Journey to Mount Kailash

Himalayan trek

Print edition : September 13, 2019

Mount Kailash, the celebrated north face, at Dirapuk in the remote south-western part of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, on July 22.

Lake Mansarovar. Revered by Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Bons, it is a freshwater lake at an altitude of 4,590 metres with a surface area of 320 sq km.

The ruddy shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea), known as Brahminy duck in India, and its young at Mansarovar. This migratory bird with bright gold-coloured feathers and a distinctive black ring on its neck is increasingly becoming rare in south-eastern Europe and finds a place in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Photo: VMR

A view of Mansarovar from the Chiu monastery. Chiu is where Padmasambhava, the Indian mystic who took Tantric Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century, is the presiding deity.

The guest house at Mansarovar with Mount Kailash (south face) seen in the background.

Hilsa at Nepal’s north-western border with the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The immigration office building of the TAR is on the far side. Photo: VMR

Tibetan market at Taklakot, as Indians call Purang (Burang) town, is the hub of India-China trade that usually takes place from June to September every year. Indian goods are brought through the land route from Uttarakhand and sold here for the local population. Photo: VMR

At Yama dwar, the starting point of the trek, a clear view of Mount Kailash’s south face and a part of the west side.

Yama dwar (Tarboche in Tibetan) on the outskirts of Darchen, where the trek begins. The name suggests that one leaves one’s mortal being at the “door of the god of death” to embrace the sanctity that Mount Kailash is a symbol of. Photo: VMR

The west face of Mount Kailash as seen on the trek from Yama dwar to Dirapuk. Photo: V. CHANDRASEKHAR

Mount Kailash north face, covered by clouds, in moonlight.

A map showing the outer and inner parikrama routes, on the information panels displayed at Yama dwar.

The Dirapuk monastery almost at the foot of Mount Kailash. Photo: VMR

Crossing the snow-covered Drolma La pass (5,630 m; 18,470 ft), the highest point of the parikrama, in single file. Photo: C.G. Prashanth

Gauri Kund, as seen on the way down from Drolma La, at an altitute of 5,608 m (18,400 ft). Photo: C.G. Prashanth

The Barkha plains, a vast flat land crisscrossed by streams and rivers, that lies between Zuthulpuk and Darchen. The Gurla Mandhata mountain, which sits across Lake Mansarovar from Mount Kailash, is in the background. Photo: C.G. Prashanth

The journey to Mount Kailash is a unique experience strewn with challenges that are a test of human endurance befitting the reward—a view of the sacred mountain in a remote corner of the arid Tibetan plateau.
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