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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.

Chapters Links 

1 - 10


11 - 16


17 - 20


21 - 25


26 - 32


33 - 40


41 - 46


47 - 52


53 - Ep






94 #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 #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 #3

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


94 #4

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


94 #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 #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 #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 #8

7 57a 1994 Bacon Filming Put InDocumentary film producer Bill Bacon records the departure on our un-permitted 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 #9

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


94 #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 #11

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


94 #12

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


94 #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 #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 #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 #16

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


94 #17

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


94 #18

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


94 #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 #20

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


94 #21

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


94 #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 #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 #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 #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 #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 #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 #28
27 142a 1994 Gil on Hike OutHiking 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 #29

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

94 #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 Gillenwaters' Tibet adventures.

94 #31

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

94 #32

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


94 #33

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


94 #34

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 #35

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


94 #36

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


94 #37

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 #38

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


94 #39

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


94 #40

38 103a 1995 Tibetan Mafia
“The Monpa Mafia”


94 #41

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 #42

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 #43

42 7 1994 TG Gil Bill Jerry Eric ChrisLeft 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 #44

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



94 #45

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

94 #46

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 #47

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 from wandering into Bhutan!

94 #48

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


94 #49

47 47 1994 TG Gil Chris Bill Mr Low Cooking
Following the brutal hike to 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 #50

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 #51

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

94 #52

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 #53

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 #54

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 #55

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 #56

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


94 #57

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

94 #58

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 #59

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

94 #60

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

94 #61

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

94 #62

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

94 #63

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

94 #64

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 #65

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 #66

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


94 #67

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

94 #68

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

94 #69

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


94 #70

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 #71

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 #72

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 #73

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 #74

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 #75

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 #76

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

94 #77

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 #78

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 #79

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 #80 & #81

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 #82

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 #83

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

94 #84

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 #85

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 #86

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


94 #87

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


94 #88

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 #89

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




95 #1

95 A 1 42 1995 TG Todd Gil Christiaan in Hong Kong 2
Todd and Gil Gillenwater on the streets of Kowloon, Hong Kong with their new friend and fellow expedition member - Christiaan Kuypers.


95 #2

95 A 2 40 1995 TG Gil Todd Troy Christiaan Smoking in Top Gun Bar HK
Left to right: Gil, Todd, Troy Gillenwater with fellow expedition member Christiaan Kuypers - having a gay old time in the, “Top Gun” bar. This did wonders for our jet-lag.


95 #3

95 A 3 88b 1995 Buddha Eyes
Buddha eyes on the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu.


95 #4

95 A 4 02b 1994 Buring Body w Feet KathmanduBodies burning at the Pashupatinath Temple funeral pyres in Kathmandu on the edge of the Bagmati River.


95 #5

95 A 5 54b 1995 GTT Chistiaan Oy in Kathmandu Before
Left to right: Oy Kanjanavanit, Christiaan Kuypers, Troy Gillenwater, Todd Gillenwater, Gil Gillenwater


95 #6

95 A 6 10 1995 TG Bhakha Tulku Puja Ceremony in Kathmandu 1
Bhakha Tulku appeases the Himalayan mountain gods with a two-hour Puja Ceremony.


95 #7

95 A 7 Dalai Lama 2
Photo taken in Tucson, Arizona, of the Dalai Lama in front of a saguaro cactus. I had 100 copies laminated and smuggled them into Tibet.


95 #8

95 A 8 4b 1995 Todd Chritissn Oy
Left to right: Todd Gillenwater, Christiaan Kuypers & Oy Kanjanavanit. On our way to Lhasa, Tibet. Little did we know what lay in store.


95 #9

95 A 9 9 1995 TG Ian w Hamid Eating Chicken Foot in Pome
Hamid Sardar pretending to eat a chicken foot while Ian Baker searches for the elusive chicken breast.


95 #10

95 A 10 104a 1995 Muddy Truck Ride
Following a military convoy in the rain, the muddy road leads us deeper and deeper into the land of Vajrayogini.


95 #11

95 A 11 45 1994 TG Lumber Town TumbatseSlogging through the logging town of Tumbatse. Not much has changed in 13 months.


95 #12

95 A 12 139b 1995 Stuck in Stream Drive In
Passing Pelung (Leaping Rat Lodge), the road conditions are deteriorated.


95 #13, 14, 15

95 A 15 72 1995 TG Truck on Landslide Road on Way In

95 A 13 5 1995 Truck in Landslide 2

95 A 14 6 1995 Truck in Landslide 3
“Landslide Alley” - a lottery of luck. Some made it. Some didn’t.


95 #16

95 A 16 78a 1995 Bhaka Monestary
Through cloud tangled skies waterfalls appeared as wedding veils, serenading the valley with pouring grace.


95 #17

95 A 17 164a 1995 Ian Mr Gunn Monk Porters
At the Bhakha Monastery, Ian Baker and our Chinese travel liaison - Geng Quanru - (AKA Mr. Gunn) negotiate with the monks and local Monpa tribal people to serve as porters on our pilgrimage. A few females are a must to balance the male energy.


95 #18

95 A 18 80a 1995 Basket Making BhakaAt the Bhakha Monastery, the local Monpa tribal people weave their own backpacks.


95 #19

95 A 19 76a 1995 Tea Bhaka w Group At the Bhakha Monastery. Left to right: Todd Gillenwater, Christiaan Kuypers, Mr. Zang (seated in army camouflage), Mr. Gunn, Troy Gillenwater and Oy Kanjanavanit. Note: nobody is swallowing the rancid Yak butter tea.


95 #20

95 A 20 42b 1995 Todd Troy Eating Chinese FoodTodd and Troy Gillenwater eating a lukewarm dinner at the “Carnage Cafe”. When we got back to our dumpy room Troy asked Todd, “Did that dinner taste a little weird to you?”


95 #21

95 A 21 71 1995 TG Roller Rink in Pome“Surreal” is the only way to describe a roller skating rink in the squalid frontier town of Pome.



95 #22

95 A 22 24 1995 TG Ian Counting Money when Monk Porters ArrestedThe Communist Chinese forbade the Bhakha Buddhist monks to travel with us. Ian Baker counts the group’s cash. Certainly a bribe will change their minds.


95 #23

95 A 23 35a 1995 Prasena Takshim Monastery BomiThe head Lama of the Taksham Monastery bears a remarkable resemblance to Yoda.


95 #24

95 A 24 gillenwater v5 051At the Taksham Monastery (the, “Tiger Skin Monastery”) we find a most unusual mural depicting five tigers devouring a corpse.


95 #25

95 A 25 88a 1995 Old Tibetan woman w Prayer Wheel
An elderly Ani (Nun) looks on in knowing devotion as Buddhist monks conduct a divination ceremony known as a "prasena" to manifested a rainbow to guide us to our trailhead.


95 #26

95 A 26 Rainbow
The Rainbow of “Divine Guidance.”


95 #27

95 A 27 163b 1995 Communist Chinese Sign
Driving out of Pome, we passed this sign claiming the Communist Chinese as the protectors of the Himalayas.


95 #28

95 A 28 113b 1995 Valley Beginning of Hike
The Himalayan scenery from our first camp is other-worldly.


95 #29

95 A 29 48 1995 TG Jolly Lama w Attendants
Seemingly out of nowhere a Lama - Kaba Tulku (pronounced Kawa) - and his small entourage arrive. What a gift!


95 #30

95 A 30 75 1995 TG Troy Kaba Tulku Jolly Lama RinchenpungThe enigmatic Kaba Tulku (the “Cloud Lama” ) with his tell-tale red hat. This represents his adherence to the Nyingma or “Old School” sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The ethereal Lama was to become an integral part of our pilgrimage and the mystery of our journey.


95 #31

95 A 31 39a 1995 Huge Glacier on DashingLa Pass Hike
We are surrounded by massive Himalayan glaciers.


95 #32

95 A 32 2b 1995 Start Big Porter w Big LoadDouble loads equal double pay. Here our “Gentle Giant” carries over 120 pounds.


95 #33

95 A 33 48b 1995 Tiny Porters Hiking to DashingLaFinally we are hiking! Our group moves as a multi-legged centipede wending its way along and across the glacial spillway.


95 #34

95 A 34 12b 1995 Gil Hiking to DashingLaSoon the climbing begins. At first I feel bad – me carrying 25 pounds and the porters carrying from 60 pounds to double that. I soon get over it. That is what they are trained and paid to do.


95 #35

95 A 35 117b 1995 G T T Trail up DashingLa
It is a dream come true. Hiking the Himalayan “Hidden Lands” with the two people I can count on the most – my brothers Troy (left) and Todd Gillenwater (right).


95 #36

95 A 36 143b 1995 Camp before DashingLa
Camping at the base of the Dashing La Pass. At an elevation of 12,850 feet, we have half a mile of vertical climbing to reach the pass. Then we will descend into the depths of Pemako’s “Hidden Lands”.


95 #37

95 A 37 14 1995 TG Gil Looking Back Down Dashing Valley
Following a dip in the glacial stream, Gil Gillenwater and his “Buddha Eyes” survey the Dashing Valley.



95 #38

95 B 1 42a 1995 Jolly Lama w Bear
Finding a dead bear incurs no negative karma. Our food shortage is solved. We will eat like Kings! Kaba Tulku guides the bear’s soul to a better rebirth.


