23.09.2018 - 26.09.2018
After spending one more night at Lake Manasarovar, we moved to Darchen, the base for the Mount Kailash kora (pilgrimage), the next day. There was another monastery visit on our itinerary which we skipped in order to give more rest to our tired legs.
After one night in Darchen, we departed on our kora around Mount Kailash at the break of dawn. The first day involved around 20km of hiking, climbing from 4’700m to a bit over 5’000m. There were much more pilgrims here than at Lake Manasarovar and the trek was very busy. We saw many Indians being carried up the trek on horses. Apparently, the Indians who go to Kailash are very rich and therefore not at all accustomed to physical exercise. On the other hand, we also met one man who is walking the entire 52 kilometers of the kora in one day, everyday since two years. The atmosphere in general is very special, as most people there are extremely devoted to their religion. We saw many pilgrims that do this kora using prostrations instead of simply walking. Prostration is the practice of praying, while first going down on your knees and then laying down completely flat on the ground. After getting up again, the pilgrims do a few steps and repeat the procedure. It takes these people months to move all the way around the mountain. While most of the day was very cloudy, towards the evening the sky opened up a bit and we were able to see the bottom of Mount Kailash. The top remained in the clouds though. We spent the night at a monastery at an altitude of over 5’000 meters.
We were quite surprised when we looked outside the window after waking up. Snow has fallen overnight and the dry, grey-brown landscape has been turned completely white. We started our climb up to Dromla pass very early in the morning. The trek was already full of people, but besides the sound of boots in the snow, there was silence. No one talked. Climbing up at this altitude was very strenuous. Oxygen was not wasted on conversations. The higher we climbed, the harder each step became. After a bit more than 3 hours, we finally reached Dromla pass, at 5’645 meters above sea level, the highest point both of us have ever been. Moods got lighter up there, as everyone found joy in their achievement. The hardest part, however, was still to come. The way down was much steeper than the way up and the fresh snow had turned into hard ice at this point. Our hiking boots were no longer appropriate for the conditions. We were still better off than some pilgrims who walked in sneakers with non-existent profiles. After around 2.5 hours, partly spent sliding down on our butts, we managed to reach the valley without injury. There, the path became much easier, going down very gradually. However, there was still 12km left to go. We reached our destination very exhausted, after 10 hours of walking.
On the last day of the kora, we started very early, about one hour before sunrise, with our headlamps on. There was only around 10km to go and it was all downhill. We got some beautiful views of the sunrise over Gurla Mandhata, the mountain we have seen already during our Manasarovar kora. After less than 3 hours, we reached Darchen, where we were rewarded with a nice breakfast.
We liked the trek around Mount Kailash much more than the one around Lake Manasarovar. Despite the fact that it was almost always cloudy and we have not entirely seen the mountain we circled for the whole trek, the mountain views were interesting and varied. Also, seeing the pilgrims and experiencing the atmosphere around this mountain made it worth enduring the tough conditions.