Hiking in the rain we descended from alpine glacier country to the tropics. We had Gore-Tex while our porters had simple sheets of plastic.
A severed chicken foot is a simple Lopa tribal toy. The young boy showed us with great amusement how pulling a tendon would cause the claw to contract.
It was a very steep descent with water everywhere. Here Troy and the porters cross a makeshift bridge.
Here Troy negotiates the tricky jungle slopes. Even though the village of Charasa was 2,000 feet below us, this portion of the trail headed steadily upwards.
The tribal women of Pemako were remarkable. In addition to their natural beauty, their strength and sure-footedness as porters was phenomenal. And their calm and even demeanor helped balance out the aggressive energy of the male porters.
The tribal women of Pemako could also be extremely seductive and beguiling.
This was Pemako in all its immensity and magic. Note the tiny porter crossing the stream at the bottom of the waterfall.
Our first glimpse of the Yarlung Tsangpo River. Even from 2,000 feet above it looked daunting.
Gil and a Lopa takin hunter pose with flintlocks. These smooth-bore rifles looked like they were right out of the American Revolutionary War.
Troy scopes out our evenings camp – Charasa – 1,000 feet below.
At an elevation of only 4,100’ the barrack grounds of Charasa were sweltering hot and crawling with bugs and leeches.
A 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, Lobsang, Gil & Sonam Chimbe (avoiding the camera).
Dawa (in green shirt) translates as Gil records the conversation. Left to Right: Chimed Gompo, Lobsang, & Sonam Chimbe laugh as they recount the trials and tribulations of our 1995 Kundu Dorsempotrang expedition.
Like moths drawn to light, the heat seeking leeches would slither into the flame and die.
The day’s climbing was hot – real hot.
Ken 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 would be key to our extraction and exploration efforts.
Troy and Ken Storm cross a cliff face over a primitive scaffolding on their way to Longlep.
Gil and Ken Storm get their first view of Longlep.
Arriving in Longlep late in the day, the few villagers welcomed us as family.
We were graciously offered a place to stay in Longlep. While waiting for dinner Troy & Ken Storm discuss possible escape routes out of Pemako. Our wet clothes can be seen drying in the background.
In addition to Stalin & Lenin, our host cabin sported 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.
The view from our cabin’s glassless window was spectacular. The mighty Yarlung Tsangpo churns through the serpentine valley below.
Initially, cloudless skies escorted us on the trail back down to the river and the village of Gande.
A telephoto view of Kangla Karpo.
Two Gande boys with Kangla Karpo in the background.
Our “coincidental” 2nd encounter with Matuk was the key that unlocked the guarded entrance to Pemako’s forbidden inner gorge for our clandestine expedition.
We were such a curiosity in the sequestered world of Gande that the children followed us everywhere.
Our 2 young Tibetan Sherpas, Dawa & Bhim, hired local porters to assist in our escape from Pemako. We were a motley looking crew. Pictured: Back row left, Bhim, Troy and Dawa (hands in the air) with Gil on the far right. Many were wearing the scarves Gil passed out.
Matuk pointed 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 would play a pivotal role in our upcoming journey and in our lives.
With an average annual rainfall of around 25 feet, these uncharacteristically clear Pemako skies were a true blessing. Gil hikes down a grassy shoulder in the bottom right of the photograph.
While Dawa was negotiating with the porters we hiked down and explored the river. Here we were 8,000’ lower in elevation than we were when we rafted this same river three years prior - in 1994. Even at these lower elevations the “Everest of Whitewater” was earning its name.
With our porter dispute settled everyone jumped into action to set the lines and get us across the Yarlung Tsangpo River in the fading day’s light.
The immensity of the Yarlung Tsangpo River gorge made this late afternoon cable crossing a daunting task.
We had 12 people and a lot of gear to cross in the fading daylight.
The heights and churning waters below were daunting. See the lone porter at the top of the photo.
Matuk looks on as Troy gets lashed to the pully for his cable crossing of the Yarlung Tsangpo river.
Photo taken in the middle of the crossing.
Troy is half way across.
This night hike brought us together as a group. The extreme circumstances allowed us to better recognized our shared human condition. This bond would grow tighter as our journey continued.
In Lugu we peeked inside a small home. It was filthy. A Lopa man and his son lived there and Gil gave the boy a glow-in-the-dark pen. He hung it proudly from his neck.
In Gogden we were offered a shrine room as a place to sleep. Here a thangka of the goddess White Tara was displayed prominently.
Two boys from Gogden. The locals were always so happy to see us.
Our porters Matuk, Brad Watts & Trashi Padi load up on yak butter tea in preparation of the day’s grueling hike ahead.
In Gogden we spied 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 was absurd.
In Gogden the village chieftain proudly shows us his flintlock rifle. There were three such rifles in the village.
Uncharacteristically clear skies shine on Troy and the chieftain’s flourishing marijuana crop.
The ongoing collision of two continents created seismic geologic instability and constant landslides.
Negotiating the many landslide areas was hard on your body as well as your nerves.
The steep climb out of the Yarlung Tsangpo gorge to the Tsebung La Pass was two vertical miles in elevation.
Cresting the Tsebung La Pass we had our first view of the 23,891 foot high Gyala Peri Mountain. Standing on the Asian continent, it was only 13 miles away from the 25,531 foot high Namcha Barwa Mountain situated on the Indian continent.