95 #39

95 B 2 155b 1995 Porters Skinning Bear
Gutting the bear in search of the prized gallbladder. Soon we will have meat aplenty.


95 #40

95 B 3 131b 1995 Porters Cooking Bear Meat
Roasting the meat takes all night. We have over 200 pounds of bear steaks.


95 #41

95 B 4 118b 1995 Butchering Bear 2
The butchering and tribal incantations go on for hours. The Guardian Spirits are pleased. They’ve given us this gift. The porters chanted their gratefulness.


95 #42

95 B 5 61 1995 TG Butchering BearThe porters play with the bear’s head throughout the night hoping to embody its spirit. They keep the head for several days.


95 #43

95 B 6 39 1995 TG Hiking up Dashing Valley
At 14,000 feet in elevation, climbing up and out of the Dashing Valley is a formidable task.


95 #44 & #45

95 B 7 66b 1995 Porters Going Up DashingLa

95 B 8 26b 1995 Porters Climbing DashingLa Pass
The Sherpas and porters are super-human.


95 #46 & #47

95 B 9 107 1995 Gil on DashingLa

95 B 10 123b 1995 Troy Looking Glacier on DashingLa
Stopping to soak in the scenery. At times it is overwhelming.


95 #48

95 B 11 40a 1995 Porter on DashingLa Pass Hike
Hiking the ice fields is treacherous. Especially with a 100 pound load.


95 #49

95 B 12 121b 1995 Glacier on DashingLa Hike
One final look back into the Dashing Valley.


95 #50

95 B 13 25b 1995 Todd Atop DashingLa Pass
Todd reaches the Dashing La Pass.


95 #51

95 B 14 18 1995 TG Troy Porter on Dashing La Pass
Troy and Pasang Sherpa reach the Dashing La Pass.


95 #52

95 B 15 8a 1995 Pony Group Dropping into Pemako
A pony caravan emerges from the roiling Pemako abyss.


95 #53

95 B 16 38a 1995 Gil Dalai Lama Photo DashingLa Pass
With Mr. Zang well ahead I offer Dalai Lama photographs.


95 #54

95 B 17 1 1995 TG Gil Hiking Down of Dashing La
Dropping off the Dashing La Pass and negotiating the ice fields at the head of the Chimdro Valley.


95 #55

95 B 18 10a 1995 Pemako Chimdro Vajrayogini Waterfall
Hundres of waterfalls cascade into the Chimdro Valley. Waterfalls have special significance in Pemako.


95 #56

95 B 19 24b 1995 Dropping into Chimdro Valley
The throat of the Chimdro Valley.


95 #57

95 B 21 62 1995 TG Gil after Dashing La Pass
This cabin has wall to wall porters chomping on putrefied bear meat.


95 #58

95 B 24 12 1995 TG Sick Camp near Taken
The ground is so saturated with water our tent feels like a waterbed.


95 #59

95 B 25 41 1995 TG Gil w Leech on Stomach
Our dropping elevation takes us deep into leech country.


95 #60

95 B 20 71b 1995 Todd Tiny Porters Descending DashingLa
A steep descent off Dashiing La Pass and into Chimdro Valley.


95 #61

95 B 23 23b 1995 Todd Crossing Cantilevered Bridge
Pemako weather vacillates from pounding rain to scorching sun several times a day. Here Todd Gillenwater crosses a cantilevered bridge.


95 #62

95 B 22 60b 1995 Gil Looking Down Chimdro
Pemako is a fairyland.


95 #63

95 B 27 63 1995 TG Crazy Nun
The Crazy Nun.


95 #64

95 B 28 49a 1995 Crazy Nun w Dalai Lama Photo
Here the Crazy Nun is proving to us she is not a poison witch. Poison witches in Pemako have tattooed tongues. Therefore, local etiquette requires the sticking out of tongues for all female introductions.


95 #65

95 B 29 32a 1995 Gil Hiking Between Opposing Rivers
Two different rivers - 30 feet apart - flowing in opposite directions?


95 #66

95 B 30 73 1995 TG Troy w Leech on Butt
Troy Gillenwater wins the “worst place to find a leech” contest.


95 #67

95 B 31 68 1995 TG Troy Drinking w Leech on ArmLeech bites becomes common occurrences.


95 #68

95 B 35 67 1995 TG Gil in Chimdro Bamboo Tiger Jungle
The tunneled bamboo thickets are very disorienting. Knowing of the area’s large tiger population doesn't help.


95 #69

95 B 34 146b 1995 Troy on Bamboo Trail
Troy Gillenwater and porters hope they’re on the right trail.


95 #70 & #71

95 B 32 36 1995 TG Gil in Chimdro Tiger Jungle

95 B 33 134b 1995 Troy Todd Ian in Rhododendron Forest
The hot and tangled Rhododendron forests becomes oppressive. 


95 #72

95 B 39 28a 1995 Deformed Kids Looking in Tent Chimdro
The local children would stare at us for hours. Inbreeding has taken a toll in these isolated villages.


95 #73

95 B 36 27a 1995 Gil Porter w Leech Eye Dalai Lama Photo
With Mr. Zang in Ghutan trying to secure our permits, I have free license to hand out Dalai Lama photographs in the village of Samdrup. This man lost the sight in his left eye due to a leech bite.


95 #74 & #75

95 B 37 20b 1995 Porter w Dalai Lama Photo2

95 B 38 145b 1995 Portes Tent door w Dalai Lama
The tribal people’s love for the Dalai Lama knows no bounds.


95 #76

95 B 26 30a 1995 Jolly Lama Chinese Policeman Mr. Zang
I love this photo. Here our Lama rests in meditative peace. Next to him, exhausted, is our Communist Chinese military escort – Mr. Zang. Mr. Zang is conflicted. He can't square the spiritual magic of Pemako, he witnesses through the Lama, with his atheistic Communist beliefs.


95 #77 & #78

95 B 40 46 1995 TG Porter Cable Crossing Chimdro

95 B 41 120b 1995 Porter Cable Crossing Chimdro
Porters setting the lines for our cable crossing over the tumultuous Chimdro Chu River.


95 #79

95 B 42 19b 1995 Porters Cable Crossing Chimdro
The odds of surviving a plunge into the river are not good.


95 #80

95 B 49 25a 1995 Gil Cable Crossing Chimdro River
Gil pulls himself across.


95 #81, #82, #83

95 B 43 110b 1995 Todd Clipping into Chimdro Cable Crossing

95 B 44 4 1995 TG Cable Crossing Chimdro River

95 B 45 124b 1995 Todd Sleeping before Chimdro Cable Crossing
Todd Gillenwater makes it safely across and promptly takes a nap. Next to the river is the only place we can escape the relentless heat.


95 #84 & #85

95 B 46 26a 1995 Ian Cable Crossing Chimdro

95 B 47 56b 1995 Ian Cable Crossing Chimdro
Ian Baker makes it across the raging river.


95 #86

95 B 48 57 1995 TG Hamid Chimdro River Crossing
Hamid Sardar gets tied in.


95 #87

95 B 50 59b 1995 Porters Leaving Chimdro
Once across the river, the trail to the PungPung La Pass is almost non-existent.


95 #88

95 B 51 150b 1995 Troy Porters Climbing to PunPungLa
Our trail steepened as we leave the bamboo and rhododendron thickets on our wet climb up to the 15,150 foot high PungPung La Pass.



95 #89

95 B 53 65 1995 TG Gil Landslide Towards PungPung La Pass
We began to lose our light as the group gets separated. The higher we go the more landslides we encountered. The earth is alive.


95 #90

95 B 54 5 1995 TG Bivoak Leech Camp
Finally daylight! Troy Gillenwater stands next to the makeshift camp. Todd Gillenwater, Gil Gillenwater, Troy Gillenwater, Christiaan Kuypers, Oy Kanjanavanit, & Hamid Sardar spend the longest, wettest, most leech infested night of their lives under this crude shelter.


95 #91

95 B 55 10b 1995 Bivoac Camp
Pemba Sherpa can start a fire in an aquarium. These guys are the ultimate outdoorsmen. Left to right - Pemba Sherpa (far left), Oy Kanjanavanit, Troy Gillenwater, Hamid Sardar, Christiaan Kuypers.


95 #92

95 B 56 74b 1995 Todd Log Crossing Raging River
One misstep on the slippery log and it is “game over”.


95 #93

95 B 57 96a 1995 Married Porters w Beefsteak Mushroom
Lobsong and his wife find dinner. Suspicious not to look at the camera, Lobsong carries his “Gau” with him at all times. (A Gau is a portable Buddhist shrine worn as a protection amulet).


95 #94

95 B 58 28b 1995 Chombi Cooking Mushrooms
Pemba Sherpa (far right) sliced the mushroom into the pot. Chombi Sherpa (far left) checks on its progress.


95 #95

95 B 52 69 1995 TG Oy Gil Chistiaan Todd on Hike up PungPung La Pass
Taking a break on the trail. “Is this our trail?”, we wonder as it disappears into the clouds above. Nobody knows for sure.


