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To a Mountain in Tibet

3.61  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,266 Ratings  ·  159 Reviews
Mount Kailas is the most sacred of the world's mountains - holy to one fifth of humanity. Isolated beyond the central Himalayas, it is claimed by myth to be the source of the universe created from cosmic waters and the mind of Brahma.





Its summit has never been scaled, but for centuries the mountain has been ritually circled by Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims.Colin Thubron joins
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Paperback, 240 pages
Published February 3rd 2011 by Chatto & Windus (first published 2011)
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Will Byrnes
To a Mountain in Tibet tells two stories. One is the great travel writer’s observations along his trek to a significant physical and religious site. The other is his inner journey of coming to terms with the death of his mother, whose passing prompted this adventure. The sights, smells and sounds of this arduous walk into a remote, mountainous retreat capture his senses. But it is the local culture and sundry religious views of death that capture his imagination as he treks to the holiest mounta ...more
Marialyce
I was looking forward to this book as I love things relating to the Tibetan culture. I did very much enjoy the beginning of this novel. but the middle and end brought out my frustration as I continued to feel the very soul of this novel ebb away. I understood that Mr Thubron is basically a travel writing author, but it was so cold (not only climate wise) as he related the various trials, tribulations, and god/goddesses/monsters and beliefs of these people. It felt it more like a litany of rambli ...more
Kim G
Apr 07, 2011 Kim G rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I'm still trying to figure out what I got out of this book. The Tibetan facts/history were not effectively organized, I didn't get to know any interesting characters, and although this book is billed as a sort of elegy for the author's deceased family, other than a few pages on the father's travels and spare paragraphs here and there during the latter half in the book revealing what happened to his sister, they're ultimately non-entities.

I have a feeling a month from now I won't remember much ab
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Joshua Buhs
Brilliant.

It is a short book about three intertwined mysteries: the mysteries of culture, of death, and of human personality. It offers no easy answers--no answers at all, really. It is a pilgrimage finished, but unfulfilled.

Thubron is a famed travel writer, and he left to visit Mt. Kailas shortly after his mother died. He was, at the time, in his late 60s, and the only surviving member of his family, having seen his father, sister, and mother all pass. Kailas is one of the holiest mountains in
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Trish
"In the beginning Kailas was just rock—rock and stones. Without spirit. Then the gods came down with their entourages and settled there. They may not exactly live there now, but they have left their energy, and the place is full of spirits…"the myth behind Mt. Kailas

Now in his seventies, famed travel writer Colin Thubron left his wife and home in England and trekked to a holy mountain in Tibet from Nepal. It was a personal journey. From Nepal, where his father hunted bear and big cats eighty ye
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Don
Apr 27, 2013 Don rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
(FROM MY BLOG) To the north, beyond the main range of the Himalayas, emerging from the Tibetan plateau, stands an isolated peak called Kailas. Although only 22,028 feet high, quite low by Himalayan standards, no climber has ever stood on its summit (except, apocryphally, a mystic in ancient times). It may never be climbed.

Kailas is a holy mountain to a number of religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism.

To Hindus, Kailas is identified as the earthly manifestation of the mystical mountain Meru.
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Jennifer (JC-S)
May 11, 2011 Jennifer (JC-S) rated it really liked it
Shelves: librarybooks
‘I am doing this on account of the dead.’

In this book, Colin Thubron sets of towards Mount Kailas, the sacred and mystical mountain in Tibet which is sacred to the Bon, to Buddhists, Hindus and Jains. Mount Kailas is close to the Tibetan borders with Nepal and India, and lies very close to the sources of all of the four major rivers of the Indian subcontinent: the Brahmaputra, the Ganges, the Indus and the Sutlej. The mountain rises abruptly from the flat western Tibetan plateau, approximately 2
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Eveline Chao
Mar 22, 2011 Eveline Chao rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
this writer is known for his beautiful writing, and there was no question that he has a formidable command of language, but i actually found all the poetic words distracting. like it was hard to keep focused on what was happening through the ten million ways of beautifully describing a rock or stream or cloud. there were also a lot of things "gently" verbing, and nothing could ever just straightforwardly sit, walk, look, run, but instead everything had to do all these things using some sort of u ...more
Dayanand Prabhu
This book is about the author's journey to Kailas, for a very personal reason. I very much disliked this book the first time I read it some months ago. So quite hesitantly I gave it a second chance and found it quite pleasant. Although the words used is not very simple to grasp the writing is from the heart in a very sober tone. The way the journey gets related to his past life and the reason for the journey is in a typical orthodox travelogue fashion. The best part about the book is how the tim ...more
Manu Prasad
Sep 08, 2014 Manu Prasad rated it liked it
Shelves: review
Mount Kailas has been circling my mind space for a long while now, thanks to it being at an intersection of two of my favourite themes - Hindu mythology and travel. A peak that has never been scaled, but a mountain that has witnessed the circumambulation of scores of pilgrims across centuries. Personally, that made it more interesting to me than a standard travelogue.
The mountain is considered holy by two among the world's biggest faiths - Hinduism and Buddhism. This is in addition to Bon, a na
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Amber
Apr 06, 2011 Amber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I grabbed To a Mountain in Tibet because I'd love to go to Tibet someday, and duh! It's a book about a guy who goes to Tibet.

