Fungal & Floral Foray in Tibet
July 25 to August 6, 2016
In August 2020 we are offering a Mushroaming Bhutan Tour!
Shukpa Gonpa near Nyingchi, June 2005. Unfortunately the temple of this Bonpo monastery burned down some years later but has been reconstructed since.
2016 Tour Announcement
This two week long journey in East Tibet is certain to be a once in a lifetime natural and cultural experience in some of the most stunning landscapes on the planet. We will be exploring the mountainous Southeast of the Tibetan Plateau. This incredibly bio-diverse area is a paradise for any nature lover, but especially rich in fungal and floral resources. We will take plenty of time in the field for anything wild and of interest such as wild life and birds, wild flowers, mushrooms or hot springs.
We will journey through incredible landscapes and encounter an exotic, deeply spiritual ancient culture. Tibetans will accompany us on our mushroom and plant forays as we look for a variety of life forms, including plants and mushrooms, the latter we will enjoy in delicious culinary sensations both Tibetan and Chinese. We will traverse many altitudinal zones, from warm-temperate to alpine areas up to 17,000 ft (4800 m), thereby experiencing a wide range of ecosystems, all with their unique flora, fauna and funga.
July and August is prime season for ectomycorrhizal mushrooms in the old-growth conifer and oak forests. We will spend plenty of time out in the woods to encounter many wildflowers including incredibly beautiful orchids and find true Matsutake (Tricholoma matsutake), Tibetan Caesar (Amanita hemibapha), all kind of boletes including King boletes, chanterelles, lion's mane, sulphur shelf and more exotic species. Of special interest is also the matsutake trade, which dominates the local economy. In alpine grasslands mushrooms such as Ser Sha (Floccularia luteovirens) a very tasty and several Agaricus species are fruiting. We will visit mushroom markets and surely encounter Yartsa gunbu, the Caterpillar fungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) in the markets.
Among hundreds of wildflowers we will find wild species of lilies, delphiniums, cremanthodiums, edelweiss and fields of Pedicularis. A few Rhododendron might still be in flower. June through September is monsoon season. Please note that the monsoon in this area is nothing like that in the south slope of Himalayas; there will be rain, but not enough to deter us and rainy days are often balanced with sunny skies.
Matsutake (Tricholoma matsutake) in evergreen oak leaves,
The tour will also include much cultural immersion. We will visit plenty of incredible Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, sacred lakes, mountains and forests. We will experience the mysterious and colorful spirituality that lies at the heart of Tibet and its people. We will travel to alpine grassland areas surrounded by glaciated peaks visiting nomads and yaks, and taste some fresh "yakgurt". Beautiful hot springs along the route shall not be missed! We will do plenty of day hikes to explore the out doors, some of them on pathless steep slopes, thus you should be in good shape. You do not need to be an athlete, but shortness of breath is magnified in a high altitude environment.
As part of the "Ongkor", blessing the fields ceremony, locals carry Buddhist scriptures around the fileds. Ora, July 15, 2010
Brothers looking out a farmhouse window in Kongpo, June 2005
Kongpo's Draksum or Basong Tso (3450 m) June 2006.
A Tibetan sulfur shelf or chicken of the woods (Laetiporus miniatus ) in the old-growth fir forest at Draksum Lake, July 22, 2010. We enjoyed it for several meals in Lhasa.
A Giant cypress (Cupressus gigantea) in Kongpo. Photo: Tony Migas, June 2006
Family collecting Cordyceps, Bar La, June 2006
The highway along the Yigong Tsangpo Gorge, June 2005.
Habenaria arietina, what an orchid! It was flowering in Pome / Bomi, right were the road was washed out. July 19, 2010, 2470 m.
(Link to Orchid page)
Boletus reticulatus, the summer bolete, a close relative of the king bolete (B. edulis). Locals did not know of its edibility and we had to proceed very carefully in cooking them as to not upset anyone while "poisoning" ourselves. Handles, smells and taste just like a porcini.
Lunang, July 20, 2010.
Karma found a nice matsutake, locally known in Kongpo as Raba. Lunang July 20, 2010.
Two of the 15 orchids or so we saw in 10 days on the road and in the woods.