95 #96

95 B 59 77 1995 TG Gil Looking other Side of PungPungLa
This is Beyul Pemako, “Hidden Land of the Blossoming Lotus”.


95 #97

95 B 60 90a 1995 Troy Todd Porter PungPungLa
Todd Gillenwater (left) and Troy Gillenwater (right) pose with our senior porter – Puntsok (middle). We have another 1,000 feet to climb to gain the PungPung La pass. Punstok’s eyes avoid the camera.


95 #98

95 B 61 74 1995 TG Todd on Ridge w Porters above in Mist
Dropping off the PungPung La pass. Todd Gillenwater is not looking real thrilled about continuing the steep, wet descent ahead. Through the mists on the far ridgeline, porters can be seen beginning their descent.


95 #99

95 B 62 52 1995 TG Troy Todd w 3 Porters Big Packs
Troy and Todd Gillenwater resting with three of our porters. It is an uncharacteristically clear day for Pemako.


95 #100

95 B 63 126b 1995 Big Porter Carries Big Load
Carrying two loads, our “Gentle Giant” porter is enjoying the drier weather and firmer trails.


95 #101

95 B 64 29 1995 TG Todd Crossing Mossy Log
Todd Gillenwater negotiates a moss covered log.


95 #102

95 B 65 31a 1995 Jolly Lama Crossing Logs
The “Jolly Lama” is imperturbable.


95 #103

95 B 66 11 1995 TG Young Married Monpa Porters
The young, married porter couple examines bear tracks on the banks of the animal spirit lake.


95 #104

95 B 67 16 1995 TG Kaba Tulku Meditating by Lake
Our “Jolly Lama” often sits by himself in deep thought. This Vajrayogini pilgrimage in the “Year of the Pig” is his life-long dream come true.


95 #105

95 B 68 128b 1995 Todd Waterfall on Lake
Todd Gillenwater admires one of the many waterfalls cascading into the sacred lake.


95 #106

95 B 69 95a 1995 Bridge on Sacred Waters
Little could we have known the dangers that lay in wait in this idyllic spot.


95 #107

95 B 70 54 1995 TG Gil Todd Troy before Waters
Gil, Troy and Todd Gillenwater marvel over the paradisiacal landscape. Who made this place?


95 #108

95 B 71 13b 1995 Gil on Bridge over Sacred Waters
Gil Gillenwater walks through a scene from Hobbit Land.


95 #109

95 B 72 14b 1995 Todd on Bridge over Sacred Waters
Clouds begin to gather in Paradise.


95 #110

95 B 73 94a 1995 Cantileverd Bridge Sacred Waters
The cantilevered bridges are primitive engineering masterpieces.


95 #111

95 B 74 30 1995 TG Cantilevered Bridge over Sacred River
A sure-footed porter crosses the cantilevered bridge.


95 #112

95 B 75 16b 1995 Gil on Bridge over Sacred Waters
The skies become foreboding as Gil Gillenwater says good bye to Paradise.


95 #113

95 B 76 27b 1995 Troy Hiking Wet Forest
The forest is cold and wet as we slog into a ferocious storm.


95 #114

95 B 77 136b 1995 Todd Sick in Tent
Todd Gillenwater deathly ill in the middle. Malevolent water spirits or food poisoning? At his point Todd doesn't care. He just wants to die. It is an excruciatingly long night.


95 #115

95 B 78 98a 1995 Todd Sick in Adrothang Swamp
Ghastly ill, Todd Gillenwater somehow manages the 1,100 foot, rain drenched climb to the dreaded Adrothang swamp.

95 #116

95 B 79 97a 1995 Adrothang Swamp
In a super-human effort Todd Gillenwater continues to move forward. But in his sickened condition we fall farther and farther behind.


95 #117

95 B 80 77b 1995 Gil Going into Adrathang
As brothers we fell horrible for Todd Gillenwater but there is little we can do but try and encourage him onward. Waiting for him is difficult in the glacial cold and rain. We become chilled to the bone and can feel the insidious onset of hypothermia tighten its lethal grip.


95 #118

95 C 4 79 1995 TG Dropping into Lost Sick Night
Looking off the lip of Adrothang into the swirling abyss.


95 #119

95 C 6 45 1995 TG Gil Sick Todd near Kundu
Todd Gillenwater (left) starts feeling a little better. Gil Gillenwater (right) doesn't.


95 #120

95 C 7 62b 1995 Troy Todd Sick on Trail
Todd Gillenwater waits patiently as Troy Gillenwater continues to vomit. The high elevation exacerbates the symptoms of our illness.


95 #121

95 C 5 99b 1995 Chimed Gompo Pack
This photograph is taken at lower elevation of Chimed Gompo, the "Deathless Lord.” We are convinced he saved our lives.


95 #122

95 C 8 69b 1995 Hiking Ridgeline
The climbing continues. Far above timerline, we knew the SangMen La Pass (14,200 feet) has to be close.


95 #123

95 C 9 7a 1995 Troy Todd Chimed Gompa Kundu
Chimed Gompo is carrying two of our packs at once. Our destination, Kundu Dorsempotrang Mountain, the “All Gathering Home of the Vajrasattva Mind”, (Vajrayogini’s heart chakra) reigns prominently on the distant horizon. We have a long way to go.



95 #124

95 C 11 80b 1995 Dawa chimed Gompa Back to Help
Chombi Sherpa sends two Sherpas back to us with hot water and noodles. Now we have three Sherpas to carry our packs and help us down to the day’s camp on the banks of another glacial lake.


95 #125

95 C 12 93a 1995 Tiny Porters Arrive Kundu Lha Tsho Lake
Dropping off of the SangMen La Pass, we can see part of our group approaching the glacial lake.


95 #126

95 C 13 130b 1995 Tiny Porters Gil Lake
As the others surge on, Gil Gillenwater looks for camp near the lake. “What is the hurry?” the Gillenwaters wondered.



95 #127

95 C 14 6a 1995 Tiny Porters on Ridgeline
Close examination shows our vanguard porters, like ants, on the ridgeline in the middle left of the photograph. The ice capped peak on the right is the 25,531 foot Namcha Barwa.


95 #128

95 C 10 197 1995 Kundu
Kundu Dorsempotrang Mountain is easily recognizable by the anvil shaped stone on its summit.


95 #129

95 C 15 132b 1995 tiny Porters TT Hiking
Steep climbs up and steep climbs down. This is hiking in the Himalayas.


95 #130

95 C 16 27 1995 TG Oy Looking Plant
With her keen interest in botany, Oy Kanjanavanit is forever examining trailside plants. We feel that she, Christiaan Kuypers, Chombi & Chimed Gompo are the only expedition members who have our well-being at heart. It is becoming increasingly obvious that Ian Baker and Hamid Sardar have a different agenda they aren't sharing - the one that doesn't include us.


95 #131

95 C 17 9a 1995 Guru Shugstrethang Lake
Guru Shugstrethang Lake - an extremely revered pilgrimage site.


95 #132

95 C 18 20 1995 TG Guru Shugstrethang Lake Porters Circumnambulation
To the porters, theirs is a living landscape.


95 #133

95 C 20 38b 1995 Tiny Porters Leaving Kundu
The climb up to our Kundu Dorsempotrang base camp is severe. Here our lagging group inches its way up to the holy mountain.


95 #134

95 C 21 9b 1995 Lake on Kundu by Kuypers
Kundu Lhatso Lake, “The All Gathering Soul Lake". Photo by: Christiaan Kuypers


95 #135

95 C 23 37b 1995 BW Lake on Kundu by Christiaan
The porters stare at the cliff face in veneration. Photo by: Christiaan Kuypers


95 #136

95 C 24 152 1995 Jolly Lama on KunduThe Jolly Lama and his young attendant join Scarface at a holy boulder. Photo by: Christiaan Kuypers 


95 #137

95 C 22 109b 1995 Lake on Kundu chritiaan
Vajrayogini’s essence manifests as sacred lakes dotting the landscape. Photo by: Christiaan Kuypers


95 #138

95 D 1 168a 1995 Tiny Porters leaving Kundu
Kundu Dorsempotrang offers us one final view as the porters labor below.


95 #139

95 D 2 21 1995 TG Gil Older Porter
Ongel, the old Sherpa with his cheap rubber boots, is a stabilizing influence and a wonderful companion.


95 #140

95 D 3 44 1995 TG Matuk Son Friend w Dalai Lama on ZigChen La Pass
Matuk (far right) and his companions are stunned at the manifestation of the, “deities from the sky”.


95 #141

95 D 4 36b 1995 Troy Near Rinchenpung
The Gillenwater brothers can’t shake their dogged illness as evidenced in Troy Gillenwater’s expression.


95 #142

95 D 5 39b 1995 Ian Crossing Stream on Log copyWe finally find a fallen log where we can inch our way across the rushing waters. 


95 #143

95 D 5 61b 1995 Leech on Leg
Back in leech country.


95 #144

95 D 6 169a 1995 Rinchenpung
The Rinchenpung Monastery translates to "Mound of Jewels”. It is a welcome sight.


95 #145

95 D 8 50a 1995 Handless Abott w TroyTroy Gillenwater shares photos from home with an older lama. His left hand and all his fingers have been severed by Mao's "Red Guard".


95 #146

95 D 9 84b 1995 Gil w Padmasambhava Rinchenpung 2Rang Rig Gyapo the "King of Self-Awareness,” is a rare wrathful emanation of Padmasambhava.


