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Monk Chants

Recorded on August 20, 1995, at the Rinchenpung Monastery. Symbolically Vajrayogini’s naval, the gompa houses a statue of Rang Rig Gyapo - the king of self-awareness and the wrathful emanation of Padmasambhava. The monk chants are an invocation to this meditation deity to protect all sentient beings from the consequences of their own misguided behavior.


94-A #1 

1 Trungpa Photo“Meditation is not a matter of trying to achieve ecstasy, spiritual bliss or tranquility, nor is it attempting to be a better person. It is simply the creation of space in which we are able to expose and undo our neurotic games, our self-deception, our hidden fears and hopes.”
Chögyam Trungpa


94-A #2

94 A 2 1994 02 07 Rick Fisher Tibet
On February 1, 1994, Gil Gillenwater sets his intention to go to Tibet. One week later, this article appears on the front page of Section C of The Arizona Republic, the local newspaper. The feature states: “Tucson resident Richard D. Fisher is looking for people to join his 21-day expedition in May to Tibet, where a team will explore the Namche Barwa Canyon.”


94-A #3 

2 131a 1994 Troy Jerry Chris HongKong Airport Landing in Hong Kong.
Left to right: Jerry Dixon, Troy Gillenwater, and Chris Grace.


94-A #4

3 106a 1994 Mao Statue in ChengduChairman Mao welcomes us to the bustling Chinese city of Chengdu.


94-A #5

4 113 1994 Himalayan Fly OverFlying over the Himalayas.
Coming from the deserts of Arizona, we are all thinking, What the hell are we getting ourselves into?


94-A #6

5 114b 1994 Scouting Yarlung Put InOur first up-close look at the river. We were told to expect a flow of around 5,000 CFS (cubic feet per second). What we find is a river surging at over 20,000 CFS. Left to right: Chris Grace, Mr. Changxun Luo (our Chinese liaison), Rick Fisher, Troy Gillenwater (looking up-river), Jerry Dixon (looking up-river), and Eric Manthey.


94-A #7

6 146a 1994 Rafting Put InReadying to launch. In hindsight, attempting an illegal first descent of Tibet’s Yarlung Tsangpo River (the “Mt. Everest of Rivers”) in a smuggled 12-foot paddle raft seems extremely naive. But at the time, it all makes perfect sense.


94-A #8

7 57a 1994 Bacon Filming Put InDocumentary film producer Bill Bacon records the departure on our unpermitted first-descent attempt of the Upper Granite Gorge on the world’s highest river – the Yarlung Tsangpo. Here the Himalayan river surges over two miles above sea level. Left to right: Rick Fisher, Gil Gillenwater, Troy Gillenwater, and Eric Manthey.


94-A #9

8 6b 1994 Rafting RiverSoon we begin “lining” the raft through the more difficult sections.


94-A #10

9 157 1994 Troy Gil Eric Lining RapidPortaging rapids in the Upper Granite Gorge of the Yarlung Tsangpo - the world’s highest river. These water formations are simply gravity-driven liquids negotiating different terrains in a perpetual effort to seek their own levels. With a river this size and a drop this severe, that can only be achieved by racing to the most level place on earth - the ocean two vertical miles below. Left to Right: Eric Manthey, Gil Gillenwater, and Troy Gillenwater.


94-A #11

10 54a 1994 Gil Human Jaw BoneGil Gillenwater holds a human mandible. “We’d been rafting with a bunch of sinners.”


94-A #12

11 55a 1994 Huge Hole in TsangPoThese recirculating hydraulic holes, or “keepers,” are to be avoided at all cost.


94-A #13

12 Portaging rapids Troy Eric RickPortaging rapids in the Upper Granite Gorge of the Yarlung Tsangpo - the world’s highest river. In many places the river is simply un-runnable. We come to accept that we are essentially powerless on the “Mt. Everest of Rivers.”
Left to right: Rick Fisher, Eric Manthey, Troy Gillenwater.


94-A #14

13 145a 1994 Abandoning Gear on Hike OutAbandoning the first-descent portion of our trip, we stash our raft and all our river gear under a house-sized boulder. It's probably there to this day. We later regret leaving our life jackets.


94-A #15

14 71a 1994 Gil Troy Above River Hike OutThough the hiking is difficult in river sandals, we never regret being off the river.


94-A #16

15 5b 1994 Swimming River Hike OutMany times we have to swim around riverbank obstacles.


94-A #17

16 159b 1994 Gil Skull 2A not-so-subtle lesson in impermanence.


94-A #18

17 144a 1994 Rick over TsangPo on Hike OutRick takes a break. Altitude sickness and lack of food are depleting all his energy.


