After nearly 14 days, we have now reached the starting point of our trek at Darchen – the gateway to Mount Kailash. Darchen lies at nearly 15,000 ft and the air is thin here. By now, most of us are acclimatized having been close to this altitude, on and off, for the last two weeks. At Darchen, a small hike gets us to some amazing views of the South face – covered in snow with markings that looks like a staircase to heaven.
Day 1 of the hike is moderate and this day is rewarded with view of the North Face of Mt. Kailash – a cold looking black rock face covered with sheer ice and considered the throne of Lord Shiva.
We first walk through the dark canyon or the valley floor of Lha Chu alongside this river Lha chu, meaning divine river.
We walk between towering cliffs on either sides and get a view of the west face of Mt. Kailash.
After this view, the climb turns towards Driraphuk, where there are tents and small lodging – still no toilets!
After about 7 hrs of hiking, we reach Driraphuk, where we are blessed with views of the towering north face of Kailash. The grand mountain stares us right into our face, high above all others and looks like a solid piece of black rock covered in ice with fierce winds blowing near the top. There are guardian mountains on either side.
Most people cannot sleep well here at Driraphuk. The air is thin and this place is bone chillingly cold with howling winds throughout the night. After a night here, the second day of the trek starts early well before sunrise to be able to get through the highest point of the trek up Drolma La, a mountain pass, and then down to the valley to Zutrulphuk. This is a 12 – 14 hr day and is the most strenuous of all. We walk over 13 miles reaching elevations of nearly 19,000 ft. The effects of altitude are felt very much today with every step of the way as we breathe deeply.
Once we cross the Drolma La, we are blessed with view of Gauri Kund – a place where goddess Parvati was in penance for Lord Shiva. On this day, Gauri Kund looked frozen solid.
Our sherpa guide was nice enough to walk down the hill to Gauri kund and get us some water from this pond which is supposed to have disease healing powers. This point is still just halfway to Zutrulphuk – our camp for the night. The path seemed to go on forever with no end in sight. To make things worse, it started to rain with high winds for a bit followed by hail – with hail stones the size of marbles. Weather changes quickly around here. We stopped at a Tibetan tea house for some nice hot tea which gave us a temporary boost to continue on. At last, the tents in Zutrulphuk came into sight where we rested for the night.
The final day is a relatively easy hike to Darchen as we continue our descent from the higher altitudes. The path winds down along a steep gorge and we reach Darchen in just 5 hours.
This is a truly spiritual experience as many saints including Buddha himself is said to have walked these mountains. Many saints are said to have reached deeper insights into awareness itself since time immemorial. This is a place of pure awareness itself. The change within is deeply felt and likely to remain with us forever. This is the highest mountain path of all – a spiritual journey of self discovery.
1. Sian Pritchard-Jones and Bob Gibbons. “The Mount Kailash Trek: A trekker’s and visitor’s guide”. Cicerone Press Limited; 1 edition (2007)
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