95 #147

95 D 10 140a 1995 Wrathful Padmasambhava HeadA Garuda, representing the consciously awakened mind, hovers above the "King of Self-Awareness.”


95 #148

95 D 11 58a 1995 BonPo Masks RinchenpungThe Old School of Tibetan Buddhism ingeniously incorporates many animistic traditions of the indigenous Bön religion seamlessly into its theology.


95 #149

95 D 12 7 1995 TG Gil Porters w Dalai Lama RinchenpungWith our military escort - Mr. Zang - gone we can freely hand out our coveted Dalai Lama photographs. Here Gil Gillenwater hands several out to the porters.


95 #150

95 D 13 47a 1995 Porters w Dalai Lama Photo RinchenpungThe love and reverence they have for “His Holiness” is difficult to describe.


95 #151

95 D 14 51 1995 TG Troy w 2 Porters Dalai Lama RinchenpungOur distribution of the Dalai Lama photos gains us great status at Rinchenpung. They truly are “spiritual currency” in this remote frontier - forgotten by time.


95 #152

95 D 15 129b 1995 Troy Giving Football to Boy Rinchenpung
As Todd Gillenwater looks on, Troy Gillenwater presents our foam football to the caretaker’s sons.


95 #153

95 D 16 107b 1995 Dalai Lama Monpa Family
The caretaker family at the Rinchenpung Monestary. Note: The brothers' foam football and ball point pen.


95 #154

95 D 7 170a 1995 Rinchenpung
The Rinchenpung Monastery. Vajrayogini’s naval chakra is arguably Pemako’s most revered pilgrimage site. Meditation in this power spot generates compounding benefits. 


95 #155

95 D 17 108b 1995 Leech on Gils Foot
By this time, the leeches don't seem to bother us that much. We've learned that in Pemako it is just a way of life.


95 #156

95 D 18 18b 1995 Gil Jolly Lama Rinchenpung
It is difficult for us to say goodbye to Kaba Tulku – our “Jolly Lama”. He is such a presence and living example of clear thought. It’s doubtful we could have ever located the magic mountain - Kundu Dorsempotrang - without his knowledge and intuition.


95 #157

95 D 19 46b 1995 Gil in Monpa Home
Visiting with the local villagers as we are leaving the Rinchenpung Monestary was fun. Their homes are perpetually filled with smoke.


95 #158

95 D 20 74a 1995 Monpa Lady Child
Trading beads are a big part of the villagers’ lives.


95 #159

95 D 21 73b 1995 Gil Hiking up Forest Trail
The day’s hike to Medog begins with an unexpected 600 foot climb.


95 #160

95 D 22 40b 1995 Todd Hiking Down to Medog
It is a hot and muggy 4,000 foot descent into the military outpost of Medog.


95 #161

95 D 23 66 1995 TG Leech on Gils Arm
At these lower elevations leeches are everywhere.


95 #162

95 D 24 13 1995 TG Gil Beers in Medog
Medog. What a disappointment.


95 #163

95 D 25 33b 1995 Gil Monpa in Medog
Even in this military pigsty with its Mad Max characters - the Dalai Lama photographs carry a huge significance.


95 #164

95 D 27 55b 1995 Todd Store for Beer
The Medog General Store. Todd Gillenwater purchases snacks for us and beers for our life-saving Sherpas.


95 #165

95 D 26 35 1995 TG Troy in Medog RoomTroy Gillenwater relaxes in our Medog luxury suite.


95 #166

95 D 28 6 1995 TG Gil Troy Todd in Medog RoomThough beer and high doses of Flagyl don’t mix – we can't resist. (Flagyl has been our drug of choice for treating parasitic infections and amebic dysentery. We've been popping the pills like M&M’s.)


95 #167

95 D 29 137b 1995 Troy Todd Out of MedogAt just over 2,000 feet in elevation the jungle heat is stifling. Bepuk lies in the background. Close examination of the photo shows the Doshong River flowing aqua green into the muddy Yarlung Tsangpo. We will cross the Yarlung Tsangpo and follow the Doshong Valley up to the 15,300 foot high Doshong La Pass – our gateway out of Pemako and on to the village of Pei.


95 #168

95 D 30 22b 1995 Monpa Woman Carrying FernsEarly outside of Bepuk we encounter a local Lopa tribal woman carrying ferns.


95 #169

95 D 31 15 1995 TG Doshing R into Tsangpo R Medog BridgeClose examination shows the “Liberation Bridge” and its shadow cast on the river in the left of the photo. The aqua-green Doshong River flows in from the right.


95 #170

95 D 32 153b 1995 River Climb out of MedogThe Doshong River.


95 #170

95 D 33 101b 1995 Tiny Porter on TrailOur trail virtually “tunnels” up the side of the canyon.


95 #171

95 D 34 129 1995 Tiny Troy on DoshingLa TrailClose examination of this photo shows Troy Gillenwater on the trail in the top right with his arms raised high.


95 #172

95 D 35 53 1995 TG Pimative Lopa House 2Our well-traveled trail leads us by a few Lopa homes. There is a simplicity in their primitiveness we find alluring.


95 #173

95 D 37 32b 1995 Gil Looking Up Misty ValleyPemako is a magic place.


95 #174

95 D 36 127b 1995 Todd Troy on Trail 2Little by little our climbing takes us above and out of the stifling heat.


95 #175

95 D 38 97b 1995 Troy Looking up DoshingLaTroy Gillenwater looks up the Doshong Valley. Our pass out of Pemako is a half mile above us.


95 #176

95 D 39 83b 1995 Troy in Camp below DoshingLaSetting camp for our last night in Pemako.



95 #177

95 D 40 130 1995 Camp Base of DoshingLaWet and cold at the “Doshong La Base-Camp”, we are ready to leave Pemako.


95 #178

95 D 41 92a 1995 Porters Climb to PungPungLaHere the climbing to the Doshong La Pass begins in earnest. 


95 #179

95 D 43 135b 1995 Todd Filtering Water DoshingLaTodd Gillenwater filters water as we climb higher into the mists.


95 #180

95 D 44 152b 1995 Chombi Porter on DoshingLaChombi (shirtless) and a fellow Sherpa climb on by. These guys are tough!


95 #181 & #182

95 D 46 171a 1995 Small Porter w Huge Load

95 D 45 167a 1995 Tired Porter Huge LoadOur porters are unfathomably strong.


95 #183

95 D 47 141b 1995 Porters on Way to DoshingLaPorters inching their way up the Doshong La Pass.


95 #184

95 D 42 151b 1995 Mist Climb to DoshingLaTodd Gillenwater moves on ahead.


 95 #185

95 D 50 51b 1995 Todd in MistVisibility is difficult as Todd Gillenwater disappeared into the clouds.


95 #186

95 D 49 95b 1995 Gil Hiking DoshingLaThere is too much water in the streams to be close to the pass. Either we are on the wrong trail or we are nowhere near Doshong La Pass.


95 #187

95 D 48 144b 1995 Gil Todd Climbing DoshingLaGil (left) and Todd (right) Gillenwater work their way up to the Doshong La Pass.


95 #188

95 D 51 50b 1995 Porter Hiking up DoshingLaPrecarious hiking in the ice fields.


95 #189

95 D 52 34a 1995 Porters Hiking DoshingLaThe porters push on. It is near here that we see a dead man.


95 #190

95 D 53 19 1995 TG Troy on Doshing La PassTroy Gillenwater poses for a quick picture on the Doshong La Pass.


95 #191

95 D 54 106b 1995 Gil Todd Backside DoshingLa to PeiLeaving Pemako is just as dramatic as entering it three weeks earlier.


95 #192

95 D 55 89b 1995 Todd Troy Road PeiThe road! Todd and Troy Gillenwater relish in the moment.


95 #193

95 D 56 32 1995 TG Over Doshing Road to PeThe end of the Pemako trail.


95 #194

95 D 57 104b 1995 G T T in PeiLeft to right: Todd, Gil & Troy Gillenwater. The outpost of Pei. Finally civilization!


95 #195

95 D 58 92b 1995 Chimed Gompa Chombi in PeiIn the village of Pei, Chombi Sherpa (right) has the thankless job of calculating porter wages. When nobody is around, Troy, Todd and Gil Gil Gillenwater give Chimed Gompo (middle) a large tip. He literally saved our lives.


95 #196

95 D 59 56 1995 TG Christiaan Juggling in MedogAs we ready for the long drive back to Lhasa, Christiaan Kuypers has a celebratory smoke and entertains the residents of Pei with a juggling act.


95 #197

95 D 60 133b 1995 Gil Happy PeiGil Gillenwater can’t stop smiling. “We made it. We made it. We’re finally out of Pemako!”


95 #198

95 D 61 85b 1995 Cliffside Monestary Drive OutHigh on a hill just outside the town of Tsethang sits Tibet’s oldest fortress/castle - Yumbulakhar.


95 #199, #200, #201

95 D 62 86a 1995 Tibetan Kids
95 D 63 63b 1995 Begging Children Drive In
95 D 64 85a 1995 Tibetan BoySome of the interesting Tibetans we pass on our long drive back to Lhasa.


