Group of Tibetan pilgrims in the Lhasa Valley of Tibet

Photo by Gary McCue

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In the Footsteps of Heinrich Harrer

A Special "Seven Years in Tibet" Trek
with Gary McCue
Repertory Trip: Next Offered September 6-28, 2015

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $8495  
Length: 23 days
Arrive: Chengdu, China
Depart: Chengdu, China
Lodging: 7 nights hotels, 15 nights camping
Meals: All meals included except 1 lunch
Activity: Hiking / Trekking, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level: 15 days of strenuous hiking, elevations range from 11,830 to 19,325 feet


  • Trek in the footsteps of Heinrich Harrer, author of the classic book Seven Years in Tibet
  • Cross remote glaciated passes in the highest mountains near Lhasa
  • Visit remote heritages, holy lakes, and monasteries
  • An adventurous high-altitude expedition for adventurous trekkers!

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.


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.  It will be several years before this journey is offered again. Now is the time to go!

In January 1946, two Austrian mountain climbers, Heinrich Harrer and Peter Aufschnaiter, stood below the Guring La (19,235'), a glaciated pass in the highest mountains near Lhasa. This mountain barrier was all that separated them from their goal of reaching Lhasa, the Holy City and capital of Tibet. Two years earlier, these two intrepid mountaineers had managed to escape from a British internment camp in India and headed for Tibet with only rough sketches for maps, the clothes on their backs, and a few meager supplies. Their crime? Climbing mountains on British-controlled soil at an inopportune moment—Great Britain and Austria had declared war in 1939 while Harrer and Aufschnaiter were attempting Nanga Parbat, an 8000-meter Himalayan peak within British Indian territory at that time.

For Harrer and Aufschnaiter, Lhasa was now only about a week’s walk away, and a new life was soon to begin. Little could these two imagine as they gazed toward the Guring La that they would spend the next four and a half years residing in Lhasa as guests of the Tibetan government. Aufschnaiter would marry a Tibetan woman and become a surveyor for the city; Harrer would become the tutor of the 14th Dalai Lama. Later, he would pen one of the classic adventure stories of the 20th century, Seven Years in Tibet.

In September 2015, Wilderness Travel and Gary McCue invite you to walk in the footsteps of Harrer and Aufschnaiter on a spectacular 15-day trek that retraces their final mountain crossing over the Guring La through the highest range of peaks near Lhasa. Our adventure begins at the climbers’ base camp at the foot of the main Nyenchen Thanglha mountain, where we hike and acclimatize, then meet our yaks and yak men for the trek over the Nyenchen Thanglha range, crossing Kong La Pass (17,750') to reach Tashi Do, a Guru Rimpoche meditation site perched on the shores of Nam Tsho, Tibet’s second largest salt lake. From the lake’s southern shores, we hike into the Nyenchen Thanglhas and pick up the trail used by Harrer and Aufschnaiter to cross the Guring La. We then descend into a huge Yosemite-like glacial valley of sheer granite walls to complete our trek at the Yangpachen Valley. Like Harrer and Aufschnaiter, we’ll head for the Yangpachen hot springs for a welcome soak at trek’s end before returning to Lhasa—a fitting end for our incredible experience of the magic and mystery that is Tibet.

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-5
Chengdu, China / Lhasa, Tibet

Fly from Chengdu to Lhasa (11,830'), holy city and capital of Tibet. Enjoy exploration around Lhasa and the Lhasa Valley to acclimatize. Visit Tibet’s colossal Potala Palace and major sites around the Lhasa Valley, including ancient Drepung Monastery. On Day 5, we visit Ganden (13,700’), a stunning monastic city set in a high amphitheater above the Kyi Chu River.

Days 6-15
Trek in the Nyenchen Thanglha Mountains / Kong La

Drive to the remote Nyenchen Thanglha mountains and begin the trek, hiking to the cliffside perch of Kyangra Gompa (14,350’), crossing the Kong La (17,750'), and spending a day exploring at the ancient Tashi Do Hermitage (15,500') and its pilgrim paths.

Days 16-20
Guring La / Guring Nang Valley / Pangochi Lhe

Begin the next phase of the trek, the long, glacial crossing of Guring La (19,325'), with a descent to the Guring Nang Valley and the herders' meadow at Pangochi Lhe (16,400').

Days 21-23
Yangpachen Valley / Lhasa / Chengdu

We drop down from the high passes on our route and follow Heinrich Harrer's footsteps into the green Yangpachen Valley, where we stop at the Yangpachen hot springs for a quick soak before meeting our vehicles and driving to Lhasa. What a contrast to Harrer and Aufschnaiter’s arrival on foot almost 70 years ago! Depart on Day 23 via Chengdu, China.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

What the Trip is Like

This trip is Level 6, Very Strenuous. Hiking elevations range from 12,000 to 19,325 feet, with a pass crossing at 19,325 feet and many steep ascents and descents. Trip members carry only a daypack with camera, jacket, rain gear, water bottle, and other small necessities. Our camp crew of Sherpa guides and porters carries all the rest of the equipment; a cook prepares all meals. For the most part, you can hike at your own speed; the group will spread out along the trail during the day to cover a normal maximum of 7 to 12 miles per day (4-10 hours of hiking). There are a few days on this trek when the walks are shorter, as well as rest days, allowing opportunity for day hikes and for exploring the villages, monasteries, and beautiful surroundings near our campsites. The trails are well made and quite broad, except in some small sections, and used regularly by yaks. The trail over the Guring La can be somewhat slippery and steep and very exposed in narrow sections. In addition, we may encounter snow on this high pass. During the trek there are also streams and rivers to wade across.

Every participant must understand that this trek is truly challenging—trip members should be in excellent physical condition. We recommend that you make a special effort to get in top physical shape for the trip. 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 Himalayas, it takes cooperation and flexibility from each participant to ensure a successful trek.

Explanation of Trip Levels


Departures & Leaders

This is one of our special Repertory Trips offered only every two to five years. This journey will not be offered again for several years. Now is the Time to Go!

Sep 6-28, 2015  Gary McCue

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2015
$8495 (9-12 members)
$8995 (7-8 members)
Single supplement: $540
Forced single supplement: $340
Internal airfare: $630 (subject to change)
more on pricing

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $600
90 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule

Up to 91 days prior to departure: No charge!
61-90 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
46-60 days prior to departure: 50% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader and local guides
  • Services of camp staff including porters and cooks
  • Accommodations as noted
  • All meals included except 1 lunch
  • Group camping and cooking equipment including dining, sleeping, toilet tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads
  • Land transportation, airport transfers for passengers as noted

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare; airport departure taxes; any meals not specified after each itinerary day; optional tipping or gratuities to leaders or staff; hotels en route to/from China/Tibet; any additional hotel nights that may be necessitated by international airline schedule changes or other factors; pre-trip expenses of medical immunizations, visa fees, travel insurance; and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.).

Arrival & Departure Information

You are responsible for your own transportation to the arrival and from the departure cities listed below. For more detailed information, including transfers, please download the Detailed Itinerary.

Please do not purchase your tickets until you are confirmed on the trip. Once your tickets have been purchased, please send us a copy of your airline schedule.

2015 Departures

Chengdu, China

Suggested Arrival Airport:
Chengdu, China (airport code CTU)
Suggested arrival time: by 3:00 pm
Chengdu, China

Suggested Airport for Departure:
Chengdu, China (airport code CTU)
Suggested departure time: anytime

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