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Photo: Writer Ian Baker
Writer Ian Baker
High Times in Tibet
Thousands of pilgrims converge upon Mount Kailas every year, but few push on to the holy mountain's 19,500-foot inner sanctuary. Here, writer Ian Baker takes us trailside and up to the Cave of the Thirteen Golden Chortens during one of the world's highest pilgrimages.

When Kathmandu-based writer Ian Baker looked over the steep edge of the 19,500-foot (5,944-meter) inner sanctuary on Tibet's Mount Kailas, the view was something few human eyes have ever seen. In an age when summiting mountains is paramount, the peak of Kailas is believed to be respectfully untouched, even though thousands of pilgrims circumambulate the holy mountain every year. Only a hardy few push on to the mountain's upper altitudes, accessible after completing ritual koras, or circuits, around the mountain's base.

During the Tibetan Year of the Horse, when just one kora—rather than 13—permits passage on to the Cave of the Thirteen Golden Chortens, Baker joined the pious and penitent from Asia and beyond to converge on the mountain (read an excerpt from High Holy Days).

"It was inspiring to be in such a holy place, a natural sanctuary that's not built by the hands of man," recalls Baker, whose forthcoming book with the working title The Veils of the Falls: In Search of Paradise in Tibet's Tsangpo Gorge (Penguin Press), about the quest for a legendary waterfall, will be released this fall. Here, Baker takes us up nearly 20,000 feet (6,094 meters) on one of the world's highest pilgrimages.

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March 2004



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