95 #202

95 D 65 gillenwater v7 162Left to right: Raktayamari and Vajravetali - Yab (father)-Yum (mother), (to follow), White Tara


95 #203

95 D 66 64b 1995 Group Eating End of TripEating in an actual restaurant. We are all smiles.


95 #204

95 D 67 67b 1995 Group Eating at Roys KathmanduEating at Mike’s - restaurant known for serving American style food. Having dreamed of eating here for a month, our breakfast lasts for two hours and ends with hot fudge brownie sundaes.


95 #205

95 D 68 158b 1995 Todd Rooftop KathmanduStill not feeling that well, Todd Gillenwater gets some fresh air atop our Hotel Marshyangdi overlooking Kathmandu. Later that evening he has a severe intestinal relapse.


95 #206

95 D 69 87b 1995 G T T Chokyi Rinpoche Atop JokhangChokyi Nyima Rinpoche and an unforgettable lesson in Buddhist Dependent Origination and Emptiness.


95 #207 & #208

95 D 70 111 1995 Sadhu Hugging Gil
95 D 71 131 1995 Gil Troy Todd BarkhorA final night of fun in Kathmandu.


95 #209

95 D 72 93b 1995 G T T Tequila Shooters LAXThree very strong shots of tequila are in order upon landing at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. We are home!




97 #1

1997 Gils MohawkIn the military town of Bayi, Gil Gillenwater gets a mohawk. 


97 A 1 38 1997 TG Hamid Mohawk Barbershop

Hamid Sardar emerges hairless from the Noble Lady Beauty Shop. 


97 #2

97 A 2 139 1997 Gil Troy Bunny PorterLeft to right: Troy Gillenwater, Bunny, Pasang and Gil Gillenwater with his newly acquired mojo Mohawk. (Bunny rarely looks at the camera.) The fading double rainbow in the background burns brilliant a few moments before indicating the passing of a high Buddhist lama.


97 #3

97 A 3 102 1997 Leech Troys AnkleInjecting an anticoagulant, leech bites can bleed for hours.


97 #4

97 A 4 200 1997 Truck in Landslide“Landslide Alley” - The geologic instability of the Great Bend area renders vehicular travel extremely dangerous.


97 #5

55 1997 TG Truck in Landslide on Way InAs the ground continues to crumble under the trucks rear wheel we all know this vehicle is doomed. 


97 #6

97 A 5 146 1997 Gil in Bhaka Showing Photos to MonksThe monks are spellbound by the photos of our 1995 Dorje Phagmo pilgrimage. Ani Rigsang, the tantric Tibetan nun on the right, looks at the camera.


97 #7

97 A 6 198 1997 Ian Talking w Bhaka Porter MonksIan Baker negotiating porter selections and daily wages with the head Bhakha Lama.


97 #8

97 A 7 2 1997 Bhaka MonestaryAt the Bhakha Monastery, Ian Baker becomes frustrated with the porters’ increasing wage demands.


97 #9

97 A 8 7 1997 Group Bhaka MonestaryLining up at the Bhakha Monastery for a departing photo, many of the monks will not look at the camera. Gil and Troy Gillenwater, in white shirts, standing in the back row on the right; then Ian Baker and the head Bhakha Lama (with yellow sleeves). Ani Rigsang, the tantric Tibetan nun, is on the far right of the back row.


97 #10

97 A 9 145 1997 Troy Hiking JungleEntering the jungles of Pemako brings back many painful memories.


97 #11

42 1997 TG Dawa Porters Start Climb Dorje DraksenWaterfalls are everywhere as we headed up towards the Su La Pass.


97 #12

97 A 10 153 1997 Troy Hiking SulaTroy Gillenwater hiking the ice fields up to Su La Pass.


97 #13

97 A 11 12 1997 Gil Troy Sula PassLeft to right: Pasang, Gil Gillenwater, Troy Gillenwater and Ani Rigsang on top of the Su La Pass. According to Ian, we are the first Westerners to hike this pass since the British explorers Bailey’s and Morshead’s clandestine dash in 1911.


97 #14

97 A 12 28 1997 Troy Crossing WaterfallThere is water everywhere. Here Troy Gillenwater negotiates a slick two log bridge over a tumbling cascade. A slip would be disastrous.


97 #15

97 A 13 60 1995 TG 2 Porters Drink Yak Butter Tea w Crazy Nun or Ani LaArriving at the end of the day we find two porters and Ani Rigsang enjoying a cup of tea at Cabin Camp. It has been a long day with over 4,000 feet of climbing. Soon the others stagger in and the cabin is stuffed with bodies. Nobody minds – at least it is dry.


97 #16

97 A 14 11 1997 Porters Crossing StreamHiking in the rain we descended from alpine glacier country to the tropics. We have GORE-TEX while our porters have simple sheets of plastic.


97 #17

97 A 15 150 1997 Monpa Boy w Chicken FootA severed chicken foot is a simple Lopa tribal toy. The young boy shows us with great amusement how pulling a tendon causes the claw to contract.


97 #18

97 A 16 160a 1997 Troy Porters Crossing StreamHere Troy Gillenwater and the porters cross a makeshift bridge. It is a very steep descent with water everywhere.


97 #19

97 A 17 180 1997 Troy Hiking in JungleHere Troy Gillenwater negotiates the tricky jungle slopes. Even though the village of Charasa is 2,000 feet below us, this portion of the trail heads steadily upwards.


97 #20

97 A 18 25 1997 Porter Girl FlowerThe tribal women of Pemako are remarkable. In addition to their natural beauty, their strength and sure-footedness as porters is phenomenal. And their calm and even demeanor helps balance out the aggressive energy of the male porters.


97 #21

97 A 19 105 1997 TG Seductive Porter Girl Eating FlowerThe tribal women of Pemako can also be extremely seductive and beguiling.


97 #22

97 A 20 119 1997 Tiny Porter Below WaterfallThis is Pemako in all its immensity and magic. Note the tiny porter crossing the stream at the bottom of the waterfall.


97 #23

97 A 19 56 1997 TG River View from LongLipOur first glimpse of the Yarlung Tsangpo River. Even from 2,000 feet above it looked daunting.


97 #24

97 A 20 20 1997 Gil HunterGil Gillenwater and a Lopa takin hunter pose with flintlocks. These smooth-bore rifles looked like they are right out of the American Revolutionary War.


97 #25

97 A 21 39 1997 TG Troy Looking Back on GandenTroy Gillenwater scopes out our evenings camp – Charasa – 1,000 feet below. 


97 #26

97 A 24 83 1997 TG CharasaAt an elevation of only 4,100 feet the barrack grounds of Charasa are sweltering hot and crawling with bugs and leeches.


97 #27

97 A 22 90 1997 TG Troy Gil Chimed Gompa Lobsong Porter in TerrassaA surprise visit from three of our 1995 porters. We are convinced Chimed Gompo saved our lives on that fateful expedition. Left to right: Chimed Gompo (avoiding the camera), Troy Gillenwater, Lobsang, Gil Gillenwater, and Sonam Chimbe (avoiding the camera).


97 #28

97 A 23 151 1997 Gil Dawa Interview Chimed Gompa in Terrasa copyDawa (in green shirt) translates as Gil Gillenwater records the conversation. Left to right: Chimed Gompo, Lobsang, and Sonam Chimbe laugh as they recount the trials and tribulations of our 1995 Kundu Dorsempotrang expedition.


97 #29

97 A 24 16 1997 Leech on CandleLike moths drawn to light, the heat-seeking leeches would slither into the flame and die.


97 #30

97 B 1 147 1997 Gil Troy Hike out of GandenThe day’s climbing is hot – really hot.


97 #31

97 B 2 2 1997 TG Ken Storm on Way to LongLipKen Storm decides to also split from the expedition and join us on our unpermitted dash to Pelung. His study and knowledge of the Pemako area will be key to our extraction and exploration efforts.


97 #32

97 B 3 13 1997 TG Gil Ken Hiking to LongLipTroy Gillenwater and Ken Storm cross a cliff face over a primitive scaffolding on their way to Longlep.


97 #33

97 B 4 58 1997 TG Gil Troy on Hike to LongLipGil Gillenwater and Ken Storm get their first view of Longlep.


97 #34

97 B 5 75 1997 TG Monpa Father 2 Boys near LongLipArriving in Longlep late in the day, the few villagers welcomes us as family.


97 #35

97 B 6 19 1997 Troy Ken in LongLipWe are graciously offered a place to stay in Longlep. While waiting for dinner Troy Gillenwater and Ken Storm discuss possible escape routes out of Pemako. Our wet clothes can be seen drying in the background.


97 #36

97 B 7 23 1997 Communist Posters GandenIn addition to Stalin and Lenin, our host cabin sports a poster of the Kalachakra. In Vajrayana Buddhism this symbol represents the “wheel(s) of time” and is one of many of the tantric teachings and esoteric practices.


97 #37

97 B 8 20 1997 TG Valley View from LongLipThe view from our cabin’s glassless window is spectacular. The mighty Yarlung Tsangpo churns through the serpentine valley below.


97 #38

97 B 9 26 1997 Troy Ganden to RiverInitially, cloudless skies escort us on the trail back down to the river and the village of Gande.