A rare summer view of the giant Gyala Pelri (7150 m / 23,450 ft) right behind the Tibetan farmhouse we stayed in. Gyala Peri is the sister peak to Namche Barwa, the two giants of the easern most Himalayan peaks [Between the two runs the Tsangpo River]. Lunang July 20, 2010
Maxine cooking king boletes we collected during the day on a wood fueled Tibetan stove. We also cooked a delicious dish of matsutake stemmed in soy, red wine and a bit of butter, yummy!
Tashigang, Nyingchi Pref., August 6, 2011.
Kongpo is full of impressive alpine vistas like this one. July 18, 2010
Stereopsis cf. humphreyi, Draksum Tso, Nyingchi County, Nyingchi Prefecture, Tibet AR, July 22, 2010
Nomad kids in their tent, Kongpo Bar La, June 2006
Lilium duchartrei in Gyalthang (Zhongdian)
Dechen TAP, NW Yunnan), July 23, 2007.
A bridge leading from the prayer hall to the monks quarters in Dodung Gonpa, Pome / Bomi, Nyingchi TAR, June 2005
Amanita vaginata group found above
Nyingchi, June 2006
Girl churning butter the traditional way. She is not calling in a pizza, such services are not available in rural Tibet yet. Lunang August 2011.
An impressive Cirisium eriophoroides thistle common in Kongpo around 3400m, August 2011
Chanterelles (Cantharellus sp. maybe cibarius
or C.minor) found near Draksum Tso around 3500m, August 9, 2011
Old man of the woods - Strobilomyces sp. Aug. 7, 2011. Draksum Tso
Westside of the Potala palace, for several centuries the world's biggest building, June 2006
Meconopsis integrifolia growing at Kongpo Bar La Pass in 4500m.
Bayi's Prefectural Emporium with lots of dried mushrooms, herbs and many other local products and souvenirs.
Traditional nomad yak wool tent, Kongpo Gyamda, June 2006.
The three kings, Boletus reticuloceps, a close relative of Boletus edulis and very tasty.
Lamaling, Aug. 2011.
Matsutake for sale at the mushroom market in Gyalthang a.k.a. Shangrila, Dechen Tibetan Aut. Prefecture, Yunnan. July 2012.
July 25 through August 6, 2016
Land Costs: $3,950
price for 10 to 12 participants (12 is max.)
with 7-9 participants $4200, 4-6 participants $4450
includes all accommodation, meals, and overland transport
Single room supplement: $450
International Airfare to Chengdu, China:
Tickets need to be purchased individually by participant. Be aware that July is not only fungal peak season, but also tourist high season. Please do check back before actually purchasing your tickets.
Other expenses: Souvenirs, alcoholic beverages, hotel bar, phone & laundry, tips for Tibetan guides,
Peak of the sacred Gyachin Namlha Karpo above Draksum Tso.
Aug. 8, 2012
Fungal & Floral Foray Summer 2012
Detailed Itinerary with Species lists
July 17 Tuesday Chengdu – Dartsendo / Kangding
July 18 Wed Dartsendo – Nyachuka
Medicinal plants for sale:
Picnic Lunch with Dzomo Yoghurt, dzomo being the female yak.
Plants: Erigeron or Aster sp.
Mushroom collectors encountered:
Tea and Tsampa at Tashi’s mother Sonam Lhamo in Riche (Riche Cun, Bajiaolu Xiang)
July 20 Fri Nyachuka / Yajiang
July 21 Sat Nyachuka - Lithang
Birds: Corvus corax tibetanus - Tibetan Raven, the biggest raven.
July 22 Sun Lithang (4017m / 13,250ft).
July 23 Mon Lithang - Dabpa / Daocheng
Mushroom and flower walk
July 24 Tue Dabpa / Daocheng – Nyade / Yading
Larch-Spruce open forest
High altitude conifer-oak mixed forest with Rhododendron
July 25 Wed Nyade / Yading – Dabpa / Daocheng
Walk through subalpine wetlands surrounded by willow shrubs (Salix sp.):
Picnic & group photo on lake below Chenrezig Peak (6032 m / 19790 ft)
Mount Jampeyang (Manjushri, 5958 m, 19,547ft) in full view.
Drive back to Dabpa/ Daocheng
July 26 Thu Dabpa / Daocheng - Gyalthang / Shangrila
Drive South through Chaktreng / Xiangcheng County.
