Hiking

Beginner

Backcountry Skiing

Beginner

Natasha Poletaeva

39 years, Russia

1 year ago

Kailash, the Mount That No Man Has Stood On

No mountaineer has ever stood upon the top of the “Precious Snow Mountain”, Mount Kailash. The only person, who got the permission to climb ever, was the great Reinhold Messner, in year 1985. However, he turned down this opportunity at the very last moment.

Kailash, the Mount That No Man Has Stood On

Why he refused to climb Kailash? Here is what the most renowned alpinist says about it: "If we conquer this mountain, then we conquer something in people's souls. I would suggest they go and climb something a little harder. Kailash is not so high and not so hard”.

At the same time, there are rumors circulating, that Chinese climbers have already summited Kailash (multiple times even!), but would not share this information  — so as not to disturb the world community with a Tibetan theme. However, there is no proof of these claims.

On the contrary, tens of legends about mount Kailash are alive and well and are not going to be forgotten any time soon.  Hindus believe that there is a Shiva cloister on top of the mountain. Numerology lovers claim that the height of Kailash is 6.666 kilometers above sea level (scientists cautiously say it is somewhere between 6.638 and 6.890 meters). But the peculiar thing is that the distance from Kailash to the Stonehenge monument is 6.666 kilometers, same to the North Pole  — and 13.332 (6.666x2) km to the South Pole. It is hard to argue with the numbers — no wonder that many believe that the pyramid shaped Kailash, with its sides perfectly facing the cardinal points, has been created by the divine will.

Kailash, the Mount That No Man Has Stood On

Apart from that, many believe that the mythical country of Shamballa, which enthusiasts actively (yet fruitless) are looking for, lays in the Kailash area. There are also people who have more of technology-oriented beliefs  — they believe that Kailash is a petrified spaceship of gods that laid the foundation for the human civilization. These beliefs are often represented in various books and movies — look it up if you are interested!

Touching the Void

For hundreds of years people tried touch this magnificent peak, and today there is a possibility for those who believe in legends, and for those who just wants to visit Tibet and embrace the mountain spirit.

Although you cannot climb to the top of Kailash, you can walk the Kora (a ritual of walking around any kind of Buddhist or Hindu sanctuary) around the sacred mountain. It is much shorter than, for example, the route around Annapurna  — trekking takes only 2-3 days.

There are multiple ways of getting to Kailash. You can take an airplane from Nepal, India, China to Lhasa or a train from China to Lhasa with scenic views of Tibet. Either way, to partake in Kora you would have to have a Chinese visa.

From Kailash you can head to Kathmandu or return to Lhasa  — it all depends on your schedule.

Conditions

If you have already been to Tibet or Nepal, you do not have to read this part. The rest are welcome to learn more about the region. Check out our articles on the subject!

Kailash, the Mount That No Man Has Stood On

However, people who have already done the Kora, say that any kind of advice gets drowned in the sea of vital energy surrounding the mountain. Every little trifle becomes futile and is brushed aside as soon as you get to the mighty Kailash.

However, there is one thing that no kind of spirituality can overcome  — acclimatization. The highest point of the Kora lies across the Dolma La ridge (5.637 m  — almost as high as Elbrus) and for that you have to be prepared.

This is exactly the reason why you will walk the Kora not on the second or the third day, but the 10th/12th. Your guides will tailor your trip so that by the end of the journey you will have achieved the proper shape and approach the Kora with right mindset and attitude. You trip from Lhasa will look something like this.

Travel Route (~15 days)

Lhasa (3650 m) — Gyantse (4040 m) — Shigatse (3836 m) —Tingri (4300 m) — Everest Base Camp (5150 m) — Saga (4487 m) — Lake Manasarovar (4588 m) — Darchen (4600 m) — Mt. Kailash (6638 m).

When it comes to the equipment, a standard traveling kit is required. Proper trekking shoes, warm clothes, some gloves, a hat and a backpack.

You will spend your nights in humble guesthouses and you’ll be thankful you brought along a warm sleeping bag. You might not need trekking poles, but sunglasses and sunscreen are essential (they will not take much space, and their absence can be lethal). 

When?

The season for Kora usually is in summer and early fall; generally, people do it from June to early October. June to August would be most preferable, since even in summer it gets pretty cold during the night in the mountains.

What to Avoid?

On your way, you will pass a Mahasiddha graveyard, where Tibetan “heavenly funerals” take place. Tibetans believe that a person must benefit everything around him on each stage of its life. Because of it, its body is given away to be eaten by wild birds and animals, as a last act of goodwill towards the world. 

It is better not to approach this graveyard, and it is not about existential fears – you may encounter a pack of wild dogs (there were fatal cases).

Show some respect for deceased and try to get spiritual without getting too nosey. There is plenty of mystical experiences along the way!

Seven Years in Tibet

Potala (3.700m). This is the exact place where Brad Pitt’s character met young Dalai-lama (in «Seven Years in Tibet» movie). Since 1994 Potala is a UNESCO World Heritage site and also a museum (the Buddhist ceremonies are also held here).

Kailash, the Mount That No Man Has Stood On

Dirapuk (4.950m).  The last spot of the first day of the Kora.

Zutulpuk (4.910m). Legends tell, here lies the cave of Milapera  — the legendary Buddhist master, poet and yoga master of the XI century.

I See Lakes are Blue

Lakes Mansarovar and Rakshasa are known as lakes with “living” and “dead” waters respectively. In “dead” waters, a traveler can let go of the negative energy and in “living” waters  — soak up good energy. Even without all the esoterica, the weather around each lake is completely different, despite them being close to each other: Mansarovar is calm and windless, and Rakshasa being a complete opposite. There also thermal springs in the area  — after a long day of driving the dusty roads you can take a natural mineral bath.

Three Wishes

Before beginning the Kora every pilgrim must walk through the gates of Kora not once but three times. While walking under the arc one is recommended to make a clear purpose for the Kora. Buddhist say that the Kora is a cleansing, a confession. They see Kailash as a huge lingam (a temple) of the god Shiva. Regardless of one’s religion everyone that have walked the Kora claim that they came back a different person, and that the purpose they came up with while walking through the gates came to fruition.

Kailash, the Mount That No Man Has Stood On

Horses Are For Cheaters

Faithful Tibetans walk the Kora with prostrations: after each step, they lay down on the ground, then get up and make another step. There are not many of such pilgrims, but their dedication will surely make an impression.

But there are people who overcome the path on horseback  — it all depends on one’s health, wealth and interest in the Kora. Let us leave the choice of transport and the manner of walking the path to the travelers, because what truly matters is the magnificent Tibet surrounding you, for every person, that have walked the path, finds inner peace and a sense that everything that happens  — is right and safe.

Do not be surprised if suddenly you will burst into tears or get a sense of euphoria, or, on the contrary, all of you feelings will suddenly disappear and you will find yourself being an uninvolved observer  — all of this happens rather frequently to the visitors of this amazing place. So be prepared and fear not!

As the legendary Milarepa once said: 

“He who avoids misunderstandings,

Amused at the play of his own mind,

Is ever joyful.”

Be prepared, be joyful, and be solid. Good luck on the road!

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