Simikot Kailash Trip
Day - 01 Fly to Nepalgunj
An afternoon or evening flight brings us to Nepalgunj. It is set in the steamy Terai near the border of India and is the largest city in western Nepal. It serves as a jumping-off point for many flights and buses into western Nepal. We stay the night at an air-conditioned hotel, and head back in time to explore this town seemingly right out of the 1940's.
Day - 02 Fly to Simikot 2910m. Trek to Majhgoan (2270m)
After landing in Simikot, at 2910m, we have lunch. Our 65-km trek to the Tibetan border begins by climbing from the Simikot air-strip, and passing by the water source for the upper Simikot Khasa village. Climbing the trail from here, we reach the Simikot Lagna Pass, at 3000 m. It does not look far, but it is a long 300-metre pull to the top of forested ridge overlooking the town. The descent continues until we reach teahouses under a big wild nut tree. This is Majhgaun, which at 2270m, is the first night's stop.
Day - 03 Trek- Majhgaon to Kermi (2690 m)
The trail today starts off reasonably level. We pass by a Thakuri village called Tuling, and wild nut and apricot trees provide welcome shade along the bank of the River Karnali as the trek passes through Dharapori at 2300m. We cross the Yabka Khola (also known as Dhara-pori Khola), and soon we reach the campsite of Dharapori, which has a few teashops. Walking another 10 minutes brings us to the Thakuri village of Dharapori situated on the top of a ridge which also has a police check-post. Below this village, a bridge over the Humla Karnali leads to a couple of Lama villages called Jad Kholsi and Khangalgaon. These villages belong to the Tugchulungba community and the route to them passes the Thakuri village of Hitan (thakuri) Kholsi. This is the last Thakuri village in the valley and the upper limit of rice cultivation. From Dharapori, the trail is straight along the right bank of the Karnali River to the Gharapori Khola, a small tributary of the Karnali. Ascending from this stream of Dharapari Khola, the trail undulates along the Karnali River up to Chachera at 2350 m, a cave campsite used by sheep caravans. There is also a beautiful waterfall nearby. Just above this waterfall is a Lama village called Chyadog, which also belongs to the Tugchulungba community. Then we climb over a ridge, past swarms of lizards sunning themselves as we approach Kermi, situated beside a stream, at 2690 m. Kermi is the last Tugchulungba village. The actual route by-passes Kermi and the only camp nearby is below the village.
Day - 04 Trek- Kermi to Yalbang Gompa
This day, we begin by walking over a ridge to a big valley with walled potato and buckwheat fields, and climb through a sparse pine forest to a rock cairn on a ridge at 2900 m. This is the Salli Pass, where the trail meets up with the one from Limi. If we want to proceed via Limi, we turn right and follow the path into the jungle. Otherwise, descending steeply to the Tsongsa Khola (Salli Khola), we will cross a suspension bridge. After this, we climb a steep rocky ridge and drop back towards the fast-flowing, light grey waters of the Humla Karnali. We then climb over another ridge before descending to Yalbang Chaur, a meadow and goat herders' camp beside the river at 2760m. An annual market based on bartering between traders from Taklakot and the Humli used to take place on this site in November, but since the Taklakot people no longer face food shortages, they have stopped coming. From Yalbang Chaur, after climbing over two more ridges, we reach Yalbang village at 2890 m. From this village onwards to Yari, all villages belong to the community of the Yultsodum. Yalbang shares its hydroelectric power supply with its neighbour, Yangar, a few kilometers away. After a half-hour ascent from Yalbang, we reach a newly built Nyingmapa monastery called Taglung Gompa or Yalbang Gompa at 3000 m, which has a good camping site.