94-A #19

18 101a 1994 Troy River View Hiking OutTroy Gillenwater (on left in the shadow) scouts our next climb. Where is the hamlet Eric promised is just ahead? Where is Eric? Our energy is waning and our packs feel heavier.


94-A #20

19 155a 1994 Troy Rick Hike Out
Multi-colored Buddhist prayer flags guide us to civilization. Standing on the roof, Troy and Rick peer into the courtyard. There must be food!


94-A #21

20 110a 1994 Gil w Family Hike Out
Their minds - unadulterated by modernization and technology - welcome us as family.


94-A #22

21 109a 1994 Troy Rick in House Hike Out
Rick Fisher and Gil Gillenwater revel in outside human contact. Gil can feel his energy return as he chokes down the tsampa and gulps the high-fat yak butter tea.


94-A #23

22 161a 1994 Troy Accepting Tea River Family
Our host breaks out the homemade rice wine, poured from an old kerosene can, and the party begins. Though from opposite sides of the planet and cultural strangers, the human connection prevails.


94-A #24

23 159a 1994 Troy Giving Knife to River Family
After Gil Gillenwater gives his river knife to the father (who is ecstatic to receive it),Troy Gillenwater shows him how to remove it from the plastic scabbard. The boys look on in wonder.

94-A #25

24 172a 1994 Gil Troy in Village Hike Out
The stacked-stone homes in the enchanted hamlet of Dabucun remind us of those we’ve seen on the Hopi Mesas in Arizona.

94-A #26

25 22a 1994 Gil in Tevas Tibetan Village Hike Out
“There is a peace here I have never found before or since.” – Gil Gillenwater

94-A #27

26 23a 1994 Troy over TsangPo Hike Out
Troy Gillenwater says goodbye to the village of Dabucun as we hike an ancient cliffside pilgrimage trail.


94-A #28

94 A 28 20a 1994 Tibetan Villager Hike OutThe Tibetan people we pass on our hike out always seem to be smiling.



94-A #29

27 142a 1994 Gil on Hike Out
Hiking out of the Upper Granite Gorge of the Yarlung Tsangpo River following our aborted rafting attempt becomes significantly easier when we have an actual trail.

94-A #30

28 21a 1994 Gil Troy in Coracle on TsangPo Hike Out
Photograph by Rick Fisher. Here Troy and Gil Gillenwater cross Tibet’s Yarlung Tsangpo River in a traditional yak-skinned coracle. The RailRiders© outdoor clothing company included this photograph on the cover of its 1995 summer catalogue and ran an article on the Gillenwater's Tibet adventures.

94-B #1

29 33 1994 TG Truck Stuck in Mud On Drive In
The drive to Pelung is rife with obstacles. The days seem endless.

94-B #2

30 Roadside lunch house
The food at the roadside lunch houses are a challenge. Rick Fisher is still angry with Eric Manthey.



94-B #3

31 134a 1994 Tibet Atrocities Sign in Varanasi
The Chinese invasion took a tremendous toll on Tibet.



94-B #4

32 3 1994 Yaks Plowing Field
On our long drive we experience a traditional Tibet that is fast disappearing. Note: The Tibetans we encounter in rural areas are always smiling.

94-B #5

33 57 1994 TG Troy in Front of Yak Hair Herder Tent
Nomadic herders and their yak-hair tents.



94-B #6

34 14 1994 TG Troy Gil front of Monastery
Gil and Troy Gillenwater at their first monastery – the Buchusergila Khang Temple (Buchu Monastery).



94-B #7

35 39 1994 TG Troy on Mountain Pass Drive In
Troy Gillenwater stands atop the 15,300-foot Dakmo Serkyim La Pass surrounded by hundreds of prayer flags and Mani stones.



94-B #8

36 49 1995 TG Tumbatse copy
Tumbatse was the 1924 operating base for the British botanist explorers Francis Kingdon-Ward and Lord Cawdor.



94-B #9

37 59a 1994 Troy Playing Pool on Drive In
Troy deep in a game of Khampa Billiards.


94-B #10

38 103a 1995 Tibetan Mafia
“The Monpa Mafia”



94-B #11

39 118a 1994 Porter Who Stole Ricks Pack
Direct decedents of the warring Mishimi and Abor tribes, our local porters are an interesting lot. Their load carrying strength is matched only by their nefarious behavior.



94-B #12

40 127a 1994 Porter Close Up
We are continually amazed at the agility and durability of our porters. They are truly “people of the earth.”



94-B #13

41 8 1994 TG Gil Hiking to Pelung
Gil Gillenwater winds his way through a combination of thick, jungled vegetation and hulking, old-growth forest.



