Until 1852, Kangchenjunga was assumed to be the highest mountain in the world. But calculations based on the results of the British Great Trigonometric Survey in 1849 then showed it to be but the third highest, at 28,169 feet (8586m).
In 1899, British climber and explorer Douglas Freshfield and Italian photographer Vittorio Sella travelled illegally through eastern Nepal and became the first to circumnavigate the mountain and to view its great western face.
After several attempts, Kangchenjunga was first climbed in 1955 by a British expedition lead by Charles Evans. George Band and Joe Brown made the first ascent and were followed the next day by Norman Hardie and Tony Streather.
Elevation: 28,169 feet (8,586 meters)
Location: Nepal/India, Asia
First Ascent: George Band, Joe Brown (UK), May 25, 1955
- The name translates “Five Treasures of Snow,” referring to Kangchenjunga’s five peaks. The Tibetan words are: Kang (Snow) chen (Big) dzö (Treasury) nga (Five). The five treasures are Gold, Silver, Precious Stones, Grain, and Holy Scriptures.
- Four of Kangchenjunga’s five summits top 8,000 meters.
- Kangchenjunga is the highest mountain in India and second highest in Nepal and is the easternmost 8,000-meter peak.
- The first attempt to climb Kangchenjunga was in 1905 by a party led by Aleister Crowley and Dr. Jules Jacot-Guillarmod on the southwest side of the mountain.
- The 1955 first ascent party included famed British rock ace Joe Brown, who climbed a 5.8 rock section on the ridge just below the summit.
- The first ascent party and most subsequent parties stop just below the summit to respect the Sikkemese belief that the top is sacred space.
- The 2nd ascent was by an Indian Army team up the difficult northeast spur in 1977.
- In 1998 Ginette Harrison became the first woman to summit. Kangchenjunga was the last 8,000-meter peak to be climbed by a woman.
- Mark Twain traveled to Darjeeling in 1896 and later wrote in Following the Equator: “I was told by a resident that the summit of Kinchinjunga is often hidden in the clouds, and that sometimes a tourist has waited twenty-two days and then been obliged to go away without a sight of it. And yet was not disappointed; for when he got his hotel bill he recognized that he was now seeing highest thing in the Himalayas.”