Day - 05 Trek- Yalbang Gompa to Tumkot Khola (2850m)
From this monastery, we walk straight for about 15 minutes until the trail branches into two alternative trails to Muchu. The route is the old one that follows a steep trail over a high ridge called the Hilling La (pass) at 3500 m. From the Hiling pass, we can see the beautiful valleys of Muchu and Yari, which is one of the advantages of taking the upper route. From there, the route descends sharply to the Karnali River to reach a suspension bridge where we meet the newly built trail. Fortunately, we can now follow a new route, a lower path that avoids the climb. The newly built Yangar-Muchu trail passes through the compact settlement of Yanga, in some places going through tunnels beneath the houses, then climbs behind a rock spur to a fast –flowing stream. From there, the route descends smoothly to the bank of the Karnali River at 2770m. After walking along the river, with more than an hour of undulation, we reach a new suspension bridge, at 2800 m, which crosses over the Karnali below Muchu, where we meet the Hilling pass trail. After crossing the suspension bridge over the Karnali river we ascend to a stream, rock-hop across it and climb past apricot orchards to a totally defunct Kangnyi, marking the entrance to Muchu village at 2920 m. In this village there is a gompa where the image of Jowo (Bodhisattva) Sakyamuni has been sited. The trail passes below the gompa and stone houses of Muchu. We then climb through the orchards and fields of the village to a ridge, drop into a ravine and climb to a chorten on the opposite side. There are a few houses on the ridge, and a border Police Post hidden just behind it. The ridge near the chorten offers a good view of the upper part of the valley and of Tumkot village and its large white gompa on the next ridge. At the foot of the gompa is Tumkot Khola, which at 2850m is our campsite.
Day - 06 Trek-Tumkot Khola to Yari (3750m)
From Tumkot Khola camp, we walk straight to Bungmachhe Khola (a tributary of the Karnali) at 2900m. There you cross a wooden bridge and the Humla Karnali disappears into a steep cleft northward behind the high ridge that we climb for the next two days. The first part of the climb from the Bungmachine Khola is quite steep. The route enters a steep, rock-filled gully. It is a long, slow slog up to Lanang ridges at 3270m and then the path levels out as it ascends to a cairn, at 3310m. After this the route descends gently through juniper trees and climbs again to Palbang (Nepali name, Pani Palbang), with its single tea house at 3380m. After walking for about an hour, we reach the teashop of Bhyagute Pani. From there, walking along a level path for about half an hour, we enter the villages of Yari. After Chang Ngoi village of Yari, we reach the Customs Office and Check Post, at 3670m, then ascend for another 15 minutes to reach the beautiful Zing Jyan campsite of Yari at 3750m.
Day - 07 Trek- Yari to Hilsa and Sher (3860m). Drive to Taklakot (3930m)
From here, the trail ascends through meadows and across streams to Thado Dhunga at 4160m. We then climb to Sipsip, near the foot of the Nara Lagna pass, at 4330m. Despite the remoteness of this location, there is a considerable amount of traffic. We will meet traders, pilgrims and pack animals including goats, sheep and yaks. Local yaks and crossbreeds carrying timber to Tibet are frequently seen. The upper Humla people, especially the people from Muchu VDC have no other form of livelihood than the export of timber to Tibet. The export of raw materials from Humla, either timber to Tibet or herbs to India, does not really benefit the locals economically, but has been adopted since the death of the trans Himalayan caravan trade. However now, WFO's Food for Work programme is providing at least a temporary alternative to the local people while they contribute to the building of the road. From Sipsip, the trail makes a steep, continuous ascent along the side of the ridge above Shipship to a huge rock cairn atop the Nara Lagna pass at 4580 m. A short distance below the pass, we round a ridge for a view of the Tibetan Plateau, the Humla Karnali, and the green barley fields of Sher far below. From the Nara Lagna pass, you follow the newly built trail down to Hilsa at 3730 m. After crossing the Karnali suspension bridge at Hilsa, we ascend about 20 minutes and reach 3860m, the first border village on the Chinese side of Tibet, called Sher. This border is perhaps one of the most informal border crossings in the world and serves as a trading post with Nepal. At Sher, our vehicle will pick us up to take us to Tibet and Mt. Kailash.
