Trek from Tharpu to Kangchenjunga base camp – part 1 of 2

We have all heard that Kangchenjunga is a little rougher, wilder and – organization wise – more complicated than many other Nepal treks. It all turned out to be true.

This is Anna Gatta’s report on the trek up to base camp where she left Philippe and the expedition team to head back to Kathmandu.

Anna Gatta in Ramche. Photo: Philippe Gatta

Anna Gatta in Ramche. Photo: Philippe Gatta

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9-10 APRIL: Tharpu

We reached the tiny village Tharpu after 8 hours of jeep from the Badhrapur airport. The last 2 hours where very rough and we were pretty tired when arriving at 22 pm. We had a quick dinner and went to bed in one of the houses having small rooms with wooden beds.

The next day we where blocked in Tharpu due to a landslide preventing the porters to reach us from Taplejung…

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11 APRIL: Tharpu-Doban
18km, +670m, -905m, 4h45

Village woman, Kangchenjunga. Photo: Philippe Gatta

Village woman, Kangchenjunga. Photo: Philippe Gatta

We left Tharpu early to hopefully reach Pedang, but noticing that the porters where too slow we ended up staying in a village called Doban above the river. The trek was very warm and I used an umbrella almost the whole day as a protection from the sun. Only the porters carrying the trekking bags reached us late at night and we could finally go to bed in a drafty house kept up on wooden poles. I couldn’t help being a little worried that the house would just fall apart and throw us all down in the river… Amazing that these houses stays up…

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12 APRIL:  Doban-Yamphudin
14km, +1870m, -830m, 6h

Tea plantation above Khebang. Photo: Anna Gatta

Tea plantation above Khebang. Photo: Anna Gatta

In the morning the young porters couldn’t get our bags fast enough to head up the steep and long trail just above Doban. We were impressed! One hour later we started our walk towards Yamphudin and… found all porters not even 5 minutes up the trail! They just didn’t want to carry the load. Some had wanted to take double charges to gain twice as much money and now they thought they carried to heavy… What could we do? Decision was taken that we would our selves carry enough to be able to make 4 days of trek. My rucksack of 40 liters was almost full so Philippe had to take my sleeping bag.

We started with an amazing, beautiful and steep climb of around 700m to reach the superb villages of Pedang and later Khebang. We where sad to not stay in Khebang that was the picture of a typical, nice Nepalese village at 1910m. After reaching the pass Ekchana Bhanjyang at 2070m we had a nice descent through fields, forests, crossing rivers to finally start climbing smaller hills and reach Yamphudin (2080m) just before the heavy afternoon rain started.

We had a “shower” in the cold tube with its steady flow of water from a nearby source. It was needed since the day had been very warm and our clothes were full of salt marks… Even though I tried to shelter myself from curious people with my umbrella, the village kids thought it very funny to see a naked, white, strange woman and always found an angle from where they could watch while giggling hysterically. The show continued – I gave up.  We had a nice local dalbhat (rice + what ever is available) and went to bed in very comfy beds with mattresses. Alexia went to sleep on the balcony since she had found 2 spiders in her room, just a little bit too big for her taste. Knowing that she is a tough lady I can’t imagine those beasts…!

Kitchen boy helping mama to cook. Photo: Anna Gatta

Kitchen boy helping mama to cook in Yamphudin. Photo: Anna Gatta

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13 APRIL:  Yamphudin-Tortong
10km, +1700m, -830m, 5h30

Our lodge in Yamphudin. Photo: Anna Gatta

Our lodge in Yamphudin. Photo: Anna Gatta

Some porters had arrived during the night and I was one of the lucky ones getting the possibility to change some clothes and add warmer ones to my rucksack. We had a very nice climb through rhododendron forests, trees full of moss and steps in stone placed by men. We couldn’t help wondering how many years it might have taken to create this trail… We reach Chittre that is just one house and continue towards the pass Lasiya Bhanjyang at 3310m. There is a spooky ambiance with gray clouds, wind and a small shelter for the yaks and their owner.  On the north side of the pass a huge landslide had marked the landscape and Philippe remembered having seeing it even on Google earth when he traced the trail.

The trail down from the pass was very muddy and we had to be careful to not slip and become covered with filth (knowing those clothes are to be worn yet a few weeks :-) Later we had a lovely walk in a high forest and met some baby yaks that were so cute. Tortong was not placed where it was supposed to be on the map so we walked along the river wondering if earth had swallowed the bl**dy village… Finally we see a few houses on the other side and we traverse the bridge to reach Tortong (2955m).

The light rain stopped just then and Philippe spotted a small, white sandy beach next to the bridge. A little sun beam came through the clouds and we dressed off to wash ourselves in the very cold river. I was very proud of Philippe that could stand that cold water – he might have been contaminated with some of my Swedish genes? ;-)

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14 APRIL:  Tortong-Tseram
9km, +880m, -30m, 3h20

Tseram was very humid, there in the forest and the house we lived in drafty so we were pleased to leave for more open landscape. We had an easy and short walk through rhododendron forest and magic scenery with the moss all over the trees and the river to the right of the trail. We reached Tseram (3850m) just when a heavy snowfall started and it was all soon covered in white. Philippe and I made a short photo session for Berghaus when the snowfall had calmed down. The village has only 4 houses also serving as lodges,  and we all slept together in a big room. We got some snow coming in over us since the house had a space between the walls and roof. Actually – spaces all over! Drafty is a small word. We all stayed close together wearing all clothes inside the sleeping bags. We just went up for the dalbhat dinner and tea time…

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15 APRIL:  Tseram
Rest day

Philippe Gatta in Tseram. Photo: Anna Gatta

Philippe Gatta in Tseram. Photo: Anna Gatta

Still no signs of the bags so we stayed in Tseram to acclimatise by walking upwards  on the hill side next to Tseram towards the pass Sinelapche Bhanjyang.

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16 APRIL:  Tseram-Ramche
6km, +570m, -10m, 2h40

Anna Gatta on her way to Ramche. Photo: Philippe Gatta

Anna Gatta on her way to Ramche. Photo: Philippe Gatta

This was another short day and we reached Ramche (4500m) quickly and didn’t feel the altitude too much. The porters carrying the tents and some of the bags catched up with us and we had a lovely camp site with views of the mountain Rathong (6682m) and the Kabru summits – all above 7000m. We walked up on the moraine next to our camp site 50m above and hopefully got some great shots for Suunto and Berghaus. The dinner tent came up for the first time and we had a great dinner as always.

Part 2 coming tomorrow.

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