Mount Kanchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world and the highest peak of India. It is a part of the Himalayan mountain range and is located in the India-Nepal border. The mountain stands at an altitude of 8586 meters. Kanchenjunga means ‘the five treasures of God’ representing the five repositories of God which are gold, silver, gems, grain and holy books.
Three peaks of the five in total are located in North Sikkim near the border with Nepal and the other two peaks lie entirely on the Taplejung district of Nepal. The Kangchenjunga contains twelve more peaks located in the vicinity. The five peaks of the Kanchenjunga are the Main Kanchenjunga peak at a height of 8586 meters, Kanchenjunga West at 8505 meters, Kanchenjunga Central at 8482 meters, Kanchenjunga South at 8494 meters and Kangbachen at a height of 7903 meters.
The Kanchenjunga Mountain is supported by ridges on all sides. Kanchenjunga was assumed to be the highest mountain in the world until the year 1852. However, after the calculations made by the Great Trigonometric Survey of India in 1849 it came to the conclusion that the Mount Everest was the highest mountain of the world and Kanchenjunga was the third highest.
The Kangchenjunga trans-boundary landscape is shared by the countries of Bhutan, China, India and Nepal. It comprises of around 14 protected areas including biosphere reserves and sanctuaries. The protected areas serve as a home to a wide range of flora and fauna species.
History of Kanchenjunga
The name Kangchenjunga is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Kanchana Ganga’. Kanchana means gold and Ganga is the river which flows in the region. The river shines like gold and hence the name was given to the mountain. The name in Nepali is Kanchanjangha and in local Limbu language it is called Sewalungma meaning the mountain we offer greetings to. Sewalungma is considered sacred in Kirant religion.
The name Kangchenjunga is spelt in a number of alternate ones like Kungchen Dzonga, Khangchendzonga, Kanchenjanga, Kachendzonga or Kangchanfanga. The name was thereby left as Kangchenjunga by its wide acceptance and usage.
Established in the year 1977, Kanchendzonga National Park was initially a Biosphere reserve. Previously it was named Kanchenjunga National Park and later it was turned into Kanchendzonga National Park. Inside the park there are a few Lepcha settlements.
Terrain of Kanchenjunga
The Zemu glacier is a part of Kanchenjunga National Park, which originates from the base of Kanchenjunga Mountain. Located at an altitude of 1829 meters to over 8550 meters, the Kanchendzonga National Park is one of the rare national parks which are at a high altitude. The peak is a scene of wonder with forest ranges all around. Mt. Kanchenjunga primarily includes five peaks and hence the name which means the ‘abode of Gods’. These five peaks of the range are Narshing, Pandim, Simvo, Kabru and Siniolchu among which Mt. Pandim, Mt. Narshing and Mt. Siniolchu are the prettiest of all.
Flora and Fauna of Kanchenjunga
The flora and fauna of Kanchendzonga National Park is very rich and varied. The forest here consists of trees such as oaks, fir, birch, maple and willow. Apart from these tress, there are also other alpine shrubs like mecohopsis, primula rhododendrons. Medicinal plants, herbs and other broadleaved trees can also be found here.
The number of species of animals in the park is also great. Some of the rare endangered species can be found here such as Himalayan black bear, red panda, Tibetan wild ass,Himalayan Tahr, wild dog, sloth bear, civet, Himalayan blue sheep, serow, goral, Takin, musk deer, snow leopard.
There are as many as 550 species of birds found here apart from the various reptiles. Birds found here include Himalayan Griffon, Lammergeier, Tragopan Pheasant, Pheasant, Satyr Tragopan, Osprey, green pigeon, Tibetan snow cock.
Tourism in Kanchenjunga
The Kanchenjunga is a favorite tourist hotspot with many tourists coming from across the world to have a glimpse of the third highest peak in the world. Some of the famous views of Mount Kangchenjunga are from the hill station of Darjeeling. The Darjeeling War Memorial is one of the most visited places to watch the Mount Kanchenjunga.
There are also trekking facilities to the mountain from Sikkim through the Goecha La Pass trek. This pass is located in the front of the southeastern face of Kanchenjunga. Another trek route is to the Green Lake Basin towards the northeastern side of the Mount Kanchenjunga along the Zemu Glacier.
There are other places to explore in Kanchendzonga National Park such as mountains, lakes and rivers.
Mountains in Kanchenjunga
One of the mountains here is the Mt. Rathong which lies to the west of Kabru South. The mountain is at a height of 12,911 feet and appears to merge with the main wall which is Kumbhakarna (Jano).