Stop in Wang Shor / Weng Shui for water, red bull and driver’s smoke offering.
July 27 Fri Gyalthang / Shangrila
Mushrooms in secondary pine forest (Pinus densata):
Visit of Rangjung Dosam / Tiansheng Qiao Hot Springs with steam cave next to river tunneling through limestone ridge.
July 28 Sat Shangrila (Tibetan Pinyin: Xamgyi'nyilha) – Chengdu
Group splits: Explore Shangrila old town / forest walk at Ringha Gompa
Dinner: So Ya La Tibetan Restaurant run by Soni / Songtsen Soni
evening flight to Chengdu, successful on 2nd attempt
July 29 Sun 13 Chengdu
Meet thousands of Chinese in Jinli Market tourist paradise
Hot Pot Farewell Dinner amongst other with Shiitake (Lentinula edodes), Enokitake or Velvet Shank (Flammulina velutipes) and Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus sp.)
July 30 Mon 14 Chengdu - home
for MushRoaming in Kongpo
July 31 Sunday Chengdu Link to 2010 Foray photo report
Arrive Chengdu, 530m / 1640 ft asl, City Garden Hotel
Chengdu: Panda Breeding Center.
"Wildlife": Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens)
Mushrooms in Panda base:
Calvatia craniiformis Skull puffball
slime mold orange
Dinner with Cordyceps militaris
August 1 Mon Chengdu - Lhasa
Flight Chengdu - Gongkar / Gongga Airport (3542m/ 11,621 ft).
Pick-up by Guide Tashi, driver Pemba, transfer to Kyichu Hotel
Lunch with Ser Sha "Yellow mushroom", Lhasa's favorite - Floccularia luteovirens
visit to Barkhor market.
August 2 Tue Lhasa
Ani Sangkhung Nunnery with meditation chamber of King Songtsen Gampo (7th Century),
Yartsa gunbu = Caterpillar Fungus = Ophiocordyceps sinensis market near Kachi Lhakhang mosque
Jokhang temple with Jowo, Tibet's most revered Buddha statue, core started 7th Century,
Sera monastery - one of Lhasa's 3 big Gelukpa monasteries.
August 3 Wed Lhasa - Bayi
West of Nyingchemo, Meldrogongkar (3770m / 11,700 ft)
Berberis sp. Barberry
Erigeron sp. Aster
Leontopodium stracheryi an Edelweiss
Onosma hookeri var. longiflora
Lysurus mokusin - a Stinkhorn
Driving up the Meldro Mel Chu Valley
Lomar - Last farming village just before gorge above Tashigang / Zhaxigan (4030m / 13,200 ft)
Betula utilis - Himalayan birch
Hippophae rhamnoides - Seabuck-thorn below at River
Rhododendron sp. - white flowered
Rosa sericea (white)
Myricaria squamosa - small shrub
Herminium sp. tiny green flowered Orchid
Pedicularis crytantha yellow, not stalked
Amanita sp. pale beige, no ring, striate edge
Leccinum scabrum - Birch bolete
Boletus cf chrysenteron
Lactarius glyciosmus beige, velvety, coconut odor, mild, white milk
Lactarius sp. hairy cap edge, hot
Russula sp. green, mild
Russula sp. red, hot
Clitocybe? Orange cap, white decurrent gills, mild
Paxillus involutus Rollrim
Lycoperdon perlatum? Puffball
Paneolus sp. on dung
Small yellow, dark-spored agaric on dung
Below Kongpo Barla / Mila Pass (4650m / 15,250 ft) pasture w/ Rhododendron sp.
Rhododendron nivalis group
Kongpo Barla / Mila Pass
Bayi in Nyingchi County, Nyingchi Prefecture (Chin. Linzhi)
August 4 Thu Bayi - Lamaling - Bayi
Visit vegetable & mushroom market,
Kongpo berry an orange blackberry Rubus macilenthus?? (not R. ellipticus)
Tibetan name: Tsigar (Kongpo = Maram (Chamdo) = Ci pao
Drive Lamaling: Nyingmapa gonpa rebuild in Zandok Pelri style by Dudjom Rinpoche (2950m / 9670ft).
