A unique and culturally immersive wilderness adventure in Olangchung Gola, North East Nepal.

In the far eastern corner of Nepal, tucked away in the remote borderlands with Tibet lies the village of Olangchung Gola. The last habitation before the wild and rugged Lumbasumba Pass which connects the giant 8000m+ peaks of Kanchenjunga and Makalu, it is also home to the ancient Deki Chholing gompa and an age-old (and increasingly disappearing) tradition of weaving beautiful woolen rugs by hand and using only natural dyes. For anyone interested, some of the unique contemporary and vintage rugs from the village are currently for sale in our online shop.

The monastery is also the venue for a seldom-seen, esoteric Tibetan Buddhist festival that takes place every year in late autumn, involving various Cham dances, such as the 'Black Hat' dance as well as a Vajrakila phurba ceremony in the tradition of the 'Northern Treasures' tantra.  Indeed, we will now be heading back here in November 2017 on our culturally-rich 'Northern Treasures' Trek.

In truth, we are very excited about this new trip and have designed a unique small group adventure that will combine the wonderful festival with a trek to a nearby sacred lake, surrounded by 5000m+ peaks. The local Walung people believe that advanced Buddhist practitioners can see their future karmic path reflected in the crystal-clear waters. The lake has previously been completely off-limits to outsiders, so we feel very privileged to be able to share the experience with our clients.


The Kawa Karpo Kora trek, Yunnan/Tibet: A fond yet sad fairwell.

The Kawa Karpo Kora trek was once one of the region's great mountain adventures. In recent years it has been compromised by the building of a new road, on the Tibetan side, and the establishment of a police checkpoint near Chawalong which often presents a headache to those of us used to trekking the route without a permit.

Post 2015 , there is sadly also a problem with rubbish, as the trail was overwhelmed with large numbers of pligrims circumambulating the sacred mountain in what was the most recent auspicious Year of the Sheep. Local villagers and authorities have vowed to organize a clean-up but in my humble opinion, the situation is almost beyond repair.

We have successfully lead three seperate expeditions around Kham's most important pilgrimage over the years, but it's now time to move on and discover pastures new. For posterity's sake, here are a few photos, to remember one of our favourite trips.

A beautiful trek between the Nujiang and Mekong River Valleys in Yunnan: Next stop the Yangste?

The first rule of expedition management is to always have a plan B. On our latest trekking adventure in northern Yunnan and eastern Tibet we decided to explore an alternative trekking route and traverse the Nujiang and Mekong Valleys 40 km further south than our original plan. A big call at the time - the combination of a hair-raising bus ride high above a vertigo-inducing gorge (with our mules riding in a truck behind) and the subsequent crossing of two spectacular high-altitude passes framed by lush river valleys made for a wonderful end to the trip.

It also got me thinking about a follow-up expedition to traverse all three of the parallel river valleys that flow down from Tibet into Yunnan - the Yangste, the Mekong and the Nujiang. It would be an amazing adventure - particularly in late spring when the rhododendrons will be in full bloom. Stay posted. I'm making provisional plans as we speak - most probably for May/June 2018.

Is Whistling Arrow's Yading 'Big Kora' expedition the most beautiful trek in China?

Honestly. We think so.

Whistling Arrow originally recced the Yading 'Big Kora' several years ago now and, while things are starting to change on the ground, it is still, in our humble opinion, the most scenically spectacular one week trek in western China/eastern Tibet.  We have successfully completed four commercial expeditions in recent times, three in the month of September and one in June, so we have become something of an expert on this exceptional, esoteric adventure.

The challenging trek takes six to eight days in total and climbs through forested hills to a mountain sanctuary that is stunningly beautiful. The circular route also crosses a number of high altitude passes (the highest being 4,900m), through valleys dotted with wild flowers (including the fabled Himalayan Blue Poppy) and yak herders huts, to witness crystal clear, glacier-fed lakes and mountain views that simply take your breath away.

Approximately 6000m in height, the three sacred peaks are situated in the Ganzi Tibet Autonomous prefecture in western Sichuan and were sanctified in the 16th Century by the fifth Dalai Lama. Local Tibetans revere them as emanations of the three bodhisattvas of Chenrezing (compassion), Jampayang (wisdom) and Chanadorjee (power) and believe that embarking on the ‘kora’ that encircles their majestic, snow-capped summits helps to accumulate merit and purify negative karma.