94-B #14

42 7 1994 TG Gil Bill Jerry Eric Chris
Left to right: Gil Gillenwater, Bill Bacon, Jerry Dixon, Eric Manthey, and Chris Grace take a much-needed break at the top of a small pass. Prayer flags denote the crest. For Gil, Troy Gillenwater, Jerry, and Chris, this is “buzzed hiking.” 

94-B #15

43 9 Bridge Crossing copy
A false step on the hanging bridge would deliver one to the raging maelstrom below.

94-B #16

44 65a 1994 Gil Cliff Hike PoTsangPo
Gil Gillenwater hikes the hand-gouged trail. Locals call these carved out sections the “Tiger’s Mouth.”

94-B #17

45 13 1994 TG Troy Jerry Dixon
Troy Gillenwater and Jerry Dixon take a break at a Mani stone shrine. Jerry’s turquoise shirt may have saved him wandering into Bhutan!

94-B #18

94 B 18 19a 1995 Gil Tough Guy Monpa KidsTibetan tough guys.



94-B #19

46 2 1994 TG Hiking into Zachu
Cresting the ridge, it is a short hike down to Mondrong.

94-B #20

47 47 1994 TG Gil Chris Bill Mr Low Cooking
Following the brutal hike from Mondrong, Mr. Luo cooks up soup on an open fire in a one-room log hut offered us by the village elder. Left to right: Gil Gillenwater, Jerry Dixon, Chris Grace, Mr. Luo, and Bill Bacon.

94-B #21

48 8 1995 TG 3 Singing Monpa Girls
Troy and Gil Gillenwater were serenaded by the sing-song harmony of these three Monpan nightingales.

94-B #22

49 75a 1994 Large Leech on Leg
A leech! These repulsive creatures torment us day and night.

94-B #23

50 117a 1994 Group Looking for Hidden Falls
Rick Fisher is obsessed with finding the fabled “Lost Falls of the Brahmaputra.” Left to right: Two porters, Rick Fisher, Eric Manthey, Troy Gillenwater, porter, and Jerry Dixon.

94-B #24

51 5 1997 TG Sengchen Village copy
The village of Sengchen. The term “village” is misleading. Two or more houses constitute a village. These are hamlets - small collections of log houses.

94-B #25

52 53 1994 TG Gil Jerry Dixon in Jungle
Gil Gillenwater and Jerry Dixon lead the group down the ridgeline in hopes of fulfilling Rick Fisher’s dream – a glimpse of the “Lost Falls of the Brahmaputra.”

94-B #26

53 15 1994 TG Gil Troy Jerry
Left to right: Gil Gillenwater, Troy Gillenwater, and Jerry Dixon in Sengchen.

94-B #27

54 16 1994 TG Gil near Zachu
Gil Gillenwater and the others hike the same Mondrong-to-Sengchen trail that Captain Francis Kingdon-Ward and Lord Cawdor first explored 70 years earlier in 1924.

94-B #28

55 34 1994 TG Cable Crossing Po Tsangpo
A porter sets the line for our river cable crossing.

94-B #29

56 5 1994 TG Troy Praying before Cable Crossing
Troy Gillenwater offers a last-minute prayer before placing his life in the hands of our porters.

94-B #30

57 51 1994 TG Troy Strapping in for Cable Crossing Po Tsangpo
Troy grins as he’s lashed to the pulley.

94-B #31

58 41 1994 TG Cable Crossing Po Tsangpo
Troy midway over the Po Tsangpo River. He must now pull himself up to our group waiting on the other side.

94-B #32

59 67a 1994 Gil Cable Crossing PoTsangPo
Gil readies for his cable crossing.

94-B #33

60 14a 1995 Snake Viper on Fern
Tibetan bamboo pit viper coiled and camouflaged on a broad leaf. The porters call them “Nagas.”

94-B #34

61 72a 1994 gil w Huge Leech
A tiger leech full of Gil Gillenwater’s blood.

94-B #35

62 30 1994 TG View from Zachu
The hamlet of Zachu has the cat-bird seat at the apex of the Great Bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo River. Here the Himalayan views are endless.


94-B #36

63 26 1994 TG Zachu Boy w Dalai Lama Necklace
A Monpa boy from Zachu. In addition to their ubiquitous daggers, note the Dalai Lama portrait on a string around his neck. Even in the Hidden Lands they love their God King.


94-B #37

64 55 1994 TG Gil w Monpa Family in Zachu
Our hosts in Zachu – a young Monpa family.


94-B #38

65 66a 1994 Troy Kid Zachu
Troy showing his camera and zoom lens to a young Monpa boy above the village of Zachu. Introducing outside technology is tricky business.

94-B #39

66 29 1994 TG Gil in Monpa House
A typical Monpan kitchen. That night we slept in the smoky attic above.

