Trip Number: 13735A
Price: $4,525 (12-15)
$5,175 (or fewer)
Staff: Melinda Goodwater
- Absolve the sins of a lifetime trekking around 22,028-foot Mt. Kailash,
- Cross the austere Tibetan Plateau and camp at holy Lake Manasarovar
- Trek in traditional Tibetan culture through secluded Limi Valley in
- Guides, cooks, yaks, donkeys, food, and equipment for the trek
- Kathmandu hotel and meals, airport transfers, Chinese visa, and trek
- In-country flights from Simikot to Kathmandu
Photo: Melinda Goodwater
In a hundred ages of the gods I could not tell thee of the glories of [the
Himalaya]…there is no mountain like [the Himalaya] for in it are Kailash
and Manasarovar. - From the Hindu epic Ramayana
No mountain in the world is as sacred as Mt. Kailash in western Tibet. Rising
to 22,028 feet north of the main Himalayan range, four religions consider it
the center of their universe. Hindus believe it’s the earthly manifestation
of their spiritual center, Mt. Meru, and the abode of Lord Shiva; Tibetan Buddhists
refer to it as Gang Rimpoche, Precious Jewel of Snow, the “navel of the
world” rising into the heavens; the pre-Buddhist Bonpo believe it’s
where their founder descended from heaven and was the spiritual center of their
empire that once extended from Persia to western Tibet; and the Jains believe
Mt. Kailash is where their first prophet achieved enlightenment. It’s
revered as the source of four of South Asia’s greatest rivers -- the Tsangpo
(Brahmaputra), Karnali, Sutlej, and Indus. The pilgrimage to Mt. Kailash is
taken on by thousands of pilgrims every year and it’s considered one of
the most difficult in Asia.
To ease the difficulty factor for us, we will approach Lake Manasarovar and
Mt. Kailash by Land Cruisers from Nepal. Still a four-day dusty, bumpy drive
across the austere Tibetan Plateau, the high peaks of the Himalaya beckon our
way to holy Lake Manasarovar at the base of Mt. Kailash, where a drink of its
waters relinquishes the sins of one hundred lifetimes. Camping along the way,
we will walk the four-day, 32-mile kora, or circumambulation, around Mt. Kailash
falling in with other pilgrims, some doing the kora with full-body prostrations.
We will only have to carry day packs while yaks carry the rest of our gear.
Having to cross the 18,500-foot Drolma La, it’s believed that walking
one circuit of the mountain absolves the sins of a lifetime, and with 108 circuits
you achieve enlightenment.
Photo: Tony Kerwin
Once we are sin-free, we drive again to the Nepal border at Zher where we cross
into Nepal to begin the seven-day trek through the restricted Limi Valley in
the wild far west. An extremely isolated and nearly logistically impossible
valley to get to, Limi sees very little trekker traffic, and traditional Tibetan
customs and lifestyle are still adhered to. Again camping and hiking with only
a day pack, donkeys carry our gear while our Nepali staff cooks our meals and
sets-up and takes-down our tents, leaving you free to contemplate and enjoy
this spiritual area. Crossing a 16,200-foot pass through the Himalaya exposes
a variety of stunning landscapes from open, green pastures to wild flowing rivers
to high barren rocks. Hot springs, ancient monasteries where Buddhist books
and relics were brought from Tibet to escape Chinese destruction, and views
of the 7,000-meter peaks of Gurla Mandhata and Saipal add to the adventure.
Sightings of snow leopard, blue sheep, jackals, hyenas, musk deer, and other
wildlife may also be possible.
While most people come to the Himalaya to trek on the roof of the world, they
are surprised to learn that the many cultures of its ethnic groups are at least
as interesting. Nepal’s and Tibet’s true treasure is the warmth
and hospitality of their people and this trek offers the opportunity to immerse
ourselves with our Nepali staff and local Tibetan folks to experience their
land more as a local than a tourist. The sirdar, or head guide and trek organizer,
is the leader’s husband of 18 years, so with their staff of extended family
and villagers, the pilgrimage feels more like one large traveling family. Indeed
this is the trip of a lifetime, but the joy and friendliness of the Himalayan
people will beckon you to return again and again!
