The inner Mount Kailash kora can be done either on a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. Tibetans normally completes the circuit in one full day of about 15 hours; some pilgrims not only walk but prostrate around the mountain.
Walking time: Most tourists complete the kora in either two or three days, walking between 6-8 hours a day.
Guide: The kora trail is very easy to find with no need for guides. In any case there are many pilgrims walking the trail- just follow them if one is unsure.
Photos: Click here. Access: See Darchen. Map: Region Map
Prepare yout trek:
It is highly recommended that travelers spend sometime to acclimatize themselves before attempting the kora despite having been in Tibet for some time. The reason is due to the quick ascend to, and the huge altitude difference of over 1,000m between the base, Darchen and the mountain pass of Dolma La (卓玛拉山口).
Sufficient water should be carried, at least for the first day. Tents set up by Tibetans along the trail do sell boiled water for 2 RMB a litre. The accommodation sites can provide drinking water for the next day. Similarly food and snacks should be part of your pack, though they are available at all the tents and accommodation, normally in the form of instant noodles.
Blankets are normally supplied at the accommodation sites. However the hygiene standard may be questionable- it is highly recommended that one brings their own warm sleeping bags. It can get very cold, even in the summer, in the monasteries and tents at night.
Porters can be arranged at Darchen. It costs 100-200 RMB to engage a porter to complete the kora on a one-day basis. It will cost more if the kora is to be completed in more than one day- negotiate with the porters. Porters can also be engaged along the trail for part of the trail especially the difficult ascent to Dolma Pass. This will cost more.
The kora around the mountain is about 55km. It starts at Darchen (4,675m) and (in the clock-wise direction) follows the western spurs of the foothill until a footbridge at 4,860m with Choku Gompa (曲古寺) nestling in the cliff face. There is view of the south face of Mt Kailash going towards the footbridge. Accommodation is available here either at the monastery or in the nearby Tibetan tents.
The trail then enters the long and undulating Lha-Chu valley. For about 14 km the trail gently climbs to cross another footbridge to Drirapuk Monastery (哲热寺at 5,210m), which is a popular stop for the first night. The monastery has been renovated and now has two dormitories able to accommodate 14 people at 30 RMB each. It is building another wing and will be able to accommodate more people soon. Lower on the slope is another hostel that charged 50 RMB for a dormitory bed. There is more accommodation in the form of tents across the river on the gentle slope.
The monastery’s location presents a spectacular view of the north face of Mount Kailash. The north face of the mountain has a sheer vertical face of over 1,500 m of black rock with little snow clinging on it. The view is particularly amazing during sunrise.
From the monastery the trail climbs steadily on a section of about 5 km strewn with big and small boulders. After passing a small azure pool, it starts to climb steeply to Dolma La (卓玛拉山口) at 5,630m. This is the most difficult section of the whole kora, due to the thin atmosphere at this height as well as the steep climb. As is the norm in Tibet, there are strings of prayer flags at the high pass. From the pass it is a steep descent in between and on huge boulders. It will be another 3 km to descent before one sees the Lham-chu River (门曲河) and its valley floor. There are a couple of tents here where accommodation is available.
The Lham-chu valley is about 10 km long and is gentle on grassy fields. The valley is criss-crossed by streamlets and can be quite confusing. One may have to cross these streams a couple of times to stay on-course. At the south end of the valley is Dzutrulpuk Monastery (尊普寺) which has dormitories for accommodation. There are also a couple of tents that can accommodate travelers and pilgrims. This is the common overnight stop for those who are doing the kora over three days.
It is another easy 12 km on narrow trails of steep walls along the side of the hills to Darchen.
Trekking Time: July 2007
Written by CBP in Sept 2007.