Snow Curtains in Tibet

Winter has set in marking the end of my own season within the Himalayas and Tibet. It is time for the  grand silences and deep cold – that seep into and out of the earth – to bring their annual change to the earth. This year brought with it all of the mountain magic that it always does with additional reference points on the ancient trade routes that once passed through the Himalayas, the health of the heights, and a confirmation that what happens in the heights will inevitably soon find its way down.

Tibet - Monastery

The time within the mountains also emphasized however impregnable they remain, they also are changing at speed and suffering as temperatures rise, glaciers melt into the depths, and water becomes an even more tempestuous necessity and commodity. Sand dunes climb ever higher into the mountain valleys as silt and sand from dry river beds are blown and carried into the heights.

Tibet - Sand Dunes

As always though, the overwhelming feeling and perhaps ‘lesson’ that I take with me is that beyond the risks and sheer daunting nature of the spires, snow passes, and isolation, the mountains offer up something of a sanctuary and silence. They nurture even while they are abused.Tibet - Himalayas

In a season that saw a Tibetan mastiff attack a friend leaving an inch-deep puncture in a leg, a blood oxygen level of another friend drop to half of what it should, the Himalayas did once again show an astonishing ability to soothe and remind of the sanctity of the elements.

Tibet - Nam Tso

Nam Tso lake in its magnificent sheen of power, and high-altitude waves that crash into the shoreline remain somehow pristine. The ever-flowing Tsangpo River which is the highest major river in the world, follows its ancient route etching its way through canyons and communities as it has for ages.

Tibet - Himalayas

Black necked cranes wandered through the valleys as elegant and without fear as they are rare. Beyond the buffer that the Tibetan Plateau has offered up in ice and stone, the great glacial pieces have long been the providers of some of the most important waterways on the planet. They are the crucial feeds of the waterways.

Tibet - Himalayas

I was also reminded of the wisdom that remains so present in the mountains when Tibetan friend Gonpo said one day “The mountains and rivers are the same. One end is always attached to the other end and you cannot touch part without touching the whole thing”. I would only add to that, that one cannot touch a part without being touched.

Tibet - Himalaya

A trader (another of those gems of the times when things moved and were moved by foot rather than wheels) offered up another mountain law telling me “If you are lost, you must ‘follow the snow’. It too has a path” – this while looking at a white drape of snow lining the entire sky.Mount Everest

Chomolungma the great female deity that rises in stone higher than any piece of earth, (aka Mount Everest) sits broadly and mesmerizing in its intensity. But it also feels intensely calm and almost forlorn.

Tibet - Sand Dunes

I often wonder what the mountains would wish for and what they might observe. Tibetans certainly think that they might slowly shake their heads at some of the shenanigans performed by their noisy little two legged neighbours. Or perhaps the mountains might simply remind us that beyond being wondrous widths of stone and ice, that they are also the harbingers of things to come.

Tibet - Himalayas

In Tibetan there aren’t really words for good-bye but rather to “live long”, “go slowly”, “go well”… and so a year comes to an end ‘going slowly’. People, phases, time itself are all given a farewell but rarely a good-bye.

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.
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