Gezong Kora & Lakes Explorer

14 Days


This is the most dramatic and challenging trail in our files. It's so challenging, indeed, that in two attempts we have not yet completed the kora trail, or pilgrimage circuit of Mt Gezong, which is Yunnan Province's third-highest peak and a sacred object to the Tibetan villagers who inhabit its slopes. On this occasion, we plan to allow time to explore more of the beautiful lakes that nestle in basins high on the range: one, at least, is more than 5,000 meters above sea level. With the spring blossoms in full bloom and Tibetan herders beginning to move their yaks up the mountain, May is the ideal time to experience this area's wonderful blend of towering, snow-capped peaks, pristine pastures and pine and rhododendron forests.


  • Highly challenging 10-day trek on the pilgrimage circuit around one of southwest China's great, sacred mountains
  • Explore the alpine lakes of the Gezong range
  • Stunning highland scenery; the main peak of Gezong is 5,545 meters above sea level
  • Experience the culture and lifestyle of traditional Tibetan herding communities

Duration: 14 Days  Average group size: 4-6

Best times: Late May, but can be done until October, when the higher springs start to dry out. Please note that this trip is not currently on offer because of road works north of Shangri-la. We hope to restore this route in 2012.

Gezong Kora Route Map

*Price per person based on a group of four. For prices and discounts for groups of other sizes, please write to

For inquiries and a full trip dossier, please write to

Please note: This is a physically demanding trek that will take us far from the reach of main roads and modern conveniences. Applicants should be in good physical condition and must have experience of trekking at high altitude.


Day 1: Join tour in Shangri-la

Our group gathers in the Old Town of Zhongdian, now known as Shangri-la. An Orientation Meeting is followed by a hearty Tibetan dinner and plenty of yak butter tea - Shangri-la is already 3,300 meters above sea level, and a high-fat diet is one of the best insurances against altitude sickness.

Hotel, evening meal

Day 2: Shangri-la

Today you are free to explore Shangri-la and acclimatize to the altitude. Besides the Old Town, which is the sole surviving example of a pre-modern era Tibetan market town, you may also choose to visit the imposing Songzanlin Lamasery, the largest institution of the Dalai Lama's Gelugpa sect in southwest China. Group leader Dr. Ed Jocelyn was also a consultant to the Red Army Museum in the Old Town and will happily escort you around in the afternoon.

Hotel, breakfast, lunch & dinner

Day 3: Shuizhuang/Balagezong Grand Canyon

Today we transfer by private bus to our trek departure point by the Dangqu River, where the Tibetan villagers from Bala, high on the mountainside, have mostly moved to try to develop tourism in the valley. As the trail ahead is too steep to use pack animals, we will be accompanied henceforth by a team of Bala villagers to help carry the gear. The mountain here is called Balagezong after this village.

Hotel, BLD

Day 4: Naidang Pasture

From the riverside approximately 2,200 meters above sea level, we trek to 3,500 meters and the main pasture for the yak herders of Bala. This site offers imposing views of Gezong's main peaks and glaciers, plus a clear view of the challenge for the following day: Jiazega Pass.

Approx 8 km, 4-5 hours walking

Camp, BLD

Day 5: Jiazega Pass to Lake Luozu

This is likely to be the longest, most physically demanding day of the journey. From the base of the trail, around 3,200 meters above sea level, we must reach and cross Jiazega Pass, 4,700 meters, in order to reach camp before sunset. Lake Luozu is only about 100 meters below the pass; we aim to cross over around 4pm and reach camp by 5.

Approx 8 km, 7-8 hours walking

Camp, BLD

Day 6: Lake Luozu to Lakes Cuona & Ceren

A relatively relaxing day sees us make a circuit of three lakes, finishing by the shore of Lake Ceren where, if the herders do not object, we may try to fish for our supper.

Approx 5 km, 3-4 hours walking

Camp, BLD

Day 7: Lake Yongni

From today until Day 10, we aim to take a flexible approach. As we will be exploring new territory and can't be certain of the distances and timings involved, we aim to trek no more than six hours on any day: depending on our speed of march and our guides' advice, we will try to see as many of the lakes of Gezong as possible, and at least two of the most spectacular: Yongni and Reneide (which is the highest in the range, more than 5,000 meters above sea level, we believe).

Camp, BLD

Day 8: Lake Yongni to Lake Reneide trail camp

As we haven't trekked this section before, there's not much we can say about today or Day 9. The general aim is to take things easy and enjoy the great beauty of this highland area, in which dramatic peaks, thick forest and wide open pasture can all be enjoyed in a single day's hike.

Camp, BLD

Day 9: Lake Reneide

All being well, we will reach this, the highest lake in the range around midday, giving us time to trek back down to a milder spot to camp - although we are well into spring, at 5,000+ meters above sea level it is likely to be very cold even during the day.

Camp, BLD

Day 10: Camp below Niege Pass

We aim to camp as close as possible to the pass, which stands just over 5,000 meters above sea level. There is a small herders' camp within three-four hours of the pass, which is our probable choice.

Camp, BLD

Day 11: Niege Pass to east slope of Gezong

This is a short day by distance, but a tough challenge nonetheless, as we must climb to the pass and then negotiate the steep, steep slope that takes us past a scary cliff (even the phlegmatic locals note the care that must be taken at this point) and back to good trail. Although this is only a few hundred meters, it is likely to take at least an hour just to pass this one short section.

Approx 4 km, 4-5 hours walking

Camp, BLD

Day 12: Niege to Bala trail camp

From here on, it should be relatively easy trekking as we gradually descend on the return loop to Bala village.

Approx 12 km, 6 hours walking

Camp, BLD

Day 13: Bala Village, trek ends, transfer to Shangri-la

Assuming all has gone smoothly up to now, we should be left with, at most, an easy half-day trek to complete the circuit at Bala, from where we will transfer to 4-wheel drives to make the short journey back into the valley and then on to Shangri-la, where we celebrate success with a mighty feast and, if possible, some live Tibetan folk music.

Approx 8 km, 4 hours walking

Hotel, BLD

Day 14: Tour ends

Transfers available to Shangri-la Airport.

Breakfast only