Mt. Kawagebo

Kawa Garbo or Khawa Karpo, as it is known by local residents and pilgrims, or Kawagebo Peak, is the highest mountain in Yunnan, China. It is located on the border between Deqin County of Diqing Prefecture, Yunnan Province, and Zuogong and Chayu counties of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. It rises about 20 kilometres (12 mi) west of the Deqin County town (also known as Shengping), which lies on China National Highway 214. What is now Deqin County has been part of Yunnan since the 1720's, when the current border with Tibet was established by the early Qing Dynasty. Kawagarbo is one of the most sacred peaks in the Tibetan world and is often referred to as Nyainqênkawagarbo to show its sacredness.

Kawagarbo is the high point in a range of high peaks that are generally referred to by Tibetans also as Kawagarpo. A mapping error by the Chinese army during the 1950's transcribed the name for a lower range of mountains to the north on a much larger area that also included Kawagarbo. The name of this lower range in Tibetan is Menri (Wylie system; Sman-ri in the Wade-Giles system; name means Mountains of Medicinal Herbs), but is most widely known by its Chinese transliteration, Meili Xue Shan. This is the name most widely applied to the range by Chinese and Western sources.[4] The Meili range is a small massif of the much more extensive Hengduan Shan, the major north-south trending complex of mountains lying along the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau in eastern Tibet, northwestern Yunnan, western Sichuan, and far northern Myanmar. The Meili Xue Shan forms part of the divide between the Salween (Nujiang) and Mekong (Lancangjiang) rivers.

The Meili Xue Shan has over 20 peaks with permanent snow cover, including six peaks over 6,000 m (19,700 ft). Topographic extremes are immense, with vertical relief ranging from less than 2,000 m along the Mekong River on the east to 6,740 m on the summit of Kawagarpo within 10 km horizontal distance. Even greater topographic relief is found on the west or Salween River side of the range. Coincident with this extreme topographic gradient is a similarly steep environmental gradient. Compressed within this short distance are subtropical scrub ecosystems along the arid canyon bottoms, rising through dry oak forests, humid mixed deciduous-coniferous forests, cold temperate coniferous forests, alpine meadows and scree above treeline, to permanent snow on the high peaks. The Mingyong Glacier, descending from the summit of Kawagarbo, terminates at a low elevation just before the subtropical life zone. The range is highly affected by the monsoon, leading to especially unstable snow conditions, which have affected climbing attempts (see below).

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