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High Times in Tibet
Southern Exposure: Mount Kailas viewed from the south. The objects in the foreground are chortens, Buddhist shrines believed to radiate healing energy.

"Kailas has been described in ancient texts as a ladder between Earth and heaven. Pilgrims from throughout Asia have traveled to this remote mountain in western Tibet for millennia. Only since the 1980s have Western trekkers joined them in the 32-mile (51-kilometer) circuit around the mountain, which crosses an 18,000-foot (5,486-meter) pass that is said to dispel the sins of a lifetime.

"I went in September 2002 to climb as high on the mountain as possible without hope for karmic indulgences, but with deep respect for the religious traditions that honor the Earth above their individual differences.

"The small chortens, or Buddhist reliquary shrines in the foreground of this image, echo the shape of the cosmic mountain Su-Meru, which Buddhists and Hindus believe Kailas represents on Earth."

—Writer Ian Baker

Photo by Craig Lovell

March 2004

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