Turtle Mountain?

Dear fellow travelers, explorers, sojourners, and friends:


China continues to be on many travelers’ list of favorite places to visit.  Be it the rich culture, or the culinary delights offered at the table or on the street, or even the friendliness of most of the Chinese, China can generally be agreed upon as very welcoming.

As far as places to explore go, many experts agree that China holds some of the most beautiful, remote, and untouched places on earth to visit—certainly in Asia.  But in western China, unlike many other remote wilderness areas in other regions of the world, it is possible to add to your love of the outdoors meaningful cultural experiences.

For example, coupled with great mountains, grasslands, forests, and lakes, your adventure can take you to Kham Tibetan villages, or other minority areas, where, along with fantastic natural beauty, you can experience the beauty of ‘people,’ your fellow human friends, whose customs, dress, food, and story may be unlike yours, but equal to yours in significance and uniqueness.

We at Turtle Mountain Gear & Outfitters have as our creed not only the desire to visit the natural wonders of Shangri-la, but to leave something of ourselves behind—smiles, kindness, and help—if we are able—to the places and people where we adventure.


Turtle Mt. from the south.  It’s really a small hill, but this is where the town of Zhongdian (renamed Shangri-la in 2001) began.  There is a spring that flows from under the mountain, and early Tibetan settlers first established their town of Gyalthang beneath its clear waters.


In 2003, the world’s largest prayer wheel was built adjoining the temple on top, and it takes all the strength you can muster to move the wheel clockwise.  The Old Town in Shangri-la is constantly changing, with many old buildings being renovated.

And Shangri-la is just this—a dynamic place of beauty and variety, where 100 ft pine trees grow next to bamboo copses, where Tibetans live next to Lisu, Naxi, and Yi, where the terrain changes from valley to valley, and where you can seek out that inner peace that comes through the connection between nature and humanity.

This is not to say that all is perfect in paradise.  Shangri-la faces many problems that are common to almost all developing regions in a country such as China.  Deforestation and environmental degradation are two such examples.  Sustainable livelihoods for remote mountain communities is another.  Social concerns such as health and education also need to be addressed, as well as other inter-connecting issues facing rural China.

We founded Turtle Mt. from the belief that it is possible to enjoy and respect the land we visit, as well as learn from and share in the wisdom of the local inhabitants.  Our holistic approach to adventure is not original, but it is our belief that not only can we lead cutting edge adventures, but those explorations can be an important part of the solution to some of our hosts needs.

Our website is intended to give you an overall look into the people and places that make up Shangri-la.  While not exhaustive, our intention is to piqué your interest enough so that you will contact us and begin to put together the kind of adventure that you’ve always dreamed.  As far as that is possible, we’ll try to make it happen for you.

And beware!  Traipsing around western China can get addicting! We’ve been doing it for ten years now, with no immediate end in sight!

Kevin Skalsky

Shangri-la, China

March 4, 2009


Tourists flock to Turtle Mt., many of them to illicit blessings from the various gods and spirits that inhabit the small hill.  The climb might surprise you, as the elevation and stairs can take your breath away.
Turtle Mt. is often the focus of many a picture, and also the object of modern art and avant-garde interpretations.  In this photo, Will Cruickshank used Turtle Mt. as a backdrop to hang his iconic “Three Wheeler”, using cantilever logs and ropes.