About 800km from Kunming (kūn míng 昆明), Meili Snow Mountain (méi lǐ xuě shān 梅里雪山)towers over the landscape in the west of Deqin (dé qīn 德钦) County in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Also known as 'Prince Snow Mountain', it is the most sacred mountainthe in the world. Meili Mountain has long been famous for Kang Karpo Peak (kǎ wǎ gé bó fēng 卡瓦格博峰), Yunnan's tallest mountain - 6,740m above sea level. Among one of the eight sacred mountains the Tibetans worship, it looks like gilded when the sun rises. There are 13 lesser peaks around it, each more than 6,000m above sea level.
Legend has it that Kang Karpo Peak is the incarnation of a Tibetan God who helped the local people drive the evil spirit away. The mountain's name means white snow mountain in the Tibetan language and it's named after a patron saint in Tibetan Buddhism. It's said Kang Karpo often rode a white horse with a sword in his hand. His majestic appearance was similar to that of the peak. It is said that reaching the top of the Potala Palace, you would see the profile of Kang Karpo through the colorful clouds. Every year from the end of autumn to the start of winter, thousands of Tibetan pilgrims walk to pay their homage to Kang Karpo.
Humans conquered Mt. Qomolangma (zhū mù lǎng mǎ 珠穆朗玛), the world's tallest mountain, a long time ago but no one has climbed Kang Karpo Peak, which is protected by perpendicular cliffs and a treacherous climate. The peak remains mysterious and elusive because it's constantly surrounded by clouds and mist. Beneath the peak, the Mingyong (míng yǒng 明永) and Sinong (sī nóng 斯农) glaciers stretch down to the forest at an elevation of 2,700m, only 800m from Lancang River (lán cāng jiāng 澜沧江). It's rare to find permanent glaciers at such a low latitude and they're definitely worth a visit.
The Mingyong Glacier (míng yǒng bīng chuān 明永冰川), in particular, drops from an elevation of 5,500m to the forest zone around 2,700m above the sea level in the rainy season. From afar it looks like a huge white snake wriggling its way among the verdant mountains. A one-hour mule ride along the Mingyong Glacier ends at the Prince Temple (tài zi diàn 太子殿), a very important sacred site for Tibetans. This is the one must-see destination on any trip around Meili. Outside the temple, there are several huge mounds of colorful religious inscriptions. Lots of Tibetan pilgrims also travel here to walk around the mountain. The stones inside the holy mountain are not regular ones. The local people even say one of the rocks embodies the wisdom of the world. The pilgrims bring the ashes of their deceased family members here, praying for a quick and good reincarnation for them. On the south side of the main peak, a waterfall the locals call 'a deluge of rain and God-mandated cascade' tumbles down from a breathtaking height of 1,000m. Pure water splashes from the cracks in the snow and you can often see rainbows above the fall.
The mountains possess some of the region's highest diversity plants. They also provide habitat for many wild animals. As you breathe the extremely fresh air, you can imagine how the pilgrims feel when they walk their spiritual pilgrimages to the Meili Mountains. There is a sense of togetherness, a perfect harmony with the Mother Nature.
The best season for visiting Meili Mountain is from January to May, during the time it has snow-capped peaks, dense forests, vast grasslands and beautiful wild flowers. The rainy summer season makes the trail muddy and difficult. The place is also nice from mid-October to mid-November when it is covered with marvelous autumn colors. Winter is cold and heavy snowfalls may block roads and isolate the region for weeks or months.
A three-hour flight to Kunming from Beijing, followed by a 20-hour bus trip (134 yuan) from Kunming to Zhongdian (zhōng diàn 中甸), the transfer station (buses depart Kunming Panjiawan (pān jiā wān 潘家湾), and Nanyao (nán yáo 南窑) Bus Station, from 1pm to 6pm every day, and finally a 9-hour bus journey from Zhongdian to Deqin (23 yuan, 2 buses depart Zhongdian Bus Station from 7: 30am to 8: 30am). To Meili Snow Mountain and Cizhong church, renting cars is the only choice.
Tourists with heart disease and hypertension are discouraged as the altitude may worsen the condition.
Bring warm clothes and cold and stomach medicine. Taking Hong Jing Tian (hóng jǐng tiān 红景天) and Ji Gan, Tibetan herbal medicine, or the local buttered tea two days ahead of the trip may prevent an adverse reaction to the altitude.