Feilaisi (Feilai Temple)
Feilaisi (or Feilai Temple), literally “Flying Temple”, is an ideal place to view the east faces of the 13 peaks of the Prince Snow Mountain (太子雪山), also known as Meili Snow Mountain and Meili Jokul (梅里雪山).
Feilaisi (Feilai Temple 飞来寺) is a small Tibetan temple on the National Highway G214 dedicated to the spirits of Kawagarbo at 6740 meters (卡瓦博格峰), the highest peak in Meili Snow Mountain (Meili Jokul).
About 2km outside the monastery there is a growing number of inns and hostels to meet the increasing demand of tourists who come here to view Kawagarbo.
Feilaisi is located above the Mekong valley (澜沧江河谷) at an altitude of 3300 meters, about 10 km to the southwest of Shengping (升平镇), the seat of Deqin County ( 德钦县).
It has a geographical advantage to have a clear view of the east side of Meili Snow Mountain Range which is bounded by the Salween River ( Nujiang 怒江 in Chinese) on the west and the Mekong (Lancangjiang 澜沧江 in Chinese) on the east. The snow mountain rises about 10 km west of Feilaisi.
ABC of Kawagarbo, or Kawagebo Peak
Kawagarbo, or Kawagebo Peak 卡瓦格博峰 in Chinese, is the highest peak of the 13 peaks of the Prince Snow Mountain (太子雪山), also known as Meili Snow Mountain and Meili Jokul (梅里雪山), a small part of the much more extensive Hengduan Mountains (横断山脉), the major north-south complex of mountains lying along the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau in eastern Tibet.
Kawagebo Peak is often billed as the most beautiful snow mountain peak in the world. It is one of the most sacred peaks in the Tibetan world, the spiritual home of a warrior god of the same name.
Kawagebo Peak is still a virgin mountain though several attempts have been made in the past by the mountaineering teams from China, Japan, the US and the UK. They have all failed mainly due to the extremely complicated geographical conditions and incremental weather.
Kawagebo Peak climbing has also caused heavy protests from the local Tibetan community due to the mountain’s cultural and religious importance. On 3 January 1991, a nighttime avalanche killed all seventeen members of the Sino-Japanese expedition, one of the most disastrous mountaineering accidents in history.
In 2000, the local government passed relative laws banning all future climbing attempts on cultural and religious grounds.
Viewing Kawagebo Peak from Feilaisi
At 6:30 am, 12 October, 2015, Mr.Chen and I are waked up by the alarm clock on our iPhones. Jumping out of our beds, quickly putting on our clothes, we walk out of our rooms fast and up to the rooftop of our hotel with our tripods.
As expected, we could hardly see the peaks on Meili Snow Mountain Range which are covered with heavy dark white clouds. But we still put up our tripods, hoping magic will happen.
Around 7:50 am, suddenly appears a thin slit of clearing on Meilin Snow Mountain which allows us to have a peep of the white snow-capped peaks inside. I catch the momentary sight without delay.
Then in a few minutes the snow mountain again totally hides behind the heavy clouds. We decide to go down to the lobby restaurant for breakfast and wait for an opportunity to view Kawagebo Peak on the hotel rooftop viewing platform again.
Back to the rooftop platform after breakfast, we continue to wait for the clouds to disappear for a glimpse of the legendary Kawagebo Peak. Around 8:40 am, the clouds are dispersing and thinning a little and we are able to see the dark forested mountains with the snow-shrouded peaks still hiding behind the clouds.
Luckily, I have caught the image of Sinong Glacier ( 斯农冰川) below Cuguilaka Peak (粗归拉卡峰) at 5993 meters just north of Kawagebo Peak (卡瓦博格峰) at 6740 meters.
Then again the whole Prince Snow Mountain ( Meili Snow Mountain ) is totally blanketed by clouds. We sadly go down stairs, back to our rooms, and ready to leave our hotel for our next destination Shangri-la.
Before we leave our rooftop platform, I see lots of people like us still standing on the rooftop platforms of many other hotels in Feilaisi, taking pictures and waiting for the best photogenic time to shoot.
While checking out at the hotel front desk in the lobby, we have a small talk with Mr. White Horse, the hotel manager. Feeling our disappointment at the bad luck of being unable to see Kawagebo Peak, he is very empathetic. He consoles us by saying that later this morning Kawagebo Peak will appear before us due to our sincerity driving over 600 km from Daocheng.
He continues to say that he can guide us to a hill nearby to have a panoramic view of Kawagebo Peak and the Prince Snow Mountain as the whole. We are all overjoyed at the proposal, deeply moved by Mr.White Horse’ kindness and integrity. Temporarily restoring our luggage behind the front desk, we happily follow him, bombarding him with questions about Kawagebo Peak.
He says it is every rare to have the chance to see Kawagebo Peak in the sunrise golden light. The best time to view Kawagebo Peak is from October through May. July and August are the rainy season with the least possibility to see the Prince Snow Mountain (Meili Snow Mountain or Meili Jokul).
Ascend the hilltop
The forested hill he is taking us is quite steep, with an unpaved path leading to a rugged hilltop. On the way up, Ms. Chen Ya gets breathless, scrambling after Mr. White Horse. He stops and turns around, taking away her camera to reduce her load and grasping her by her arm, steadily balancing her hike up to the hilltop.
The 20-minute hike brings us to the rugged summit of the hill. He asks us to take a break and wait for the dispersion of clouds. I look around, and find the hill is surrounded by mountains in almost four sides, a very good natural viewing platform to see Meili Snow Mountain on the west, Baima Snow Mountain on the east and south with Feilaisi ( the area for hotels and hostels ) below the hill on the south.
Kawagebo Peak 6,740m appears!
As Mr. White Horse predicts, the sky is getting brighter and bluer, and grey clouds are turning into white clouds. The white clouds circling the snow capped-peaks on Meili Snow Mountain are slowing moving away. At last, Kawagebo Peak appears!
On the north of Kawagebo Peak at 6740 meters is the Cuguilaka Peak (粗归拉卡峰) at 5993 meters standing elegantly with white clouds circling below.
I change my standing position and point my camera to the east of our hill. The peaks of the Baima Snow Mountain are still shrouded by white clouds. At the foot of the white clouds-capped peaks is Feilaisi Village, picturesque and bucolic.
Maybe the charm of Meili Snow Mountain lies in the ever-changing clouds which make it difficult to see its true face. The changing clouds also constitute countless views of the snow mountain, the main reason to draw a consistent flow of common tourists all year around.
Before we leave the hilltop, I take quite a few pictures of the changing Kawagebo Peak and much delighted to share some of them.
Any questions on viewing Kawagebo Peak from Feilaisi, just drop a line.
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