Kangchenjunga Summit on May 18th 2014

Weather forecasts gave us a short window with milder winds for 17th and 18th. Soon it appeared that almost all teams decided to go for the first of the two meaning they would leave basecamp on 14th.
I instead spent one more day resting at BC minimizing days spent at altitude and climbed direct to my Camp 2 (7000m.) on early morning of 15th reaching it at around 11am.
I was amazed to pass people climbing on oxygen (and of course as guided, with no load) from 6200 meters onwards. Even still, it took some of them over 10 hours to do what took me 2,5 to 3,5 hours with a load.
Later that day one team’s forecast had altered slightly predicting strong winds for 17th. This led all teams except for one postponing their anticipated summit by one day. This team of two we later heard summited on 17th being the first of the season on top.

On 17th I climbed to 7450m reaching it by noon. Put up my Camp 3 which would serve as my ”summit-camp” and started making preparations for summit-day and resting as much as possible. The weather was amazing and you could see a beautiful sea of clouds covering everything from low Yalung Glacier all the way to above Bay of Bengal.
Climbers were arriving at camp slowly, some of them as late as 4-5pm. Many of these late arrivals just sat down to start on a new bottle of oxygen and went on continuing towards summit – at 5pm!
I wanted to get some sleep but after all the preparations I was so focused on my objective that I don’t think I could sleep a tiny bit.



I left my tent at 8pm on evening of 17th. Weather was warm and with no wind at all. It was a very beautiful night to for for the top.
Between 9pm and 10pm I was passing climbers who had left high camp at 5pm. These people would end up having a terribly long day and not all of them would summit. Passed an Indian girl who seemed to have trouble walking wearing crampons. Few days later it occurred that this girl did not return to basecamp.
Two sherpa of the Korean team had set off early in the afternoon to fix the route from 8000 meters to summit and they were far ahead. Eventurally I met the two with a climber of Korean team and the four of us went on to establish route on the complex summit-ridge at above 8000 meters.

On Kangchenjunga normal route it is very easy getting to top of so-called ”gangway” at 8000 meters. This obvious snow ramp leads you to beginning of difficulties. Many climbers say they have had major problems finding route on this long rocky section and thus also finding way down. I can imagine! So complex it was with route looking up only like a massive, complex area of mixed terrain it being impossible to say what part of ridge above you was the highest.
At 4am it starts to get light although the route stays in shade until 9. It was calm. I felt very warm and as the visibility was good we were able to climb as fast as we could. I was the only one of the four of us without oxygen but I had no trouble keeping up with the others. What bugs me is that I always end up taking very little photos on summit-day due to cold and also being so totally focused on climbing and route-finding. Here and there you could find bits and pieces of old ropes indicating that we were on right tracks. Although at times I thought we were going to miss summit by going too far West on the ridge.


Rocky summit-ridge on Kangch normal route is difficult climbing with many narrow passages and chimney-like moves between blogs of rock. You could easily fall down here and get hit on rocks lower down. The ridge felt it was going on forever! By looking at the neighboring peaks Jannu and Yalung Kang I tried to estimate our altitude.
It looked like we were coming to the end of the ridge and I came to see a unique shaped rock underneath what we would be climbing. Recognized the rock from pics I had seen. Behind rock I came to find a short snow-arete leading to a bump which would be the highest point. Korean and two sherpa were standing on the summit of Kangchenjunga and I soon followed. You could see everywhere around you with nothing above you. There was nowhere to climb. You could stand on the very highest point of the peak. No cornice, no fore summits – this is it!

It was windy so I did not spend much time there. Did not make phone calls, did not take many pictures. Better to keep your hands in your mitts. It was 8.30am and I had climbed as fast as I could for 12,5 hours. I was tired and being up there without oxygen I knew that the faster I get down the better. I was well acclimatized and my sensations and feelings were clear however.



I started down with the three. Very soon down we met the Spanish team arriving to the summit. The lower we got the more people we came to meet. There was going to be many summits on Kangchenjunga this year. Some earlier, some later. Most on oxygen but not everyone.

Climbing these altitudes without oxygen is bad for you. Every minute at above 7500 meters is too much. I had to get down as fast as I could and despite fairly tricky climbing and having to pass people I got down to my high camp right after noon. I had thought of just pulling my tent down without stopping but I was too tired and I fell asleep in my tent with boots and crampons sticking outside.
Woke up, packed down everything and descended down to camp 2. Packed my camp 2 down and went on for even lower altitudes. However, I was still at 7000 meters.
Every 100 meters you get lower, you’re feeling like your level of awareness is increasing. You feel like you are waking up from a long dream, you feel like every new 100 meters feels easier than the previous. You seem to feel how air pressure fills your lungs better on every breath. Your legs are not burning as much anymore. You are returning back to life.

At first I wanted to get to basecamp that very same day but as I was too tired I slept at my camp 1 (6250m.) overnight. Following morning I woke up at around 6am, pulled everything down and headed over ”the shoulder” and got to basecamp at 8ish.
That day I packed my stuff at basecamp and I started my trek-out on morning of 20th.
First day I walked to Thorongden where I found the Korean team sherpa and part of their kitchen staff. They asked me to join them for trek out and we had hell of a fun time and went through a lot of thongba and chang. 22nd we walked from Thorongden to Khewang and 23rd to Taplejung in where I found one of the great ones, Mario Panzeri of Italy looking for a barber-shop! Mario had been attempting a new route on Taplung Peak and was also on his way to Kathmandu. He also joined us and what fun times we had driving back to Kathmandu in Korean team’s bus carrying their staff and equipment!
So eventually I got back in Kathmandu on 23rd and for now I am only waiting for my own luggage to arrive from the mountain. Many summits on Kangchenjunga this year and I feel I was very lucky to have succeeded in scaling this notorious and high peak.

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