But holy cow is it so much more than that. I still conjure up the images I read in it. Beautiful and haunting and enigmatic. The author excels at describing place and people while keeping intact the mystery that surrounds it all. He doesn't hesitate in facing the cultural differences that put him off, and he avoids the unreality that is the legend of Tibet. He doesn't make
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Jennifer
May 22, 2012 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves:
This memoir is about the author's pilgramage to Mt Kailas(22,000 feet) to reflect on his mother's death. He talked more of his outer journey than his inner journey, supplying interesting facts about where he goes and what he sees, supplying some details I hadn't put together.

Mt. Ksilas is believed to be where Buddists and Hindus believe where earth and heaven are joined, where sanctity replenishes the earth, where gods reside (Including Shiva), and inside of which is a heaven-connecting rope dow
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Louise
Oct 23, 2012 Louise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tibet
This is a book with great prose and a lot of informed insight, but I had a tough time getting my bearings.

First, the title is confusing. This IS a trip TO a mountain... and then 3/4 up it. It doesn't help that the first 100+ pages describe a descent. The book's map shows the towns visited, but the map is cluttered and the trek and drive portions are not labeled. It was hard to make out for sure where the author was actually going, but it appeared to be more than "to" the mountain. Halfway throug
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Laura
May 03, 2013 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simply a stunning book. Colin Thubron travels to Tibet to circumambulate Mt. Kailas after the death of his mother, his last living relative. He enters through Nepal with a guide and a cook. His observations and his writing are haunting. At the base of the mountain, a Tibetan ceremony is recorded. Thousands of pilgrims circle an 80 ft pole strung with prayer flags. The irony is that this is really the middle of NOWHERE, yet Chinese police are EVERYWHERE. It feels very intimidating and reminiscent ...more
Alison Smith
Oct 10, 2014 Alison Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everything a travel book should be - superb. Highly recommended. Title says it all - Thubron goes to Mount Kailas a.k.a. Mt Meru. Fascinating.
Michelle Welch
May 27, 2015 Michelle Welch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This might have been harder to read if I hadn't already had a little knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism; I was able to recognize some of the background information Thubron provides about the region he's visiting, so it didn't seem so overpoweringly foreign. I'm reminded, unsurprisingly, of Cheryl Strayed's "Wild," another memoir of an arduous journey taken to come to terms with a mother's loss. Where Strayed focused much more on her internal journey, however, Thubron spends more time on his surroundi ...more
Billpilgrim
Mar 04, 2014 Billpilgrim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author trekked to Mt Kailas, a holy mountain in western Tibet near the borders with Nepal and India. Pilgrims go there regularly to walk in a circle around the mountain's base. It is holy to Buddhists, Hindus and others also. It is a difficult route. It starts at high altitude and climbs even higher during the circling. There are numerous religiously significant locations on the mountain, and the author describes all of these from the true believers' perspective.
Thurbon trekked with a cook
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Bill Syken

A few years ago I read Colin Thubron's Shadow of the Silk Road, and it was a book that stayed with me as a great education on the history of central Asia. Thubron here is as clear-eyed and focused in this book as he was there, but the subject matter here is only occasionally as rich. The story is of a trek to Kailas, which is sort of a Mount Olympus in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Pilgrims trek around Kailas but never ascend it. Thubron has chosen this trip because, after the death of his
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itpdx
Feb 28, 2013 itpdx rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Thubron joins pilgrims doing a kora of the mountain, Kailas, in Tibet. He ponders the beliefs about death of his fellow pilgrims, Buddhists, Hindus and others, and recalls the experiences of those who have been there before him as he morns the death of his mother and sister.

This book also carries a reminder of the devastating effect of the Chinese Cultural Revolution on Tibet.
Lisa Edwards
Jun 30, 2015 Lisa Edwards rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally finished this. Beautifully written, but perhaps a little emotionally dry for me. I like my travel-writing to have a heart and soul, usually with a huge slice of the author's personal life involved in it. My absolute favourite travel writer is Paul Theroux for that reason, but Colin can write travel prose like no other. Threaded throughout, like the prayer flags that litter his journey, are references to family bereavements, and possibly the real reason for his mountain pilgrimage. This g ...more
The Bookloft
Bookseller: Eric

No rare snow leopards spied along the trail, no near falls into deep ravines (though deep ravines abound) and no one is held at gunpoint by bandits in this gem of a travel book.
You will discover, however, elegant, rich, masterly written prose which neither romanticizes nor preaches. Thubron describes his guide's face as having "the lemony blandness of a sumo wrestler's, faintly androgynous." The sick baby upon a mother's back is "bundled like a sad toy."

