By Dr. Jack Wheeler
All photos by Jack Wheeler
In our exploration of the greatest mountains of the Himalayas, we’ve learned the route to Everest, Lhotse, and Cho Oyu, that to Makalu and Kanchenjunga, and to Manaslu and Annapurna. In our final route, we’ll explore Dhaulagiri – and the Tibetan Kingdom of Lo.
We overflew the Annapurna Circuit along the north side of the Annapurna Range, then dropped down into that huge valley starting at the “M” in Mustang, and around to the gash starting to the left of “A” in Annapurna, to go up into the Annapurna Sanctuary.
Now let’s stop once we drop down into that valley. The river that flows through it is the Kali Gandaki. Note that it cuts straight through the Himalayas from the Tibetan Plateau in the north to the plains of India in the south. That’s because it’s far older than the Himalayas (which are some 50 million years old) – ammonite fossils over a hundred million years old have been found at its headwaters.
Here’s the reverse view looking from its Tibet headwaters towards India.
The big white mountain on the left is Annapurna, while that on the right is Dhaulagiri. Between them is the Kali Gandaki Gorge, the deepest canyon on earth.
And at those Tibetan headwaters (i.e., at the bottom of the view above) in the region of Mustang lies The Tibetan Kingdom of Lo.
The kingdom’s capital is Lo Manthang, now recognized as a UN World Heritage Site as “best preserved medieval walled city on earth.”
And it is here you will find the last remaining place of pure Tibetan culture on earth, as the Chinese have destroyed it in Beijing-occupied Tibet. It is a two week trek on trails over two miles high to get here – but Wheeler Expeditions has a special permit to do so by helicopter.
It is here in the Kingdom of Lo that Tibetan culture and Tantric religion still flourish.
The Lo-pa (people of Lo) Tibetans practice the original form of Tibetan Buddhism, Nyingma or Red Hat, founded by the legendary Padmasambhava around 750 AD as a synthesis of the animist religion of early Tibetans, Bon, with Mystic or Tantric Buddhism.
Lo-pa life revolves around their religion, and thus their gompas or monasteries are the focus of their culture. We visit them in Lo Manthang, such as Thupchen Gompa:
And the remote Nifuk Cave Monastery built into a vertical cliff face:
Nearby are the astounding Chhosar Sky Caves, a 2,000 year-old apartment-like complex carved out of a cliff:
The interior walls of the gompa prayer halls are painted with stunning works of Tantric art, often depicting Yab-Yum – the physical union of Compassion and Wisdom. Male compassion is personified as the deity Samvara with a blue body, multiple faces and arms. He embraces his consort of female wisdom Vajra-varahi. It is important to understand that Yab-Yum is considered a sacred act as a path to Enlightenment.
Our time here in the Tibetan Kingdom of Lo will be a uniquely unforgettable cultural experience.
After the wonderment of being here, we head for Dhaulagiri. Let’s orient ourselves. Here are the trekking routes for the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Circuits combined.
Dhaulagiri – 7th highest mountain in the world – 8,222m/26,975ft ©2019 Jack Wheeler
You see the northeast and north face here. We fly to the north over the 17,590-foot French Pass, and there is the mountain’s enormous west face is front of us.
The closer we get, the more the sheer size of Dhaulagiri – Dazzling White in Sanskrit – overwhelms us.
Dhaulagiri Base Camp is below that huge vertical slab. Nicknamed “The Eiger.” The climbing route begins ascending the glacial icefall next to it. That’s where we land. The climbers, trekkers, and Sherpa guides are always happy to see us.
We have now been to the base camps of all eight of the “eight-thousanders” (8,000 meters+) in the Himalayas of Nepal. As we stand here at Dhaulagiri, we reflect on knowing that only a handful of human beings have ever done this, and now we are among them.
For me, it is a special privilege to be here knowing that I have made this possible.
If you would like me to make this possible for you contact me for details to join the Himalaya Helicopter Expedition and have the greatest one-week adventure possible on earth today.
Carpe diem. Life is short. The time for a great adventure is now.
All photos by Jack Wheeler
Jack Wheeler is the founder of Wheeler Expeditions