Sunday, April 24, 2005

Over the Tsemi Pass [次梅拉] to the Konka monastery

tsemi sil, originally uploaded by jiulong.

From Yulongsi I followed in Joseph Rock's footsteps over the 16,000 foot high Tsemi La [次梅拉] to get to the Konka Gompa [monastery] at the foot of Minya Konka. This involved an early start and a long ride up the steep hill path to the pass. Most of the way up to the pass was barren grassy hills, giving way to rocky outcrops at high altitudes.

river cross
From Yulongsi we first had to ford a river on horseback to reach the foot of the hills we were going to cross.

Cairn above Yulongsi
Approaching the Tsemi La.

tsemi la horses
It was a great moment when, many hours later, after much puffing and panting by our poor overworked horses, we finally crested the ridge and Minya Konka came into sight. Here is Ge-ler with our horses on the first trip in 1996.

tsemi horses
This is me and Gong Xianyao on the Tsemi pass on the second visit to the monastery in 1999.

Photoshop Tsemi La
A sunburnt me on the Tsemi La for the first time - on my first trip.

tsemi la
This is the Tsemi La [次梅拉] in cloudy weather. Not much of a view of Minya Konka.

Tsemi Pass. As usual, Minya Konka is hidden in cloud.

This is the kind of view the lucky visitor gets on a rare clear day of Minya Konka from the Tsemi Pass.

minya horses
My guide Ge-ler told me that the last group he guided to the monastery included an American guy who broke his leg falling off his horse at this point. He was in extreme pain but could only be taken out on horseback. I was extra careful and walked this bit.

down from tsemi la
The track down from the pass to Tsemi village [次梅] is a steep zig zag through rhododendron bushes.

This is the village of Tsemi [次梅] at the bottom of the valley. I t is really only a collection of three or four houses. Cut off from the outside world, they were really stuck in a timewarp. They had a statue of Chairman Mao and used flintlock rifles, and communicate in a kind of warbling, yodelling dialect. Or maybe it was just the effect of the altitude on me!

tsemi village

Tsemi house

At Tsemi village we stopped to rest. On my first visit here I felt really bad at this point and wanted to stop and go back. Altitude sickness and lethargy was really getting to me and I just wanted to go to sleep.

horses ready
While resting at Tsemi, my guide forced me to drink some butter tea. I'd been living on camper's dried meals until then, which in retrospect I believe were lacking in fat and energy. The fatty yak butter tea must have boosted my energy - it certainly revived me and got me back on the horse again.

me and horses
Ge-ler ignored my requests to go back and insisted on delivering me to the monastery. Here I am about to embark on the final leg, up the Konka valley.

tsemi bridge
Crossing the Buchu stream on the way up to the Konka monastery.

river crossing
On our second trip we took a more roundabout route which involved crossing the Buchu river further down where it was in flood.

Minya Konka gompa  western side of Gongga Sahn
The Konka Gompa at last.

The Gompa in fog.

gongga gompa courtyard
The interior courtyard of the Gompa.

Minya Konka gompa monk
This is one of only two monks at the temple on my first visit

Minya Konka monk
This is the head lama of the Minya Konka lamasery in 1929.

minya lama
The monk at the Gompa told me he had a watch that was broken. It had been given to him by some American mountaineers a few years before. It turned out that its battery had run out. I promised to bring him a new one on my next visit. But when I returned three years later, he had died.

lama cupboard
The lama inside the main temple.

lama makes butter tea
Making butter tea.

lama fireside
We spent two days at the Konka Gompa. Most of the time the weather was thick fog. So we sat around the fire drinking tea and talking.

gompa fireside
Ger-ler and the lama round the fire. During my stay at the Gompa I suffered from bad headaches and disordered breathing from the high altitude.

minya wisp
Here is a view of the mountain taken by Joseph Rock in 1929.

monk on rock
Rock photographed these monks burning juniper near the monastery in 1929.

This is a visiting pilgrim at the monastery in 1929.

Gongga Shan glacier
A view of a higher part of the Minya Konka glacier from 1929.

glacier down
Joseph Rock's photo looking back down at the Konka Gompa
monastery from high up on the ridge, in 1929.

Some more photos [not mine] of Gongga Shan, taken from a Chinese website. I will credit them where I can, if I can get the Chinese translated:

Gonga Shan side view
Gongga Shan from Tsemi La
Gonga Shan from Tsemi La

1 comment:

Amy said...

Hi Michael:
It is amazing to see your photos...such a different perspective than the rainy, snowy one we enjoyed this last May. And your local shots are a real treat...I can see (sadly) how much things have changed. We climbed Tsemi La as well (not there yet on my loquacious blog)...probably one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I have ever had (knee and - for me -often thigh high snow much of the way). We did get a great view of Minya Konka as our reward tho not as clear as yours. Guess I'll have to make the journey again in a couple years! We did hear about the journalist after we returned. I must say, we felt exhilarated AND incredibly stupid at Gyaza La but we did have back up, unlike the Lonely Planet writer. Best to you, Amy