At Tsebung Rock, Matuk ceremoniously offers three full prostrations and then beckons us to follow.
Takin skulls adorn mossy grottos along the shrine site.
An unnoticed crack in the stone leads us to the inner sanctum of Tsebung - “Million Lives.”
Gil Gillenwater and Matuk. The Tsebung “Long Life” ceremony includes carving a notch in a stick for each year you have been alive.
Troy Gillenwater emerges from the birth canal of Mother Earth.
As 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.
Our telephoto lens captures a distant peak manifesting from the clouds (see top of photo).
Dorje Phagmo Mountain – our guidepost into the Inner Gorge.
Leaving the trail, we climb up into the unknown.
The climbing is difficult, but the porters don’t slow down, even though they are anxious. Entrapment by monsoon clouds is a constant threat.
Hacking our way through the entangled rhododendron thickets slows our progress and zaps our energy.
The geologic exposure is frightening. See Troy Gillenwater is in the foreground on the bottom-right and the porters are dotting the top of the hill in the upper-left.
Hiking on the edge of the rhododendron thickets is easier going. But the risk of a landslide and an endless fall is also heightened.
Our porters gain the ridgeline.
Fresh evidence of landslides and earth fissuring are everywhere.
On the steeper sections we are reduced to crawling on our hands and knees.
The higher we climb, the more spectacular the Himalayan views. Gil Gillenwater in the forefront.
As the mists get thicker and thicker our group spread out.
Every now and then the clouds would part and we would, with relief, see our porters traversing the same ridgeline.
Who is this apparition manifesting from the clouds? With no pack he isn't one of ours.
When 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.
Suddenly the apparition, with his flintlock, charges us.
“Mystical Warrior from the Mists” - our guide for the next leg of our journey.
Our porters are breakfasting after a long rainy night. Their plastic rain cover lies nearby. They are truly people of the earth.
Namcha Barwa - 25,531 feet
Kangla Karpo - 23,891 feet
Gyala Pelri - 23,733 feet
The 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.
We 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.
With 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.
Mesmerized 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.
Our 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.
The porters can be seen as tiny specs on the ridge approaching the formidable Dorje Traktsen Mountain.
Troy Gillenwater readies to ascend the almost vertical slope up Dorje Traktsen. Porters can be seen inching their ways skyward.
Without ropes the exposure of this climb is daunting. Here we stop and take a break. Dawa is in the green shirt.
Gil Gillenwater approaches the summit of Dorje Traktsen.
Our Buddhist-shaman guide reaches the summit of Dorje Traktsen.
On 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.
Rock 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!
We are truly on top of the world.
The sheer grandeur of Pemako is an acute lesson in the transiency of continual process. Troy Gillenwater is in the left-hand-bottom-comer.
Troy Gillenwater and Gil Gillenwater realize this experience is a mystical gift. Pemako is revealing herself.
Matuk points our way down and into the long-sought Inner Gorge. The porters are ecstatic to be on top of the mountain.
A 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.
Readying 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.
With the clouds moving in, we begin our long descent down Dorje Traktsen.
Our porters are rock solid as they descend into unknown territory. Note the line of porters tracing down the mountain in the upper-right.
Sooner 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.
We pitch our tent on the platform constructed by one of our Gogden porters. The porters' camp is below.
Troy Gillenwater surveys the scene from the tent porch of our platform perch.
Our 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.
Our porters’ camp. There is magic afoot as we all know we are on the adventure of a lifetime.
With clouds moving in and out we proceed to climb. In this photograph our porters can been seen in a tiny line on the left.
Gil Gillenwater and Ken Storm look on as the porters gather crystals. They called the stones, “Vajrayogini’s tears”.
We are startled to find that Buddhist pilgrims traveled this way many years before.
Another hunter manifests from the mists.
The hunter’s name is JamYang. We nick-named him the Gentleman Hunter.
JamYang knows the way to a large waterfall. We negotiated a price and he agrees to guide us.