Kawa Karpo Sacred Mountain Trek – October-November 2011

The main peak of Kawa Karpo (Meili Snow Mountain) in northwestern Yunnan

“It is when the mountains sigh, that the world is tested”


Apologies as there has been little in the way of postings due to that ‘ever-clever’ issue of technology which has plagued me.

Some of the beautiful bulk of the east facing range

At present in preparation for a two-week expedition beginning October 24th, around Kawa Karpo with comrade in all things mountain related, Michael Kleinwort. An ideal time to go as northwestern Yunnan province as it will be dry, cold and clear. Michael and I are honoured that the route itself still exists in much the same way it has for centuries and that man hasn’t yet muscled roads and too much technology in. There are two routes: the inner kora (circumambulation) which takes less than a week, and the outer kora which takes about a dozen days depending on the weather, our quadriceps and of course how much impulsive wandering we do.

Dawn's warm light hits and sprays its rays

One of the Tibetan world’s most holy mountains and a vital confluence point along the great Tea Horse Road, Kawa Karpo (Meili Snow Mountain) stands as a geographic and cultural pillar spiraling 6,470 metres into the sky. One of the great mountain adventures, Kawa Karpo (White Pillar in Tibetan) sits along the northwestern Yunnan border with Tibet.

Within the rock and snow lie villages like this one of Lado (Hand of Stone) which lie along the old Tea Horse Road, which we will pass through

Never climbed, worshipped as a deity, the perpetually snow-clad mountain (and his equally stunning ‘wife’, Metsomo) are icons of the Buddhist world. Part trade route, part pilgrimage route and an ancient migration path into and out of the eastern most extension of the Himalayas, the meandering pathways of the circumambulation are fading testaments to a time of unending movement through the ancient kingdom of Jo (present day Deqin).

Beauty lies entwined with danger on the mountain's many faces

To circumambulate the grand range still is considered one of the sacred journeys a Tibetan can make in a lifetime, viewed as a feat that can wipe away the sins of a life; a two week odyssey that takes in ever-shifting altitudes from 1,800 meters to the great Shola Pass at 4,800 metres. It is at Shola Pass that our own team during the Tea Horse Road expedition of 2006 almost lost old friend and trek mate, Dakpa Kelden.

Exceptional for its extremes, my last experience on the 4,800 metre Shola pass reminded of the unpredictability of weather. Our group split into two and were encased in a blizzard in minutes.

Blizzards can strike eight months of the year and every Spring, the fallen bodies of unsuccessful travelers are discovered in the snows.

May and June can still see snow remnants along the pilgrimage route...we expect patches of snow

With the technology fates willing, I will be posting from the trek site itself…if not we will post after the journey.




About JeffFuchs

Bio Having lived for most of the past decade in Asia, Fuchs’ work has centered on indigenous mountain cultures, oral histories with an obsessive interest in tea. His photos and stories have appeared on three continents in award-winning publications Kyoto Journal, TRVL, and Outpost Magazine, as well as The Spanish Expedition Society, The Earth, Silkroad Foundation, The China Post Newspaper, The Toronto Star, The South China Morning Post and Traveler amongst others. Various pieces of his work are part of private collections in Europe, North America and Asia and he serves as the Asian Editor at Large for Canada’s award-winning Outpost magazine. Fuchs is the Wild China Explorer of the Year for 2011 for sustainable exploration of the Himalayan Trade Routes. He recently completed a month long expedition a previously undocumented ancient nomadic salt route at 4,000 metres becoming the first westerner to travel the Tsa’lam ‘salt road’ through Qinghai. Fuchs has written on indigenous perspectives for UNESCO, and has having consulted for National Geographic. Fuchs is a member of the fabled Explorers Club, which supports sustainable exploration and research. Jeff has worked with schools and universities, giving talks on both the importance of oral traditions, tea and mountain cultures. He has spoken to the prestigious Spanish Geographic Society in Madrid on culture and trade through the Himalayas and his sold out talk at the Museum of Nature in Canada focused on the enduring importance of oral narratives and the Himalayan trade routes. His recently released book ‘The Ancient Tea Horse Road’ (Penguin-Viking Publishers) details his 8-month groundbreaking journey traveling and chronicling one of the world’s great trade routes, The Tea Horse Road. Fuchs is the first westerner to have completed the entire route stretching almost six thousand kilometers through the Himalayas a dozen cultures. He makes his home in ‘Shangrila’, northwestern Yunnan upon the eastern extension of the Himalayan range where tea and mountains abound; and where he leads expeditions the award winning ‘Tea Horse Road Journey’ with Wild China along portions of the Ancient Tea Horse Road. To keep fueled up for life Fuchs co-founded JalamTeas which keeps him deep in the green while high in the hills.
This entry was posted in Explorations, Mountains and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Kawa Karpo Sacred Mountain Trek – October-November 2011

  1. Peter says:

    My prayers & best wishes go with you on your impending trek, Jeff! I look foward to your reports from the route, as well as your usual magnificent pictures. (I assume that you will be taking the harder outer kora. Is this correct?)

    I will raise a cup of the green on my end on Oct. 24th to wish you well!

    Best wishes,

    • JeffFuchs says:

      As always, a warm felt thanks for the wishes. We arrived safely, dustily and need of laundering facilities. Upcoming posts are on the way from the journey.
      Hope you are well Peter.


  2. Hello Jeff

    We are two swiss cyclers. we cycled the last 7 weeks from xining to shangri la. during our trip we also made the kora around the amnye machen with yaks. kawa karpo is also one of our target. so just now we read about you and your trip around the kawa karpo.
    we stay now in shangri la and are shortly before heading to deqin. are you still preparing the trip? would it be a possibility to join you?
    thank you for a reply.


    • JeffFuchs says:

      Sorry, just returning to Zhongdian…just finished our kora. We had no coverage so couldn’t respond earlier.
      Hope your trip unfolds well….there is heavy snow in the passes so be ready. Will be posting in the coming days of our own journey. Enjoy and kora well…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *