Exploring Mt Kailash: Scenic views, snow-covered peaks - but this trek is not for the faint-hearted
Mt Kailash offers the perfect getaway for those looking for respite from the hustle-and-bustle of city life.
Mount Kailash, in Tibet, is the perfect getaway for the tired executive. A one-of-a-kind experience for the body, mind and soul, the holy site has something to offer for everyone from the Instagram to the Facebook-generation.
To embark on this journey of a lifetime, you will have to begin the process at the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, which involves a thorough medical check and a lottery process to draw up names. Once selected, each ‘ yatri’ (traveller) is assigned a fixed route and a batch. However, the most popular route is via Nepal and through its multiple exit points into Tibet (where Mount Kailash and the famous Mansarovar lake is situated).
I have been travelling to Kailash since 2013 and have just finished my fourth trip in August this year, with the globally renowned mystic, Mohanji – all done via the Nepal routes.
Before starting this journey, a visit to the famous Pashupatinath and the Budhanilkantha temple in Nepal is mandatory. For the uninitiated, Pashupatinath is said to be an incarnation of the God Shiva, as the ‘lord of the animals’. At the temple, visitors can feed hundreds of birds. And if you are looking for some retail therapy, the Thamel market in Kathmandu is a shopper’s paradise. Choose from high-quality winter clothes at throwaway prices, take home hand-drawn mandalas and intricately carved Nepali Kukri knives.
Having spent time in Nepal, we left for the China border and crossed it at Kerung. From here on, the journey is broken in a way to make the body acclimatize to the height. So, after an overnight stay at Kerung, the next day we stopped over at Saga - situated at a height of about 15,000 feet. We had to extend our stay here for two days as several several people get affected by altitude-sickness at this height, and to tackle this, it is advisable to give the body time to get accustomed to the environment.
After Saga, we finally arrived at the famed Mansarovar lake, that is about 300 feet deep and has a circumference of about 88 kilometers. The lake is considered sacred for Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Bons. Recently, the local government had banned people from taking a dip in the water due to fears of pollution. So, we bathed on its banks with buckets of water from the lake. The next day, we participated in an elaborate fire ceremony ( havan) performed by priests, as the south face of Kailash looked majestically over us.
The 52 kilometer circumambulation of Kailash is done over three days, and you can opt to either complete it riding a pony or walking. After crossing the west face of Kailash, we halted for the night at Dirapuk, located right in front of the imposing north face of Kailash. While Lord Shiva is synonymous with Kailash, only a few people are aware that around Kailash, there are 21 signs of Goddess Tara, who is said to protect the pilgrims.
Oxygen levels at the site are almost half as compared to the sea levels, so walking at an average height of 16,000 to 18,000 feet over three days, tests the body and the mind.
The second day is the toughest as one needs to trek at 18,200 feet. During our trip, we found little snow at the Dolma La Pass, with sporadic rain and hail throughout the day. After walking for another 20 kilometers, we spent the night at Zutulpuk. The third day is the easiest as compared to the others, as it was when we returned to Darchen - the base camp. From there it was a 3-day drive back to Kathmandu.
All said and done, the journey to Kailash is like no other. It’s a trip that will stay with you till your last breath, and beyond.
What to pack:
Carry only the essentials viz a waterproof and windproof jacket & trousers, a poncho raincoat, dry fruits, a good metal hiking stick, a few pairs of woollen socks, a pair of good-quality hiking boots (which you must wear earlier and break-in), and wet wipes.
- The author is a corporate warrior, had the Grace of walking around Kailash four times (once on a full moon night). He tweets from @tweetsofDB.