Yunnan Pilgrimage

Full Circuit of Kawa Karpo, Yunnan

The holy Kawa Karpo (6740M), the highest peak of Meili, is one of the most sacred mountains of Tibetan Buddhism. It is recommended to fulfill the circuit of Kawa Karpo during the Year of Sheep. Local pilgrims circumambulate Kawa Karpo every year. In 2003, the Year of Sheep (once every 12 years), pilgrims came from all over Tibet as well as Tibetan regions in Yunnan and Sichuan to worship this holy mountain. There are two pilgrimage routes: the inner route including Yubeng Shenpu (sacred waterfalls) and Mingyong Glacier, and the outside full pilgrimage circuit of Kawa Karpo. The second route takes 8 to 12 days to fulfill in a pristine area without access to any vehicular road. Nowadays, these pilgrimage routes attract more and more hikers.
Location: Half of the circuit lies in Deqin County and the other half lies in the Tsawarong District of Tibet.
Season: In May and June the region is alive with wild flowers. From Mid-October to Mid-November the region is filled with autumn colour. July and August is a high season for tourism as well as rainfalls. Winter is cold and dry. Sometimes heavy snowfalls may block roads and isolate this region for weeks and months.
Access:  Meili is located to the west of Deqin. The nearest major town is Zhongdian. There are two daily flights from Kunming to Zhongdian. During high season, two flights are added from Zhongdian to Chengdu, and one to Lhasa. The airport is located 6km from Zhongdian. Taxi to the airport costs Y10.
Buses from Zhongdian to Deqin - 180 km, 6 hours. Y35. Lunch at Benzilan. Climbs up to more than 4000 metres high with a splendid view to the Baimang Snow Mountain and its glaciers.
There are several interesting sites between Zhongdian and Deqin: Napa Lake, The bend of Lancang Jiang, Dhondrupling Gompa (Songzhanlin Si, see left photo 5), Baimang Snow Mountains.
Yangtsa Village is a further 60 kms from Deqin – take the Cizhong bus.

Start: Yangtsa
Finish: Meilishui 
Difficulty: High. Several 4000-meter-high passes to be ascended in a region without any access to a vehicular road. 
Route Map:  Kawa Karpo Pilgrimage Route Map


D1 Deqin-> Yangtsa-> Yongzhi (2480m)
Yangza village, the start point of the route, is 60km away form Deqin. Take a Cizhong-bound bus from Deqin (about two hours), where horses and horsemen are available for rent to ferry your gear and supplies. Walk for 3 hours to Yongzhi(永支) village. Basic lodging available at villagers' home, Y10/night or free.

D2 Yongzhi to Yongxitong (3290m)
Yongxitong is a pasture located at the foot of Dokarla Snow Mt. Nearby, Tibetans tend their cattle here throughout the summer. Stupendous views east along the Lancang River Valley. Cross the 3200m high ridge, descend to Yongxitong. Camping possible here. 
D3 Yongxitong-> Dokarla Pass(4487m)-> Zasutong (3600m)
8 hours walk. Along the road, you need to cross the Dokarla Yakou, a narrow mountain pass, which is about 4480m above sea level. Camping in Zasutong.
D4 Zasutong to Qunatong(2560m) 
Descend to the Tsawarong District in Tibet and trek along the Salween River (Nu Jiang in Chinese). Qunatong is a highland pasture in Chayu. Stay in a log cabin or camping. 
D5 Qunatong to Arbing village(2230m) 
It's about 8 hours walk (some of it steep) from Qunatong to Arbing village. The route is lined many Mani stones and a special spot with a lot of bowls and old clothes where every passer-by leaves one bowl and one old item of clothing. Arbing is little visited and you may stay with local Tibetan families.  
D6 Arbing to Quzhu(1780m) 
The road from Arbing to Quzhu Hot Spring is quite good, but it is remote and with little vegetation. The area around the hot spring is flat and suitable for camping. 

D7 Quzhu to Chanan(2000m)
It is 13km from the hot spring to Chanan, the county seat of Chawalong, with a flat road beside the river. It is 7 hours' walk to Chanan Village, where you can stay in the villagers' home or pitch tents. 

D8 Chanan to Long-na (2500m)
It's only 2 hours walk from Chanan to Long-an  - opportunity for a rest day.

D9 Long-na to Gebu (2330m) 
The distance is 22km. After crossing over the Tangduila Pass (3300m), there is a difficult descent, with marshes and stone. There is a beautiful small Tibetan village, Zhagu, at the foot of the mountain, after which the path winds along the Yuqu river. Stay at the village's small temple or camp besides the River Weiqu; or stay at a hostel or with a local family.  

D10 Gebu to Ladiza (2800m) 
Today is the longest day (29km, about 9 hours). Fabulous views but it is a difficult climb over the Gebula Pass (4100m). Even experienced Tibetans take it seriouly.  

D11 Ladiza to Shulaka (3090m)
Not a long but steep walk. The views are amazing with the back of Karwa Karpo in sight. About 3 hours from Ladiza to Shulaka, where the village head's home is open for lodging, or you can camp. 

D12 Shulaka -> Suola Pass (4815m)-> Duotong (4100m)
After about 5 hours climbing, it will require another 2.5 hours to cross over the Suola Pass. Then trek down for one hour and stay overnight in Duotong High Mountain Pasture, where you are close to the border of Yunnan.

D13 Duotong -> Meilishui(2150m)-> Deqin
It is 5 hours hiking from Duotong to Meilishui. Downhill along the river valley, stony roads, steep slopes and meadows. When you see the big rock of Meilishui, you are at the end of the trek. From the road, the pilgrim can usually find a Deqin-bound bus back to Deqin and on to Zhongdian.

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