Heavily grazed evergreen-oak pine-spruce-fir forest
Arisaema sp. Cobra lily
Hypericum sp.(shrub) a shruby St John's Wort
Platanthera chlorantha. tall white butterfly orchid
Podophyllum hexandrum - Himalayan may apple
Salvia castanea (purple brownish flower) - a True sage
Senecio raphanifolius yellow 60cm hawk weed along creek
Triosteum himalayanum (perennial in Caprifoliaceae) red berried perennial
Amanita hemibapha - Himalayan Caesar mushroom
Amanita hemibapha var. alba- White Himalayan Caesar mushroom
Amanita flavipes? yellow, small
Amanita sp. dark yellow
Boletus edulis group
Boletus bicolor var. borealis red pored
Boletus sp. yellow pores, slender stipe
Suillus sp. a Slippery Jack
Lactarius sp. Milkcap brown-red cap, orange-brown stem white milk
Leucopaxillus sp.? White giant?
Gomphus floccosus - Woolly chanterelle
Ramaria sp a coral
Back to Bayi - market King bolete and potato pancake dinner
August 5 Fri Bayi - Lunang
Primula stop above Nyingchi town (3100m / 9600ft):
Primula florindae - tall, bright yellow
Pedicularis longiflora ssp. tubiformis dark yellow, shortish
Primula stop above Nyingchi town (3850m / 11,935ft):
Primula sp. white to cream
Primula capitata blue
Cirisium eriophoroides thistle
Dracocephalum hemsleyanum Dragonhead
Pedicularis corymbifera white, pink trunk, short stalk
Polygonum molle Knotweed
Serkyim La pass (4653m / 15,267ft):
Allium kingdonii -
Anaphalis nepalensis var. monocephala
Carex / Kobresia sp. a sedge in flower
Cassiope fastigata - heather family
Cyananthus macrocalyx - Campanulaceae "looks like a small yellow Gentian
Gentiana sp. white-green
Gentiana sp. tiny, blue
Meconopsis simplicifolia or M. prainiana
Potentilla sp. yellow
Rheum nobile Himalayan Rhubarb on the other slope
Rhodiola nobilis? - a Roseroot
Rhododendron nivale group
Salix sp. ground willow
Coprinus comatus Shaggy mane
Geoglossum sp. tiny, black
Lycoperdon sp.? Yellow puffball
Blue Primula stop (4380m / 13,580ft):
Primula siphonantha [subsec. Soldanelloides] (blue)
Omphalogramma sp. a purple-blue Primulaceae
Notholirion bulbiferum Liliaceae
Lady slipper stop (4238m / 13,140ft) with Mani stones and Namche Barwa view:
Cypripedium himalaicum - Himalayan Lady slipper
Oreochis? small purple flowered in moss
View of Gyala Pelri (7294m / 23,924ft) Stop walk down the road:
Fragaria nubicola wild strawberry
Cirisium eriophoroides thistle,
Salvia castanea purple-maroon sage
Bolete Hunt Stop around oaks near Tashigang (3150m / 10,330ft):
Leccinum extremiorientale Fareastern Scaberstalk
Boletus reticulatus* - B. edulis group
Boletus cf. erythropus* - red pored, dotted stem
Boletus sp.* stem apex velvety red, pink cap
Boletus calopus bitter boletes
Boletus sp. smallish, slender stemmed, brown velvety cap, yellow big pores
Amanita rubescens? red staining flesh
Amanita fulva (vaginata group)
Laccaria sp. bright yellow
Ramaria sp. coral
* cooked for dinner
Aconitum sp. monkshood
August 6 Sat Lunang
Matsutake walk with Karma (38 years). Tashigang Village (3150m / 10,330ft) - oak coppice and forest (Quercus aquifolioides) with a few spruce, fir and larch trees left. Ridge (3500m / 11,500ft) fir forest.
