Sunday, October 16, 2016

Mt. Kailash Trek

I've curated my first set of photos from Tibet for you. These were taken from our 3 day, 52km trek around the Tibetan holy mountain, Mt. Kailash. The trek started in the remote village of Darchen, at 4575m above sea level, and over the next day and a half, we would trek (more like 'struggle') up to Dorma La Pass which tops out above 5600m, before descending back down and eventually ending up at our guesthouse in Darchen. At these altitudes, hiking the route was like trying to breathe while having a 300lb yak sit on your chest. But despite the difficulty, the views and vistas were incredibly stunning, and there was something spiritually enlightening about trekking amongst the numerous Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims.

I will relate one humourous story before I leave you with the photos: with about 4km to go on the final stretch of the third day, I was grumpy with fatigue, surprisingly short of breath, and was struggling to put one foot in front of the other, when I was awoken from my robotic daze by a pilgrim from India. <--Side note: like Tibetans, Indians also consider Mt. Kailash holy, and come as pilgrims to complete the 3 day kora. However, unlike Tibetans who complete the pilgrimage on foot, they opt to sit on rented horses, and simply have Tibetans lead those horses around the kora for them. --> So this Indian lady, on horseback being pulled by a Tibetan guide on foot starts barking at me, "Hey, American, how far to hotel?" repeatedly. I was bagged, hungry, and sore from a blood blister on my heel that popped overnight, so you'll have to excuse my distaste at her repeated badgering, as if she was the one struggling mightily. Had my brain not been so oxygen deprived, I might have made a "Get off your high horse" pun, but instead could only mutter an irritated 'How the frick would I know?!' before resuming the long death march...

Okay, on to the photos. When I look back at these, they help reframe the memory of my trek from that of a mighty struggle, to one of such breathtaking beauty.

Mt. Kailash Trek-19

Mt. Kailash Trek-1
Along the route, pilgrims had left thousands of painted rocks carved with mantras. Beautiful to see this devotion.

Mt. Kailash Trek-2

Mt. Kailash Trek-3

Mt. Kailash Trek-4
Some of the many Tibetan pilgrims we would encounter during our trek.

Mt. Kailash Trek-5

Mt. Kailash Trek-6
The beautiful valley and creekbed we would hike along for the majority of day 1.

Mt. Kailash Trek-7
Click to view large... worth seeing big.

Mt. Kailash Trek-8
Some of the mountains backdropping our day.

Mt. Kailash Trek-9
Yaks, used as pack animals to carry gear and help re-supply the guesthouses, teahouses, etc.

Mt. Kailash Trek-10
This pilgrim asked me to take his photo, to which I happily obliged.

Mt. Kailash Trek-11
The picturesque snow-covered top of Mt. Kailash.

Mt. Kailash Trek-12
Sunrise hitting Kailash, as we embarked on day 2.

Mt. Kailash Trek-13

Mt. Kailash Trek-14
Prayer flags at Dorma La Pass, 5600+m above sea level. Uber thin air.

Mt. Kailash Trek-15
Pilgrims crossing Dorma La Pass.

Mt. Kailash Trek-16
The impressive vista that awaits those that crest over Dorma La Pass. Again, worth clicking to see large.

Mt. Kailash Trek-17

Mt. Kailash Trek-18

Mt. Kailash Trek-20
Our third day of trekking was the easiest, but the views were equally majestic.

Mt. Kailash Trek-21

Mt. Kailash Trek-22

Mt. Kailash Trek-23
Pano of our route on the final home stretch.

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