97 #39

97 B 10 65 1997 CloseUp Konla KarpoA telephoto view of Kangla Karpo.


97 #40

97 B 11 19 1997 TG Monpa Boys KonlaKarpoTwo Gande boys with Kangla Karpo in the background.


97 #41

97 B 12 4 1997 TG Matuk Giving Troy ZuchiniOur “coincidental” second encounter with Matuk is the key that will unlock the guarded entrance to Pemako’s forbidden Inner Gorge for our clandestine expedition.


97 #42

97 B 13 22 1997 Troy Kids in GandenWe are such a curiosity in the sequestered world of Gande that the children follow us everywhere.


97 #43

97 B 14 133 1997 Gil Troy in Ganden w Local Porters copyOur two young Tibetan Sherpas, Dawa and Bhim, hire local porters to assist in our escape from Pemako. We are a motley looking crew. Left to right: Bhim (back row), Troy Gillenwater and Dawa (hands in the air) and Gil Gillenwater (far right). Many are wearing the scarves Gil Gillenwater have passed out.


97 #44

97 B 15 27 1997 TseBun in DistanceMatuk points out a tiny rock spire situated high on a cross-valley mountain shoulder (as seen in the top right of the photograph). This stone outcropping will play a pivotal role in our upcoming journey and in our lives.


97 #45

97 B 16 46 1997 TG Trail to Yarlung w KonlaKarpoWith an average annual rainfall of around 25 feet, these uncharacteristically clear Pemako skies are a true blessing. Gil Gillenwater hikes down a grassy shoulder in the bottom right of the photograph. 


97 #46

97 B 17 29 1997 Gil Near RapidWhile Dawa is negotiating with the porters we hike down and explore the river. Here we were 8,000 feet lower in elevation than we were when we rafted this same river three years ago - in 1994. Even at these lower elevations the “Everest of Whitewater” is earning its name.


97 #47

97 B 18 18 1997 TG Cable Crossing YarlungWith our porter dispute settled everyone jumps into action to set the lines and get us across the Yarlung Tsangpo River in the fading day’s light.


97 #48

97 B 19 86 1997 TG Porter Cable Crossing YarlungThe immensity of the Yarlung Tsangpo River gorge makes this late afternoon cable crossing a daunting task.


97 #49

97 B 19 16 1997 TG Yarlung Cable CrossingWe have 12 people and a lot of gear to cross in the fading daylight.


97 #50

97 B 20 31 1997 Porter on Cable Crossing 2The heights and churning waters below are daunting. Notice the lone porter at the top of the photo.


97 #51

97 B 21 149 1997 Porter Cable Crossing TsangPo


97 #52

97 B 22 60 1997 TG Troy Strapped in for Cable Crossing YarlungMatuk looks on as Troy Gillenwater gets lashed to the pully for his cable crossing of the Yarlung Tsangpo River.


97 #53

97 B 23 34 1997 Photo from Cable CrossingPhoto taken in the middle of the crossing.


97 #54

97 B 24 29 1997 TG Cable Crossing YarlungTroy Gillenwater is half way across his cable crossing of the Yarlung Tsangpo River.


97 #55

97 B 25 7 1997 TG Night Hike up to GogdenThis night hike brings us together as a group. The extreme circumstances allow us to better recognized our shared human condition. This bond will grow tighter as our journey continues.


97 #56

97 B 26 78 1997 TG Lopa Father Son w Florescent Pen LuguIn Lugu we peeked inside a small home. It is filthy. A Lopa man and his son lived there and Gil Gillenwater gives the boy a glow-in-the-dark pen. He hangs it proudly from his neck.


97 #57

97 B 27 38 1997 Troy in Lugu w White TaraIn Gogden we are offered a shrine room as a place to sleep. Here a thangka of the goddess White Tara is displayed prominently.


97 #58

97 B 28 14 1997 TG Monpa Boys in Room in GogdenTwo boys from Gogden. The locals are always so happy to see us.


97 #59

97 B 29 37 1997 Porters Yak Butter TeaOur porters Matuk, Brad Watts and Trashi Padi load up on yak butter tea in preparation of the day’s grueling hike ahead.


97 #60

24 1997 Communist Poster GandenIn Gogden we spy a propaganda poster tacked to a wall purportedly representing the harmony between the Communist Chinese military and the Tibetan people. To see this brain washing propaganda in a cabin this remote is absurd.


97 #61

97 B 30 36 1997 Lugu HunterIn Gogden the village chieftain proudly shows us his flintlock rifle. There are only three such rifles in the village.


97 #62

97 B 31 39 1997 Troy Marajuana in LuguUncharacteristically clear skies shine on Troy Gillenwater and the chieftain’s flourishing marijuana crop.


97 #63

97 B 34 40a 1997 TG Landslide AreaThe ongoing collision of two continents creates seismic geologic instability and constant landslides.


97 #64

97 B 35 25 1997 TG Porters Dangerous Crossing of Landslide Negotiating the many landslide areas is hard on our bodies as well as our nerves.


97 #65

97 B 35 40 1997 BW HIke up to TseBunLaThe steep climb out of the Yarlung Tsangpo Gorge to the Tsebung La Pass is two vertical miles in elevation.


97 #66

97 B 36 110 1997 Gyla PeriCresting the Tsebung La Pass we have our first view of the 23,891-foot-high Gyala Pelri Mountain. Standing on the Asian continent, it is only 13 miles away from the 25,531-foot-high Namcha Barwa Mountain situated on the Indian sub-continent.


97 #67

97 B 38 41 1997 BW Matuk TseBunAt Tsebung Rock, Matuk ceremoniously offers three full prostrations and then beckons us to follow.


97 #68

97 B 39 33 1997 TG Troy w Takin Skulls Tsebum1Takin skulls adorn mossy grottos along the shrine site.


97 #69

97 B 40 66 1997 TG B W Troy in Tsebom TunnelAn unnoticed crack in the stone leads us to the inner sanctum of Tsebung - “Million Lives.”


97 #70

97 B 41 43 1997 BW Gil Matuk w 1000 Lives SticksGil Gillenwater and Matuk. The Tsebung “Long Life” ceremony includes carving a notch in a stick for each year you have been alive.


97 #71

97 B 42 65 1997 TG B W Troy Emerging from Tsebum TunnelTroy Gillenwater emerges from the birth canal of Mother Earth. 


97 #72

97 B 43 46 1997 Clear Skies to IndiaAs we emerge from the womb of Mother Earth the storm abates and the skies miraculously clears - affording us unique views all the way into India.


97 #73

97 B 44 53 1997 TG Gyala Peri Above GorgeOur telephoto lens captures a distant peak manifesting from the clouds (see top of photo).


97 #74

97 B 45 47 1997 BW Dorje Phagmo MtnDorje Phagmo Mountain – our guidepost into the Inner Gorge.


97 #75

97 C 1 48 1997 Off Trail Up to Inner GorgeLeaving the trail, we climb up into the unknown.


97 #76

97 C 2 142 1997 Porters Hiking up Misty RidgeThe climbing is difficult, but the porters don’t slow down, even though they are anxious. Entrapment by monsoon clouds is a constant threat.


97 #77

97 C 3 49 1997 Troy Porters Making TrailHacking our way through the entangled rhododendron thickets slows our progress and zaps our energy.


97 #78

97 C 4 143 1997 Troy Porters Hiking up Exposed RidgeThe geologic exposure is frightening. See Troy Gillenwater in the foreground on the bottom-right and the porters are dotting the top of the hill in the upper-left.


97 #79

97 C 5 186 1997 Troy Portes on Hidden Falls ScoutHiking on the edge of the rhododendron thickets is easier going. But the risk of a landslide and an endless fall is also heightened.


97 #80

97 C 6 144 1997 Porters Hiking Exposed RidgeOur porters gain the ridgeline.


97 #81

97 C 7 50 1997 Porters on RidgelineFresh evidence of landslides and earth fissuring are everywhere.


97 #82

97 C 8 52 1997 Climbing Trail on PeakOn the steeper sections we are reduced to crawling on our hands and knees.


97 #83

97 C 9 61 1997 Gil HikingThe higher we climb, the more spectacular the Himalayan views. Gil Gillenwater in the forefront.


97 #84

97 C 10 54 1997 Hiking up to Pass in MistAs the mists get thicker and thicker our group spread out.


97 #85

97 C 11 53 1997 Porters on Ridge in MistEvery now and then the clouds would part and we would, with relief, see our porters traversing the same ridgeline.


97 #86

97 C 12 55 1997 Hunter in Appears in MistWho is this apparition manifesting from the clouds? With no pack he isn't one of ours.


97 #87

97 C 13 89 1997 TG Troy Ken in Rhododendron Tiny Porters BehindWhen the clouds lift, we see our porters scattered all over. Note Troy Gillenwater and Ken Storm are in the foreground and some of our porters are in the top-left on the distant ridge.


97 #88

97 C 14 156 1997 1st Hunter Running GilSuddenly the apparition, with his flintlock, charges us.


97 #89

97 C 15 56 1997 Hunter from Mists“Mystical Warrior from the Mists” - our guide for the next leg of our journey.


97 #90

97 C 16 54 1997 TG Poerter Lunch in GorgeOur porters are breakfasting after a long rainy night. Their plastic rain cover lies nearby. They are truly people of the earth.


