Guided treks to sacred Mount Kailas

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of September 26-October 2, 1996
Guided treks to sacred Mount Kailas
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Guided treks to sacred Mount Kailas
Question: Which adventure travel companies currently offer trips to Mount Kailas in Tibet?

Nancy Tew
Los Angeles, CA
[email protected]

It's a strenuous trek to
Mount Kailas in Tibet.

Adventure Adviser: A handful of reputable outfitters run monthlong treks to sacred Mount Kailas, a remote peak in the mountain range of the same name and source of four of Asia's mightiest rivers. Trips into the remote interior of Ngari, Tibet's far western province, usually follow one of four basic itineraries. The more no-holds-barred adventure companies will take you on a strenuous five-day slog by foot into Tibet from western Nepal to the base of 22,028-foot Kailas, followed by a five-day, 33-mile kora (pilgrimage) around the mountain--including a lung-zapping ascent of 18,525-foot Dalma La Pass and then a bumpy, bone-jarring, six-day haul, via four-wheel drive, out to Kathmandu. If this sounds appealing, sign on with Salt Lake-based Stone Lion Corporation; that company's 27-day trek goes for $5,300 per person (round-trip airfare to Kathmandu is extra). For more details, call 800-525-8735.

A second option is to join up with Himalayan High Trek's annual September trip. They make the long five-day haul via four-wheel drive, claiming there's less of a chance of being turned back at the Tibetan border if you arrive in a vehicle instead of on foot. They then spend a week or so at the base of Kailas, make the three-day circuit hike, and then spend eight days trekking back out to western Nepal. Go this route and it'll set you back $4,600. Call Himalayan High Treks at 800-455-8735 for additional information.

Another possibility goes like this: Six-day drive south from central Tibet through spectacular, geyser-laden moonscapes to the Kailas range; four-day kora loop trek around the base of the mountain; and then another weeklong drive south along the flanks of the towering Himalayas and into Nepal. While decidedly less demanding on the feet than the one-way trek option, this trip definitely takes its toll on aching joints and, possibly, dental work. Says Ann Aylwin, Tibet aficionado at San Francisco-based Geographic Expeditions (415-346-5535), whose 30-day driving/trekking trips cost $5,990 per person, "It's very much a hard-core road trip. The road is completely unpaved--very rough riding." Still, because Kailas is so far off the beaten track, half (or in this case, let's say three-quarters) of the fun is just getting there.

And finally, if long car rides make you queasy, there's only one way to go: Put your walking shoes on and sign on with Top Guides for a 22-day expedition that involves trekking both in and out from Kailas, plus the kora around the mountain. Trips depart June 1 and September 1 and land cost is $4,950. Call 800-867-6777 for details.

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