Mountain Climbing Accidents: Deaths On Kanchenjunga

Sitting at 28,169 feet in the eastern Himalayas, Kanchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world. With no easy route up the steep slopes and hazardous weather conditions, many mountain climbers have died attempting the climb. In fact, it has a 22 percent fatality rate. With a name translating to The Five Treasuries of the Great Snow, the mountain contains five peaks. Located in the Himalayas on the border of India and Nepal, the range is shorter than only the legendary high peaks of Mount Everest and K2.

Before the mountain's summit was successfully reached in 1955 by British climbers Joe Brown and George Band, many attempted the dangerous expedition, but died trying. The first deaths on the sacred mountain came in 1905 when sherpas and Swiss mountaineer Alexis Pache died in an avalanche.

Roughly a dozen or so perished on Kanchenjunga before the first ascent in 1955. Since then, more than 40 people have died on the formidable mountain. Kanchenjunga has claimed the lives of some of the most well known and accomplished climbers including Andrzej Czok from Poland in 1986, Wanda Rutkiewicz, also from Poland, in 1992, and Benoît Chamoux from France in 1995. Though this list does not cover all of the deaths on Kanchenjunga, we list a few of the brave climbers who succumbed to this deadly mountain.

  • Known for being the first female to summit K2, Wanda Rutkiewicz died on either May 12 or May 13, 1992, on Kanchenjunga. She was attempting to become the first woman to summit the world's three tallest mountains when she disappeared. It was not known if she reached the peak of Kanchenjunga or not.

  • Alexis Pache
    Photo: Sissssou / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Swiss climber Alexis Pache attempted to climb Kanchenjunga in 1905. The expedition was the idea of Swiss doctor and photographer Jules Jacot-Guillarmod, who asked British occultist Aleister Crowley to join him. Jacot-Guillarmod also recruited Alexis Pache and Charles-Adolphe Reymond while Crowley brought along young Italian Alcesti C. Rigo de Righi. They had planned to climb the southwest face of Kanchenjunga over the Yalung Glacier. Pache, however, died in an avalanche along with three porters between Camps 6 and 7.

  • Andrzej Czok
    Photo: Andrzej Zawada / Wilimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Andrzej Czok

    After reaching Camp 4, veteran Polish mountaineer Andrzej Czok lost his life to pulmonary edema (excess fluid in the lungs) on Kanchenjunga on January 11, 1986. Previously, Czok scaled Mount Everest through South Pillar in 1980 and was the first to make a successful winter ascent of Dhaulagiri in 1985.

  • 4

    Benoît Chamoux

    Renowned climber Benoît Chamoux officially scaled 10 eight-thousanders in his career before losing his life to one on October 6, 1995. According to a photographer and sherpa that accompanied him, Chamoux disappeared near Kanchenjunga's summit and was never heard from again.