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The Kora of Mount Kailash


Three days trekking, or kora around Mount Kailash is a holy activity for Tibetans, but for me a serious challenge. Firstly I had never trekked at this altitude, secondly I had come in the wrong season: late November.

Me at MountDolma-la pass  Kailash

Mount Kailash is the destination for all Tibetans, sooner or later they will want to do the pilgrimage to the holy mountain where, according to Tibetans, the gods live. It's also the reason why no mountaineer has ever climbed the mountain all the way to the top.

I started my 52 km trekking (there is no need for a guide) in the morning in Darshan having left much of my luggage with the monk where I had stayed (see my Darshan page).

Darshan is located at an altitude of 4574 meter and I knew I would have to climb more then 1000 meter up to reach the Dolma-la pass, but that would only happen the next day.

The path to Drirapuk monastery
The start of the kora of Mount Kailash

I had bought (with advice) a lot of stone hard chocolate which would give me the energy I needed to reach Drirapuk monastery at 4920 meter, about 25 km further.

I knew how to walk, in the village people told me to follow the mountain west until I could go north, just follow the path they said.

Note: If you go in the season (usually May to September/October), all you have to do is follow the local Tibetans and other trekkers but in my case, I was completely alone.

Mount Kailash, beginning of the trekking
Mount Kailash is slowly showing...

 So I left. Once 25 meters out of town, I saw no more people. In fact, I didn't see anyone that whole day. I walked slow, not willing to waste my energy and the breath the spectacular scenery I was now in. It made me feel even more humble. I had plenty of water with me but soon I realized on the way I would have been able to get water anyway.

Mount Kailash    Mount Kailash

When I arrived at around 5pm at Drirapuk monastery, it was .... closed! That was a difficult situation as I had no tent with me and sleeping in the open air was not exactly the best option.

Me at Mount Kailash
I was quite worn out after the first day on the kora

In front of the monastery stood the bunker which has been in use as "guesthouse". All doors were locked. But they were locked with a lock similar as the lock on my backpack. Would the key of my lock fit on one of the doors ...? I tried and yes, two doors opened. One door lead to the kitchen were I could prepare some instant noodles, a delicious meal after today and chocolates desert.

Mount Kailash
There's always snow on top of Mount Kailash

The other room that opened was a bedroom. I would sleep sound and warm!

The next morning I was woken up by a group of Tibetan who were doing there pilgrimage. They just waved at me and ran up the mountain. I say "ran" as they did ran indeed. One of them told me they would do the kora in one day!

View from Drirapuk monastery to Mount Kailash

View of Mount Kailash from Drirapuk monastery,
picture taken out of the window of my room

I had some breakfast and left the guesthouse. At an altitude of almost 5000 meters, breathing became increasingly more difficult. Every 100 meters I had to stop and rest and the close I came to the Dolma-la pass, the more stops were needed. The Tibetan family had already been far ahead of me, I expected. However, to my surprise at the pass, they were just preparing to go down having prayed here and added prayer flags to the pile of flags already available.

But here at 5630meters altitude breathing was hard and although I was tired, I didn't want to stay long. I still had to walk more then 15 km to Dzultripuk Monastery. I felt it might be too much but it turned out to be very easy as it was all the way down despite the over 5 hours altogether from the pass.

Dolma-la Pass Mount Kailash
Prayer flags at Dolma-la Pass, the pass of Mount Kailash

The monastery was open, and I got a room, hot water, tea, instant noodles and rest. Seldom I have slept so well as that night in Dzultripuk Monastery.

Mount Kaliash at Dolma-la Pass  Mount Kailash

Refreshed as I was in the morning, I only had another 11 km to walk back to Darshan, get my luggage and leave to ... It was not meant to be that easy.

Back in Darshan and trying to move on

Back in Darshan I learned there had not been a single vehicle passing Darshan since I had arrived in the first place. I was advice to go the next day at around 11AM a few kilometers on the plains and try my luck. Maybe a truck would pass. I decided I would take any vehicle in any direction, either continuing to Lake Mansorovar or back to Ali.

Back to Darchen Village
The last few kilometers back to Darshan, this is usually where the PSB waits and fines you

I was lucky. As there is no road, trucks just follow trails that look not too hard to drive. They would certainly see me in the flat lands. People in Darshan told me any truck passing would certainly pick me up.

Having no idea how far to walk on the plain, I just stopped at a trail that looked a bit more worn out. I was lucky, after about an hour and a half, a truck loaded with people drove my way. It was on the way to Ali. Considering the lack of options I didn't push my luck and got on the truck.

Thus I went back to Ali. With about 30 people on the back of the truck, I sat on flour bags. Most of the Tibetans were comfortably sitting under their long coats and blankets, which seemed a good idea, so I did the same as I still had my long 3kg heavy Tibetan coat with me.

Back to Darchen Village

Waiting for transport....

In the evening we reached Ali, and I went back to the guesthouse I had stayed before. The plan was to stay a day, have a bath (in town there was an excellent steambath) as my guesthouse (and the other hotels too) had no running water). The day after I would try to get to Lhasa, which turned out to be a complete other adventure.

All other related Tibet pages:

Tibet & Lhasa

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