Kinnaur Kailash Parikrama : Magnificent Desolation

I’ve always been awe-struck by the majestic Himalayas and wanted to explore them. Recently I got a chance to visit the Greater Himalayan belt for the Kinnaur Kailash Parikrama trek, and it was the most beautiful & unique travel experience I’ve had so far! It was difficult & demanding but it was truly a - once in a lifetime experience, as described by a fellow hiker friend.

Kinnaur is one of the least populous districts in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, bordering Tibet. Most of it is inaccessible mountainous area, ranging in altitude from 2,320 to 6,816 meters. The people, called Kinners, have lived in isolation since thousands of years and have a strong culture, heritage & religious beliefs. They mostly follow Hinduism or Buddhism and speak a dialect of the Tibeto-Burman family known as Kinnauri and wear distinct green caps. Kailash is a sacred mountain, enveloped by snow and difficult to reach, and according to Hindu mythology, is the abode of Lord ShivaParikrama means circumambulation; a religious prayer ritual practiced in Hinduism & Buddhism, of going around a path surrounding something sacred. The Kinnaur Kailash parikrama trek is mostly done by pilgrims, around the holy Mount Kailash in Kinnaur, from May to September. Entry is restricted in this region as it’s close to the Tibet border and foreigners need an inner line permit to visit. Details about the full trek are here.

Kinnaur Kailash Parikrama Trek

The trek requires prior experience as half of it is not real walking but crossing huge boulders, and there are no signs or people anywhere to show the way! It’s a sea of rocks with the path marked by a few stones stacked on top of each other by previous trekkers. The air is thin and it’s difficult to breathe. The most challenging part is from the base camp of the mountain pass, Charang La, to the top at the altitude of 5230 meters and the descend down to Chitkul Village. It’s a steep climb up to the pass through gravel and the getting down is slippery and treacherous. The trek is arduous and tests endurance but the views and the experience is transcendental! The views throughout the trek are spectacular, but the challenging trek is over whelming and draws one away from the beauty of it at that time. But I see pictures of it now and feel proud to have seen and endured it all!

A 360 degree panoramic view of the place, divided into 3 pictures.

Pic 1 : Front view while trekking – First view of Charang La pass, on the left of the picture

Pic 2 : A sea of rocks and Charang La pass on the right ( light brown patch left of the grey mountain in the right)

If you’ll see the above picture carefully, there’s a tiny fellow hiker in the middle with his backpack in yellow.

Pic 3: Back view while trekking – The mountains at Lalanti in the far distance (A hiker resting )

It’s surreal being in a remote place like this with no life and no connection with the rest of the world. I felt small, inconsequential and desolate in this enormous landscape, and all I had were my thoughts and hope. Sometimes it was like hanging between life & death and all my worldly problems seemed insignificant. The trek was a kind of meditation and gave a sense of sublime, where I got to contemplate and reflect on my life. I got a fresh perspective towards life and I feel fortunate to have experienced the adventure of living in the Greater Himalayas, even though it was for a few days. It’s a divine place where the earth meets the sky and only nature rules – it’s magnificent desolation!

Sending this post for the Weekly Photo Challenge : Big – It’s difficult to comprehend the scale of the gigantic mountains in the landscape unless there’s something to compare it with.

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