Day - 08 Drive to Darchen 4560m
It is a 100 km or 3 hour drive from Taklakot to Darchen, during which, weather permitting, we will have our first view of Mount Kailash just past the Gurla La. The road passed through the isthmus between the holy Rakshas Tal and Manasorovar and crosses the Barka plain to Darchen, where we bed down for the night at a government guest house. We'll have the afternoon to do some shopping at the Tibetan bazaars, pack for the kora, and perhaps take a short acclimatization walk up the ridge below Kailash to some prayer-flag festooned ridges.
Day - 09 Trek to Tarboche and Chuku Gompa 4750m
After a leisurely breakfast, we meet our team of yaks and the local 'drokpa' yak drivers who will escort us around the kora, yak bells ringing. Tarboche is marked by a tall flagpole adorned with thousands of fluttering, multi-coloured prayer flags and kata scarves strung out in radiating lines from the pole. To the west of the Tarboche is the Chorten Kangnyi, and auspicious but somewhat repulsively-decorated archway (you'll see...). Perched above Tarboche is the Sky Burial Site of 84 Mahasiddhas, a spot revered for once having been the burial site for lamas, and containing numerous sacred springs, cairns, and power places. Pilgrims lie down on a flat rock strewn with old clothes, bones, tsampa bowls and personal belongings and visualize their death. We set up our first camp just across the bridge from Chuku Gompa, and have the rest of the day to wander up the valley to the gompa, perched above the valley at 4780m, where pilgrims will be doing koras and rubbing parts of their body against worn areas of rock, shiny with butter, to start the kora off in an auspicious manner. Inside is a revered marble statue called Chuku Opame and a silver-inlaid conch shell with silver wings which was said to have flown here from afar, and a 'trulku', or reincarnated lama, resides in a cozy (but dung-smoke filled) room in the gompa. A blessing by the local lama is an extremely good start for the kora.
Day - 10 Trek to Dira-puk 5160m
From Tarboche and Chuku Gompa, we follow the Lha Chu River through a serene, meadow-lined valley, hopping over small streams, the west face of Mount Kailash towering above us. The river enters a narrow canyon with high, steep cliffs and spectacular waterfalls. Midway along the trek at the second prostration point the secret entranceway to the Inner Kora is visible to the right. One must complete 13 koras to enter inside. Continuing up the valley, the north face of Kailash comes into view just as we reach the 13th century monastery at Dira-puk. There are two routes to the camp from the convergence of the valleys, and we have the choice of crossing a small moss bridge and following a small path to the gompa, which has awesome views of the north face of Kailash, or continuing on along the main trail. We camp opposite the river from the gompa, immediately below the massive north face of Kailash. A sunset walk up to the ridge overlooking the north face is a must!
Day - 11 Trek to Mani Camp (over the Drolma La - 5630m)
We now leave the Lha Chu Valley just as the sunrise turns the snow peaks gold and pink, and enter the Drolma Chu Valley, heading up towards the 5,630 meter Drolma La. Although the altitude makes the trekking difficult, the masses of pilgrims performing their acts of devotion along the way are continuously intriguing. Those extremely devout pilgrims prostrate themselves the entire way around Kailash, kneeling down and extending their bodies and hands in front of them in prayer (and marking the beginning of the next prostration). The trail is lined with sacred sites: butter, coins and flag-covered rocks, rocks with footprints of saints, rocks to climb over, under or through, hillsides of discarded clothes as offerings and other significant sites. It's a tough climb to the prayer-flag festooned summit, but it's all worth it as at the top juniper incense burns and thousands of colorful prayer flags send prayers out into the surrounding valleys. We take the lead from the many pilgrims up top and stop for lunch before the descent to the east valley. Below us lies the Lake of Compassion, Thukpe Dzingbu, one of the highest lakes in the world. We will camp in the valley below the pass at the eastern face of Mount Kailash at a camp called Mani camp.
