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MT.Kailash Parikrama Trek / Lhasa

Duration :

21 Days

Description :

This is certainly the most direct and interesting way to approach Mount Kailas, as the alternative approach route through Tibet involves many long days in the back of a jeep. Flying into and out of the STOL airstrip at the Heart of Humla, will allow us sufficient time to trek through the high valleys of Humla to the Tibetan Border town of Purang, from where we drive via the holy lake Manasarovar to Mount Kailas.

Geographically speaking Humla is one of the westernmost of all the high valleys in Nepal and lies along the Humla Karnali gorge close to the border with Tibet. People of Indian extraction inhabit the villages of the lowest sections of this remote valley, whilst the higher settlements are home to Botias who are of Tibetan origin. In the higher villages the traditional way of life is based on animal husbandry and the growing of a meager barley crop, supplemented by cross-border trade with Tibet, a trade, which used to extend as far as Lhasa and still reaches Kathmandu.

Regular pilgrimage to sacred Mount Kailas and Lake Manasarovar is an important aspect of the lives of these hardy folk. Trails in this area have long been important trading routes between Nepal and Tibet, and the main passes are passable for loaded yaks and thus no serious obstacle for a trekking party. From the Nara Lagna Pass (4600m), which we cross shortly before reaching the Tibetan Border the mountains of Central Tibet can be seen stretching away to the horizon-arid, bleak and thoroughly enticing.

Gathering hard historical information about an area as remote and unvisited by outsiders as Humla is far from easy. From the eleventh to the fourteenth century Humla was ruled over by the Indo-Aryan Khas people who had come to the area on trading missions from their native Persia and Kashmir. This group formed the so-called Malla Kingdom, and practiced an animistic religion called Masta. In the thirteenth century high caste Hindu, Chhetris and Thakuris from Rajasthan came to Humla, and quite quickly became ascendant, forming the Kalyal confederacy which dominated the area from the fourteenth century until the Gurkha conquest and the unification of Nepal in 1768. Over the centuries, the fusion of Msta animism and orthodox Hindu beliefs has resulted in a charming " folk Hinduism" in lower Humla. In upper Humla this fabric has been overlaid with Buddhism derived from migrating Bhotias from Tibet. Altogether, the area presents a most fascinating cultural tapestry.

Mount Kailas lies in the Ngari province of Tibet, in the extreme southwest corner of the Tibet Autonomous Region, which is the name given to Tibet by the Chinese in the 1960's. The area around Mount Kailas is generally too high to support agriculture, and the only people who are able to eke out a living here, are nomadic Drogpa herdsmen. The only permanent settlements on the high Tibetan Plateau are widely spaced central markets, which are used by the Drogpa, and these are only found on the long road, which leads east towards Lhasa.

The village of Darchen, on the south side of Kailas, exist only to serve the needs of the many pilgrims who come to pay homage to this most sacred of all mountains. Kailas is revered by the devout of several religions. The Tibetans call the mountain Kang Rinpoche (Precious Jewel of the Snows), whilst both Buddhists and Hindus see the mountain as the earthly manifestation of Mount Meru- the spiritual center of the universe. Pilgrims make their way to this sacred peak from as far away as Bhutan and Ladakh, believing that simply completing a circuit of the mountain can wash the sins of a lifetime away.
Day   Activity
1   Arrival in Kathmandu, transfer to hotel. Afternoon tour/trek briefing.

2   Sightseeing tour of Boudhanath, Pashupatinath & Kathmandu Durbar Square
Boudhnath: Boudhnath is one of the biggest stupas in the word. The base of the stupa takes the shape of a mandala (symbolizing earth): on this four tiered base sits the dome (symbolizing water): then comes the spire (symbolizing fire): the umbrella (symbolizing air) and the pinnacle (symbolizing ether). The spire is made up of 13 steps, representing the 13 stages on the journey to nirvana. Pashupatinath: The most important Hindu temple in Nepal. It's one of the most important Shiva temples on the subcontinent and draws numerous devotees from all over India, including many colorful sadhus, those wandering ascetic Hindu holy men. Shiva is the destroyer and creator of the Hindu pantheon and appears in many forms. His 'temple' forms are probably best known, particularly his appearances in Nepal as the cruel and destructive Bhairabs, but he also has peaceful incarnation including those of Mahadev and Pashupati, the lord of the beasts. As the shepherd of both animals and humans, Shiva as Pashupati shows most pleasant and creative side. Kathmandu Durbar Square: Durbar in Nepali 'palace' and in Patan and Bhaktapur, as well as Kathmandu, there are Durbar Squares in front of the old palaces. The king no longer lives in the old Royal Palace in Kathmandu: the palace was moved north to Narayanhiti about a century ago. Clustered around the central Durbar Square and the old Royal Palace (Hanuman Dhoka), numerous interesting temples, the Kumari Chowk or Kumari Bahal (House of the Living Goddess) and the Kasthamandap (House of Wood). It's easy to spend hours wandering around Durbar Square and the adjoining Basantapur Square. This is very much the center of old Kathmandu and watching the would go by from the terraced platforms of the towering Maju Deval is a wonderful way to get a feel for the city. Although many of the buildings around the square are very old.