97 #91

97 C 17 64 1997 Mtn near Namche BarwaNamcha Barwa - 25,531 feet


97 #92

97 C 18 120 1997 Konla KarpaKangla Karpo - 23,891 feet


97 #93

97 C 19 121 1997 Gyala PeriGyala Pelri - 23,733 feet


97 #94

97 C 20 195 1997 NamcheBarwa Traksen Gyala PeriThe Kangla Karpo peak (Sanglung) on the Indian sub-continent, looms large on the left of the photograph. The Namcha Barwa peak, also on the Indian sub-continent, is the pyramidical peak just to the right of Kangla Karpo. The Gyala Pelri peak, on the Asian continent, is situated on the far right of the photograph. Between Namcha Barwa and Gyala Pelri lies the deepest gorge in the world. With these landmarks revealed we know how to find our destination. The uncharacteristically clear weather allows these to be the first photographs ever taken from this vantage point. The spirit of Pemako is with us.


97 #95

60 1997 Gil Troy Konla KarpoWe are miraculously granted clear skies and unprecedented views. Troy Gillenwater and Gil Gillenwater know a divine guidance is at play in revealing this once in a lifetime experience. Luminous Kangla Karpo is in the background.


97 #96

97 C 22 68 1997 Troy Traksen Gyala PeriWith the 23,733-foot Gyala Pelri in the center, Troy Gillenwater scopes out the Guardian Protector’s Dorje Traktsen Mountain on the left. This will be our gateway into the Inner Gorge.


97 #97

97 C 23 69 1997 Porter Revolt TraksenMesmerized by the mountain, our porters revolt and refuse to continue. They understand that this is the Guardian Protector’s gateway into the Inner Gorge. To take Westerners into this most sacred place could incur the wrath of the local spirits. In this photograph Gil Gillenwater attempts to convince the porters to continue. His pleas, offers of more money and cajoling fall on deaf ears.


97 #98

97 C 24 94 1997 TG Porters Scouting Route Dorje DraksenOur Buddhist-shaman guide’s mystical dream the night before assured the porters that we can continue up and over the sacred mountain without incurring the Fuardian Protector’s wrath, so Matuk and the others debate the surest route of ascent. This will be our gateway into the Inner Gorge.


97 #99

97 C 25 32 1997 TG Tiny Porters Base of Dorje DraksenThe porters can be seen as tiny specs on the ridge approaching the formidable Dorje Traktsen Mountain.


97 #100

97 C 24 92 1997 TG Troy Starting Dorje Draksen ClimbTroy Gillenwater readies to ascend the almost vertical slope up Dorje Traktsen. Porters can be seen inching their ways skyward.


97 #101

97 C 25 72 1997 Climbing TraksenWithout ropes the exposure of this climb is daunting. Here we stop and take a break. Dawa is in the green shirt.


97 #102

97 C 26 73 1997 Gil Reaching Summit TraksenGil Gillenwater approaches the summit of Dorje Traktsen.


97 #103

97 C 27 74 1997 Hunter Reaching Summit TraksenOur Buddhist-shaman guide reaches the summit of Dorje Traktsen.


97 #104

97 C 28 75 1997 Porters Atop TraksenOn top of Dorje Traktsen our porters get a “bird’s-eye-view” of the region they live in but have never seen from this vantage. Dawa is in the green shirt with our Buddhist-shaman guide to his left in the photo and Bhim to his right. Matuk points from the tip of the hill.


97 #105

78 1997 Matuk socks Hunter Atop TraksenRock solid Matuk on the left with a pair of socks I gave him, and our hunter/shaman guide who appeared from the mists on the right. Nobody can believe how clear the skies are. They tell us the Pemako Guardian Protectors are pleased!      


97 #106 

77 1997 Porter w Gun on Summit TraksenWe are truly on top of the world.


97 #107

97 C 32 101 1997 TG Troy Dwared by GorgeThe sheer grandeur of Pemako is an acute lesson in the transiency of continual process. Troy Gillenwater is in the left-hand-bottom-comer.


97 #108

50 1997 TG Troy GilTroy Gillenwater and Gil Gillenwater realize this experience is a mystical gift. Pemako is revealing herself.


97 #109

97 C 33 76 1997 Porters Pointing Inner GorgeMatuk points our way down and into the long-sought Inner Gorge. The porters are ecstatic to be on top of the mountain. 

97 #110

97 C 34 82 1997 TG Porters Scouting Way into GorgeA porter marvels over the use of Troy Gillenwater’s binoculars. Bhim is looking at the camera. We are provided an unprecedented view into the Inner Gorge.


97 #111

97 C 35 79 1997 Troy Hunter Pointing Inner GorgeReadying to descend into the Inner Gorge, Troy Gillenwater confers with our Buddhist-shaman guide as to which route to take. Unfortunately, our hunter guide from the mists have never been this far out of his territory and can offer no advice. We would have to proceed on intuition alone.


97 #112

97 C 36 58 1997 Hiking Ridge in MistWith the clouds moving in, we begin our long descent down Dorje Traktsen.


97 #113

97 C 37 96 1997 TG Porter w Gun Tiny Porters in Rhododendron BackgroundOur porters are rock solid as they descend into unknown territory. Note the line of porters tracing down the mountain in the upper-right.


97 #114

97 C 38 59 1997 Porters w Gun in MistSooner than expected our Buddhist-shaman guide calls a halt to the day’s march. He says the weather is too unstable to continue that late in the day.


97 #115

97 C 39 183 1997 Troy Setting Camp in Inner GorgeWe pitch our tent on the platform constructed by one of our Gogden porters. The porters' camp is below.


97 #116

97 C 40 82 1997 Troy Tent Over Inner GorgeTroy Gillenwater surveys the scene from the tent porch of our platform perch.


97 #117

97 C 41 97 1997 TG 1st Camp in GorgeOur setting affords us miraculous views into the upper portion of the Great Bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo. The gorge is so steep we can't yet see the river.


97 #118

97 C 42 109 1997 TG 1st Nights Camp in GorgeOur porters’ camp. There is magic afoot as we all know we are on the adventure of a lifetime.


97 #119

97 C 43 95 1997 TG Tiny Porters in Rhododendron FieldsWith clouds moving in and out we proceed to climb. In this photograph our porters can been seen in a tiny line on the left.


97 #120

97 C 44 81 1997 TG Gil Ken Porters Dig CrystalsGil Gillenwater and Ken Storm look on as the porters gather crystals. They called the stones, “Vajrayogini’s tears”.


97 #121

97 C 45 57 1997 Pilgrim Markings on Ridge TrailWe are startled to find that Buddhist pilgrims traveled this way many years before.


97 #122

97 C 46 88 1997 Jamyang Hunter GuideAnother hunter manifests from the mists.


97 #123

97 C 47 8 1997 TG Jamyang w 2 dogsThe hunter’s name is JamYang. We nick-named him the Gentleman Hunter.


97 #124

97 C 48 91 1997 TG Hunter Jamyang 2 DogsJamYang knows the way to a large waterfall. We negotiated a price and he agrees to guide us.


97 #125

97 C 49 34 1997 TG Troy w tiny Porters on Way to SentionLaThe clouds briefly lift and we see our porters scattered in the background. With JamYang’s help we have located the elusive Sechen La Pass. On the right, Ken Storm, JamYang and Troy Gillenwater (on the right side of the photograph) celebrate reaching this long-sought landmark.


97 #126

97 C 50 81 1997 Porters Dropping into Inner Gorge 2With JamYang’s guidance we are finally able to reach the Sechen La ridge which leads to the pass. With the constant severe and unstable weather conditions, the porters want to descend into the gorge as quickly as possible.


97 #127

97 C 51 67 1997 Glacier on MtnWith the swirling cloud movement, the massive Himalayan landscape is displaying itself like an I-Max movie.


97 #128

97 C 52 174 1997Troy Souting Inner GorgeFrom this vantage, Troy Gillenwater has a bird’s eye view of the deepest canyon in the world. The perpetually cloaked Inner Gorge is beginning to reveal itself as the veils of clouds are lifted.


97 #129

97 C 55 83 1997 Lifting Mists over Inner GorgeAs the mists lift we can clearly see the Yarlung Tsangpo River on the left but what is going on down on the right?


97 #130

97 C 54 37 1997 TG Ken Videoing Yarlung Tsangpo RiverKen Storm films the Yarlung Tsangpo River as it flows between Namcha Barwa Mountain situated on the Indian sub-continent and Gyala Pelri Mountain on the Asian continent. Ken has dreamed of this moment for years.


97 #131

97 C 53 84 1997 1st View of Inner GorgeIt looks like an “S” turn on the bottom right. Is the river flowing back on itself?


97 #132

1997 Falls S TurnAre we looking at the “Lost Falls of the Brahmaputra”?


97 #133

97 C 57 80 1997 Climbing into Inner GrogeThe sun is blazing hot as we relocate our porters in the seemingly impenetrable rhododendron thickets. Earth fissures - well concealed under the thick underbrush - pose a constant threat. Troy Gillenwater is in the foreground and the porters are on the ridge in the middle.


97 #134

97 C 58 85 1997 1st View of Hidden FallsIn the waning light, we have a magnificent view of what Ken Storm convinces us are the “The Lost Falls of the Brahmaputra”.