Located at a height of 24005 feet, Mt. Kabru is a part of a ridge extending from Kanchenjunga. Rathong is a 6682 meter summit located to the south west of Mt. Kabru.
The third highest mountain in the world, Mt. Kanchenjunga is regarded as the monarch of all peaks in the world. For the Sikkimese, Mt. Kanchenjunga is not only a mountain but a revered place for it is considered the abode of their guardian Dzo-nga. Mt. Kanchenjunga is located at a height of 27,803 ft. It can be viewed from every part of Sikkim which makes it a king of mountains.
Situated in West Sikkim at a height of 22,010 ft, Mt. Pandim can be beautifully viewed from the Dzongri Top. From the period of April to May and September, this place is very suitable for expedition.
Also one of the tallest mountains of Sikkim, Mt. Siniolchu is considered the most majestic and breathtaking peaks of the world. It stands at a height of 22,610 ft and located near the Green Lake area.
Mt. Thingchinkhang and Mt. Jopunu
Located in West Sikkim, Mt. Thingchinkhang and Mt. Jopunu can be seen during trekking to Goechala Pass from the Okhlathang Valley. These peaks have been declared as Alpine Peaks by the Government of Sikkim since the year 2006. Hence, Alpine expedition happens to be from these peaks and permit needs to be taken from the home department for it.
Lakes in Kanchenjunga
One of the highest lakes in the world, Gurudongmar Lake has a view so heavenly one could never forget. It is at a height of 17,100 ft and only around 5 kms. away from the Chinese border. It is one of the sources of Teesta River and is a fresh water lake. Trekking from Gurudongmar Lake to Tso Lhsmo Lake is a trekker’s paradise. However, one needs permit for that. The lake stays frozen November to mid-May and that is a breathtaking sight.
Originally known as the Kha-Chot-Palri, it is a sacred lake for it is considered to be a wish fulfilling lake both by the Hindus and the Buddhists. A very interesting fact about this lake is that no leaves float on the lake and such rigidly is this followed that even birds pick up leaves that might lay strewn here. The lake is a very integral part of the Demazong valley and the also the Buddhist religious circuit including the monasteries like the Dubdi Monastery in Yuksom, Pemayangtse Monastery, the Rabdentse ruins, the Sanga Choeling Monastery, and the Tashiding Monastery.
Locating on the way top Jelepla Pass, the Menmecho Lake is a mountain lake in East Sikkim. The lake is however closed for tourists and it is famous for its trout. It is the source of the Rangpo Chu and tributary of Teesta river.
Tso Lhamo lake
The worlds’s 14th highest lake is the Tso Lhamo lake which is also known as the Chho Lhamo or Cholamu lake or Cholamoo lake. It is located at an altitude of 17,490 ft and is just 4 kilometers away from the Chinese border.
At an altitude of 12,400 ft and just 40 kms away from Gangtok, Tsongmo Lake also known as Changu Lake is a glacial lake in Sikkim. One can see the lake when goin to Nathu La. By road it is just 18 kms away from Chinese border however, only 5 kilometers by distance.
Other lakes in the park are Kishong-chu, Laxmi-pokhari, Maangoah, Panch-pokhari and Samiti-lake which is a glacial lake. The lakes comprise of a very important part of the entire eco system of Sikkim. It also forms the major part of tourist attraction in Sikkim.
Activities in Kanchenjunga
The Mount Kanchenjunga was first climbed on 25th May, 1955 by Joe Brown and George Band, who were a part of British expedition. The British expedition honored the beliefs of the Sikkimese, who hold the summit sacred, by stopping a few feet short of the actual summit. The peak has still been climbed many times by different climber groups.
Trekking is a major activity as there are a lots of trekking trails and routes and with every passing day new routes are being explored. The most popular trekking routes here are:
- Thangsing-Lam Pokhari-Kasturi Orar-Lapdong-Tashiding
- Dzongri base camp-Rathong-Khangerteng
- Lucanes Jakchen-Yabuk-Rest camp-Green lake
- Lachen-thangsu-Muguthang-Thay La-Khyoksa La-Rest Camp-Green Lake
Maximum of these trek routes need a pass through the Kanchendzonga National Park
Best Time to Visit Kanchenjunga
The best time to visit the park is from April to May and the
accommodation facilities here are good. Snowfall is very heavy here during the
winter season and monsoon season is from May to October.