This is a beautiful valley on a beautiful morning and those of us not suffering from dysentery are all in the mood for a serious hike. Our bus drops us at the trail head at an altitude of 8,700 feet. Linear hiking distance is irrelevant today; the Tiger's nest is 1,800 vertical feet above our heads. As we start up the mountain we are teased with fleeting glimpses of the Tiger's Nest and the cliff that is its home (photos 1 - 5 below). Our first stop is a small tea house directly across the chasm from the Tiger's nest. It gives a great view (photo 6 below). After a short rest, we trudge on to a Chorten even closer to our destination with wonderful views (photos 7-9 below). And now, as they say,it gets interesting.
To reach the Tiger's nest itself, we need to descend about 500 vertical feet into the chasm. The trail is narrow. There are rough stone steps hewed out of the mountain side part of the way and a dreadful fall awaiting any who misstep. Fear of height is no longer my friend if indeed it ever was. At the bottom of the chasm there is a spectacular waterfall (photo 10). And now we must crawl back up the 500 vertical feet we just surrendered.
This is hard. I am used to the nice sweet dense air of sea level. And while I have trained for this trip, I didn't train for this level of exertion. This is hard.
As we near the Tiger's nest, we pass a small retreat house (photo 11 below) and reach the monastery. Sadly no photos are allowed in the monastery and we surrender our backpacks and cameras before we proceed. The monk responsible for the monastery is in residence and available. We are invited into the sacred cave where we are blessed and given a small amulet. The monastery is very very interesting. The views are spectacular. But my tired legs are beginning to cool off and my joints stiffen. I'm beginning to think ahead to the 500 foot climb that awaits.
We climb back down to the falls and I'm struck by the beauty of the prayer flags strung between the chorten and the tiger's nest. These span a chasm about 100 yards wide and 150 yards deep. Just getting them there was a daunting feat. See photo 12.
Back up 500 vertical feet; back to the chorten; back to the tea house. Here we enjoy a vegetarian lunch and a couple of liters of water; not the protein I'm craving but I supplement with a Cliff Bar and a small package of almonds and I'm good to go for the final 1,800 foot descent. At least it's downhill all the rest of the way. It's small comfort to my knees because downhill is actually harder on them than uphill. I'm limping slightly when I get to the bus but I am euphoric, endorphins in action I suppose. This has been a great day and a fine end to our adventure!
These photos were taken in October 2008 mostly with a Nikon D3.