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Amne Machin Snow Mountain and Kumbum Monastery, Qinghai Province (5 days)

In Brief: Two high-altitude hikes at the grasslands and glacier of the Amne Machin Snow Mountain, and visits to Tibetan temples and markets, including Xining’s Kumbum Monastery.

Anme Machin Snow Mountain | Grasslands below the peaks of Amne Machin Snow Mountain

Grasslands below the peaks of Amne Machin Snow Mountain.

Amne Machin Snow Mountain and Kumbum Monastery, Qinghai Province (5 days)

June 19–23, 2019

* Price deadlines: Make payment before the stated dates to qualify for the prices listed.
July 1Last day for early price*
July 12Last day for standard price

Costs and Registration

Prices based on Beijing departure. Joining from elsewhere? Let us know, and we'll work something out.
Cost 14,250 RMB (early)
15,000 RMB (standard)
Members 12,500 RMB (early)
12,800 RMB (standard)

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Visit Qinghai Province for two high-altitude hikes at the grasslands and glacier of the Amne Machin Snow Mountain, in the Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. The trip includes visits to Tibetan temples and markets in Golog, plus a visit to Xining’s Kumbum Monastery.

Detailed information about the trip activities and arrangements can be found below. Please contact us at any time for further details.

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Trip overview

Day 1—Fly to Xining, walking tour of Kumbum Monastery, visit Xining’s Grand Mosque.
Day 2—Fly to Golog, visit Tibetan temple, visit local market.
Day 3—Hike up to 4,900m in the foothills of Amne Machin.
Day 4—Hike up to 3,800m to visit the glacier at Amne Machin.
Day 5—Fly back to Beijing via Xining.

Qinghai Province

Qinghai Province is located in China’s northwest, and shares borders with Xinjiang, Gansu, Sichuan, and Tibet. A large part of Qinghai is on the Tibetan Plateau – a vast high-altitude plateau bordered by the Himalaya, Kunlun, and Qilian Mountain Ranges.

The Qinghai region was known as Amdo during the time of the Tibetan Empire. From the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, the region was under the control of the Mongols and known as Kokonur. And after the Qing Dynasty was overthrown, much of the region was under control of a family of Hui Muslim warlords known as the Ma Clique. Today in Qinghai you can find traces of that history: Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, Muslim mosques, plus a big mixture of local languages and dialects.

Amne Machin Snow Mountain

Yaks on high altitude meadows
Yaks on high altitude meadows. (Click for larger image)

The 6,282m peak of Amne Machin Snow Mountain is the highest point of the Amne Machin Range, which itself is part of the Kunlun Range, one of the main mountain systems of Asia.

In Chinese legend, Amne Machin is where Emperor Yu the Great ‘tamed the flood[ing]’ Yellow River, which is partially fed from snow melt from the mountain.

In Tibetan religion, Amne Machin is said to be the home of Machen Pomra, the main deity of the Amdo Region. It’s a holy mountain, and pilgrims still come to walk the nearly 200km loop around the peaks.

A minor peak of the mountain was climbed in 1961, and the main peak was unclimbed until 1981.

Amne Machin is located in Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a mountainous area in which the population is 92% Tibetan.

Kumbum Monastery

The golden roof of the main temple in Kumbum Monastery
The golden roof of the main temple in Kumbum Monastery. (Click for larger image)

Kumbum Monastery is a monastery of the Gelug ‘Yellow Hat’ sect of Tibetan Buddhism that was established in the 1580s at the site of the birthplace of Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug sect.

Before the 1580s, there had been a small temple with a stupa to mark the site of his birth. Tradition has it that a sandalwood tree had also grown up, and that the leaves and the bark of that tree had markings that looked like Buddha’s face. The temple that was built around the tree is the holiest place in the temple. The tree is no longer standing, but the temple is still there and houses parts of the tree.

Kumbum has important (and interesting!) connections to the three main monasteries of Lhasa, and it’s in this area that the third – and also the first – Dalai Lama was given that title.

Je Tsongkhapa, born on the site of Kumbum, founded Lhasa’s Ganden Monastery in 1409, and it became the main seat of the Gelug tradition. Two of Tsongkapa’s disciples founded the other two main Gelug monasteries – Drepung Monastery, and Sera Monastery – both in Lhasa.

In the 1500s, Sonam Gyatso – who would become the third (but actually first) Dalai Lama – became the head abbot of both Drepung and Sera Monasteries. This made him a very important spiritual and political figure in Tibet.

Around the same time, Altan Khan was ruler of roughly half of the Mongolian tribes. As the story goes, only a direct descendant of Kublai Khan would be eligible to rule the whole lot … and Altan Khan was not a direct descendant.

What to do? A political and spiritual solution was found. Sonam Gyansto was invited to meet Altan Khan near Qinghai Lake. After that meeting Altan Khan became eligible to rule all the Mongolian tribes, and Buddhism became the main religion of his subjects.

How? Again, as the story goes, Sonam Gyatso announced that he had recognised Altan Khan as a reincarnation of Kublai Khan, and that he himself was a reincarnation of the Tibetan monk who had converted Kublai Khan to Buddhism. Altan Khan then gave Sonam Gyatso the title ‘Dalai Lama’, and announced that the two had come again to promote Buddhism to Mongolians. Very convenient!

So why was Sonam Gyatso actually the third Dalai Lama, even though he was the first to have that title? The title was later conferred on his two previous incarnations. And, in another convenient coincidence, Altan Khan’s great-grandson was identified as Sonam Gyatso’s reincarnation and became the fourth Dalai Lama.

Now that was a productive meeting. It’s not finished yet, though – it was on the way to his meeting with Altan Khan that Sonam Gyatso toured the small temple at Kumbum and ordered it expanded into a monastery fitting of the birthplace of the founder of the Gelug sect.

