The Big Kora, part I: Power

Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, November 5, 2005

I inspire the strong and noble
Who shun deception, and favor truth
For the world is full of lies
And the clear sword of Truth is needed
To pierce its darkness. ~ Vajrapani, the Bodhissatva of Power

We didn't decide to do the Big Kora at any particular time. We didn't decide to do the Big Kora looking at Venus, the Evening Star, backlighting Yangmaiyong. We didn't decide to do the Big Kora based on any of Jeremy's birthday wishes or my holding tightly the prayer beads Quza the monk gave me. We just were going to do the Big Kora.

The Big Kora is the circumambulation of all three Bodhissatvas at Yading: Power, Wisdom, and Compassion. The kora around these mountains provides lessons for the pilgrim. The pilgrims can then ask for assistance in this life, such as a new Ferarri, as the Bodhissatvas are there for all sentient beings. We were also curious about what Power, Wisdom, and Compassion could teach us, especially in the auspicious year of the Rooster, the holy year for these mountains.

And we were ready for some trekking.

We were ready but knew that we would need to ration food and were short on money. Somehow, a bag of food was lost and Jeremy's money was dwindling. I knew from before, however, what it was like to be low on money and food: we would be fine.

We began our ascent, heading east around the north face of Power. We took a steep gully of thickets and Rhododendron shrubs until we reached the main trail further up the valley. There we met a hiker descending the valley: "you should turn around; it's too windy."

Earlier we had heard other warnings: "You can't do that, the snow is up to your waist up there!"

"Don't go there, it's too long."

Too many warnings.

We had done our own reconnaissance the day before, up at 15,000 feet. It was windy and cold, and there was snow, but nothing unusual. Even a snowstorm is not dangerous, if you know how to live with it. Every trail has an escape route. Every up has a down. I had my first aid kit, my minus 20 sleeping bag, my emergency blanket. Ok, enough preparations...

We continued and reached the first pass at 3 pm. The pass was at 16,030 feet according to my accurate-enough altimeter. Snow and rime ice coated the cairns, surrounded by prayer flags. Power had disappeared behind the valley mountains and another valley opened before us.

I broke our first Snicker's bar in half, and we ate in celebration before continuing down into the next valley, a land of mythical serpents, once fierce, now tamed and protected by Chana Dorje--Power.

On the rock faces of Chana Dorje you can see the serpents, a swirl of metamorphic rock, twisted. The Power of the Earth was manifest in this mountain.

Several hours later, we found a nomadic cabin, shelter for herders in the summer months. We gathered wood and established our camp in the cabin. I prepared dinner:

Steak and Potatoes
Slice pieces of air dried yak
Cube pre-baked potatoes
Chop onions, ginger, and garlic
Wash and cut bok choy and tomatoes
Add yak, onions, ginger, and garlic to an oiled frying pan
Sprinkle salt and red pepper to taste
When done, set meat aside in closed pot next to fire
Fry potatoes in meat juices, set aside
Fry bok choy and tomatoes.
Serve everything hot.

The next morning, we continued the kora, heading down and around huge spires, through dense fir and oak forests until the east face of Power came before us. We stopped for lunch in a pasture, a crystal stream running through it, with Power above us.

While Jeremy was reading by the stream, a King Yak appeared from the forest and headed towards me. The bull didn't stop until it was ten feet away. I was talking to it as best I knew how to talk bull.

Then it charged me. I ran behind a wall left over from the nomads' summer camps. I was done talking nice bull, picked up a couple of stones, threw them, and yelled at the bull. The King Yak ran and returned to the forest.

As I looked up at Power, I wondered why a King Yak would be up here, alone, a month after all the nomads and their animals had left the area.

Was the King Yak an omen? a manifestation of Power?

Chana Dorje, Bodhissatva of Power, is a wrathful deity venerated by early Shaolin kung-fu monks who were seeking physical strength. Blue in color, surrounded by flames that transform hate into the highest of wisdom, and brandishing the dorje, an impervious weapon of the highest power, Chana Dorje may be wrathful, but uses his wrathful power to overcome demons, hate, and other evils. Pilgrims invoke his Power to overcome interior obstacles: illness, psychological hurdles, and other overwhelming circumstances.

Heading towards Power after a hard-boiled egg--pre-boiled for us at a bar, of all places--and some crackers, we passed a Sculpted Larch unlike all other larches in the area. The Sculpted Larch appeared to be the oldest of the larches and possibly survived a wind storm years ago, its top severed. Other trees eventually regenerated in the area, younger and straighter. This tree, its branches growing more horizontally, persisted in its old age.

Hours later, we reached a second pass at 14,800 feet. We were overlooking a large forested valley with a meandering stream flowing down to the east; we headed west. Darkness approached when we found a campsite under Power, right next to one of its moraines, the valley spanning below us. Ahead was supposedly the next pass, which rose like a knife, with Wisdom looming thousands of feet higher in the distance. We questioned whether it could even be a pass; a longer route around nearby mountains looked easier.

The next morning we followed the cairns to arrive at our answer: it was the third pass. To scale the pass, we could either follow the switchbacks, which were covered in snow, or climb straight up on the right side. We decided to climb the pass on the right side, which was exhausting but exhilarating, climbing with both hands and feet.

Hours later, we reached the top of the pass at 15,500 feet. The wind whipped and snow was everywhere; the trail ahead was not visible, buried under the snow. We stopped, sheltered behind a boulder, to share another Snicker's bar--our third.

Ahead lay the Snowfields, the first challenge of Wisdom.
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terra_amore8 on

sounds exhilerating

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