MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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January 24, 2013

Tsum Valley Trek 2012 Part 2

Nuns of Rachen Gompa. Over 80 nuns live here in total. Deana Zabaldo photo

Tsum Valley is a beyul, a sacred Buddhist valley. Killing is prohibited and small monasteries abound. Monks and teachers from Tibet used to come regularly to the valley, and Buddhism has thrived here. In addition to traditional monasteries, every village has a lineage holder (sometimes two). A lineage holder passes Buddhist teachings and scriptures down from father to son instead of training someone else. They hold special teachings and knowledge and are revered and respected by the communities. In addition, most families send their second son to a monastery around age 10 to become a monk. Rachen Gompa is the largest nunnery in the area with over 80 nuns. Though families don’t send the girls as a requirement, many girls choose to become nuns.


Deana Zabaldo photo

Celebrating at 16,700 feet - the border of Nepal and Tibet. Deana Zabaldo photo

Walking through Tsum, the trail is lined with carved prayer stones and tall square chortens as it carves up the valley beside a crystal clear river. Yaks graze in fields, and we move ever closer to Tibet. By the time we make a push to the border pass at 16,700 feet, we are beyond the highest settlements, where herds of blue sheep roam easily and breathing is hard. Reaching the pass, we are surrounded by mountains. We string prayer flags and soak in a sense of accomplishment before heading back down to a cold high camp. By the time we’re back in the villages a few days later, everyone is in high spirits–just in time for a horse festival.


Sky on fire at sunset. Deana Zabaldo photo

Our days in Tsum have been marked with visits to homes and monasteries, steaming cups of salt butter tea (more like a soup broth than a tea), teachings from the Buddhist monks traveling with us, sunset meditation, stories of the mythic Yeti, and an incredibly gracious hospitality from everyone we meet.

Join us for this in-depth cultural trek in 2013!

~ MM Guide Deana Zabaldo

(excerpt from

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