Kanchenjunga Trek Difficulty

You don't have to be a professional athlete or mountaineer to complete the Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek.  On the other hand, it doesn't also mean that Kanchenjunga trek is as simple as walking or running in a park.  A certain level of fitness and training needs to be maintained if you really wish to complete Kanchenjunga Trek without any issue.  Therefore, we are here with an exclusive advice and information to prepare that you should consider taking up this trek. In the end, reading this article will let you know how difficult is to trek Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek in Nepal. Whether your fitness and experience will fit for Kanchenjunga Trek? Or How can you prepared for this trek. Most of my customer inquiries ‘how difficult is Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek’? Do we have to trek somewhere before going Kanchenjunga? 
 
In this article, I would like to highlight my experience about Kanchenjunga trek difficulties and necessary preparations you may need before embarking on this great trail.  I suggest you to read this article until the end for causes and effect and how can you put yourself on the list of as a successful Kanchenjunga trekker.

Distance

Approximately 200 km (125miles) round to and from Taplejung where this trek began in eastern Nepal, including 2 acclimatisation day and side trips at Ghunsa and Kambachen. That is roughly 100km (75 miles) one way to reach North to South Base Camp in 15 to 16 days walk in and 4 to 5 day walk out. Which is roughly 9 -11km (7-8 miles) walking distance each day.
 
For those who take the domestic flight to Bhadrapur, the trek starts from Taplejung small mountain village eastern Nepal located at 1,400m (4,700ft) with an effective oxygen level of about 17.3% (20.9% Oxygen level will remain in the air at sea level).  Higher the altitude lower the Oxygen level in the atmosphere. A majority that people are coming to the Himalayas from low land should always remember, irrespective of your fitness or muscular capacity. That means you shouldn't assume 10 Km a day is as easy as running in the park. You should prepare yourself at least 6-8 hours of walking roughly 400-500m of elevation gain every day in a state where your body will be denied its normal oxygen demand. Regarding the distance per day, Kanchenjunga trek is reasonably less distance compear to the EBC Trek in Nepal. 

Elevation and Acclimatisation

A majority of trekkers are from lowland or sea level whereas Kathmandu itself is already at 1,300m, Taplejung at 1400m and your final destination North Base Camp is at 5,100m (16,732 feet). Throughout the treks, you will gain 500m to 700m (6 to 8 hours) of elevation per day. If you have not experienced any high altitude trek in your life, it could be difficult to reach certain heights in just a couple of days.  For example, the trail to Everest Base Camp requires a change of 1500m in only one day alone! The flight from Kathmandu to Lukla takes you 1,300m to 2,860m just in 30 minutes!  For someone who is not used to this kind of change, your body may not adapt quickly.  But the good things in Kanchenjunga the elevation increased gradually before reaching high altitude makes easy for acclimatisation. In terms of the safety point of view, Kanchenjunga is relatively safer comper to the EBC trek in Nepal. 

Weather & Temperature

According to the weather report by MFD Kathmandu the temperature at the North Base Camp or in the high passes can drop to -12°C (10°F) in Mid-November (According to 2016 weather report) the temperatures of the Basecamp was measured maximum 15°C (59°F) and minimum -12°C (10°F) and the wind speed around 5 to 6 mph.  However, during the same time of the year at Taplejung from where this trek begins, the temperature was minimum 8°C (46°F) to Maximum 20 °C (68°F). Particularly in Kanchenjunga weather might be one of the most challenging parts after North Basecamp. If you are planning to complete the whole circuit including Sele Le pass, South and North Basecamp, please take extra cautious and check the weather forecast. Weather-wise Kanchenjunga trek is probably second arduous trek after Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek. 

Death and Casualty

Accidents and unfortunate news from the Himalayas often become a news highlight reaches globally. However, most of those incidents pertain to the expedition and not on trekking.  Mostly a lot of climber dies in Everest region of Nepal. An avalanche claimed the lives of 19 climbers in camp II in 2015. The cause of most of the death is by the avalanche, the trail to base camp is safe from an avalanche. There is no actual static available online about how many people die in Kanchenjunga trek? A rough estimate we heard from the news is about 3-5 people die each year on the Everest Base Camp Trek out of roughly 30,000 people. This is a death rate of about 0.01% mainly due to the high altitude sickness. This data will not apply to Kanchenjunga as most of the hikers dies due to the altitude sickness which is very minimal chances in Kanchenjunga due to it is a long day before reaching high altitude. Even for the first time hiker, they make it Kanchenjunga easily. The weather might be challenging in Kanchenjunga, but with extra cautious, this will be efficiently preventing. 