97 #135

97 C 59 86 1997 1st Close Up of Hidden FallsWith our camera’s telephoto lenses we can clearly see the pleated geography of two colliding continents. It is this unique twisted formation that has kept the Falls hidden for so many years.


97 #136

97 C 60 69 1997 TG B W Porter Cave Under Falls CampThe porters camp nestles under the overhang of a giant boulder.


97 #137

97 C 61 103 1997 TG Gorge Rock CampOur tents are set on the most level area available – the top of a house-sized boulder. Our porters camp below.


97 #138

97 D 1 44 1997 TG Troy Ken Rock Camp in GorgeAwaking early, we know we have an exciting day ahead. The views from our perch are mystical. Magic is afoot.


97 #139

97 D 2 140 1997 Gil Looking up Inner GorgeGil Gillenwater looks upriver. As we worked our way farther and farther down into the Gorge, we can mark our progress by eyeing the slopes on the opposite side of the river.


97 #140

97 D 3 89 1997 Ken Viewing Hidden FallsWith a clear sight of both Rainbow Falls and Hidden Falls, Ken Storm insists we proceed north for another view angle.


97 #141

207 1997 Troy Crossing Stream on Hidden Falls ScoutInstead of walking across the wet and slippery homemade bridge like the porters do, we opt for the more stable “butt-slide” maneuver. At this point we aren't taking any chances.


97 #142

97 D 4 90 1997 Rainbow Hidden FallsAs we worked our way horizontally down the Gorge we get an unobstructed view of Rainbow Falls (center) with the Hidden Falls just around the corner.


97 #143

1997 S Turn W RF Big Rock copyKen Storm can recognize Rainbow Falls by the large boulder at the Fall’s pour-over on river right (bottom left of the photo above & bottom right in the photo below). It is the same boulder as that featured in Lord Cawdor’s 1924 photo of Rainbow Falls. Kingdon Ward and Lord Cawdor got to within – what they estimated to be 1,800 feet upstream from Rainbow Falls and photographed their discovery. They never saw what lay just around the corner – Hidden Falls.

1997 Rainbow Big Rock


97 #144

Rainbow Falls 1924 Cawdor Photograph copyLord Cawdor’s 1924 photograph of Rainbow Falls shows the same boulder that Ken Storm pointed out to us. Close examination of Lord Cawdor’s 1924 photo (97 #144) and our 1997 photo (97 #143) also shows the same cliff markings where the river slams into the wall before its 90-degree turn into Hidden Falls. Stopped at river level in 1924, Kingdon Ward and Lord Cawdor never saw Hidden Falls.


97 #145

97 D 6 92 1997 Close Up Hidden Falls 2Convinced we have located the “Lost Falls of the Brahmaputra”, we estimate the Falls height at 100 feet.


97 #146

Hidden Falls labels copyToday’s aerial photography allows a bird’s-eye view of the tectonic upheaval experienced in this section of the Inner Gorge. In several places tremendous geologic forces have pleated the earth’s crust and bent the river back upon itself. This aerial IKONOS image was taken from a commercial earth observation satellite on May 9, 2000, at a height of 423 miles.


97 #147

97 D 7 52 1997 TG Sleeping PorterOur porters are exhausted. But we still have a dangerous 3,000 foot climb back up to camp.



97 #148

97 D 8 97 1997 BW Gil Troy PortersTrashipati (far right) clicks the auto shutter release for this photo. Next to him is Gil Gillenwater (kneeling) then Troy Gillenwater with the Buddhist hunter shaman kneeling to his left. Behind Troy is Matuk with JamYang looking over Matuk’s shoulder. Having completed the Rainbow Traverse of the Great Bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo River, we are on an explorer’s high. We have penetrated Pemako’s fabled Inner Gorge and photographed our discovery of the “Lost Falls of the Brahmaputra." A visceral sense of interconnectedness pervades our group. We are family. 


97 #149

97 D 9 94 1997 Troy Porters GlobeTroy Gillenwater gives our porters a geography lesson. Left to right: the Buddhist-shaman hunter, Troy, Matuk and Trashipati.


97 #150

97 D 10 96 1997 BW Porters LaughingIt is an afternoon of camaraderie and joy as Hominid Man and Matuk laugh out loud at the other porters’ antics.


97 #151

97 D 11 77 1997 TG Play Day 1st Hunter Looking Photo AlbumThe porters are transfixed by Troy Gillenwater’s small book of photographs from home. Here our Buddhist-shaman hunter is looking at the Kentucky State Capitol building. Our guide JamYang is on the far right.


97 #152

97 D 12 95 1997 Matuk BinocularsWhile our Buddhist-shaman hunter holds the photo book, Matuk used Troy Gillenwater’s binoculars to see who is inside the building. Their innocence is priceless. It is an afternoon we will never forget.


97 #153

97 D 13 87 1997 Camp in Inner GorgeWe watch the fading light in the world’s deepest canyon.


97 #154 

97 D 14 99 1997 Gil Hike Out 2We hike the ridgeline for hours. The trail improve and we begin seeing prayer flags as we neared Payu.


97 #155

61 1995 TG Gil Ken w Porters in Rainy JungleSlogging through the rain. This is a long day. Ken Storm, Gil Gillenwater and the porters are ready for home.


97 #156

97 D 15 100 1997 BW Troy PortersOur hike along the ridge seem to go on forever. By this time everyone is ready to go home.


97 #157

97 D 16 49 1997 TG Gil in Mist on Hike from PayuThe misty forests seem surreal.


97 #158

14 1997 Porter w Bad SockHow our porters are able to negotiate this weather and terrain in cheap Chairman Mao tennis shoes and worn out socks we will never know.


97 #159

97 D 17 1 1997 TG Sengchen VillageFinally our long-sought hamlet of Payu.


97 #160

97 D 18 101 1997 Gil in Payu Tibetan WritingAfter a long day of hiking Gil Gillenwater takes a rest while the others prepare for pay-day.


97 #161

21 1997 Porters WatchThey liked Troy Gillenwater’s watch but the concept of time eludes them.


97 #162

1997 Payu PaydayPaying our porters turns into a complicated and often times, frantic process.


97 #163

97 D 20 21 1997 TG gil w LeechesWe are squarely back in leech country.


97 #164

97 D 21 103 1997 Gil Leeches Payu WaterfallWhen the clouds lift we can see waterfalls like sky-born ribbons cascading into the Yarlung Tsangpo.


97 #165

97 D 22 27 1997 TG View of Sengchen from PayuSeeing Zachu on the other side of the canyon gives us our bearings. We were there in 1994.


97 #166

97 D 23 3 1997 TG View of Bridge Below PayuDropping into the Gorge we can see our bridge far below (bottom left of the photo) and our trail traversing up the other side. Zachu is in the saddle on the top third right of the photo with the earth slide next to it. We have a lot of climbing ahead.


97 #167

97 D 24 93 1997 TG Gil on Bridge Payu to ZachuOur bridge crossing of the Yarlung Tsangpo River.


97 #168

1997 Zachu Hot SpringsInstead of thermal soaking pools, the Zachu hot springs offer only sulfur stench and yak droppings.


97 #169

97 D 25 6 1997 TG Bridge on Side of Po TsangpoThe hanging bridge on the Po Tsangpo River.


97 #170

97 D 26 105 1997 BW Gil In PylungBack at the Leaping Rat Lodge we have a great feeling of accomplishment. Little do we know there is plenty of adventure still to come.


97 #171

gillenwater v6 081Believing the road is closed due to a rockfall on “Landslide Alley”, primitive loggers are cutting old growth trees and tobogganing them down for easy pick-up. Had we been a single second faster we would have been skewered.


97 #172

97 D 27 17 1997 TG Gil Dawa Troy Reunited w Porters in Bayi
We are reunited with Dawa and the porters from Ian Baker and Hamid Sardar’s group. We know several from past expeditions. We are greatly relieved to be released from house arrest with our 2,900 photographs miraculously intact. Some of our companions weren’t so lucky. Most importantly, we have over 300 photos of Hidden Falls documenting its long-sought existence.



2015 AAA Map of Dams copyThe Tibet we knew is forever gone. The four contiguous hydroelectric dams pictured above are located in the Yarlung Tsangpo’s, Upper Granite Gorge. This is the same gorge we rafted and hiked in 1994. 



Medog Road 3202017 copy

2019 08 04 Medog copyOn October 31, 2013, the 73-mile road to Medog was opened. What took us 18 days of hiking can now be reached by vehicle in one afternoon. The city of Medog is now a bustling tourist attraction. Over 70,000 Han Chinese tourists visited Medog in 2016. Resort Hotels and restaurants are flourishing.



1995 Dalai Lama Photos copyHis Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama looks at one of our photographs of a local Lopa tribesman in the Chimdro Valley lovingly holding onto his picture. Through a contact Gil Gillenwater has with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso’s niece—Khando Chazotsang—we were able to have her share our Tibet photographs with him. Like all Tibetan Buddhists, he is fascinated by these firsthand views of Pemako–the Hidden Land of the Blossoming Lotus. Our cover letter told of handing out photographs of him and the reverence and awe the photos elicited. We told him that to the residents of Pemako, he will forever be their “God King.” In a follow-up letter, he thanked us profusely for this unique glimpse into Tibet’s most sacred landscape and the people who live there.






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