For three of four years now I had heard whispers about a sacred peak bordering Yunnan and Tibet and the spectacular pilgrimage trail (or kora) that circumambulates the mountain. In October of last year I finally got the chance to visit Kawa Karpo (or White pillar in Tibetan) and follow in the footsteps of the Khampa nomads on their epic spiritual journey.
The warmth and generosity of the local Tibetans was truly overwhelming while the scenery was hugely varied and stunningly beautiful. The trekking route passes through ancient forests, small white-washed Tibetan hamlets, the arid Salween valley and over panoramic Himalayan passes the highest of which is the forbidding Shola pass at 4,900m. Along the way are lovely reminders of the pilgrims quest; offerings of barley flour, prayer flags, sacred springs and small stone shrines.
For those of us lucky enough to know this region well, it truly is the most topographically varied and culturally immersive adventure in Western China/Tibet. The best news of all – we are going back this year – and will be leading a small group expedition around the mountain from September 28 to October 14.