This much despoiled but st
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Brad
Feb 19, 2011 Brad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Magnificent.
Nancy
May 19, 2015 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short book, compared to most of the author's other travels but, given that this was a shorter trip and a smaller area to traverse, that is to be expected. And, as such, this meant fewer people to meet and talk to and, I suspect, people on a spiritual pilgrimage tend to be pretty focused on their own journey and not so much interested in chit-chatting with authors. This means that the book had to rely on the historical and religious, the structural and the scenic.

The fact that Thubron was maki
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Anna
Dec 05, 2011 Anna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Colin Thubron is undeniably an amazing writer. Thubron makes a pilgrimage to Kailas, a mountain in Tibet, after his mother dies - the last member of his family. He is so poetic and so descriptive. For example, late in the book he describes a monk as "an eager acolyte with hedgehog hair" and talks about going out in the "rasping cold". Here are another couple of examples that struck me:

"I had planned to burn my parents' love letters, then find I cannot. Instead I start to read, guiltily, fearfull
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Amanda
After the death of his mother, who also was his last living family member, Colin set out on a journey to the mountain of Kailas in Tibet. The mountain is holy to both Hindus and Buddhists and is closely associated with the process of dying and crossing over. Through his eyes we see the people of Tibet and his emotional journey.

I am not sure if words can describe what an epic miss this book was for me. The combination of British western eyes othering Tibetans, an entire chapter dedicated to his f
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James
May 09, 2011 James rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The reason that I have to give this book only one star? I didn't finish it. This is a really rare occurrence for me and I usually love travel writing, but I completely lost interest in this one about a third of the way through. The book reads like the author just decided to publish the journal that he kept while on his trip to Tibet. There are no memorable people, no fascinating descriptions of places, and no insightful historical or social commentary. The book is for the most part just stream-o ...more
Melissa
May 15, 2011 Melissa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
There is no doubt that Thubron is a gifted writer; his vocabulary is incredible (David Foster Wallace and Rick Moody, two writers whose vocabularies I envy, often came to mind), and his lengthy descriptions almost always go beyond the visual.

I also appreciated that Thubron delved into the religious and cultural history of Kailas (and the bloody history of Tibet in general). The people of Tibet still suffers under Chinese occupation; most Tibetans live in poverty and are uneducated and are at the
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Carol Smith
Other reviewers mention the author's predilection for power words ("autochthonous", anyone?). I'm way okay with this; I appreciate a good vocabulary and he didn't drop SAT words so frequently as to become a distraction.

No, what bothered me was the complete lack of awe and wonder (or any emotion) the author expressed for his incredible surroundings. He refers to wonder in an offhand, third-person sort of way as a "Western fantasy" of the region. Dude, you're in Nepal and Tibet! Tell us how you f
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Tyler
Mar 10, 2012 Tyler rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Synopsis: In memory of his mother's death, the author makes a trip to the sacred mountain of Kailas of southern Tibet which is the source of four of Asia's greatest rivers (Indus, Sutlej, Brahmaputra, Karnali (tributary to the Ganges)). His trek starts in Nepal before crossing over the border into Tibet (occupied by China) and onto the beautiful Mount Kailas. The 21,778 foot tall Mount Kailas has never been climbed and is sacred to 1/5 of the world's population (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and B ...more
Scott
Dec 15, 2011 Scott rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: walks, 2010s, tibet, hills
To a Mountain in Tibet (2010) reads like a long, long walk. It took me almost six weeks to work my way through its 200 pages ... longer, I suppose than it took Thubron to hike to the holy Tibetan mountain Kailas. Accompanied by a few porters and a cook he trekked across the Nepal-China border, noting along the way the poverty and humility of most of the people he met. The book that resulted from from his notes strikes me as that rare gem among travel writing: an honest account of what it's like ...more
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Colin Thubron, CBE FRSL is a Man Booker nominated British travel writer and novelist.

In 2008, The Times ranked him 45th on their list of the 50 greatest postwar British writers. He is a contributor to The New York Review of Books, The Times, The Times Literary Supplement and The New York Times. His books have been translated into more than twenty languages. Thubron was appointed a CBE in the 2007
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“As the track bends north-east, the ethereal sandstone disappears. The slopes turn black with granite, and the mountain's lower ridges break into unstable spikes and revetments. Their ribs are slashed in chiaroscuro, and their last outcrops pour towards the valley in the fluid, anthropomorphic shapes that pilgrims love. The spine and haunches of a massive stone beast, gazing at Kailas, are hailed as the Nandi bull, holy to Shiva; another rock has become the votive cake of Padmasambhava.” 2 likes
“A journey is not a cure. It brings an illusion, only, of change, and becomes at best a spartan comfort” 0 likes
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