Once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage with the Himalaya trekking experts since 1969
This rugged trek takes us along the untrammeled trails of Humla, Nepal’s highest, northernmost and most remote district. And while the challenging trek is a journey in itself, our ultimate destination is the mystical mountain of Kailas, hidden behind the Himalayas in a remote corner of the Tibetan plateau. This revered 22,028-foot peak is the source of four great Asian rivers—the Indus, Brahmaputra, Sutlej, and Karnali—and the ultimate pilgrimage site for Hindus and Buddhists who believe that by devoutly circling the mountain on foot, they will be cleansed of all earthly sins and reach ultimate spiritual freedom. And what better year to do this trek than 2014, the “Year of the Horse,” and most auspicious time to do Kailas. In 2014 one kora is equivalent to 13 koras and there will be many pilgrims in the vicinity.
Our own pilgrimage to Kailas begins with a demanding six-day trek along the Karnali River Valley in West Nepal. Once at the Tibet border, we meet our vehicles and drive to Lake Manasarovar, the sacred lake below the mountain (Hindus take a ritual bath in its glacial waters—a plunge for us is optional!). Then it’s on to the holy mountain itself. Joining other nomads and pilgrims from as far away as India, we set off on a 32-mile circumambulation of the peak along the kora, the sacred circuit around Kailas (one circuit is said to erase the sins of a lifetime, 108 assures Nirvana). The most devout pilgrims circle the shining mountain in one day—we’ll take our time and do it in four.
Upon completion of the kora, we begin our long drive to Kathmandu. Although Mount Kailas is the focus of the trek, the journey through Humla is also culturally and scenically rewarding.
13 days strenuous hiking at high elevation (max. 18,465')
- Complete the sacred circuit of Mount Kailas—a once-in-a-lifetime journey!
- A rewarding cultural and spiritual journey including encounters with Tibetan, Indian, and Nepali pilgrims as well as nomadic people
- Travel with award-winning MTS guide Cathy Ann Taylor—a seasoned 20 year veteran of trekking in the Himalayas
Duration: 22 days Start Location: Kathmandu End Location: KathmanduDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Kathmandu
Arrive in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Day 2 : Kathmandu
In the morning, enjoy a city tour of enchanting medieval Bhaktapur, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the afternoon, Kathmandu is yours to explore, or take a car to the ancient city of Patan.
Day 3 : Fly to Nepalgunj
A scenic morning flight whisks you high above the Himalayas to Nepalgunj.
Day 4 : Simikot (7,800') - Dharapani (8,825') - Begin Trek
Early morning flight to Simikot and begin trek
Day 5 : Kermi (9,700')
A full day of hiking begins with a trail to view a beautiful waterfall. After lunch, follow a path that snakes up and down before climbing gradually to the terraced fields at Kermi. (6 hours hiking.)
Day 6 : Yalbang Gompa (10,250')
We'll climb over a ridge into a valley and ascend to a pass at 9,800'. Descend steeply to the Chumsa Khola and cross it via an impressive suspension bridge. The trail then climbs briefly through dense forest, contouring rock walls high above the Karnali. Cross a large meadow and climb an hour to camp at Yalbang Gompa. (6 hours hiking.)
Day 7 : Tumkot Khola (10,200')
We'll follow a unique trail that tunnels beneath houses through Yangar to get to the end of a ridge, which eventually drops down to a river at 9,100'. Cross the river by suspension bridge and head for an apricot orchard where we’ll eat lunch. Continue to the village of Muchu, where we’ll have our passports stamped. Follow the trail down to the Bumachiya Khola and our campsite at Tumkot. (6 hours hiking.)
Day 8 : Yari (12,040')
This morning we ascend steeply to a ridge at 10,725' and continue to Torea or Palbang at 11,000' through yellow mustard fields. After lunch, we walk mainly on the dirt road that has been built. The last check post is at the small settlement of Yari (12,040') and we camp nearby. (6-7 hours hiking.)
Day 9 : Taklakot (12,900')
From here the route climbs to Sipsip (14,200'), near the foot of the Nara Lagna pass (15,022'). Despite the remoteness of our location, there will be a considerable amount of traffic in this area, and it's likely we'll be traveling in the company of traders, pilgrims, and pack animals. We make a steep, continuous ascent along the side of the ridge above Sipsip to the pass at 15,022'. The ascent is on loose pebbles that will make our hike a bit difficult. The trail then contours and descends to the Humla Karnali at 12,200'. After crossing the Karnali into the Tibet border, support vehicles will meet us and drive us into Taklakot. The border crossing on the Nepal side is known as "Hilsa," and on the Tibet side, "Sher." The guesthouses in this border town are extremely basic. (6 hours hiking.)
Day 10 : Lake Manasarovar (14,950')
Taklakot is known locally as “Purang,” a large trading center composed of many distinct settlements. There the ruins of a few gompas (monasteries) and several bazaars with restaurants, shops, and stalls selling livestock and wool. In the morning we visit the Taklakot bazaar and Tsegu Gompa. We'll then take an afternoon drive to camp, near Jiwu Gompa on the beautiful windswept shores of Lake Manasarovar, the highest body of fresh water on earth. We may have a chance to bathe in its sacred waters and visit the nearby zhong (fortress) on the hill. (2 hour drive)
Day 11 : Lake Manasarovar (14,950')
Rest day. There will be an optional 2-3 hour hike near the lakeside for acclimatization. Also a visit to Chiu Gompa.
