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May 26, 2020

First Kanchenjunga ascent anniversary

Birat Anupam

Sunset view of Kanchenjunga
Sunset view of Kanchenjunga

May 25, 1955 was a historic day in itself. On that very day, Charles Evans-led Kanchenjunga reconnaissance named ‘UK Spring 1955’ conquered the then highest unclimbed mountain.

Based on the information of the Tourism Department of Nepal, British mountaineer duo Joe Brown and George Band had successfully conquered the mountain from south-west face.

They reached the summit at 2:25 a.m, says a journal article titled ‘Kanchenjunga climbed’ which appeared in the 19th volume of ‘The Himalayan Journal’ of 1961.

The article was written by George Band. Despite the two-day long snow blinding of Joe Brown starting an hour after the historic day of May 25 to the tragic loss of a support staff Pemi Dorji on the following day, the Kanchenjunga victory was a huge success to the Britishers.

It was the first ascent made by Britishers on the top of an eight-thousander. Ever since the first scaling on the summit, all ascent celebrations saw its conqueror.

Tragically, for the first time in the 65-years-old history of first ascent anniversary of Mt. Kanchenjunga, there is no surviving maiden mountaineer to step on the top of the third tallest peak of the planet.

With the demise of Joe Brown, one of the first two men to scale the 8586-meter-tall mountain of the Himalayas, this year’s Mt. Kanchenjunga ascent anniversary has been bereft of its historic summiteers.

Brown passed away on 15 April at Lianberis, Wales of United Kingdom. His co-summiteer George Band had died on 26 August 2011.

Mingma Sherpa, the veteran climber of Nepal and the first South Asian who has stood atop all the 14 eight-thousanders of the planet said Kanchenjunga anniversary without its pioneer climber is not good news.

”Not all Kanchenjunga ascent anniversary goes formal,” said Mingma over phone from Bhaktapur, also the chairperson of Seven Summit Treks Private Limited.

”However, unofficial remembrance of the historic day with pioneering climbing veterans is an incredible affairs in itself.” He said the loss of first summiteers has increased the gravity of the success.

”We have lost Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgey Sherpa only to be more curious and respectful to their historic tasks,” Mingma added, ”Same applies to the Kanchenjunga and its first summiteers Joe Brown and George Band as mountaineering celebration is not a success of a generation it is for all time.”

Mt. Kanchenjunga: a least-climbed technical mountain when it comes to monetary matters or government royalty, Mt. Kanchenjunga climbing is not much expensive.

Royalty amount of Mt. Kanchenjunga compared to Mt. Everest is far less. For example, the royalty to climb Mt. Everest from its normal route costs $11000, $5500 and $2750 in spring, autumn and winter/summer season respectively.

Climbing Mt. Kanchenjunga requires just $1800, $900 and $450 in spring, autumn and winter/summer season respectively.

Such an economical advantage on royalty is not reflected on climbing numbers not only in comparison with Mt. Everest but also with other similar eight-thousanders like Makalu, Lhotse and Manaslu.

According to the latest issue of ­Mountaineering in Nepal: Facts and Figures, compiled by Tourism Department of Nepal and published on the June of 2018, 344 climbers have successfully climbed Mt. Kanchenjunga until December 2016.

There is no updated data available. This is fewer than other adjoining eight-thousanders in the eastern side of Nepal’s magical Himalayas. For instance, there are 499 successful ascents to this fifth tallest peak of the planet.

Mt. Lhotse, the fourth tallest peak has seen 559 successful ascents. Among the world’s first, third, fourth and fifth tallest peaks standing in Nepal, Mt. Kanchenjunga is least climbed.

Mingma Sherpa, who climbed Mt. Kanchenjunga in the expedition titled ’14th Highest Peak Challenge Expedition’ on 20 May 2011, said Mt. Kanchenjunga is least, climbed for various factors.

The most important factor, Sherpa points out, is because of its technical nature. In the mountaineering world, technical mountain refers to the tougher mountain to climb.

Based on Mingma’s spring expedition of 2011, Kanchenjunga is technical for mainly for its time-consuming expedition. ”I think Kanchenjunga is the mountain requiring more time to climb compared to other peaks,” shared Mingma.

He added, ”On an average climbing, it takes no less than 60 days to step onto the summit from its base camp in Kanchenjunga. This is longer than any other mountain.” Mingma said it would take around 45 days to climb Makalu and even for Everest it takes around 55 days only for an average scale climb.

Besides, its technical nature, Kanchenjunga is least climbed mountain for less availability of mountaineering support staffs, rescue and other safety and security facilities, informed Mingma.

“Climbing permit fee of Kanchenjunga is $1800 in prime season of spring. But it costs around $35,000 for a successful ascent which is owing to lack of locally and readily-available facilities for safety, security and other supporting stuffs.”

Mira Acharya, the director at Tourism Department of Nepal that issues climbing permits and associated mountaineering rules and regulations in Nepal, seconded Mingma’s logic.

”In case of the Everest expedition, manpower and facilities are easily and readily available even in higher altitudes,” she said, speaking over phone to RSS from Kathmandu.

”But, in other mountains like in Kanchenjunga that has to be managed from the scratch giving rise to mounting mountaineering budget for logistics and technical management.”

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