Amanita fulva Tawny grisette
Amanita sp. - spiky warts
Armillaria sp. Honey mushroom
Auricula sp. Woodear
Boletus calopus Bitter bolete
Boletus erythropus dark brown cap, red pores Red-dotted stem bolete
Boletus flammans? red pored, red stem, red cap, mild
Boletus reticulatus light brown cap, reticulate - Summer bolete
Boletus sp. red-yellow scaly stem, yellow pores
Boletus subtomentosus, leathery beige-brown cap, yellow gills, slender stem, mild tasting, little slow staining
Boletus sp. purplish cap
Cortinarius / Rozites emodensis Himalayan gypsy
Gomphus floccosus Wooly chanterelle
Helvella lacunosa - Elfin saddle
Hydnum repandum Hedgehog
Hygrophorus russula = Qingang Jun = Beshing Shamo ="Oak mushroom"
Lactarius rufus or mitissimus? [SM p.108], full red, smallish, abundant
Lactarius cf. deliciosus group
Lactarius sp.dull orange spotted with grayish tinge, red milk
Lyophyllum sp. a solitaire Fried chicken mushroom
Russula rubra? like R. xeramplina, red stem, mild, not quickly staining, strange cap
Russula emetica (bright red)
Russula sp. purple cap, purplish gills, (ridge)
Tricholoma matsutake Matsutake in Kongpo "Raba"
Tremella meserantica? and Stereum
Iris sp. (clearing near ridge)
In Dekyi's kitchen in Tibetan farmhouse mushroom dinner: Matsutake in Soy, butter & red wine and a little bit of sugar, Hedgehog (Hydnum repandum) with jives and garlic, king boletes (B. reticulatus) in butter and tsampa (roasted, ground barley), Himalayan gypsy (Rozites / Cortinarius emodensis) in butter, "Beshing Shamo" Hygrophorus russula cooked by Karma, matsutake (Daniel).
August 7 Sun Lunang to Bayi
Above vista point in 4288m / 13290ft, open juniper forest (Juniperus saltuaria?) with willow shrubs (Salix sp.)
Senecio / Ligularia sp. huge leaved, tall
Galeatris sp / Oreorchis? purple
Corydalis sp. blue
Primula siphonantha [subsec. Soldanelloides] blue
Primula cream colored, candelabra
Xerula pudens, velvety brown cap and stem, white gills, elongated stem
(= Oudemansiella badia = O. longipes)
Serkyim La pass (4653m / 15,267ft)
Bistorta macrophylla a drooping knotweed
Cassiope fastigata - heather family
Pedicularis megalochila light big yellow petals
Potentilla sp. yellow
Rheum nobile tall Rhubarb on the slope
Old growth fir forest walk (4000m? / 12,400ft)
Abies georgei var. smithii Smith's Fir
Larix griffithiana - Larch
Sorbus rehderiana - Rehder's Mountain Ash/Rowan
Boletus reticuloceps - sample DaW2010-8-7#1
Leotia lubrica / lutea?
Rozites emodensis Himalayan Gypsy
Lobaria sp. - Lichen
Kushuk Drong Gonpa, Bönpo temple with 2000 year old giant cypress near Nyingchi village. Gonpa burned down in 2008, old gonpa was 700 years old. Giant Cypress (Cupressus gigantea) = Shukpa is advertised as "10,000" years old.
Giant Cypress Forest, Cupressus gigantea forest relict on 5 ha. Oldest tree 2600 years. Kongpo berry feasting.
Aug 8 Mon Bayi - Draksum Lake
Berry stop with mushroom stand in Shöpa Lung Chang / Baiba Cun
Mushrooms for sale:
Ramaria sp. Chalak Chelack = birds foot
Boletus reticuloceps = ?? = big foot or Beli Shamo = fat mushroom
Gomphus clavatus / Ponggu Amcho = pig's ears
Tremella sp. = Be tsel = fat of oak (Chin. Huang Er = yellow ear)
Nangsel Zampa (Langga / Bahe) stop (3100m / 10,170ft) along creek
Spiranthes chinensis - spiraling orchid
Epipactis royleana red orchid
Codonopsis convovulvacea ssp. vincifolia
Draksum Tso / Basum Tso / Basong Co Lake (3450m / 11,300 ft)
Photo excursion with Gyachin Namlha Karpo, first peak.
Dinner at Draksum Tso Lodge with Boletus reticuloceps
Aug 9 Tue Basong Tso = Draksum Tso (Three Peak Lake)
Temple on Island: Tsodzong Gonpa (Nyingma) with Guru Rinpoche and his 8 manifestations plus two main statues to left Guru Drakpur and Singhamuka, beginnings dating back to 13th Century.
