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Happy (lonely) birthday, Kangchenjunga
image story



May 25, 2005 14: 15 EST
Exactly fifty years ago, Kangchenjunga was summited (give or take three meters) for the first time. Nepal celebrated the event with a street parade and an official reception for a few members of the original climbing team. However, the mountain itself is rather lonely these days, with just two remaining climbers on the 50th anniversary: Alan Hinkes and Pasang Gelu.

Climbers on parade

British climber George Band and Joe Brown reached the 28,160-foot summit on May 25th, 1955. Brown could not attend to the anniversary celebrations due to health reasons, but 76 year-old George Band happily joined a parade through Kathmandu’s ancient streets. Band, and several Sherpas who took part it the 1955 expedition, were "taken around Kathmandu in horse-drawn carriages, followed by an army band and a colorful procession of mountain climbers and fans,” reported The Scotsman.

So, anybody want to come over?

“We are hopeful the golden jubilee celebration will help make the peak more popular. Kanchenjunga has a reputation for being a difficult mountain, and takes longer to climb,” said Ang Tshering, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.

Nepalese authorities waived 50% of Kangchenjunga’s climbing fee. The “sale price” has not attracted as many climbers as expected. In fact, only two teams even attempted to climb the mountain this spring, and one of them has already left.

Joos' team calls it quits, Hinkes launches bid

The team led by Swiss guide Norbert Joos aborted their climb after three weeks under constant snowfall. Ironically, the weather improved right after they left. The only two remaining climbers are Alan Hinkes and Pasang Gelu. The team is now prepared to take advantage of a favorable weather forecast. They’ve launched a bid for the elusive summit, which they hope to reach by next weekend.

Kangchenjunga, also known as the “Five Treasures of the Great Snow,” is an immense mountain mass situated on the Sikkim-Nepal border and the most easterly of the Himalayan peaks. The peak was once thought to be the tallest mountain in the world. Attempts to climb the peak started in 1905. But it was fifty years and at least eight expeditions later before British climbers George Band and Joe Brown first stood on its summit on May 25, 1955. Out of respect for Sikkim religion, the party stopped just shy of the summit.

Image of Kangchenjunga from SW side Base Camp, courtesy of Carlos Pauner.

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