How to deal with Difficulty 

Kanchenjunga Base Camp trek is NOT DIFFICULT in general if you follow some advice.  Acute mountain sickness due to high altitude and the weather is the main problem if they are not adequately acclimatised.  Past couple of year, this trail is trekked by people from around the world it has significant medical to rescue by helicopter facilities which can be mobilised immediately. Before getting into the helicopter, I am sure you wanna make some effort that you will not end up in the middle of the trek. If you follow certain steps it will definitely help you to complete this trek with no issue.  Trekkers who assign this trek with NEST Adventure have a 99% success rate from our expert guide who will monitor your health two times in a day. In order to increase the success trekking ration, Our guide in NEST Adventure is well equipped with Pulse Oximeter. It is a small medical device which helps keep track of our clients SPO2 (Running oxygen level in their blood) and BPM (Blood Pressure). Which tremendously helps to keep track if the hikers in the high altitude are being acclimatised or not. Do they need extra days for acclimatisation? It is really time to call the helicopter etc. 

Choose a right Gear

As every sport is played with the right gear, it is very important that multi days trekking should not be compromised.  A lot of my customer planning Kanchenjunga Base Camp trek for the first time think that trek in Nepal is like climbing a high mountain?.  Well, that makes sense because you know you are ascending 5100m. As a matter of fact, trekking in Nepal at until certain scale is not climbing a mountain from the bottom; instead, it is a gradual gain of altitude and distance while hiking day to day through the valley, small hills and passes etc.  The following items could equip you with requirements:

- No climbing Ropes needed
- No Ice axe needed
- No expedition Goretex needed
- No climbing shoe or crampon needed (Ground is not paved – rough, rocky and gravel strewn)
 
What you need are:
- Hiking boot (high ankle boot recommended)
- Sleeping bag and sleeping mat (It is highly recommended to have one)
- Tent (Not compulsory but might be useful if you have one spear)
- Down Jacket
- Pair of inner thermal sweater to keep you warm inside
- Pair of easy dry hiking pants
- Hiking socks 
- Hiking bag (minimum 50l+10)
 
Additionally, you could consider taking, warm hat/ head cover, scarf, sunglass, lip guard, sun cream, trekking pole, headlamp, windproof gloves, water bottle, water purification drop, camera accessory, first aid kit etc.

Acclimatization & itinerary

Acclimatizing shall be on top of your list for a satisfying Kanchenjunga trek.   Depending on where you come from plan an itinerary with enough days of acclimatisation in between. Kanchenjunga classical route can be done between 18 - 21 days. Please don't be confused if you saw the itinerary with 26-30 days anywhere online they are old itineraries, and they have not been updated with the recent change.  

Based on experts research from Princeton University, Altitude sickness and Acclimatization may effect at   High (8,000 - 12,000 feet [2,438 - 3,658 meters]), Very High (12,000 - 18,000 feet [3,658 - 5,487 meters]), and Extremely High (18,000+ feet [5,500+ meters]) 

Anyone reaching an elevation of 3,048 m (10,000 ft.), You should only increase your altitude by 305m (1,000 ft) per day and for every 915 m  (3,000 ft) of elevation gained, you should take a rest day. 

This is just and standard though, and It may depend on personal health and physical fitness as well. There is no specific factor such as gender or age could be worse or better at high altitude.
 
I have experiences dealing with a lot of customers who are attempting Kanchenjunga as their first high altitude trek with 98% success.  It is very important to identify the right company who can advise and suggest you the best Kanchenjunga trek itinerary according to your experience and level of fitness.

Training

A certain degree of physical fitness is required for any trek, but that does not mean you need a professional trainer or special mountain experience.  From my experience let me break down some of the basic training you can do at home or at the park nearby as part of the preparation.
 
Running in the park:  At least one month before the date of departure minimum 5-8 km a day.  This will help breathing and blood circulation in addition to building up your thigh and torso muscles.
 