The trek also has an interesting backstory involving Joseph Rock, the famous Austrian-American explorer and geographer, who first ‘discovered’ the sacred mountains of Yading in 1928. Inhabited at the time by murderous Tibetan bandits, he romantically labeled them the ‘holy mountains of the outlaws’. An extensive account of his travels in the region was published in the July 1931 issue of National Geographic and gave the outside world its first jaw-dropping glimpse of this incredibly beautiful ‘Shangri-La’. Indeed, it is possible that fictional paradise written about by James Hilton in the 1933 novel ‘Lost Horizon’ was inspired by these amazing images.

Here are some of our own images, which we hope, will also help to inspire.

** Please note that while we have no plans to run a fixed-departure Yading Big Kora trek in 2017 we are still able to customize this adventure for pre-arranged groups of at least 4 people. Additionally, we are also be running an alternative expedition in the region in September/October 2017, details of which, can be found by CLICKING HERE **

A trekking expedition into the Altai mountains of western Mongolia

We have designed, managed and lead multiple expeditions into the Altai mountains of western Mongolia over the last few years and the remote region remains one of our favourite destinations. There are very few places in Asia that quite give you the same boundless feeling of open space and big sky and so we continue the hunt for new adventures. One of the most promising areas is an untrekked (previously restricted) range along the China border to the south east - so stay tuned.

In the meantime, here are some photos of our twist on a classic expeditionary route in Altai Tavan Bogd. The adventure took place in late August (the best time in our opinion) and began with a beautiful drive across the steppe to a ger-stay with Shohan - the eagle hunter - and his family where we rode horses and helped to round up his flatulent flock as the sun set over the snowy peaks. With typical, nomadic hospitality we then feasted on mutton, fermented mares milk (it's stronger than you think) and wild berries.

The following day we passed a number of ancient Turkic stone statues and pre-hictoric petroglyphs before camping at the mouth of Baga Turgen. From our campsite, we trekked up to a spectacular lookout with stunning views of across the spectacular terrain that would provide the epic backdrop to our forthcoming adventure; an untouched, wild frontier where seas of grass baked golden by the sun morph into snowy peaks and sweeping glacial valleys.

And so, armed with special permits, we trekked into two 'hidden valleys' to unearth parts of the beautiful landscape known only to local Tuva and Kazakh hunters, including one high altitude lake where we caught a fleeting glimpse of an Altai bear and her two cubs. Traversing the Altai, the expedition then culminated in a hike up the largest glacier in the country and an awe-inspiring 4000m panorama, atop Malchin Peak, over China, Russia and Kazakhstan.

Please note that in 2017, our main focus will be on running a photography-based eaglehunter adventure which will run from July 28 to August 7 in collaboration with the 2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. For groups of at least four people however, we are still happy to design customized treks in the region for pre-arranged groups of friends and families.

Hunting for Rhododendron in the wild borderlands of Yunnan, Burma & Tibet.

In May 2015, in collaboration with the New Zealand and Australian Rhododendon Societies - whose detailed trip write up can be read here -  we lead an intrepid team of rhododendron enthusiasts on a unique trekking expedition to explore a spectacular, almost primordial botanical sanctuary at the foot of Mt Kenyichunpo, surrounded by jagged peaks, lush glacial valleys and alpine lakes.

Covered in large swaths of old-growth forest, the Northern Gaoligong Mountains feel like they could hide a yeti. Rugged and remote, the range divides the wild borderlands of Yunnan and Burma and separates the narrow, upper valleys of two of Asia's great rivers; the Nujiang (or Salween) and the Dulong (or Irrawaddy). The abundant precipitation and accommodating microclimate, make this pristine wilderness a veritable museum of biodiversity and the epicenter of plant endemism in the region. It is estimated that the area is home to over 300 plant species found nowhere else on earth. On all of our previous and extensive treks in China (and the wider Himalayan region), we have never encountered rhododendron that bloom on such an outlandish scale. Whites, reds, purples, yellows, oranges, pinks and all the colours in between; the variety of flowers is truly kaleidoscopic.

Designed in the pioneering spirit of George Forrest and Frank Kingdon-Ward, this was truly one of our most hard-core adventures. The only thing more satisfying than researching and planning such a singular expedition - is successfully pulling it off. And to do that, you really do need a great  team. So thanks again to Rose, Pru, Gordon, Dan & Wolfgang for making it such a memorable trip. I hope we can get the crew back together one day.

We are also happy to run this trip again for other pre-arranged groups of aspiring plant-hunters. There are also three other intriguing possibilities for further exploration in the area. Firstly a full traverse of the northern Nujiang and Dulong River Valleys (which we will be undertaking in June 2017). Secondly, a full circumambulation of Mt Kenyichunpo and, last but not least, a trek back into the same location in the month of August, when our local Lisu guises tell us, 'Alpine' flowers are in riotous bloom.