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Kanchenjunga is a mountain to the north-west of the Lake which features most prominently in Swallowdale. The Amazons' parents knew the mountain and called it the Matterhorn.

Beyond the moorland (High Moor) rose the blue hills that from up here looked bigger, far, than they had seemed when looked at from Wild Cat Island or from Holly Howe .... “We must have one of them for Kanchenjunga .... the biggest” said Titty. (SD4)

Peggy said the (native) name of the big hill with the peak. But the able-seaman, who had heard her, was quick in putting her right: That one’s Kanchenjunga, …. if you mean the biggest (SD13). Titty insists that the Swallows and the Amazons use her chosen name instead of the native name (as with Rio).

Top of Coniston Old Man

Cairn at the cloud-shrouded summit of Kanchenjunga

Grey Screes and Ling Scar are two spurs leading off from the summit of Kanchenjunga.

The Swallows and Amazons leave the Halfway Camp and climb to the summit on 11 August 1930 (SD28). Under the stones at the foot of the cairn on the summit Roger (who wanted to climb the cairn) finds a box enclosing an inscription on paper written by the Amazons' parents in 1900 (incorrectly reproduced with the date '1901') (SD28):

August the 2nd. 1901.
We climbed the Matterhorn.
Molly Turner
J. Turner
Bob Blackett
"That's mother and Uncle Jim," said Peggy in a queer voice.
"Who is Bob Blackett?" asked Susan
"He was father." said Nancy.
Nobody said anything for a minute... Peggy wonders how Molly & Jim escaped from the GA.

Christina Hardyment points out that the inscription found in the cairn emphasises that "the stories mix together the experiences of at least three generations of Coniston families." (CFT5)

The children all add their names to the inscription and put it back, adding (incorrectly reproduced as dated '1931'):

Aug. 11 1931. (sic)
We climbed Kanchenjunga.

There is also a Victorian farthing in the small round brass box, which has on the lid QUEEN OF ENGLAND EMPRESS OF INDIA DIAMOND JUBILEE 1897. Nancy wishes they had a George the fifth farthing, but they add a new halfpenny that Roger is carrying (!).

Nancy tells Roger:

"You put it back, and then perhaps in another thirty years...
She broke off, but presently laughed.

Titty says:

They meant it to stay for a thousand years ..... now perhaps it won't be found for ages and ages till people wear quite different sorts of clothes ... I wonder how big Captain Flint was then.

In Winter Holiday, Molly Blackett says You might take a run up the Matterhorn - Kanchenjunga, I mean ... (WH6).

Native prototypes[]

The Old man of Coniston[]

Kanchenjunga is based on The Old Man of Coniston in the Lake District. Titty often refers to Kanchenjunga as he or him, possibly alluding to the mountain's manly status.


Kangchenjunga (note the modern accepted spelling) is in the the third highest mountain in the world (after Mount Everest and K2, also in the in the Himalayas), with an altitude of 8,586 metres. This mountain was very much in the news when the Swallows made their first visits to the Lake:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 retreats after climbing only a little higher than the 1929 attempt.

Kangchenjunga was eventually climbed in 1955, The British expedition honoured the beliefs of the Sikkimese, who hold the summit sacred, by stopping a few feet short of the actual summit; an attitude parallelled by Susan in preventing Roger from scaling the cairn on their Kanchenjunga.


The Matterhorn or Cervino (Italian), Mont Cervin or Le Cervin (French) is perhaps the most familiar mountain in the European Alps, on the Italian/Swiss border, and first climbed in 1865. Coincidentally, Matterhorn's difficult North Face route was first ascended on July 31–August 1, 1931, just days before the Swallows and Amazons repeated the achievement of the Amazons' parents and uncle.