Photo: Gordon Duvaul
Travel in Nepal is still truly adventurous and in Tibet it’s still wild
and primitive with little in the way of infrastructure. Although we will try
to adhere to a daily itinerary, please embrace any changes that may have to
be made due to weather, trail conditions, ability of the group, or the serendipity
of the unexpected. This is what makes adventure travel fun and enhances your
Day 1: (Arrive Kathmandu) Transfer to our hotel. We’ll
have an orientation about the trip, then enjoy a welcome dinner of traditional
Day 2: (Kathmandu) To recover from jet lag, we’ll take
a dawn warm-up walk up 300 feet of stairs to see Hindu and Buddhist temples
and to hear the beautiful Newari singing at Swayambunath, the Monkey Temple.
The rest of the day is spent first in the Hindu world of Pashupatinath where
we’ll see sadhus, temples dedicated to Shiva and a host of other gods,
and ritual funeral burnings on ghats along the Bagmati River. Then we enter
the Buddhist world at Bodnath, one of the largest stupas in the world. A welcoming
home for Tibetan refugees, monasteries and shops selling Tibetan and Buddhist
goods circle the stupa as monks chant while doing their kora of the shrine.
Dinner at a fine Indian restaurant.
Day 3: (Kathmandu) We spend another day in Kathmandu visiting
Patan, one of the three ancient cities of the Kathmandu Valley. We’ll
explore its Durbar Square and enjoy time in its excellent museum that displays
and explains Hindu and Buddhist art. There will be free time in the afternoon
for packing and getting ready for the pilgrimage. Dinner at a restaurant of
the leader’s choice.
Photo: Melinda Goodwater
Day 4: (Kathmandu-Nyalam, Tibet) We board our chartered bus
with our staff and gear for an exhilarating ride through the bucolic countryside
on the Arniko Highway to the Tibet border. Crossing by foot on the Friendship
Bridge into Tibet, we meet our Land Cruisers for the additional 25-mile drive
up to Nyalam, 12,350 feet. Overnight in guesthouse accommodations.
Days 5-6: (Nyalam-Saga-Mayum La) We spend the next two days
traveling through and seeing the sights of the austere Tibetan Plateau. Climbing
quickly to cross a 16,800-foot road pass, we’ll try to get acclimatized
to the 15,000-foot plateau. We’ll be guided by high Himalayan peaks and
nights will be spent in guesthouses.
Day 7: (Mayum La-Lake Manasarovar) We look forward with anticipation
to late morning arrival at the holy lake. One of two vast lakes at the foot
of Mt. Kailash, its Tibetan name, Mapham Yumtsho, means the Unconquerable Turquoise
Lake. The afternoon is free to explore the trails, monasteries, and other sites
around the lake. Either camping or guesthouse accommodations.
Photo: Sigrid Lenaerts
Days 8-11: (Lake Manasarovar-Mt. Kailash kora-Zher) We begin
the kora first with a drive to Darchen to pick up our yaks and yakmen that will
carry our gear. For four days we will hike along with other pilgrims to the
monasteries and other sacred sites along the way, gradually climbing to the
high pass at Drolma La, 18,500 feet. Our campsites will give us views of Mt.
Kailash from all directions. Finishing at Darchen, a few hours' drive gets us
to our last campsite in Tibet at Zher, 12,475 feet, along the Nepal border.
Days 12-18: (Zher-Limi Valley-Simikot) At Zher we’ll
be hiring donkeys to carry our gear through rarely visited Limi Valley in Nepal.
Each step will feel like we’re stepping back in time while passing through
authentic Tibetan villages. Birch trees and terraced barley fields glow bright
yellow in the autumn sun. Along with ancient monasteries and meditation caves,
mountain goats, blue sheep, and snow leopards may also be seen. Soaking in hot
springs will prepare us for the climb to 16,200-foot Nyalu La pass with 360-degree
views, including 23,000-foot Mt. Saipal and perhaps even Mt. Kailash. Descending
back into trees and more hot springs, we finish in the small Hindu village of
Photo: Melinda Goodwater
Days 19-20: (Simikot-Kathmandu) Today we have an early-morning
mountain flight from Simikot through the Himalaya and lower hills to the Terai
plains town of Nepalgunj along the Indian border. If there are no delays, we
should be on a late-morning or afternoon flight to Kathmandu. Transfer to our
hotel for hot showers before dinner. A contingency day has been included in
case of delays for weather or any other reason.
Day 21: (Kathmandu) We’ll spend our last full day in
Kathmandu visiting the medieval town of Bhaktapur, the third ancient city of
the Kathmandu Valley. Famous for its Golden Gate and 55 Window Palace among
many other things, the peace and quiet there is like going back in time. We’ll
honor our trekking staff at our farewell dinner party at a favorite Thamel restaurant.