Day 12 : Darchan (14,950')
Wind permitting, we continue to enjoy the unparalleled beauty of Manasarovar's deep blue waters and its Hindu and Buddhist temples, then we will move on to overnight at a guest house in the town of Darchan (14,950'). Camping is not permitted at Darchen by the authorities which is why we have to stay in the extremely basic guest house. Our sherpas will prepare the meals in a kitchen tent pitched outside the guest house.
Day 13 : Damding Donkhang (16,040')
We embark on our circuit of Mount Kailas, starting west from Darchen and making a clockwise circuit, just as the Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims do. Camp at Damding Donkhang (16,040'), which offers good views of the west face of Kailas. (6 hours hiking.)
Day 14 : Jarok Donkhang (17,100')
As we cross a couple of streams on log bridges, the north face of Kailas comes into view. We'll take a leisurely lunch at Dirapuk Gompa, directly beneath the impressive north face of Kailas. After lunch, we climb up a moraine to the meadows of Jarok Donkhang at about 17,100 feet. The snow-covered pass above is Khado Sanglam and pilgrims may only cross this difficult pass on their auspicious 13th circuit of the mountain. (6 hours hiking.)
Day 15 : Lham Chu Valley (16,892')
Continue higher past piles of clothing at Shiva-Tsal (17,482'). Tibetans leave an article of clothing or a drop of blood here as part of leaving their past life behind them. Continue up to the Dolma La (18,465'), where a big boulder on the pass, festooned with prayer flags (perhaps the world’s largest collection!), represents the goddess Dolma. The pass is the physical and spiritual high point of the kora (circuit) and we’ll spend as much time as feasible in this auspicious place. A steep descent on countless switchbacks takes us past Lake Gourikund at 17,800' (devout Hindus are supposed to break the ice and bathe in its waters). Continue down the valley to camp in the beautiful meadows of the Lham Chu Valley. (6 hours hiking.)
Day 16 : Lake Manasarovar (14,950')
Continue hiking to the gompa at Zutulpuk (15,711'). Zutulpuk means “miracle cave” and it is here that the Buddhist Saint Milarepa lived, meditated, and performed miracles such as raising the roof of the cave to make it more comfortable. We’ll leave the river valley and hike on the plain to the last prostration station at 15,120'. Continue another 1½ hours to the end of the trail. Meet with vehicles and drive to Lake Manasarovar. (4 hours hiking.)
Days 17 - 19 : Drive to Zhangmu (7,544')
We will spend the next three days driving to Zhangmu along the flanks of the Himalaya. We camp at Dobga and Pelgo Tso on our way to Zhangmu. At Zhangmu we stay at a hotel. (Daily driving time is about 7 hours.)
Day 20 : Drive to Kathmandu (7,544')
After clearing Chinese immigration at Zhangmu, we drive down about seven miles to the Friendship Bridge over the Bhote Kosi River and walk across the bridge into Nepal. We'll go through Nepal immigration formalities and drive to Kathmandu. (4-5 hours driving)
Day 21 : Extra day in Kathmandu
Extra day in Kathmandu for last minute shopping and sightseeing. This evening we will have a festive farewell dinner in Kathmandu.
Day 22 : Fly home
Transfer to airport and depart Kathmandu on homeward-bound flights.
DATES: Best time to go: September Departures: Sep 6 - 27, 2014
$7,995 (10-12 members)
Shangri-La is a premier five-star deluxe hotel. It is centrally located and within a short walking distance to the former Royal Palace and the bustling Thamel market. The hotel has pool & gardens and three restaurants, several shops, and a bookstore.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
Cathy Ann Taylor
Cathy Ann Taylor, a high altitude trekking guide for Mountain Travel Sobek for the last 20 years. Cathy Ann has trekked all over Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan, with well over 150 trips in the Himalayas (she still considers the Himalayas her “second home”)! A devout hiker and mountain biker, she leaves no trail undiscovered, and her passion for the mountains, caring nature, and boundless energy are renowned. Her experience, knowledge, positive attitude (she can find the good in anything!), and her wonderful rapport with the local staff will enhance your experience. With the help of caring and like-minded individuals she has been able to manage the sponsorship of ten remote village children, all of whom are in boarding school and one who is about to graduate from University in Australia. She consistently gets rave reviews from members of her groups and has quite a following. Cathy Ann is active in the Breast Cancer Fund and has participated in eleven expeditions, including Mount McKinley, Cho Oyu, Mount Fuji, Mount Shasta, and Mount Rainier, which helped increase awareness of breast cancer (she alone has raised over $350,000 for the cause!). She has also reached the summit of Ama Dablam (22,500') in Nepal and Argentina's Aconcagua (22,834'), the highest peak in South America. Cathy Ann received an honorable mention in Hooked on the Outdoors magazine's Outdoor Person of the Year Awards, January 2006, and also received a letter of recognition for her fundraising and environmental work from Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.