Dancer wearing large mask of Buddhist deity in Kham, eastern TIbet.

Tibetan Buddhist mask

The mask dances of Tibetan Buddhism often depict incidents from the life of Padmasambhava, the revered 8th century saint, and represent the struggle between good and evil.

Photo by Craig Lovell

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Tibet: The Ultimate Kham Trek

Exploring the Realm of the Dege Kings
Repertory Trip: No Future Dates Set

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: TBA  
Length: 22 days
Arrive: Chengdu, China
Depart: Chengdu, China
Lodging: 6 nights hotels, 15 nights camping
Meals: All meals included
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Hiking / Trekking
Trip Level: 10-day trek on moderate to steep trails, 6-7 hours a day, altitudes between 10,000-16,400 feet
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Highlights

  • Yilung Latsho (13,200'), a spectacular holy lake
  • Towering peaks, soaring cliffs, and waterfalls of the Trola Mountains
  • Remote cave hermitage of Rongme Karmo Taktsang (14,225)
  • Dege’s 500-year old Parkhang print works

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.

References

We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Repertory Trip

This is one of our special Repertory Trips offered every two to five years.  Future dates have not been set for this trip, but you can see the “Itinerary at a Glance” and the “Full Detailed Itinerary” below (there may be small changes to the itinerary for the future departures, and prices will be finalized closer to departure). Contact us to receive early notification of the trip dates. These special trips fill very quickly once the exact dates are set!

Join us for one of the most adventurous Himalayan journeys we’ve ever offered! With Wilderness Travel Trip Leader Gary McCue, our journey combines an adventurous 9-day trek with six days of overland travel and camping to explore the remote reaches of Eastern Tibet, a relatively unvisited part of the Tibetan Plateau that is one of the last great frontiers of adventure travel. As we experience the grandeur of the Trola Mountains, we also visit some of the most important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and hermitages in Eastern Tibet, including Palpung Monastery, renowned as the second largest ancient building on the Tibetan Plateau after the Potala Palace in Lhasa. Our final pass is Goser La (“To Turn Grey” Pass), with a big descent to meet our vehicles for the short drive to Dege. After we visit the printworks at Dege Parkhang, where for 500 years prayer texts have been hand carved into wooden boards and then printed onto paper, we climb into the vehicles and once again cross the Trola Mountains before descending back to Chengdu.

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-5
Chengdu, China /Kangding / Yilung Latsho

From Chengdu, we ascend the foothills of the Hengduan Shan mountains to Kangding (8,300'), a small city at 8,300 feet that was once the cultural boundary between China and Tibet. Our overland adventure continues across the Tibetan Plateau into the valleys of Kham. Our overnights on Day 4 and Day 5 are at spectacular Yilung Latsho (13,200'), a holy lake at the base of the Trola Mountains where a huge glacier tumbles off Rongme Ngatra (20,236’), the main peak of the Trola range

Days 6-11
Trola Mountains

Beginning our trek, we hike amid wildflowers and nomadic herder camps. Our first pass is Dzin La (16,400’), with the granite spires of the Trola Mountains towering above us. Hiking west into a dramatic hanging valley, we cross Go-tre Dungma La (15,925’), a pass with fine views of the main peak in the Trola Range, and descend into the forested Rongme Valley.

Days 12-16
Rongme Karmo Taktsang Hermitage / Dophu Valley

We hike to the famous hermitage of Rongme Karmo Taktsang (14,225), where the three great luminaries of the Kham’s non-sectarian ri-me movement of Tibetan Buddhism meditated in the 19th century, then hike over the Seng-go Yutse Pass into the delightful Dophu Valley and upper Mesho Here we can visit Kagu Changchubling, an active Buddhist retreat with several hundred monks and nuns and outstanding views of the Trola Mountains and the upper Dophu Valley. Higher up on the opposite ridge here is the Pema Shelphuk hermitage, a Guru Rimpoche cave site, revered as one of the 25 most important nechen, or Tibetan Buddhist power places, in Kham and Amdo.

