Hike to Tharpaling Monastery
From the moment I stepped foot on the UWICE campus and looked up at the wide, green ridges surrounding us, I’ve been dying to see the view from the top of them. A few weekends ago, I got that chance.
We had been asking about the signs for trails to Tharpaling monestary heading into the forest above campus pretty much since we arrived here last month, but had heard that it was pretty much a straight shot up. Not entirely ideal for a group of people still adjusting to altitude. So when the option to hike up came around on a Sunday a few weeks later, most of the group ignored the depressing cloud cover and grabbed snacks for the summit.
As we were warned, the moment we turned onto the trail it was a steep and daunting climb. We fell into a slow— rhythm, inching our way up as we moved through huge rhododendron trees and fields of bamboo. Talking to pass the time or just focusing on each step, it wasn’t too long before the trees thinned and we caught a glimpse of the valley below, the valley we call home for these few months. At somewhere around 13,000ft, I could feel the altitude, a weight on my chest making each step a little more of a struggle as we made a jaged path up the ridge. By the time I reached the top of the ridge, it was all I could do to sit around eating snacks for energy and staring out across the mountains.
Tharpaling monastery was tucked into the ridge below us, just far enough down to make me question my commitment to visiting it. But with enough of a sugar rush from snacking at the top, I forgot all about the extra hiking and wandered down to the community built into the rocky slope. As we walked past small sun-warmed homes, braced against the rock face, we got our first yak sighting of the trip (they were not as enthusiastic about the encounter as we were). The monastery itself was so colorful and ornate it overwhelmed me at first- snow-capped mountain scenes and deities with snow lions.
With so far to go to reach campus before dark, we started over and down the ridge. I couldn’t shake the feeling that when this semester ends and I leave the himalayas, every summit moment is going to feel slightly lacking without the constant flapping of sun-faded prayer flags to frame the view.
“I walked slowly to enjoy this freedom, and when I came out of the mountains, I saw the sky over the prairie, and I thought that if heaven was real, I hoped it was a place I never had to go, for this earth was greater than any paradise.”
― Daniel J. Rice,