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
Repertory Trip: No Future Dates Set

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: TBA  
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.  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!

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

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