Altitude Sickness Follow-Up

The first time I got sick was in the middle of the night at Nam Tso Lake. We had driven directly from Lhasa at 3700 m (12,200 feet) to Nam Tso Lake at 4800 m (15,800 feet) for an overnight stay. This was way too much of a climb – a big no no when it comes to do’s and don’t’s of avoiding altitude sickness (although, I was the only one affected in our group of six.) The first few hours after arriving, I was completely fine and hiking around. But by 1:30 in the morning Continue…

Mount Kailash – Day 3

Thomas and Tony Toward the End of the Mt. Kailash Kora

Oooh, I’m sore! I slept so deeply last night, it’s amazing anyone could wake me up this morning. Who knew you could sleep so well in an adobe refrigerator? Actually, after the winds, the snow, and the extreme cold yesterday, this simple monastery felt like a luxury resort. Continue…

Mount Kailash – Day 2

Tony Hiking up Mt. Kailash

Up early to beat the mountain winds, which pick up before noon. We had a very restless night last night sleeping at 5000 meters (16,500 feet). I woke up in my sleeping bag feeling like I was suffocating. We were all absolutely freezing, even with our sleeping bags and two 4-inch thick Tibetan blankets each. I also had stomach issues all night, which I attribute to the appalling Tibetan hygiene rather than altitude sickness. (Don’t ask me how I know it was hygiene, I don’t want to get graphic.)

The weather situation was very unclear. Kailash peak was in clouds, but the Drolma-La Pass seemed clear, so our guide Losang said we should Continue…

Arriving at Darchen

We were still a half day drive away from Darchen, the town at the foot of Mt. Kailash and the starting point for our trek, when we first saw the snow-covered peak of Mt. Kailash in the distance. When we finally got to Darchen in the afternoon, much of the mountain had disappeared behind some of the lower hills because, now, we were way too close.

Darchen, Tibet

Darchen itself is a pit with the exception of some culinary highlights (like the little Chinese restaurant up the hill.) The first thing we had to do was find out about the trekking situation. Continue…

The Coldest Night

After driving for hours through a deserted landscape without seeing much more than some yak herds and a few nomads, we noticed a single Tibetan house next to a couple of tents sitting on the wind-swept grasslands ahead of us. That’s where we would spend the night.

Ice Crystals on the Car Window, Tibet

Because it was freezing cold and very windy (not the best of combinations), we decided to stay in the house rather than in the tent which was violently shaking from the gusts. Desperate to warm ourselves, we all collected around the yak-dung stove trying to warm up while the windows were covering over with ice crystals and the sheep outside with frost.

Sitting there shivering, it suddenly dawned on us that this could all be for nothing. Our big goal is Mt. Kailash, but will we be able to go there with all the military around? I guess, we’ll know more by tomorrow.

Journey to the West

Sand Dunes, Lake and the Himalayas

We’ve been bumping up and down for days on dusty roads (or lack thereof) heading for Mt. Kailash. Each day seems like an epic journey in its own right, winding our way up over mountains, across desolate lunar landscapes, down through canyons to grasslands filled with herds of yaks and sheep. We drive straight through rivers and streams hoping the water won’t flood into the car. We inch along steep mountain roads and spin our wheels trying to get the car over landslides that have Continue…

Blowing Up Buddha

While enjoying lunch at a roadside restaurant, a group of Swiss travelers delivered some disturbing news which put our Kailash trip in question.

Two days ago, the Chinese military blew up an “unauthorized” 30-foot stone statue of Buddha at Mt. Kailash. The Swiss warned us of the military presence, probably there to snuff out any Tibetan response to destroying their Buddha. Nearby Lake Manasarovar, where we plan to spend a couple of days, has apparently been flooded with soldiers and is only partially accessible to tourists.

To make things worse, the Swiss mentioned that it just snowed on Mt. Kailash and that the pass is covered with three feet of snow. If it continues to snow, the pass will be closed until spring.

Considering the Swiss are supposed to be neutral, they sure were angry at the Chinese for this pointless act – and so are we! It certainly calls to mind the Taliban’s mindless destruction of the Buddha of Bamyan statue in Afghanistan.

What next?

Everest North Base Camp

Mt. Everest in the Sunset

WOW, we are at Everest North Base Camp (EBC) at an altitude of 5200 m (17,160 feet) – how cool is that?! If you imagine the base camp cramped with expedition tents and buzzing with climbers and tourists, you are wrong. Since a group of Americans protested there in May for a free Tibet, the base camp has been cleared and visitors can now only stay at a tented camp 4 km away. All that remains at Everest Base Camp is a military checkpoint with very drunken soldiers whose job it is Continue…

Everest…Not!

Cho Oyu, Himalayas

As we approached the Pang-La Pass 5,120 meters (16,900 feet), Thomas, Dimitri, Irina and I were keeping our fingers crossed hoping for clear weather to see what is considered one of Tibet’s most phenomenal Himalayan views featuring the king of them all – Everest.

Losang smiled and indicated that we were about to reach the view point just as our car wound around the last corner and the stunning panorama came into view. Wow!

I jumped out of the car with my camera and immediately started climbing up the ridge to my left to find and even better vantage point. Oohing and aahing my way upwards, I snapped dozens of pictures of Everest simply stunned by the incredible mammoth.

Twenty minutes later – still snapping away – as Thomas and I were discussing nature’s masterpiece, a Chinese man who obviously understood our conversation looked over and said, “Excuse me, you are not photographing Everest Continue…