours drive). Overnight at hotel.

Day 04: Drive Phidim – Taplejung (1820 m)- 3-4 hours drive; trek to Mitlung (920m) for 3 hours. Overnight at local tea house.

Day 05: Trek to Chirwa (1300m)- 4-5 hours.
Overnight at local tea house.

Day 06: Trek to Sekathum (1670m) - 5 - 6 hours.
Overnight at local tea house.

Day 07: Trek to Amjilosa (2520m) - 5 - 6 hours. Overnight at local tea house.

Day 08: Trek to Gyabla (2730 m) - 5 - 6 hours.
Overnight at local tea house.

Day 09: Trek to Ghunsa (3595 m) - 4 - 5 hours.
Overnight in a guest house.

Day 10: Acclimatisation day in Ghunsa
Hike upto 4200m on the way to Dudhkunda (milky lake). 4 - 5 hours.
Overnight in a guest house.

Day 11: Trek to Kambachen (4050 m) - 5 - 6 hours
Overnight at local tea house.

Day 12: Trek to Lhonak (4780 m) - 4 - 5 hours
Overnight at local tea house.

Day 13: Day hiking to Pangpema (5065 m) to view the Mt. Kanchenjunga and return to Lhonak for overnight stay at local tea house. 5 - 6 hours.

Day 14: Trek back to Ghunsa (3595 m)
Overnight in a local guest house.

Day 15: Trek to Selele (4300 m) - 5 - 6 hours
Overnight in a basic tea house.

Day 16: Trek Sele La – Sinion La Pass (4460 m) – Mirgin La Pass (4480 m) – Sinelapcha La Pass (4646 m) – Tseram (3870 m) - 7 - 8 hours.
Overnight at local tea house.

Day 17: Day hiking to Oktang Base Camp - 5 - 6 hours.
We go for day hiking to Oktang to observe the Kanchenjunga South and return to Tseram for Overnight stay at local tea house.

Day 18: Trek to Torangden (2995m) - 3 - 4 hours
Overnight at a local tea house.

Day 19: Trek to Yamphudin (2080m) - 5 - 6 hours
Overnight at a local tea house.

Day 20: Trek to Khebang (1910m). - 4 - 5 hours.
Overnight at a local tea house.

Day 21: Trek to Khandembe (1420 m) - 5 - 6 hours



Day 22: Trek to Medibung (1510 m) - 3 hours and drive to Ilam (2150m) - 4 - 5 hours.
Overnight in a guest house.

Day 23: Drive to Bhadrapur / Biratnagar and fly to Kathmandu

Day 24: Departure. Fly back home or onward journey. ***End of Tour***
What's Included:
Airport pick up / drop off by car. Guided city tour as per above program. 3 nights accommodation with breakfast at tourist class hotel in Kathmandu. An experience Guide (trained by Ministry of tourism), 1 porter between 2 members Transfer to and from Biratnagar / Bhadrapur on jeep. Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner with tea / coffee) during the trek. Accommodation at tea houses on the trek (best available) Kanchenjunga special trek permit & Conservation permit. Domestic flights (Kathmandu / Biratnagar or Bhadrapur / Kathmandu) Satelite phone for emergency uses Government taxes and office service fee
What's Not Included:
Any meals in Kathmandu other than breakfast.
Travel insurance
International air fare to and from Nepal.
Nepal Tourist Visa fee US$ 25 or equivalent foreign currency with multiple entry for 15 days, US$ 40 or equivalent foreign currency with multiple entry for 30 days. You may easily issue the visa upon your arrival at Tribhuwan International Airport - Kathmandu.
Items of a personal nature
Any kind of alcoholic drinks, hot water, hot shower, cold drinks, laundry, phone call, internet.
Trekking Equipments (down sleeping bag and down jackets are available to hire or buy in Kathmandu, which would cost approximately US$ 1 per day per item to hire and US$ 60 to US$ 100 per item to buy).
Tips for guide, porters, driver.

http://nepalguideinfo.com/kanchanjunga-trek/
http://nepalguideinfo.com/
http://www.hikehimalayas.com
Email-:sanjib-adhikari@hotmail.com
Mobile+9779841613822

Star Star Star Star Star
Nepal guide info Trekking guide
Jun 16, 2014


I just wrote a recommendation about this Indeandent trekking Mr Sanjib which was the one i chose to do Everest Base Camp and Gokyo, I went to Nepal in Feb-March 2014 and I would totally recommend them. Check it out and read below what i also wrote about them. Enjoy yur time in Nepal :)

http://www.nepalguideinfo.com
sanjib-adhikari@hotmail.com

I did Everest Base camp and Gokyo with the Independent trekking guide Mr. Sanjib and after such a nice trek I can only recommend the service that Sanjib and his team provided it. Experienced guide, a clear itinerary with lots of room for your own personal pace, a personalized approach: you go to him as a client and you leave as a friend. All this and more make the service of this trek, out of the rest. Prices are very good and the quality of all the services, were excellent. We got only great rooms and they always make sure, we have a nice view from our room (probably this is not always possible, but I like that Sanjib and Raj. were taking time in such a details to make his clients happy) He also advise you in all the matters of the trek and more importantly he was very clear about what you get. Many companies will promise you all kind of things even if they know is not possible (flying to Lukla for example is one of them or how many days you can reach certain altitude being safe from AMS) There’s a lot of companies in Kathmandu and I know how difficult and overwhelming the search for the right one can be, but if you’re reading this and looking for a person who can make your treks in Nepal smooth and a very enjoyable experience… go to Sanjib and he’ll handle the rest ☺ Thanks a lot Sanjib, for organizing my trek in Nepal and if I come back someday I definitely know where to go for treks!!

Star Star Star Star Star
Jason
Jan 21, 2014

Great article. What I want to know is how they found out about this area and the monastery in the first place. I would love to do more trips like this but I wouldn't know how to find such a remote area on my own. Anyone have suggestions?

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Trekking in Nepal
Mar 01, 2013

Acute Trek Pvt Ltd http://www.trekshimalaya.com an indoor outdoor trekking and tours operative takes you that further way to guarantee you has an unforgettable http://www.adventurestrekking.com adventure that you have been dream of. Whether you are looking for a quiet gateway, a memorable http://www.hikingsinnepal.blogspot.com outing with a family or an exciting nature adventure. We offer you with the best progressive information and itinerary leading focused and modified as per your requirements. Acute trek is an attempt to encourage Nepal to the exterior world while striving to defend an aged tradition as well as conserve the surroundings for generation to come.

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portorro
Jan 16, 2013

Very good article! Makes one up the training and save some $$$ to get there.

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