Swimming: Holding your breath and swimming helps to store oxygen that will ease short breathing in the high altitude.

Yoga or Aerobic: Give some time doing yoga, stretching your body, jogging to tone up your body and muscles etc. 

Gym: If you plan hiking with a loaded backpack, we suggest extra exercise especially leg Squat, Leg press, Deadlift, Leg extension, Wall sit, Leg curl etc.

Test your gears

It is quite common that some trekkers cannot complete High altitude trek due to blisters on their feet. This happens if you just bought a new pair of trekking boots and haven't tested the size and adjustment with your feet. Always remember your hiking boots should have enough room for fingers. Generally hiking boots for mountain trails should be not too big or not too small in size. It is recommended your hiking boots should be least 0.5 or 1 size bigger than your regular size.
Equally important is proper hiking shocks as well. The hiking socks should be thick and be able to regulate temperature to keep your feet from getting sweaty. When you purchase trekking shocks, you should consider buying Woolen socks. Wool is naturally antimicrobial, so it tends to retain smells less than synthetic fabrics.

Suggestion

- Don't be nervous, feel confident and feel like an experienced hiker.
- Drink enough fluids and always remain hydrated, Urine output should be clear.
- Always give enough space for oncoming Yaks, Nyak, Ghokpe, Mule on the way and make sure you always lean up on the side wall.
- Always drink purified water and bring some water purification drop/tablets with you.
- Be aware of uncooked food, keep yourself vegetarian unless fresh meat available normally meat storage in the mountain is not hygienic.
- Carry some extra calorie light food.
- Always make sure you will pack the right gear that fits for Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek 
- Stay away from alcohol, smoking or any kind of drug in the high altitude.
- Bring your own basic first aid box you are comfortable with. Do not use any medicine that you are not sure about the brand.
- Do not sleep during the day at high altitude. It is recommended to move around and keep yourself active.
- Don't be scared or think that this might be the symptoms of Altitude sickness if you have a little headache or slight fever. It is normal to get these symptoms while adjusting to varying altitude.

Reminder

- Did you research the trek you have chosen in accordance with your fitness?
- Are you prepared physically and psychologically?
- Did you select a trekking company which is specialised and has a good track record or rating in every aspect for your safety?
- Did you plan a right itinerary that fits your level of fitness and desire?
- Did you book your trip during the best time of the year? 
- Did you find an insurance company that includes emergency and medical or other associated expenses in case of evacuation on the trail?

Conclusion

Kanchenjunga Base Camp trek is probably one of the best off the beaten trekking trails in the world itself.  Since a lot of tea houses are increasing every season on the trail, It has all the logistics and communication facilities available at designated places. Almost every camp the teahouse offers a telephone to communicate with your family or friends.  A little preparation before you start will raise your confidence and make your trek enjoyable till the Base Camp of world's third highest mountain. Over 50 adventure travellers every year books trip with us. If you want to join with them feel free to inquiries us. If you enjoy reading this article share with your friends and family who's been missing this exclusive information about Kanchenjunga. We would also appreciate if you give us a rating on the side pooping box.

About Rajendra Khanal (Raj)

Rajendra Khanal (Raj) Born and raised in Gorkha, Nepal, I am proud to call the Manaslu region my home! I have been in the travel business for over a decade from being assistance guide to being a guide/leader to being a manager and finally a founder of NEST Adventure. So you could say, I know my way well enough in the Himalayas especially in some of the off-the-beaten trails in Nepal like Manaslu, Kanchenjunga or Mustang
I am passionate about travelling and I strongly believe that seeing the world shouldn't break the bank (at least not too much!).  I studied in the UK and three years of living experience in the United States taught me how to deliver quality customer service in the business. I have backpacked to over 15 countries in Asia, Central Americas USA and Canada, one-third of Europe, Caribbean Island and  Latin America. As a backpacker myself, and travel expert of Nepal Himalayas I'm happy to share my experience with you. If you believe I can be helpful in planning your next trip to Nepal, then please do not hesitate to contact me. at nestadventure@gmail.com. I am also available 24x7 on Whats app and Viber +977- 9851052042 Or direct phone call +1(702) 465-9789. If you are interested to know more about my travel journey follow me on  Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
 
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