We’ll do a walking tour of the Kumbum Monastery on the first day of this trip.

Health warning – high altitude

During the trekking part of this trip we will be at high altitude, and will arrive without a whole lot of acclimatisation.

We take the issue of altitude sickness seriously. If anyone has serious problems with the altitude, one of the BJH guides will take them back to Xining straight away. If anyone has problems after that, they’ll be transferred back and met by the guide. Any extra costs incurred for transport/medical assistance are to be paid by participants. We will purchase insurance on your behalf, but you must be prepared to cover any up-front costs.

At high altitude, the weather may change suddenly for the worse. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary to ensure the safety of all participants.

Flights and transport

We’ll be flying to and from Xining and Golog. Other travel during the trip will be in a comfortable private vehicle.

What to bring

  • Passport/ID card
  • Sunglasses and sun cream.
  • Basic hiking gears.
  • Hiking boots.
  • Quick-dry/wicking clothing.
  • Warm clothes, warm hat, thick socks, scarf and gloves.
  • Waterproof/windbreaker jacket.
  • Wet tissues or hand sanitizer.
  • Extra snacks or things you can’t live without
  • Altitude sickness medicine, just in case. A Chinese medicine named Hongjingtian (红景天) can be found in some pharmacies in Beijing.
  • Day pack for carrying water and snacks while hiking.
  • Duffle bag or suitcase for other luggage

Full itinerary

  1. Day One
    Morning flight to Xining 13:20 – Arrive in Xining (2,261m altitude)
    14:00 – Check in at hotel
    14:30 – Drive to Kumbum Monastery ()2,696m) for a tour and hike
    16:30 – Drive to Xining Grand Mosque
    17:00 – Tour of the mosque
    18:30 – Dinner at hotel
    20:00 – Free time

  2. Day Two
    06:00 – Check out of hotel
    07:20 – Arrive at the airport, quick breakfast
    08:55 – Fly to Golog
    10:00 – Arrive at Golog (4,000m)
    10:30 – Check in at hotel
    11:30 – Tour of a Tibetan temple in the mountains
    13:00 – Lunch at Tibetan restaurant
    14:00 – Visit Tibetan market
    16:00 – Walk back to the hotel
    18:30 – Dinner at hotel
    19:30 – Free time

  3. Day Three
    08:30 – Breakfast at hotel, prepare packed lunch
    09:00 – Drive to Amne Machin Snow Mountain for a hike
    11:00 – Start the hike (4,200m)
    13:30 – High point of hike (4,900m)
    14:00 – Hike down through alpine meadows (4,600m)
    15:00 – Cross the glacial river (4,200m)
    15:30 – Drive back to the hotel
    17:30 – Back at the hotel
    19:30 – Dinner
    20:30 – Free time

  4. Day Four
    08:30 – Breakfast at hotel
    09:00 – Drive to the glacier
    10:30 – Start the hike around the glacier (3,800m)
    14:00 – Picnic lunch, then more hiking
    15:30 – Drive back to the hotel
    17:00 – Back at the hotel
    19:00 – Dinner
    20:00 – Free time

  5. Day Five
    08:00 – Breakfast at hotel
    10:40 – Flight to Xining
    12:00 – Lunch at Xining airport
    15:30 – Fly back to Beijing
    17:55 – Arrive at the Beijing airport
    All times are approximate, and depend on our speed of movement.

More photos

Golog and Amne Machin

Grasslands below the peaks of Amne Machin Snow Mountain
Grasslands below the peaks of Amne Machin Snow Mountain. (Click for larger image)
Wild flowers in the grasslands below the peaks of Amne Machin Snow Mountain
Wild flowers in the grasslands below the peaks of Amne Machin Snow Mountain. (Click for larger image)
On the glacier
On the glacier. (Click for larger image)
On the glacier
On the glacier. (Click for larger image)
One of the glaciers at Amne Machin
One of the glaciers at Amne Machin. (Click for larger image)
Yaks on high altitude meadows
Yaks on high altitude meadows. (Click for larger image)
Hiking at Amne Machin
Hiking at Amne Machin. (Click for larger image)
The peaks of Amne Machin Snow Mountain
The peaks of Amne Machin Snow Mountain. (Click for larger image)
Stupas at a temple near Amne Machin Snow Mountain
Stupas at a temple near Amne Machin Snow Mountain. (Click for larger image)
Stupas at a temple near Amne Machin Snow Mountain
Stupas at a temple near Amne Machin Snow Mountain. (Click for larger image)

Kumbum Monastery

The entrance to Kumbum Monastery
The entrance to Kumbum Monastery. (Click for larger image)
Inside Kumbum Monastery
Inside Kumbum Monastery. (Click for larger image)
Praying at the monastery
Praying at the monastery. (Click for larger image)
A stupa at Kumbum Monastery
A stupa at Kumbum Monastery. (Click for larger image)

More information

Contact us at any time for more information. Payment terms, conditions, and details will be supplied along with a waiver document and travel guidelines after your registration request has been received.

We usually need to get 8–10 people signed up to go ahead with this trip. Beijing Hikers reserves the right to decide who may participate in this trip.

Key trip information

Costs and Registration

Prices based on Beijing departure. Joining from elsewhere? Let us know, and we'll work it out for you.
Cost 14,250 RMB (early)
15,000 RMB (standard)
Members 12,500 RMB (early)
12,800 RMB (standard)

Dates: June 19–23, 2019

* Price deadlines: Make payment before the stated dates to qualify for the prices listed.
July 1Last day for early price*
July 12Last day for standard price

There are risks involved in hiking and travel. Please read our Risk Acknowledgment and Waiver and inform yourself before participating.

Ready to explore? Book your place

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