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To a Mountain in Tibet

3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,331 Ratings  ·  166 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
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
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
Joshua Buhs

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
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.
Mohit Parikh
Mar 10, 2016 Mohit Parikh rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nobody
Recommended to Mohit by: Jaipur Literature Festival
Very dull. On almost every single page I had to force myself to read on. My takeaway from the book is almost nothing - can't remember any geographical, cultural, historical or religious facts about the road to Tibet from Nepal.
Also, don't think it is good writing. The poesy in descriptions is whimsical; the rumination stuttered.
The author does succeed in demythifying Tibet, and Buddhism, to an extent. And the bits about his personal life are sad and captivating (but too brief).
Not recommended
Josh Friedlander
Apr 18, 2016 Josh Friedlander rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology, travel
A solid yet ultimately unsatisfying travelogue: Thubron has done his reading, and runs through Tibet's complex history in the Occidental imagination, from Jung to Burroughs, the Tibetan Book of the Dead to heterodox Buddhism. Aware of this tendency to fetishise, he points out a less romantic reality: terrible poverty, monks watching Manchester United, the travails of the brutal Chinese occupation. Yet he is also captivated by the exoticism of his surroundings as he falls in with mystics and pilg ...more
"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
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
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
May 22, 2016 Jeff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"To a Mountain in Tibet" was one of the most fascinating and transformative travelogues I have ever read; a worthy competitor to Patrick Leigh Fermor's "A Time of Gifts." Thubron opens a doorway into the mystical land of Tibet as well as Buddhism and Hinduism while on a pilgrimage that begins in Nepal and ends in one of the holiest places on earth to one-fifth of the world's population--Mount Kailas, Tibet.

In brilliant detail, he recounts his rigorous yet spiritual expedition through this remot
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
May 22, 2012 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 25, 2011 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lee
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie☯
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
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
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
Oct 07, 2012 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another exquisite travel book by the master
This is not the best travel book ever but it has a certain charm and if you're interested in Buddhism and Hinduism you might like it. I think it is bizarre if a non believer set up for a pilgrimage of a totally diverse faith. I liked a few descriptions of the landscapes, full of metaphors and beautiful language. I found it rather surprising to know how cruel the traditional Buddhism is. The scenes related to what happens with the dead bodies were terrifying. All in all, this is an interesting bo ...more
Feb 19, 2011 Brad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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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
More about Colin Thubron...

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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” 1 likes
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