Day 22: (Depart Kathmandu) We’ll decompress over breakfast
at a restaurant that serves American favorites before transferring to the airport
for our flights home.
The trip begins with pick-up from the international airport in Kathmandu,
Nepal. Once you are approved, the leader will provide guidance and contact information
for a recommended travel agent who can arrange flights from your home city.
As of this writing, you must travel with a U.S. passport to participate on
this outing since current rules require all tourists be the same nationality
for the Chinese group visa for Tibet. Your passport must be valid for at least
six months beyond the date of entry into Nepal. A Nepal visa is also required
and details to apply for that will be provided later.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: David Saah
Double-occupancy rooms in Kathmandu are included with the trip. Our hotel features
rooms with private baths and hot showers. It's centrally located within walking
distance of many temples and shops, plus it's staffed by friendly, English-speaking
folks. Although not fancy, it is clean with several lovely gardens to relax
While driving across Tibet, accommodations will be in simple guesthouses that
may be quite rustic. On trek, two people will share four-person Eureka Outfitter
tents that offer plenty of room for folks and their duffels. Our guides set
them up and take them down at each camp. A small amount of hot water is provided
each morning for washing and a toilet tent will be set up at each camp for privacy.
Boiled water and tea will be available at all meals and water purification will
be provided for treating your drinking water. Buying bottled water is discouraged
as the bottles are rarely recycled and end up along the trails.
Meals in Kathmandu will be in restaurants catering to Western tastes and hygiene.
On trek our kitchen staff prepares hot breakfasts, dinners, AND lunches. Meals
feature Nepali, Tibetan, and Western specialties. Vegetarians are easy to accommodate
since dal bhat (lentils and rice) is the Nepali staple and prepared at every
meal. Any other food restrictions should be indicated to the leader as far in
advance as possible. Our staff is well-trained in preparing meals according
to western standards of hygiene.
Any Himalayan trek should be considered moderately strenuous meaning mostly
moderate hiking with a few strenuous days and this trek is no exception. Daily
elevation gains and losses could be as much as 3,500 feet on steep, rough, rocky
trails. The highest mandatory altitude is 18,500 feet at Drolma La and several
camps will be at 15,000-16,000 feet. All nights will be in tents or rustic guesthouses.
You should be in excellent physical condition to do this trek with recent hiking
experience above 10,000 feet. Recommendations for an adequate conditioning regime
will be provided in a future bulletin to approved trip members.
Early fall is the ideal time to trek in Tibet and Nepal after the monsoon when
the weather is dry and clear. Rain is infrequent and usually only lasts a day.
However, mountains create their own weather and rain, snow, or a surprise storm
can happen unexpectedly anytime. The Tibetan Plateau can be especially windy,
blowing fine dust and sand that can get in your eyes and mouth. A bandana or
covering for your face can be very helpful. Daytime temperatures of 50-75 degrees
can be expected depending on elevation and nighttime temperatures may go down
to the 20s at our high camps. Ultra-violet rays from the sun are especially
strong above 10,000 feet so long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and high-value
spf sunscreen and lip balm are essential.
Photo: Tony Kerwin
Yaks, donkeys, or trucks will carry most of your gear, but you will need to
carry what you need for the day in a day pack weighing up to 15 pounds. You
are encouraged to hike at your own pace, stopping when you wish for photography
or other interests. We will have English-speaking Sherpa guides and a Tibetan
guide hiking with us to keep us from getting lost. You should be comfortable
hiking 3-4 hours in the morning and 2-3 hours in the afternoon after about an
hour and a half break for lunch. Because of the rough nature and steepness of
the trails, hiking poles are strongly recommended.
As important as your physical conditioning is your mental preparation. The
more you familiarize yourself with Tibet and Nepal before the trip, the more
you will be able to absorb and enjoy once you get there. The books in the reference
section would be a good starting point. Also, flexibility, patience, and a spirit
of adventure are necessary. You should be comfortable traveling in rough conditions
in close proximity with a group of people and be able to adapt easily to changing
conditions. This trip will be especially enjoyable for those with an open mind
to embrace new cultures and experiences.
