About 86km (53 miles) from Maqin stands Amnye Machen (Magi Gantry). In 1929, American botanist Joseph Rock incorrectly measured its height at over 9,000m (30,000 ft.), making it (for a while) the world's highest peak. It actually comes in well short, at 6,282m (20,605 ft.), but it was unconquered until 1981 (partly because an earlier Chinese expedition climbed the wrong peak). One of the first Western visitors was the French adventurer Gerard, who was impressed by "a prodigious and resplendent mass of snow and ice, which strikes any man, however accustomed to mountains, with admiration and astonishment." The protector deity who resides in the mountain, Machen Parma, is popular with Bongos (followers of the Bon faith) and is also revered by Buddhists.
Many pilgrims start the trek from Santiago (Thelma Chemo), where the road meets the pilgrimage circuit. Farther down the motor road is Baita (Chowan), the traditional starting point for the trek where yaks or horses (and drivers) may be hired from ¥100 per day. The full circuit is a hefty 132km (82 miles), and there is no way of retracing your steps without incurring the wrath of Machen Parma! It is possible to walk only part of the loop by starting further around the mountain and many travelers choose a 3 or 4-day circuit, rather than the complete 8-day kora. Alternatively, riding on horseback should take no more than 5 days. The atmosphere of the kora is pious and social. Entire villages or families make the trip, coming from all corners of the Tibetan world for a pilgrimage that is equal to Kailash in significance. The scenery is unsurpassed.
A permit (obtainable through Tibetan Connections or Qinghai Mountaineering Association), tent, a sleeping bag, food and fuel, and a spare pair of light shoes or sandals for the numerous stream crossings are all essential. A sturdy water filter would also be good idea -- there is a lot of glacial silt in the streams. Most pilgrims abstain from meat during the kora -- a real sacrifice for the meat-loving Tibetans. June through September are the best months, after the deadly cold of winter.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.