|Kangchenjunga map by Jacot-Guillarmod, 1914|
- In 1848/49, Joseph Dalton Hooker explored parts of the eastern Nepal previously completely unknown to Europeans. He made repeated tours of the river valleys into the foothills leading up to Kangchenjunga, reaching within 22 km (14 mi) of the peak and passes into Tibet.
- In 1855, Hermann Schlagintweit from Germany was put in charge of the Magnetic Survey of India, exploring the vicinity and painting a panorama of Everest and Kangchenjunga, prior to being turned back by Nepalese soldiers.
- In 1883, a party of William Woodman Graham, the British pioneer of Himalayan mountaineering, claimed to have circumnavigated the mountain in March 1882. After climbing an 18,000 ft (5,500 m) peak, they were forced to return to Darjeeling after only a week. They returned in July 1883 with two Swiss guides for a purported attempt whilst climbing other peaks in the area and hunting snow leopard.
- In 1899, British mountaineer Douglas Freshfield set out with his party comprising the Italian photographer Vittorio Sella. They were the first mountaineers to examine the lower and upper ramparts, and the great western face of Kangchenjunga, rising from the Kangchenjunga Glacier.
- In 1905, a party headed by Aleister Crowley was the first attempt at climbing the mountain. Aleister Crowley had been part of the team attempting the 1902 ascent of K2. The team reached an estimated altitude of 6,500 m (21,300 ft) on the southwest side of the mountain before turning back. The exact height reached is somewhat unclear; Crowley stated that on August 31, "We were certainly over 21,000 ft (6,400 m) and possibly over 22,000 ft (6,700 m)", when the team was forced to retreat to Camp 5 by the risk of avalanche. On September 1, they evidently went further; some members of the team (Reymond, Pache and Salama) "got over the bad patch" that had forced them to return to Camp 5 the day before, and progressed "out of sight and hearing" before returning to Crowley and the men with packs, who could not cross the dangerous section unassisted with their burdens. It is not clear how far Reymond, Pache and Salama had ascended - but in summarizing, Crowley ventured "We had reached a height of approximately 25,000 ft (7,600 m)." Attempting a "mutinous" late-in-the-day descent from Camp 5 to Camp 4, climber Alexis Pache (who earlier that day had been one of three to ascend possibly higher than any before), and three local porters, were killed in an avalanche. Despite the insistence of one of the men that "The demon of Kangchenjunga was propitiated with the sacrifice", Crowley decided enough was enough and that it was inappropriate to continue.
- In 1929, a German expedition led by Paul Bauer reached 7,400 m (24,280 ft) on the northeast spur before being turned back by a five-day storm.
- In 1930, an international expedition led by George Dyhrenfurth, German Uli Wieland, Austrian Erwin Schneider and Englishman Frank Smythe (who published "The Kangchenjunga Adventure" in the same year). The attempt failed due to poor weather and snow conditions.
- In 1931, a second German expedition, led again by Paul Bauer, attempted the northeast spur before being turned back by bad weather, illnesses, and deaths. The expedition retreated after climbing only a little higher than the 1929 attempt.
- In 1954, a reconnaissance of Kangchenjunga's southwest side was made by John Kempe (leader), J.W. Tucker, Ron Jackson, Trevor H. Braham, G.C. Lewis, and Dr. D.S. Mathews. This reconnaissance led to the route used by the successful 1955 expedition.
|Kangchenjunga summit from Sikkim c. 1857|
In 1955, Joe Brown and George Band made the first ascent on May 25, followed by Norman Hardie and Tony Streather on May 26. The full team also included John Clegg (team doctor), Charles Evans (team leader), John Angelo Jackson, Neil Mather, and Tom Mackinnon.
The ascent proved that Aleister Crowley's 1905 route (also investigated by the 1954 reconnaissance) was viable. The route starts on the Yalung Glacier to the southwest of the peak, and climbs the Yalung Face, which is 3,000 metres (10,000 ft) high. The main feature of this face is the "Great Shelf", a large sloping plateau at around 7,500 metres (24,600 ft), covered by a hanging glacier. The route is almost entirely on snow, glacier, and one icefall; the summit ridge itself can involve a small amount of travel on rock. The first ascent expedition made six camps above their base camp, two below the Shelf, two on it, and two above it. They started on April 18, and everyone was back to base camp by May 28.
Other notable ascents
- 1973 Climbers Yutaka Ageta and Takeo Matsuda of the Japanese expedition summitted Kangchenjunga West (Yalung Kang) by climbing the SW Ridge.
- 1977 The second ascent of Kangchenjunga, by an Indian Army team led by Colonel Narinder Kumar. They completed the northeast spur, the difficult ridge that defeated the German expeditions in 1929 and 1931.
- 1978 Polish teams made the first successful ascents of the summits Kangchenjunga South (Wojciech Wróż and Eugeniusz Chrobak, 19 May) and Kangchenjunga Central (Wojciech Brański, Zygmunt Andrzej Heinrich, Kazimierz Olech, 22 May).
- 1979 The third ascent, on May 15, and the first without oxygen, by Doug Scott, Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker establishing a new route on the North Ridge
- 1983 Pierre Beghin made the first solo ascent and the first ascent without oxygen.
- 1986 On January 11, Krzysztof Wielicki and Jerzy Kukuczka, Polish climbers, made the first winter ascent.
- 1991 Marija Frantar and Joze Rozman attempted the first ascent by a woman but their bodies were later found below the summit headwall.
- 1991 Andrej Stremfelj and Marko Prezelj completed an alpine-style climb up the south ridge of Kangchenjunga to the south summit (8,494 m).
- 1992 Carlos Carsolio made the only summit that year. It was in a solo climb without supplementary oxygen.
- 1992 Wanda Rutkiewicz, the first woman to ascend and descend K2 and a respected Polish climber, died after she declined to descend in the face of an incoming storm.
- 1995 Benoît Chamoux, Pierre Royer and their Sherpa guide disappeared on October 6 near the summit.
- 1998 Ginette Harrison became the first woman to reach the summit. Until then Kangchenjunga was the only eight-thousander that had not seen a female ascent.
- 2005 Alan Hinkes, a British climber, was the only person to summit in the 50th anniversary of first ascent year.
- 2006 Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, an Austrian mountaineer, was the second woman to reach the summit.
- 2009 Jon Gangdal and Mattias Karlsson reached the summit, becoming, respectively, the first Norwegian and Swedish mountaineer to summit this mountain.
- 2009 Edurne Pasaban, a Spanish mountaineer, reached the summit, becoming the first woman to summit 12 eight-thousands.
- 2009 Kinga Baranowska became the first Polish woman climber to reach the Summit of Kangchenjunga.
- 2011 Tunc Findik became the first Turkish man to reach the peak of Kangchenjunga, his 7th 14er, with Swiss partner Guntis Brandts via the British 1955 SW Face route.
|Kangchenjunga from Goecha La, 4,940 m|