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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 #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.



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