Page last updated at 16:21 GMT, Wednesday, 25 May 2005 17:21 UK

Kanchenjunga golden jubilee held

Mount Kanchenjunga, the world's third tallest peak
The mountain is one of the most challenging in the world

Celebrations have been held in Nepal to mark the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of the world's third highest mountain, Kanchenjunga.

Three of the mountain's first climbers and several others who scaled the peak were honoured at a major celebration in the capital, Kathmandu.

Two British climbers took three months to reach the summit of the 8,586m (28,160 feet) peak in 1955.

Kanchenjunga is on Nepal's eastern border with the Indian state of Sikkim.

Uncharted territory

Military and folk bands accompanied Kanchenjunga's climbers through the streets of old Kathmandu.

George Band
It is a pity that it is not as popular as other mountains
George Band

The mountaineers of yesteryear were seated in horse-drawn carriages.

George Band, 75, was one of two British men who stood on the peak 50 years ago. His co-mountaineer Joe Brown was unable to attend the celebrations due to health reasons.

He recalled that it was very much a journey into uncharted territory. "No one had actually been above 20,000 feet", he said, "so we were presented with 8,000 feet of unknown mountain on our side, which made it a very exciting and satisfying climb."

Mr Band and his team-mates actually stopped two metres short of the summit out of deference to the Buddhist authorities of Sikkim - Buddhists regarding Kanchenjunga as holy.

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Kathmandu says that the tradition has continued among fewer than 200 people who have reached the summit.

'Trouble free'

Our correspondent says that Kanchenjunga, whose name means five treasures in the snow, is considered to be a harder climb than Everest, with a fatality rate of 22%.

Mount Everest is the world's tallest mountain at 8,850m (29,000feet).

But George Band, fresh from a new walk to its base camps, stressed that despite the need to pay a fee to Maoist rebels, trekking around Kanchenjunga was trouble free.

He appealed to travellers to keep visiting Nepal.

That was a message endorsed by Nepalese officials who hoped that Wednesday's commemorations would inspire other climbers.

"We are hopeful the golden jubilee celebration will help make the peak more popular," Ang Tshering, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, told the Associated Press news agency.

"Kanchenjunga has a reputation for being a difficult mountain, and takes longer to climb," he said.

Correspondents say that there are currently almost 24 climbing teams on Everest, and only one on Kanchenjunga, which is prone to worse weather.

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