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Mount Kailash Itinerary - July 2006

As I was researching our trip to Mount Kailash to be taken in the summer monsoon month of July, I had a few questions that I couldn’t get good answers to. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Weather. The daytime temperature fluctuated wildly. In sunny weather between 20-25C; in cloudy weather 15-20C, and rainy weather 7-10C. The nighttime temperatures were 5-10C.
  2. Seeing Kailash. We were in the Kailash area for parts of 5 days, but only saw bits of Kailash for two of those days. We only saw Gurla Mandhata for a few minutes on one day.
  3. Driving times. The dirt roads were generally in very good condition. Our Landcruiser averaged 50-55km per hour. We also had a support truck that averaged about 40km per hour - we spent lots of time waiting for the truck. Our Landcruiser broke down twice.

Here is our itinerary with altitude (from Lonely Planet), distance (using Landcruiser Odometer), time, and weather.

July 5 Arrive Kathmandu (1340m)

July 6 Kathmandu (1340m) to Nyalam (3750m)

158km - 9 hours. Scattered showers, 30-15C.

Drove Kathmandu (1340m) to the Nepalese border town of Kodari (1750m), with a one hour delay to cross a landslide just before Kodari. After lunch we crossed the Friendship Bridge and met our Tibetan guide, Landcruiser driver and truck driver. From there we drove up the 8km to Zhangmu (2300m) where we changed some money into Yuan. It was then a short drive to Nyalam (3750m).

July 7 Acclimatization day in Nyalam (3750m)

Partly sunny, 15-20C.

Walked in the hills above town and visited the Nyalam Gompa.

July 8 Nyalam (3750m) to Saga campsite (4600m)

240km - 7 hours. Mostly sunny, 15-25C.

Drove from Nyalam (3750m) to Tong La (5124m), with great views of the mountains, although Shishapangma's summit remained in the clouds. After a brief stop at Shishapangma Checkpoint (4645m), we drove to our lunch break at Peiku Tso (4591m). After lunch we drove to our idyllic campsite just beyond Saga (4600m).

July 9 Saga campsite (4600m) to campsite 43km after Paryang (4550m)

320km - 9 hours. Partly sunny, light rain, 20-25C, 4C at night.

We stopped at Old Drongpa (4570m, Old Zhongba) for three hours to wait for the truck, which was stopped behind by a road maintenance crew. I took the time to visit the local Gompa. We then continued our drive to Paryang (4590m), passing some beautiful sand dunes. We camped for the night 43km after Paryang (4550m).

July 10 Campsite 43km after Paryang (4550m) to Sangsha (4560m)

323km - 11 hours. Cloudy, heavy rain, 15-20C.

We drove over the Mayun La (5216m) and finally come to what should be our first view of Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar. Alas, Kailash was in the clouds. We then had lunch near Darchen and waited for the truck.

And then the rains came. We had initially planned to start the Kailash Kora today, but the weather was so bad we decided to go to the Guge Kingdom first and do the Kailash Kora on the way back. So, we continued driving, passing Moincer (4420m), before arriving at the the army base at Sangsha (4560m), where we spent the night.

July 11 Sangsha (4560m) to Tholing (Zanda) (3650m)

122km - 6 hours. Rain, cloudy, rain, 15-25C.

Sangsha (4560m) – Tholing (Zanda) (3650m). A beautiful trip through colourful hills and the eroded canyons of the Sutlej.

July 12 Tholing (Zanda) temples / Tsaparang temples

42km. Partly sunny, 20-27C. An absolutely gorgeous day.

We started the day visiting the Tholing monastery, thankful for the fact that at least one of the buildings wasn't destroyed by the Chinese. Although no photographs were allowed inside, I've copied some photos from books. We then walked around the eroded cliffs of the Sutlej, admiring the 108 chortens and looking for tsa-tsas.

After lunch, we drove the 20km to Tsaparang and wondered at the Kingdom that once populated this hill. The temples are partially intact, with the best Buddhist art I have seen. Although no photographs were allowed inside, I've copied some photos from books.

July 13 Tholing (Zanda) (3650m) to Tirthapuri (4345m)

187km - 11 hours. Partly sunny, light rain, sunny, 20-25C.

Tholing (Zanda) (3650m) – Sangsha (4560m) – Moincer (4420m) – Tirthapuri (4345m). Four hour delay in Moincer to fix Landcruiser engine.

July 14 Tirthapuri to Darchen (4650m)

221km - 10 hours. Cloudy, 10-15C.

Tirthapuri – Barga - Lake Manasarovar (4560m) Kora - Darchen (4650m). 221km. 10 hours. Cloudy. 10-15C.

July 15 Drive Darchen (4650m) to Tarboche (4750m). Trek Tarboche to Dirapuk (5080m).

Cloudy, rain/hail. 10C-12C. Overnight 4C with rain.

9km - 10 min. Dive from Darchen (4650m) to Tarboche (4750m).

18km - 4 hours. Trek Tarboche – Chuku gompa (4820m) – Dirapuk (5080m).

July 16 Trek Dirapuk (5080m) to Dolma La (5630m) to Zutulpuk (4790m)

22km - 9.5 hours. Cloudy. 7-12C, 0C at the Dolma La.

July 17 Trek Zutulpuk to trailhead 4km from Darchen. Drive to Chiu Gompa and then to Paryang (4590m)

Partially cloudy, cloudy, rain. 10-7C.

5km - 100 min. Trek from Zutulpuk to trailhead 4km from Darchen.

33km - 45 minutes.  Drive to Chiu Gompa

242km - 4.5 hours. Drive Chiu Gompa to Paryang (4590m).

July 18 Paryang (4590m) to Shishapangma Checkpoint (4645m)

396km - 12 hours. Rain, partly sunny, rain, partly sunny. 10-20C. Nighttime 8C.

Paryang (4590m) – Old Drongpa (4570m) - Saga (4600m) - Shishapangma Checkpoint (4645m). One hour delay to fix Landcruiser engine.

July 19 Shishapangma Checkpoint (4645m) to Kathmandu (1340m)

261km - 8.5 hours. Cloudy, heavy rains in Kathmandu. 15-30C.

Shishapangma Checkpoint (4645m) – Zhangmu (2300m) / Kodari – Kathmandu.

July 20 Depart Kathmandu (1340m)

Great views of Himalaya Mountains from Manaslu to Annapurna to Dhaulagiri, as we flew west.