Deqen, China, is the last outpost in Yunnan Province before the Tibetan border, and it attracts pilgrims and trekkers who set out on the many hiking trails that lead into the high country. Nearby Meili Snow Mountain is a misnomer. The “mountain” is actually a cluster of 13 major peaks and glaciers that extends more than 12 miles. At its center is one of the holiest mountains in Tibetan Buddhism, 22,110-foot Mount Kawagebo which, despite many attempts, has never been summited. The steep hiking trails wind through dense pine forests and thin air, and include constant reminders that they are part of a pilgrimage route—thickets of prayer flags and incense fill the air in several places, inspiring the exhausted to press on.