3   We take the short internal flight to Nepalgunj in the far west on Nepal
We take the short internal flight to Nepalgunj in the far west on Nepal. This one hour flight is quite remarkable as it traverses the entire length of the Nepal Himalaya west of Kathmandu, with superb views of Langtang, Manaslu, the Annapurnas and Dhaulagiri, Nepalgunj is close to the Indian Border and quite warm in comparison to Kathmandu. Over night at a hotel.

4   Morning flight to Simikot
Morning flight to Simikot, the administrative center of Humla. Peering through the Perspex windows of our aircraft as it comes in to land at Simikot, there are glimpses of the snowy mass of Saipal to the north. This small town is perched on a ridge above the Humla Karnali River and enjoys wonderful views out over the deep valley. We meet our trek crew at Simikot. They have walked into this remote spot from a road head far to the south. Simikot is at an altitude of 3170m, and the inhabitants are a Nepali Hindu people, called Thakuris, who regularly trade northwestwards into Tibet via the route that we will be taking to Taklakot, following the Humla Karnali to the border. There is only a very gradual altitude increase on the approach to the Tibetan border. At the point where we will cross the river to enter Tibet, we will be only 300m higher than the altitude at Simikot. Beyond Simikot, the villages are inhabited by an increasing proportion of Bhotia (Tibetan) people. We will pass several small settlements, which make best use of any suitable flat land in the narrow gorge of the upper Humla Karnali. Initially we climb quite steeply, before starting a long descent of almost 1000m into the valley of the Humla Karnali. At this point the valley is a steep gorge, with many tributary waterfalls. We set off one the first stage of our trek, 3 hours downhill to our camping place at the small hamlet (one tea-shop) of Masigaon. Altitude 2600m.

5   Lots of up and down today
Lots of up and down today, as we negotiate steep sections of trail above the river. Very little overall height gain, but the nature of the terrain means that we have at times to climb up to avoid otherwise impassable sections of the gorge. After four hours we reach a lunch place beside the waterfall at Chachera. Two hours after lunch takes us to Kermi. This is the first village, which is recognizable as being purely a Bhotia settlement, with prayer flags fluttering above the houses and the well-preserved Mani walls attesting to the Buddhist influence. Above the village there are monasteries of both the Shakya and Nyingma Buddhist orders. We camp below the village, which is perched high above the trail. Altitude 2900m.

6   We continue a gradual ascent beside the Humla Karnali
We continue a gradual ascent beside the Humla Karnali, passing a number of forested tributary valleys on both sides of the river. Ahead of us, there are superb views of the Saipal Himal. We climb gradually away from the main river and crest a ridge, which gives assess to the tributary Chungsa Khola Valley, which comes in form the north. Dropping down into this valley, we cross the tributary river and regain the main valley at a point where it opens out appreciably. Passing through a number of small villages, we reach the river plain a short distance before our overnight camping place at Yangar 4 to 5 hours walking.
7   Easy going at first through Yangar and Yalbang
Easy going at first through Yangar and Yalbang. We keep low down by the river, whilst the pack animals take a higher route. Our route involves a lot of up and down and sometimes crosses sections of riverbank on man-made pathways-spectacular stuff. A total of 5 hours walking takes us to Muchu, at an altitude of around 3000m.

8   A gentle descent out of camp
A gentle descent out of camp, as far as Thumkot. Here, we begin a steep climb way form the river on a trail, which is visible from way down the valley. The Humla Karnali disappears away to the right into a steep-sided and impassable gorge. It is a long pull up to Torea after 2 hours and then more uphill on a good trail to Yari, where we take lunch. There is a monastery and a fortress like arrangement of houses at Yari. An hour or so after lunch we set up camp at an altitude of 3900m. A good grassy camp with good water. Total walking time 5 to 6 hours.

9   A stiff climb for 2 hours up to the Nara Lagna (4460m)
A stiff climb for 2 hours up to the Nara Lagna (4460m), passing the small village of Sip at around 4200m. Our efforts are rewarded by splendid views of westwards towards Nepal's border with India. The trail leading off to Limi heads off to the right at the pass and the impressive bulk of Gurla Mandata is straight ahead. We have been forced to cross this pass, which is the low point on a spur above the Karnali River, to avoid an impassable section of gorge. A steep 700m, descent from the pass takes us to Hilsa. We reach the Chinese customs post at Sher at midday and then have to go through the formalities of border crossing. Here, we board our transport (luxury Land Cruisers in 1996) for the 2-hour drive to Purang, via Khojarnath, which is the lowest village in the Ngari Province of Tibet and has an important monastery. Taklakot is an important bazaar town. Tibetans, and especially Khampas from the eastern part of Tibet, set up their tents in one part of the town, whilst the Nepali's establish two more, separate market areas during the summer month. There is still a quite important wool trade between the local, nomadic Drogpa herdsmen and certain of the Nepali traders. We are obliged to stay in a very basic guesthouse at Purang. Altitude 3800m.

