There was a time when Mt. Kanchenjunga was considered the highest mountain in the world. This was before the startling discovery made by the Chief Computer (today they are replaced by machines) who pointed out that Peak XV was in fact higher than Peak IX, Kanchenjunga. Later it became apparent that Peak IX was actually only the third highest mountain after Everest and K2 (Karakoram, Pakistan). It lies 128 km east of Everest. The western face lies in Nepal while the other side lies in the state of Sikkim, India. Kanchenjunga or Kangchenzonga in Sikkimese means “Five treasures of the Great Snows” as the mountain has five prominent peaks. They are Kanchenjunga main (8,586m), Yalung Kang (8,505m), Kanchenjunga West (8,420m), and the Twin Peaks (both 8,476m). Unlike most of the other Himalayan peaks, this mountain lies north to south and the Kanchenjunga glacier drains into the Tamur River which is a tributary of the Koshi. Climbing Kanchenjunga had been contemplated by many as far back as in 1882, yet no attempt was made until 1905.
The first to go up the Yalung glacier was Alaister Crowley but he lost four men on the mountain; a Lieutenant Pache and three porters. For fifteen years, no one dared another attempt. In 1929, an American climber named Francis Farmer left behind his porters and climbed up the south face but was never seen again. Then Paul Bauer led a Bavarian expedition up the mountain later in the same year and reached the altitude of 7,700m. Following an unsuccessful attempt by Gunther Dyhrenfurth in 1930, Bauer made a second attempt in 1931. Hans Hartman and Dr. Karl Wien reached 7,990m before they were forced to turn back. With the outbreak of the Second WorldWar, there was no climbing in the Himalayas. The next attempt was made by Gilmour Lewis and George Frey in 1951 looking for an easier route to the top. He failed and returned two years later with John Kempe but met with no success. He returned once again in 1954 with a new team of climbers but luck was not on his side. Fifty years after the first attempt, in 1955, a British expedition took off, led by Charles Evans, who had been a member of the successful expedition on Everest two years earlier. Two Britons, George Band and Joe Brown finally made it to the summit of this difficult mountain. Given the fact that the Sikkimese considered the mountain very sacred, the summiteers refrained from stepping right up to the top. They stopped five vertical feet below the summit on 25th May. Finally, Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, had been conquered. The first Nepali to climb this peak was Ang Phurba Sherpa on 14th May 1980.