Days 17-22
Dege / Palpung / Chengdu

With our trek finished, we hit the road for a beautiful journey to Dege, starting with a short drive to Dzongsar (12,100'), an impressive 13th century Sakya sect monastery. We then drive down the Me Chu Valley to visit the huge chanting hall of Palpung Monastery (12,800'). This is the seat of Tai Situ Rimpoche, one of the four main regents of the Karma Kargyüpa sect. The magnificent five-storied chanting hall at Palpung was built in the 18th century as the residence for the Tai Situ Rimpoches and somehow managed to survive the fury of the Cultural Revolution. Arriving in Dege itself, we visit to the famous 500-year old Parkhang print works as well as the Dege Gonchen, an important Sakyapa sect monastery. Our return drive to Chengdu brings us over the Trola Pass (16,100’) and back to the forested hills via the small city of Temba (6,200'). Depart from Chengdu on Day 22.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

What the Trip is Like

This trip is Level 6, Very Strenuous, according to our trip rating system. Trek days are an average of 6-7 hours of walking, though some days may be shorter while others may be longer. Previous Himalayan trekking experience is highly recommended for this trip. Participants must be in excellent physical condition and must submit a medical approval form signed by a doctor. In general, the trail conditions are more difficult than those in the Nepal because of the steepness of trails and the number of passes we cross. There are altitude gains and descents of about 2,000 to 3,000 feet or more on many days, and all hiking is at altitudes of 11,000 feet and much higher, with several pass crossings, the highest of which is 16,400 feet. If you are very fit and healthy and have successfully trekked at altitude before, you should thoroughly enjoy this Himalayan adventure.

Every participant must understand that this trek is truly challenging. There are dangers inherent in any expedition traveling to remote wilderness regions, especially when they involve travel to high altitude. These dangers include everything from rock falls to the possibility of a serious fall, accident, or sickness without access to the means of rapid evacuation–even road conditions can present serious challenges. The availability of medical supplies, or the adequacy of medical attention once provided, cannot be guaranteed and cannot be expected to measure up to Western standards. Although we are accompanied by a support crew staffed by experienced veterans of the Himalaya, it takes cooperation and flexibility from each participant to ensure a successful trek.

Individuals vary widely in both their physical response to high altitude and the ability to acclimatize. Physical fitness does not confer any protection or facilitate acclimatization, and it is impossible to predict how each participant will adapt to the altitude. The greatest protection is avoiding rapid ascents and allowing time for acclimatization. We feel that this itinerary specifically provides for this, but participants must be responsible for individually pacing themselves and drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

Explanation of Trip Levels

Gary McCue

Gary McCue literally wrote the book on trekking in Tibet and he has pioneered some of our most amazing Himalayan expeditions, including the In the Footsteps of Heinrich Harrer, a trek that retraces the final stretch of the journey of Heinrich Harrer, author of the classic adventure Seven Years in Tibet, and The World's Highest Trek, which brings trekkers up as high as 21,000 feet on Mt. Everest. Gary is the author of the definitive Trekking Tibet: A Traveler’s Guide, now in its third edition. "I have a "trek philosophy" known as laid-back trekking (LBT). In a nutshell, it's based on how the slower you go (as long as you don't come into camp in the dark!), and the closer to the back of the trek group you are, the more often amazing things tend to happen. One can race along the trails anywhere in the world and have mostly a view of the toes of their boots, but if you slow it down, you can take in the incredible surroundings and really experience what attracted you to a region in the first place." Gary's strong connection to the Himalayan people opens many doors. He speaks Tibetan, lived in Nepal for many years, and now resides in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney, Australia.

Upcoming Trips:

In the Footsteps of Heinrich Harrer, September 6-28, 2015
Tibet: The World's Highest Trek, May 29-June 27, 2016

Client Testimonials:


Gary is excellent in every way. It was an incredible experience. Terry C., New Albany, IN Gary is the best. Everything you would want in a trip leader—knowledge, experience and fun. Randy R., Edgewater, MD Gary is the most competent guide I have experienced. One would be hard pressed to find a more personable and knowledgeable individual in the trekking business. Scott S., Fresno, CA
Tibet: The World's Highest Trek
Gary is a gem. His vast knowledge of the area's history and culture, as well as his numerous contacts, all added immensely to the trip. Karl G., El Cerrito, CA
Hidden Kingdom of Mustang
Gary was outstanding in every way. He's why I signed up for the trip. It was a long trek, and he made it worthwhile, every day! Bravo! Alan R., Santa Cruz, CA
Ultimate Manaslu