10   It is an impressive drive out of the valley of the Karnali River
It is an impressive drive out of the valley of the Karnali River, climbing steeply to the Gurla La at 4900m, where there are views across to Kailas, before dropping down to drive between the twin lakes of Rakas Tal and Manasarovar. We take lunch beside the latter. There are spectacular views of Gurla Mansata and of the Himalaya to the south. Nearing Tarchen, we pass the junction settlement of Barkha, and then crossing the flat Barkha Plain with the ice-capped pyramid of Kailas growing ever nearer. Tarchen was once an important center of the wool trade prior to the break down of the cross border trading between Tibet and India in the 1940's. Now the village is only inhabited in summer (when a sprawling tent city grows around the cluster of permanent structures) and serves only as appoint of departure for the many pilgrims who come to Kailas from far and wide. Only the very top of Kailas is visible from Tarchen, as the foothills of the mountain approach the northern side of the village and obscure the view. We will take a short walk up the ridge that lies just to the north of Tarchen Gompa for spectacular views of Kailas. Theoretically it is only a 4-hour drive form Purang to Tarchen â??but allowing for photo-stops it will take us most of the day. Altitude at Tarchen 4600m.

11   The traditional circuit of Kailas proceeds in a clockwise direction
The traditional circuit of Kailas proceeds in a clockwise direction, according to the requirements of the Buddhist religion, whose followers walk around at sacred sites in this direction. Hindu pilgrims also complete clockwise circuits (conversely, the Tibetan Bon Po religion requires its adherents to circle the mountain counter-clockwise). The route around Kailas is 50 km. long and we will spend more than 3 days completing the circuit. This will allow for a reasonably leisurely pace, and give us plenty of time to visit the three important monasteries in the route. It is worth nothing that many Tibetan pilgrims complete the circuit in a single long day, and go on to do several circuits before returning to their homelands. Tarchen is due south of Kailas, and the trek starts by heading in a north-westerly direction to reach the broad valley of the Lha Chu. Crossing a ridge to drop down into this valley, there is a glimpse of Kailas to the north. Our route gains height very gradually, passing Mani walls and the impressive arched Kangnyi Chorten to Chukku Gompa on the western side of the river. Returning to the east of the river the pilgrim trail continues through a narrowing of the valley, the Lha Chu Canyon, and then begins to turn towards the east, to finally reach a level campsite by a huge conglomerate boulder at Damding Dongkang. A steep climb above our campsite leads to an excellent viewpoint for the sheer 1300m high north face of Kailas. Altitude 4800m.

12   A steady morning of 3 hours to Diraphuk Gompa
A steady morning of 3 hours to Diraphuk Gompa, where we take lunch. This is a superb little gompa with an exquisite interior and a good view of the North face of Kailas. A further 3 hours after lunch leads to Jarok Donkhang, the highest camp of the trip at a chilly 5250m.

13   From this point, the main valley heads north
From this point, the main valley heads north, and is one possible route towards the source of the Indus. Our route crosses the Drolma La Chu (a tributary of the Lha Chu) and heads towards the high point of the circuit, the Drolma La (5600m). Initially the climbing is interspersed with level sections, and then the climb becomes more continuous, passing the sacred site of Shiwa Tsal where the Buddhist and Hindu pilgrims leave items of clothing or locks of hair as an offering, which is supposed to smooth the passage of their spirit after death. The final rocky scramble to the pass is lined with hundreds of Cairns, and looking back there is a last view of the north side of Kailas. Approximately three hours slog to the pass. At the pass is a huge boulder, the Drolma Stone, festooned with prayer flags and daubed with yak butter. The devout of all religions prostrate before this stone and walk around it three times before continuing. A steep and rocky descent from the pass leads after two km. to the more level floor of the Lham Chu Valley, which we follow for a further eight km. to our camp on lovely green meadows below Zutulpuk Gompa. From only one point on this last section of the walk is there a view of Kailas' mysterious east face.

14   Drive to Zhongba (Dongba.) Over night at a Camp.

15   Drive to Drive to Saga. Over night at Camp.

16   Drive to Lhatse. Over night at a Guest House.

17   Drive to Shigatse, sightseeing tour around the town, visit the Panchen Lamaâ??s Monastery, etc. Over night at a Hotel.

18   Drive to Lhasa. Stay at a Hotel.

19   Lhasa Sightseeing tour of Potala Palace, Norbulinka Palace, Jokhanga Monastery, Drepung Monastery, & Sera Monastery.

20   Lhasa Sightseeing tour of Potala Palace, Norbulinka Palace, Jokhanga Monastery, Drepung Monastery, & Sera Monastery.

21   5 AM transfer to airport to board flight to Kathmandu, Arrive Kathmandu 0900 AM & connect onward flight.

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