Day 6: Darchen to Drirapuk

Mt. Kailash parikrama means one perambulation around the Mt. Kailash peak by walk. The total distance of this parikrama is about 52 kilometers and is typically covered over three days. Refer to the map below:

Day 1 : Darchen to Drirapuk Gompa (pronounced Derapuk) – 22 Kms, 8 kms by bus / jeep and 12 kms of trek

Day 2: Derapuk to Dzutulpuk Gompa – All 22 kms by trek, the hardest part of the entire trek

Day 3: Dzutulpuk Gompa to Darchen – 8 kms trek.

ParikramaRoadMap

Unfortunately, the cloudy weather from the previous day had not only persisted, but had turned worst. We all woke up around 7 am to be greeted by a cloudy morning and were ready for our trek by about 9 AM. We left Darchen around 9:30 and traveled the first 8 kms by bus. At the point of drop off, we had to go through yet another Chinese checkpoint and then taken to a place where we would be assigned ponies and porters, for those who had booked them in advance. It started to drizzle lightly at that time as well. By the time the din settled and all of us got our assigned porters / ponies and started our actual trek, it was 11:30 AM.

Right after the check point, the point from where we start our trek is a place called as Yama-dwar. By the time we started towards Yama-dwar and were on our way, drizzle had gotten stronger and what we had hoped would not happen, was upon us. We had no choice but to do the entire trek on a bleak, cold and rainy day.

Due to the prevailing weather conditions, I was forced to pack my entire camera bag with all my gear,  into a big plastic cover and stuff the camera bag inside my backpack, along with my water bottle. Having had prior trekking experience and being used to carrying my own gear, I was confident that I could carry my camera gear with me. My backpack, with all the camera gear and the water bottle now weighed about 6-7 kgs and soon was about to find out the real challenges of high altitude trekking.

This 12 kms trek that I did on this day was probably the toughest one that I have personally done till date. High altitude, along with the cold winds and rain definitely made this an extremely hard.

So, none of the photos that are shown below were shot on the first day of parikrama. Did not open my camera from the plastic wrap that I had put them into the entire day. All of these were taken on the second day of the parikrama, but I am going to distribute the photos taken on day 2 to day 1 and day 2.

We walk up this valley before we reach Drirapuk Gompa.

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Sherpas from our group, who had worn green jackets, climbing down the valley on day 2.

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Have zoomed into a part of the valley shown above. Sheer granite faces of these mountains, were magnificent, if we can see them. They all get cloud covered so easily at such high altitudes.

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This is the first view of Drirapuk Gompa, across the Lha River. Boy, was I happy to see this at the end of our trek.

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Yak grazing, very close to the dormitory rooms at Drirapuk

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Here is the view of the ‘hotel;’ with dormitory rooms, where we spent an extremely cold night. It was about 3 degrees centigrade that night.

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View of another valley. The path seen is the one used for parikrama. If you can spot humans on this path, it means that you have good eye sight. Shows the perspective of how small we humans really are.

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The next morning, when I was out photographing, this dog followed me the entire time. Here he is, observing and enjoying the views that he gets to see every day, I guess.

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Self portrait along the valley that leads up to Drirapuk.

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That night at Drirapuk was pretty scary. Most of us in our group had some problem or the other. The 12 kms high altitude trek had taken its toll. Rain and biting cold, that accompanied us the entire day had made it worst. All our backpacks and all its contents were wet, which meant that many of us did not have a change of cloths. All of us were wearing about 5- layers of cloths, but yet many of us were shivering.

Day two of the parikrama is hard for two reasons: one, the distance to be covered is 22 kms. Second, this is the day where one has to climb up and then down the Dolma pass, which is at about 18,500 feet. This meant that on that day one has to ascent 2500 feet and then get back down by about the same amount.  If it was raining so much in Drirapuk, it probably would be snowing at Dolma pass and we definetly were not equipped to handle sub-zero or zero degree conditions.

Given this and the condition of many of us in the entire group, all of us decided that we will not be continuing on our parikrma, but we would return to Darchen the next day.

On a personal note, yes it was one of the toughest treks of my life, but I thoroughly enjoyed the day. I had started my preparation for this yatra almost a year back. I had done yoga for about 6-7 months, then had done 3 months of jogging and the last couple of months had done quite a bit of walking. I had also done pranayama, thought not as regularly as i wanted to, in the last 6 months. All these efforts paid off big time. It was me and my uncle who had some energy left and were glad to help the other 14 in our group. Uncle was another person who was very diligent in his walking and pranayama and it helped him very much as well. Even though my aunt was very regular with her walks, altitude sickness was not kind to her or some of the other members of the group.

Though tired, I slept well, after having spent a memorable day trekking around Mt. Kailash.

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