After making some last-minute purchases in Kathmandu’s legendary Pilgrim Bookstore, where we came across a paperback edition of William Freshfield’s account of his 1899 expedition and relief maps of Kangchenjunga, we took a scheduled flight to Badrapur, a small town in western Nepal where our guide, Prem, was expecting us. During the flight we looked north and cast our eyes on some of the Himalayas’ highest peaks, including the impressive dark pyramid of Mount Everest, which towers over the long crest line stretching between Nupse and Lhotse. Further to the right we saw Barunze and Makalu, and some hundred or so kilometres in the distance we could make out the Kangchenjunga chain and the indistinct profile of Mount Jannu.
After two days in a jeep driving through the luxuriant Nepalese rain forest we arrived in the village of Taplejung on April 24th. It was here in this small town that we met our cook and his two assistants and 14 porters who will help us transport our equipment on the long journey towards the Kangchenjunga north base camp. The first task was to see whether the generator was working properly, and it wasn’t, which meant delaying our departure. After scouring the narrow alleyways of the town our guide managed to find a replacement generator, meaning we were able to set off the next morning. Humidity levels in this low-lying area are high and signs of human habitation numerous. We came across several homes and schools full of schoolchildren who were happy to see us.
At the end of our first day’s trek the new generator broke down due to a fuel supply tube malfunction, and we spent the rest of the evening repairing it.
During the early afternoon of the next day it started to rain and, as can happen in any rainforest, we found some bloodsuckers attached to our calves. We were able to remove them fairly easily once we arrived at the camp.
Although the food prepared by our highly experienced expedition cook is varied we have obviously also been served “Dal Bath”, the typical Nepalese dish of rice and lentils. We usually sleep in our small tents, even though on rainy evenings it is hard to turn down the offers made by locals to sleep indoors in very basic village lodgings.
The glaciers are still a long way off. We are now deep inside the rainforest and biodiversity abounds. On our way here, we came across a wide variety of plant species: banana trees, bamboo and cardamom plantations, and densely-packed woodlands populated with flowering rhododendrons. The rich undergrowth is richly being alive with mosses, lichen and all sorts of ferns. Lakpa, our cook, served us with a dish consisting of tasty ravioli called “Momo”, topped with a wild spinach sauce. The landscapes we come across as we pass from one valley to the next are majestic. Climbing higher and higher we come across the first conifers that tower over 30 metres above the other tree tops.
We made our way up the valley of the Sherpas following the Ghunza river, where we came across a village of Tibetan refugees who greeted our team with huge smiles that we matched with the local greeting, “Tashi Delek”. As we passed by the rapids Andrea, our geologist, pointed out the various types of metamorphic rock formations that were clearly visible, introducing us to the geological characteristics of the area.
Once we arrived at the camp, and as so often happens with expeditions like ours, Prem informed us that two young porters had decided to abandon us and return home, maybe because they had taken on other work commitments in their villages downstream. This minor setback did not dispirit us, and we spent the evening in good company in the “Kanchanjunga Guest House”, which is powered entirely by low environmental-impact micro hydroelectric turbines.
So far we have covered 75Kms and over 4400m in altitude difference uphill and 2500m downhill. In the coming days we will reach the high-altitude section of our expedition and the first glacier, the Jannu, from where we will endeavour to reach the exact spot from where Vittorio Sella took a panoramic shot of the face of the glacier during Freshfield’s 1899 expedition. Let’s hope that the weather is going to be on our side.
Below we publish the first video clip of the expedition and a gallery with some backstage photos:
On the Trail of the Glaciers Himalaya 2018 dispatch 01 from Fabiano Ventura on Vimeo.