Meili Snow Mountain (梅里雪山) on Yunnan's border with Tibet has many names, and depending on who is viewing its awe-inspiring grandeur, represents many different things. Soaring to heights of over six kilometers above sea level, the massif is as mysterious as it is immense.
Tibetan Buddhists call the mountain Kawagarbo, a name it shares with the warrior god who dwells amongst its peaks.
The entire range stretches nearly 200 kilometers north-to-south, and well-trodden paths allow religious pilgrims to circumambulate the massif over the course of between 240 and 300 formidable kilometers.
An estimated 20,000 devotees attempt the journey each year, mainly during the summer months when passes are free of snow and ice.
Many, if not all, tread lightly and pay special attention to the prescribed path, not wanting to disturb other minor Buddhist deities said to inhabit the mountain.
Meili's tallest peak tops out at 6,740 meters, with at least 20 others rising above 6,000 meters.
No one has ever reached any of the summits, a fact attributable to otherworldly powers or to the sheer vertical brutality of its most prominent features.
Tibetans who revere Kawagarbo believe those who attempt to climb the mountain despoil the area's sanctity and anger local deities. They look no further for proof than Meili's unsummitted history.
Beginning almost a century ago, teams from China, Great Britain, Japan and the United States have all mounted expeditions without success.
Perhaps the most infamous of these was a 1991 attempt by a team of 17 Japanese and Chinese mountaineers, all of whom perished in inclement weather while trying to descend to the safety of base camp.
In both international climbing circles and local Yunnan lore, unsubstantiated rumors still circulate that Tibetan monks living in nearby monasteries prayed for weeks that the group would fail.
The entire massif is now closed to climbers, and most people catch up-close glimpses of Meili Snow Mountain from the much safer confines of an observation deck at Feilai Temple (飞来寺).
The quickest and easiest way to reach Meili Snow Mountain from Kunming involves flying to Diqing Shangri-la Airport in Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (迪庆藏族自治州). Six daily flights currently leave from Kunming and round trip prices fluctuate seasonally but can cost as little as 600 yuan.
From the bus station nearby the airport, buses run to Meili Snow Mountain at regular intervals as long as weather permits. The trip should take between four and five hours in good conditions, with tickets costing roughly 65 yuan per person.
If you are interested in visiting Meili Snow Mountain, or traveling into or out of anywhere in Yunnan, we strongly recommend contacting the good people at Wonders of Yunnan Travel. They customize individual and group adventures to all points on the map, and specialize in making your trip South of the Clouds extraordinary.
Editor's note: Special thanks to GoKunming contributor Adam Crase, who is an American photographer based in Guangdong province. He travels extensively in China in search of unseen angles and perfect shots. In 2013, Crase published his first book — a large format collection entitled "Dongguan, China 中国东莞". More of Crase's images can be seen at newly launched online magazine Hubhao or at Kung Fu Imaging.© Copyright 2005-2021 GoKunming.com all rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without permission.