To a Mountain in Tibet
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To a Mountain in Tibet

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  890 ratings  ·  133 reviews
Colin Thubron's To a Mountain in Tibet is a memoir of discovery and loss, chronicling the author's journey to the holiest mountain on earth, the solitary peak of Kailas in modern-day Tibet. To Buddhists and Hindus, it is the mystic heart of the world and an ancient site of pilgrimage. It has never been climbed.

Thubron undertakes this journey in the wake of his mother's dea...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 6th 2012 by Harper Perennial (first published March 1st 2011)
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Kim G
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...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
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 yea...more
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
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘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...more
Eveline Chao
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
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...more
Amber
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...more
Jennifer
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...more
Don
(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....more
Louise
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...more
Laura
Feb 25, 2011 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Laura
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
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
Billpilgrim
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...more
Nancy
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...more
Anna
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...more
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...more
James
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
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...more
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...more
Tyler
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
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
Huw Evans
Travel writers fall into two coarse groups. The first are those who travel to remind themselves how much better things are at home and those who travel to tell you what there is out there that you are missing. If these two groups exist Colin Thubron is in the latter.

High in the Himalayas, in Tibet into which Thubron enters illegally, lies Mount Kailas(h) sacred to Buddhists, Hindus, Jain and Bon. It is a site of pilgrimage where belief systems rub along together without conflict, all pilgrims in...more
Grady McCallie
In this relatively short (218 page) book, travel writer and novelist Colin Thubron recounts a trek from Nepal to Tibet, where he ultimately circles Mount Kailas, a holy mountain sought by Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, and Bon pilgrims. His journey is fairly short, and far from epic, but he observes and describes the landscape and people he meets with such care, that the story expands and commands attention. The trip is also as much an internal as an external pilgrimage; Thubron took this trip some mont...more
Chris
I found this a fascinating journey, all the more inspiring as it was accomplished by a man in his seventies. Despite privations and cold and altitude, most of which he refers to but never with any sense of self-pity, he undertakes a voyage largely on foot up to and around Mount Kailas in Tibet, the sacred mountain of Eastern traditions. In straightforward but poetic language he describes for us the landscape he sees, the peoples he meets, the traditions that imbue every physical feature he negot...more
Gerald Sinstadt
The jacket endorsements for Colin Thubron's pre-eminent place among travel writers would be pointless to dispute. However, in this rare case, he does not make it easy for the reader to accompany him on his journey to a sacred Himalayan peak, Kailas.

Physically, the terrain challenges his formidable narrative powers: one barren landscape after another takes the language into rarefied exploration. Nor are the people whom he meets along the way, or who travel with him, of lasting interest. The cont...more
Rowena Dela Rosa Yoon
This book tells the simple story of a secular pilgrimage to the sacred slopes of Kailas in the western Himalaya. Travelling on foot with a cook, a guide and a horse man, Thubron sets out from Humla, the remotest of the Nepalese regions.

Ishwor (the guide): Why are your doing this, travelling alone?
Thubron: I cannot asnwer...I need to leave a sign of their passage (his parents)...The reason for this is beyond articulation. A journey is not a cure. It brings an illusion, only, of change, and becom...more
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From Wikipedia: Colin Gerald Dryden Thubron, CBE is a British travel writer and novelist.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colin_Th...
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
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