Herminium sp. orchid green tiny flowers
Forest walk - Secundary oak forest (3500m / 11,450ft) to old-growth fir-spruce forest with bamboo and birch (3700m / 12,000ft).
Amanita fulva brown cap, no veil, striated cap, no ring, hollow stem, white volva
Boletus subtomentosus, leathery beige-brown cap, yellow gills, slender stem, mild tasting, little slow staining
Boletus flammans?. red pored, red stemmed, mild
Boletus velutipes?. brown pored, red-stemmed, mild,
Clavulinopsis helvola - yellow, unbranched tall coral-like
Chroogomphus cf tomentosus
Helvella sp. infula?
Hygrocybe sp. orange
Hydnum repandum Hedgehog
Hygrophorus sp./ Tricholoma
Lactarius cf. deliciosus group
Lactarius sp. velvet dark brown cap, acrid white milk
Leccinum extremiorientale - Far-Eastern Scaberstalk, oldish with pink viscid cap, yellowish stem with red and pink hues and red apex
Lycoperdon perlatum - Gem-studded puffball
Paxillus involutus Rollrim
Pseudohydnum gelatinosum - Toothed jelly fungus
Russula sp. purple-brown, white stem, mild, white latex
Russula sp. deep red cap, red stemmed, not acrid
Stereopsis humphreyi - small white toadstooly "polyplore" under spruce
Strobilomyces sp. Old man of the woods
Plants (secondary forest):
Aconitum kongpoense - Kongpo monkshood
Spiranthes chinensis Ladies' tresses orchid
Halenia elliptica Gentian family
Podopyllum hexandrum May apples
Antennaria cat's paws
Erigeron ? Blue Aster
Hydrangea sp shrub
Prunus sp. wild cherries
Dinner at Draksum Tso Lodge with Boletus reticuloceps & Tricholoma matsutake
August 10 Wed Basum Lake - Lhasa
Basum Tso - Kongpo Gyamda / Gongbu Jiangda County Town
Lunch stop below Sumdo (3820m / 12,530ft)
Rutok Hot spring soak (4300m /14,100 ft)
Stop before Meldrogongkar County town
Lhasa (3650m / 11,972ft).
Dinner: Khyichu Hotel Restaurant
August 11 Thu Lhasa
Potala Palace - the world's tallest occupied building from 1653 to 1889 or Lukhang temple with its Dzogchen murals built by the 6thDalai Lama.
Lunch at Tashi's with Beli Shamo = Boletus reticuloceps
Dinner at Steakhouse with Tricholoma matsutake
August 12 Fri Lhasa - Chengdu
Flight Lhasa / Gongkar to Chengdu
Sichuan Hot Pot good-bye dinner
Jinli Street market and Wuhou Ci Temple
August 13 Sat Chengdu - home
Fungal fellowship dissolves
Tibetan place and sight names based on:
*Gyurme Dorje's `Tibet Handbook', 3rd Edition, Footprint 2004,
Tibetan Himalayan Digital Library [thlib.org] and field inquiries.
*Toshio Yoshida 2005. Himalayan Plants Illustrated (in Japanese)
*Wang Xianghua, Liu Peigui, Yu Fuqiang 2004. Color Atlas of Wild Commercial Mushrooms in Yunnan. Yun. Sci. & Tech. Press, Kunming (in Chin.), 133p.
Imazeki, R., Otani, Y. and Hongo, T. (1988). Fungi of Japan (Nihon no kinoko). (Yama-kei Publishers Co. Ltd., Tokyo.) 1-446.
*Kinoko (Mushrooms) Field Guide 2006. Yama-Kei Field Books 7, 384 p. (In Japanese)
Mao Xiaolan, 2000: The Macrofungi in China. In Chinese with Latin names, 719 p.
*Yuan Mingsheng & Sun Peiqiong 2007. Zhongguo Xunjun Yuanse Tuji [Pictoral Book of Mushrooms of China], Chengdu 552 p. / 2166 photos, ISBN: 978-7-5364-6318-9.
