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. We will spend 6 days in Tibet, allowing 4 days itinerary a spare day, in case we encounter logistical problems en route
Mount Kailas lies in the Ngari province of Tibet, in the extreme south west 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 Tarchen, 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 the sins of a lifetime can be washed away simply by completing a circuit of the mountain.
Arrival in Kathmandu, evening trek/tour brefing.
Free day for preparation or city tours.
Free day for preparation or city tours.
Day 4: 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. In Nepalgunj we check into the basic but comfortable Sneha(Love) Hotel, which serves excellent food.
Day 5: 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. We spent the night at Simikot.
Day 6: We trek into this remote spot from a roadhead far to the south
We trek into this remote spot from a roadhead far to the south. Simikot is at an altitude of 3170m, and the inhabitants are a Nepali Hindu people, called Thakuris, who regularly trade north-westwards 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 (in 5 days time), we will be only 300m higher than the altitude at Simikot. Beyond Simikot, the village4s 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.
Day 7: Lots of up and down today, as we negotiate steep sections of trail above the river
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 menas that we have at times to climb up to avoid otherwise impassable sections ofthe 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).
Day 8: 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.
Day 9: 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 river bank on man-made pathways-spectacular stuff. A total of 5 hours walking takes us to Muchu, at an altitude of around 3000m.
Day 10: A gentle descent out of camp
A gentle descent out of camp, as far as Thumkot. Here, we begin a steep climb away 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.
Day 11: 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 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 Nepalis 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.
It is an impressive drive out of the valley of the Karnali River.