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The Kinner Kailash Parikrama


For the Hindu or Buddhist, to perform a “Parikrama” is to circum-ambulate a holy place, be it temple, lake or mountain. The most sacred parikrama for the devout is the circumambulation of Mt.Kailash (The Abode of Shiva) and the adjacent Mansarovar Lake in Tibet. Interestingly the lake is also the source of three main River systems in the Indian Subcontinent, The Indus, The Sutlej and The Brahmaputra. Lesser substitutes, of considerable local significance, include the Parikrama of the Kinner Kailash massif.

A parikrama is always performed in a clockwise direction with the sacred precincts on one’s right. The Traditional Parikrama of the Kinner Kailash was a long journey on foot, stretching over 200 kms. Beginning from the Buddhist temple at Powari, at the base of the Holy Mountain, the route wound up the left bank of Sutlej, into the Tedong or Tirung valley, over the Charang pass, down the Baspa and back to Powari again. At Powari and every village thereafter, lighting a lamp at the local Buddhist temple was an essential part of the pilgrimage. Now motor roads have shortened the walk to a five day trek from Thangi in the Tedong valley to Chitkul, the highest village in the Sangla valley just short of the border with Tibet. The traditional timing of the yatra requires that the pilgrim reach Charang, the last village in the Tedong

valley, on the Hindu day of Janmashtmi (Lord Krishna’s Birthday). This day usually occurs sometime in August and this remains the best time for the Parikrama, although it is possible to undertake the trek even two-three months earlier and till as late as the first half of October. Less devout travelers can undertake the journey in an anti-clockwise direction but route conditions definitely favor the way of the faithful.

Kalpa – Ribba – Thangi 2800mts
After a brief orientation and stocking up with supplies and trek staff we find ourselves journey in a jeep, sampling the villages under the shadow of The Kinner Kailash to Thangi. Set up camp and enjoy a good sleep to begin the trek tomorrow.

Thangi – Lambar 2950 mts .. 5 – 6 Hrs
Start early morning after breakfast. Just out of Thangi, above the old path is a foot print like impression credited to Rinchen Tsangpo, the Great Translator. There is a mule track till the point where we start descending to Tedong at Guldum. From here on it is along the valley bed. Past the flood plain of the Shakrang Nullah, the little hamlet of Lambar comes into sight, on the other side of the river. Lambar’s houses shaded by huge walnut trees cling to the right bank of the Lambar stream. The valley widens a little here, the Tedong prattles at a gentler pace, and young deodars and pines add to the charm. Set up camp.

Lambar – Charang 3450 mts
The Traditional Parikrama route requires one to visit Kunu, before moving on to Charang. Soon after Lambar the trees begin thinning out. First to go are the deodars, then the pines, and thereafter the birch. Finally only the Junipers are left in occasional clumps, to break the monotony of bare soil and rock-strewn hill side. The path from Guldum onwards is through river bed moraine, with frequent detours over rock faces or steep sedimentary deposits. This, tiresome stretch continues up to the flats of Shurtingting, a few kilometres short of Charang. The track which stays on the right bank after the crossing of the Tedong for Thangi, switches to the left, about 8kms short of Charang. For Kunu one continues up the right bank. Just past Shurtingting, the stream coming from the Simthang pass route to Tibet, joins the main river on the right. Kunu 3400mts can be seen amidst gently sloping fields, a little way up this valley. The main route to Charang lies through the flats of Shurtingting. These spacious riverside terraces are dotted with juniper trees, trained head high by the fuel wood demands of the locals.

Charang – Lalanti (4300mts) . 12kms
Beyond Charang, with the border less than 30 kms away, begins the restricted area and it is not possible for foreigners to visit Khimokul la, giving access to Tibet or cross the distant Laskar pass, leading to the Baspa at Nithal Thach. A visit to the temple of Rangrik Tungma and on return one faces a very long ascent, up through the pastures of Charang village. The ridge line is finally crossed into the upper Shurtingting valley at a point almost 4500 mts high. A cliff hanging steep descent in the shadow of the towering peak of Phawararang 6349 mts follows. A more gradual ascent and a fording of the icy cold waters of the Shurtingting stream thereafter, brings one up to the tin hut which functions as the Lalanti pass shelter.

Lalanti – Chitkul (3450mts)
Day five sees us crossing the Charang pass 5242 mts, involves no glacier crossing, and skirts its passage all the way to the top from Lalanti. After a long haul across treacherous moraine and a final breathless ascent on a slithery scree slope, it is a long run down to Chitkul on the other side. With an early start from Lalanti it is possible to reach Chitkul by late afternoon. A delayed start or too many halts enroute increases the unwelcome possibility of descending the boulder strewn slopes in the dark.

Chitkul – Sangla (2650mts) . 24 kms
One has the choice of either catching a bus to Sangla or to enjoy some of the prettiest scenery in the Himalaya, to walk to Sangla. The road moves down, through birch and pine interspersed with piles of jumbled rock. The river alternately ambles through pretty little glades or rushes through huge mounds of rock, with forested flanks and towering rock faces closing the valley on either side. Less than halfway to Sangla is the village of Rakcham, from where we go to the left bank of the Baspa, following a forest path to the village of Batseri and then via the Hurba Khud and the trout farm to Sangla village.

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