94-B #40

67 48 1994 TG Gil Jerry on Side of Stream
Gil Gillenwater and Jerry Dixon above the stream where Jerry had a leech attach to his eye.

94-B #41

68 132 1994 Troy Monpas
Troy Gillenwater mingling with the locals on our hike back to Pelung (Leaping Rat Lodge). We are as curious to them as they are to us.

94-B #42

69 27 1994 TG Gil Bill Bacon w Monpa Porters
Gil Gillenwater and Bill Bacon give the porters a break on the hike back to Pelung (Leaping Rat Lodge).

94-B #43

70 64a 1994 Troy Jerry PoTsangPo Bridge
Jerry Dixon and Troy Gillenwater take a rest on one of the swinging bridges over the Po Tsangpo River.

94-B #44

71 3 1994 TG Troy Jerry Gil Leaping Rat
Left to right: Troy Gillenwater, Jerry Dixon, and Gil Gillenwater, happy to be safely back at the infamous Leaping Rat Lodge.

94-B #45

72 161b 1994 Island Monestary
Tashi Island and its Tsozong Gongba Monastery appear to float as the crown jewel on the emerald Basong Tso Lake. Built in A.D. 1400, Tsozong means “Castle in the Lake.”

94-B #46

73 19 1994 TG Wooden Raft to Magic Island
Riding a hand-pulled log ferry for the short crossing to Tashi Island. There, Troy Gilenwater, Gil Gillenwater, and Chris Grace each receive a special blessing from the head lama in the monastery’s inner sanctum.

94-B #47

74 84a 1994 Tibetan Ceremony Tent
A Buddhist ceremonial tent erected next to the lake.

94-B #48

75 29a 1994 Blessing Ceremony in Tent
Horns being blown and blessings bestowed at the Tsozong Gongpa Monastery. (Troy Gillenwater, Gil Gillenwater, and Chris Grace jump in line for a second set of blessings.)

94-B #49

76 60a 1994 Troy Chris Drinking Chang
Not to be rude, Troy Gillenwater, Chris Grace, and Gil Gillenwater get just as drunk on chang as the locals.

94-B #50

77 61a 1994 Monestary Island Group Photo
Ferrying back to the mainland from Tashi Island, we are immediately surrounded by a throng of Tibetans in traditional dress. Before we leave, we gather a brightly clad group of locals on the ferry landing for a parting photograph. Truly a day to remember.


94-B #51

78 132a 1994 Potala
The Potala (the Dalai Lama’s palace) is a 13-storied building containing over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines, and 200,000 statues. Situated on top of Marpo Ri, the "Red Hill," at 384 feet in height, it has a commanding view over the Lhasa Valley. The year we are there – 1994 – it is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

94-B #52 & 94-B #53

79 125a 1994 Yak Butter Lamps in Jokhang

80 124a 1994 Prayer Wheels in Jokhang
Built in AD 652, the Jokhang Temple is Tibet’s most revered sanctuary and the "spiritual heart” of Lhasa. In 2000, the Jokhang became a UNESCO World Heritage Site as an extension of the Potala Palace.

94-B #54

81 126a 1994 Barkhor w Potala in Back
The Barkhor’s public square with the Potala Palace hovering on the top right. The two large incense burners (sangkangs) are fed juniper boughs constantly to please the gods protecting the Jokhang.


94-B #55

82 87a 1994 Sara Monestary w Young Monks
Gil and young “Monks in Training” at the Sara Monastery.

94-B #56

83 130a 1994 Everest from Drive
It’s a long, dusty 600-mile drive from Lhasa, Tibet, to Kathmandu, Nepal. But the view of Mt. Everest from the north makes it all worthwhile.

94-B #57

84 33a 1994 New Tengri
The ruins of the ancient Shelkar Dorje dzong (fort) snake up the mountain above New Tingri. This fortress was constructed in 1266 to protect the Kagyu Monastery.

94-B #58

94 B 57 24 1994 TG Gil on New Tengri FortressThe climb up to the Shelkar Dorje dzong affords spectacular views.


94-B #59

85 21 1994 TG Troy w New Tengri in Background
Skulking through town to avoid detection, we follow a centuries-worn pilgrimage path up to a saddle. Troy Gillenwater stands amongst 800 years of devotional Mani stones and prayer flags crowding the pass. Now the real climbing is about to begin.

94-B #60

94 B 59 20 1994 TG Troy Above Valley New Tengri
Soon the climbing becomes very steep.



94-B #61

86 4 1994 TG Troy Gil top of New Tengri
A night Gil and Troy Gillenwater shall never forget atop the Shelkar Dorje dzong.



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