*He Xinsheng 2011. Sì chuân pén dì xùn jûn tú zhì (Illustrated Mushrooms of Sichuan), Beijing, 1-288, ISBN 978-7-03-031222-8 (In Chinese)
* books we along in Tibet
Taking the train
If you would like to use the new railroad, it is recommended to leave Lhasa by train at the end of the tour. Coming up from China can cause a lot of discomfort due to the quick gain of altitude and all the hours spend above 4700 m (15,000 ft) without sufficient time for acclimatization. If we are informed well ahead of time we can arrange for tickets.
and ways to minimize and mitigate its impact on well being
During the Fungal & Floral Foray we focus on lower areas of Tibet, and not the high altitude grasslands (which we also will cross). Still, Lhasa is at over 11'000 ft / 3500 m. But we will fly into Nyingchi / Bayi, which is "only" at 9826 feet / 2994 m, to get acclimatized. We will save Lhasa for the end and fly out of Gongkar Airport. The summer tour is clearly easier in regard of altitude exposure than the Cordyceps tour.
One easy fundamental in regard of high altitude is taking it very easy in the beginning and drinking a lot of water. We always provide bottled water for everyone. Altitude usually slows down everyone considerably in the first days. But since we all know what the cause for the lack of breath is, one can handle it fine and structure the activities according to it. And with every day passing it gets less of an issue. The first 2 days we take everything quite slowly, just check out local markets or drive to temples etc. Unfortunately in Tibet we do not have access to Coca tea like in Andean nations, especially Bolivia, where it is perfectly legal to drink the tea or chew the leaves as the natives have done for millennia to adjust better to altitude, increase endurance and suppress hunger. Although the FAO has declared unprocessed coca leaves as save, its international; trade has so far been blocked by the US veto. In Tibet we also have access to bottled oxygen. Our Tibetan counterparts always have it on the bus or in the car and it is in the hotels. And a couple days later, we are still not climbing mountains. Later on, when we are out in nature, we use more of a drive-in approach, since the roads cut through very beautiful country. We take plenty of time to stroll and explore. Yes, we might go up steep slopes, there are plenty of those, but if so slowly. It is more about looking what is growing there then hiking long distance form one altitudinal level with its unique habitat into the next. We are also going to be based in a few locations in the forest zone from where we can split up and have two groups if some people insist on strenuous hiking. The beauty being out with nature enthusiasts is that there is no hurry up a slope, since there is so much to see. We all pretend it is not the altitude, but just the plants, insects, mushrooms and taking pictures that slow us down.
In regard of Western mainstream medicine 400-600 mg Ibuprofen and Vitamin C (up to 4 times per day 1000mg) might help you to adjust to high altitude. Some people like to take Diamox. One needs to start taking it a few days before rapidly ascending. However, its side effects of frequent urination undermines good sleep and furthermore possible numbness and tingling in hands and feet are not very pleasant.
Nadia Kimmel from DesertMountainMedicine.com told me, one should not take more than 250 mg Diamox per day, since it is a dehydrant! So regular 500 mg pills should be divided into halves or quarters to be spread over a day. Also Nadia swears by high doses of Vitamin C, best 1000 mg [something you should take with you to Tibet, I could not find it easily in Lhasa], it can relieve acute symptoms within 30 minutes. If Vitamin C does not help, one could take 4 mg of Decadron every 6 hours. If there is no relieve within an hour one needs to move down or find an altitude tent, a space where lower air pressure is simulated. Altitude sickness can be deadly, but if we encounter it, most cases are about discomfort.
Important disclaimer - I am not an MD, this is just what I have gathered so far - if you feel you need to protect yourself from altitude sickness please discuss these issues with your personal physician!
Also Kanla Metok - Roseroot - Rhodiola spp. is very helpful with altitude adjustment. I always order Rhodiola drinks for my clients, it is available in Lhasa restaurants, it is quite tasty and not too sweet as too many drinks in China nowadays. I never used Diamox, but always use coca homeopathically. It really helps me and I share what I have. If someone is convinced homeopathy can not work due to the extreme dilution, at least there could not be any side effects.
Last Change: July 16, 2016
Saussurea obvallata, a high altitude specialist. Serkyim La in 4650m, August 2011.
Another high altitude specialist and I am talking here about the stunning plant Rheum nobile and not myself. More on the Noble rhubarb.
Last edited on Fri, November 22, 2019, 1:28 pm