Equipment and Clothing
A detailed equipment list will be sent to approved trip participants. Your
personal gear should be packed in a soft duffel bag, no hard-frame packs or
suitcases. Duffel weight is limited to 25 pounds. What you carry in your day
pack is not counted in your duffel weight. Tents and other trekking equipment
and food is carried separately and not counted in your allotment.
The following books will give you a good feel for what the trek will be like.
Your local library is also a good resource.
- McCue, Gary, Trekking Tibet, a Traveler’s Guide. 3rd edition,
The Mountaineers Books.
- Mayhew, Bradley and Joe Bindloss, Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya.
9th edition, Lonely Planet Publications.
- Moran, Kerry, Moon Handbook Nepal. Avalon Publishing
- Moon Handbook Tibet. Avalon Publishing.
- Maps of our trekking area will be distributed in Nepal. Nelles Maps’
Tibet and Nepal are good maps of those entire countries.
Ninety-six percent of Nepal's fuel energy comes from wood. Since Nepal first
opened her doors to tourism, massive deforestation has occurred, resulting in
the loss of half of the national forest reserves. The rapidly expanding population
also demands more and more space to grow food, and these two factors have resulted
in a serious problem. It is said that Nepal's biggest export is the soil carried
down its rivers to India each year. In certain areas the environment is being
taxed to the limit, and we will have an opportunity to observe this problem
Sierra Club outings to Nepal are doing their best not to contribute to this
problem. In Kathmandu, our hotel uses solar energy to heat water, and on the
trek we use small kerosene stoves to cook on. Do not expect an evening campfire.
We try to lessen our impact in other ways as well. Our practice of not bringing
unnecessary gear and not burning kerosene to heat luxurious amounts of washing
water cuts down drastically on the number of porters needed -- while still keeping
individual porter loads to a reasonable weight limit. Other well-known trekking
companies sometimes employ literally three times the number of porters we do,
a practice that has negative impacts on the remote areas we'll visit.
Tibet has its own problems with the Chinese government strategy of flooding
the country with Han Chinese who are taxing Tibet’s meager resources to
its limits. Flagrant road-building in both countries in the name of progress
is driving unmaintainable roads further into the pristine mountains. Already
there’s a road around sacred Lake Manasarovar and rumor has it the Chinese
want to build a road around Mt. Kailash to bring in more pilgrims.
Besides observing deforestation, road-building, and the pollution in Kathmandu,
you will also hike through pristine countryside and breathe clean air. The people
you meet on the trek are feeding themselves without the use of herbicides and
pesticides. The Himalayan people have a positive spirit and attitude, and are
learning to cope with the problems of the 21st century -- and to understand
the successes and failures of the modern world. It will become painfully clear
how luxurious our own lifestyle really is compared to that of the overwhelming
majority of the world's people, bringing into question our inequitable consumption
of the world's precious resources.
Your Western viewpoint will force you to question some of what you see, while
your experience will be close enough to the land and people that, if you are
perceptive and wise, you will learn much beyond your formal education. People
from first- and third-world countries have much to learn from one another. Hopefully,
these experiences will make us better world citizens and involve us actively
in the search for a balanced, equitable, and sustainable way of life for all
of us on this planet.
This trip requires a $200 per-person deposit. An additional payment of $300 per person is due six months prior to trip departure. International trip prices are subject to change and are based on double-occupancy or group accommodations as described above. Single rooms may not be available or may cost more than the listed price. If you have any questions regarding double occupancy, please contact the trip leader.
See the How to Apply for an Outing
section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the
trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing
up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing
approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical
Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on
the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to
the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and
notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
The Sierra Club accurately and fairly budgets and prices our trips. However, unforeseen costs such as devaluation of the dollar compared to other currencies and fuel surcharges assessed by our international providers may necessitate adjustment in trip price. We will make every effort to mitigate and absorb these fees. If a price increase is necessary, however, you will have 14 days after announcement to cancel without penalty.
Melinda Goodwater went on her first trek to Nepal in 1990 and loved it so much she returned 5 months later. She began leading treks there with her future Nepalese husband in 1992 and lived there through much of the 1990's. She has led over 90 Sierra Club outings everywhere from Alaska, the Sierra, and Rockies, to the desert Southwest. Timesharing between the U.S. and her Nepalese family gives Melinda an insight into the people and culture of Nepal not easily gleaned otherwise. Along with years of experience leading trips in remote and high-altitude situations, Melinda is also a Wilderness First Responder with 80 hours of first aid training. She welcomes you to join her Nepalese trekking family.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips