Mutts and Monasteries - Page 3
This chorten marks a pass en route to Thaptsa Peak.
Soon, pastures blended into fragrant hemlock and pale bamboo groves. The run took on an unscripted nature of its own, propelled by the satisfying spring of untrodden pine needles. I imagined myself an intrepid pioneer clad in neon sneakers, forging through uncharted wilderness. Just above treeline the trail emerged at a solitary structure, the lonely and beautiful Pumola Goenpa, its crumbling white brick walls lifting a bronze bell into the moody sky. Paying me no more than a courteous nod, crimson-robed monks went about crushing juniper incense.
Thaptsa Peak was now in sight. Exposed and wind raked, the approach snaked through a series of rocky outcroppings, the vegetation painted shades of ochre and dying green from the hard October freezes. As I crested the grassy summit, snowy peaks of the Himalayan crest floated on the horizon—a fitting reward for aching quads and seared lungs. Amidst hard-earned silence and thin gulps of air, the immense flank of 24,000-foot Jumolhari was a sobering reminder that I’d utterly spent myself running a foothill.
The track now dropped abruptly down a prominent ridge, testing my navigational skills through a series of high limestone ledges tumbling into pathless meadows. After four hard hours, the glinting Buddha signaled trail’s end and turned my thoughts toward momos—the delicious Himalayan dumplings—and cold beer. Hurrying past the decaying ruins of an old palace, I later found out it had belonged to Deb Langta, a 13th-century chieftain.
Bizarre local legend tells of a demon in human form, secretly decapitating his subjects to make head-stew in a locked cauldron. As whispers of his macabre habit spread, he demanded the mountains be cut down to better gaze on his lover in the adjacent valley. The traumatized villagers instead decided to lop off the madman’s head and spare the mountaintops. Good news for trail runners. As for the cauldron, it is said to be hidden at Wangditse Goenpa–precisely where my run began.
Auspicious? I think so.
This story originally appeared in our October 2013 issue.