Monthly Archives: July 2005

Nepal: Kanchenjunga–Dispatch 2

Lulled into general ease by our first day, we find our second day that much more excruciating. In fact, in a fit of understatement, I label it the day from hell, a continuous barrage of steep slippery descents into steaming tropical gorges, an occasional tiptoe over a river on a failing plank bridge tied by thick but fraying ropes to stones at either end, followed remorselessly by an arduous, twisting yak trail of a climb up to the next ridge. “Why bother to go down if I just have to go up again,” I grumble to myself in a fit of pique. No encouraging snowy peaks poke over the green hills to lure me onward. A sure sign of Bernard’s soccer folly is his left knee, which starts to ache shortly into our first major descent. By the end of the day he’s hobbling along using his walking poles like crutches to avoid putting wait on his off leg.

At camp that evening I try to ply him with heavy duty anti-inflammatories that I’ve saved from various surgeries. He’s having none of it. It’s as if by taking a pill he’d have to admit something’s wrong. And if he doesn’t take a pill, then he must be fine. To take our mind off our aches, we find a secluded spot where we can dunk naked in the glacial river that rushes by our camp, water that I tell myself must originate somewhere in the vicinity of Kanchenjunga. Bernard’s sole concession to the reality of an injured knee is to dangle his leg in the icy water until the skin is a bright red.


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Nepal: Kanchenjunga–Dispatch 1

Until 1852, Kanch (as it’s affectionately called by Westerners who don’t want to bother mouthing all the syllables) was assumed to be the highest mountain in the world. It was calculations from the Great Trigonometric Survey (hot link to my India trip page) that confirmed Everest as the highest, relegating Kanch to third place behind Pakistan’s K2. At 28,169 feet, Kanch stands amidst a chorus line of lofty glacier-clad peaks, in the far eastern reaches of Nepal, straddling Nepal’s border with Sikkim.

Nearly 3,000 people have summited Everest, and the two base camps, one in Nepal and the other in Tibet, team with hundreds of would-be summiteers, along with drugs, prostitutes and the detritus of scores of expeditions. Compared to that, it seems that fewer than fifty have successfully reached the summit of Kanchenjunga. There’s an ongoing debate as to whether Kanchenjunga or K2 is the hardest to climb. I guess if you make it up one and not the other, the latter becomes the hardest.


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