Day - 12 Trek to Darchen, drive to Tarboche 4750m
Another couple of hours of bright early morning trekking along a boulder-filled river brings us to Zutul-puk Gompa (4790m), with Milarepa's meditation cave and imprints of his hand, food and head. A monk with a Polaroid takes photos of the Tibetan pilgrims in all their finery for 5 RMB! Afterwards, it's an easy walk along some impressive gorges and around many mani stones and mani walls back to the Barka plains and dusty Darchen where our jeeps await us. The kora is finished - we've erased our sins, endured extremely cold nights and mornings, crossed one of the highest passes in the world, met countless fellow pilgrims and sent prayers of peace out to the world. Congratulations! Now on to Tarboche by jeep, where we will set up camp in preparation for the Saga Dawa festival the next day.
Day - 13 Drive to Chiu Gompa and Lake Manasorovar
Good karma acquired all around, this morning we will pack up camp and drive along the beautiful bluffs near Lake Manasarovar to Chiu (or bird) Gompa, spectacularly situated on a craggy cliffside along the northwest shores of the lake, and where the ubiquitous Guru Rimpoche left behind a meditation cave and reputedly spent the last seven years of his life. We set up camp right on the shores for perhaps the ultimate Tibetan sunset. Note: our itinerary is dictated by road and bridge conditions, and the location of good camp spots. The drivers, guides and Sherpas decide where we camp so the following itinerary is approximate only.
Day - 14 Drive to Parayang 4750m
It's a 300 km drive through wild country from Lake Manasarovar to Parayang. We cross wide plains, shallow rivers and pass by a few local truck stops with makeshift tea houses. Passing the stunning Mayum-tso Lake, we climb to the Mayum La, where we are rewarded by a magnificent mountain panorama. The scenery along this section is some of the most beautiful of the entire journey, and a distant storm drifting in back of Tibetans, horses and sheep is a surreal sight. The children, along with the village dogs, will be out at the camp sight to welcome us to our sand dune camp site at Parayang. This is a wonderful spot to watch the sunset and roll down the soft, colored sand with the village children.
Day - 15 Drive to Saga 4600m
From Parayang we drive another 255 km east, shouting "La Gyalo" or "La So So So" (roughly translated "May the gods be victorious!") as we crest the passes marked with prayer flags and cairns. The panoramas are some of the most beautiful on our journey, with the high mountains bordering Nepal on our right, and pebbly streams, small lakes, small Tibetan villages and soft hills surrounding us. We traverse this amazing Tibetan landscape, crossing more high passes, and the landscape gently transforms to a plateau of high-altitude desert sand dunes. There's time to climb up to the wind-sculpted ridges and gaze over a bordering lake below extensive ripples of peaks. We camp near Saga, though time permitting, we might make it a bit further along towards Lhasa.
Day - 16 Drive to Nyalam (3900m) 200 km / 8 hours
Day - 17 Drive to Kathmandu (1300)
Morning drive to Zangmu, clear custom formalities and a 5 hour drive to Kathmandu (116Km) - Trip Ends
• All flight fare Kathmandu/Nepalguj/Simikot,
• Cook with cooking equipment and kitchen staff,
• Freshly cooked full board meals,
• English speaking local guide with Sherpa staff,
• Two man tent during camping, dining and toilet tents, sleeping mats,
• Restricted area permit for six day trek to Limi valley,
• Mule and mule herders for six day trek from Simikot to the Hilsa border,
• Transportation in a Japanese Land Cruiser,
• Tibet travel permit with a Kailash permit,
• English speaking Tibetan guide, Yak and Yak men during circumambulation,
• Monastery entrance fees,
• Gamov (PAC) bag or Oxygen for altitude problems.
• Nepal re-entry visa fee,
• Hotel and food while in Kathmandu,
• Sightseeing tours in Kathmandu,
• Extra cost in the event of a landslide,
• Road block or flight canceled fees, visa fee $60 ,
• Airport tax and excess baggage charge; evacuation cost,
• Travel Insurance,
• Other personal expenses and
• Others expenses which are not mentioned on the above included items.