Snowman Trek 30Days/29Nights
Snowman Trek 30Days/29Nights
Trek info: Duration: 25 Days 24 Nights. Grade: Strenuous. Maximum Elevation: 5320m.
Known to be the “World’s Toughest Trek”. The combination of distance, altitude, remoteness and weather makes this a tough journey. Fewer than half the people who attempt this trek actually finish it, either because of problems with altitude or heavy snowfall on the high passes. This trek goes through some of the remote villages of Laya and Lunana, providing great views of the snow-capped mountains. Trekkers have the opportunity to spot the Takins, Blue Sheep, Himalayan Black Bear, Marmots and many yaks and yak herders. This trip is one of the longest combined with the “World’s toughest Trek”, lasting 30Days/29Nights.
On a typical trek day, we will be woken up at 6:00 am, by a member of the camp crew bringing a bed tea (in your tent), followed shortly by a bowl of hot washing water. By 7:00 am, when breakfast is ready, we will have packed ready for the day’s activity (day pack and main luggage). We leave with our guide just before the camp crew at 8:00 am and spent the rest of the day at an unhurried but steady pace. We stop for about an hour for lunch, which will be carried by a camp crew and continue to our next campsite. The crew will break down the tents, load the horses, overtake us and have the new camp ready for our arrival. A hot drink will be ready when we arrive, followed by wash water and our evening meal. After dinner, we discuss for the following day with our guide before retiring to our bed. This will sound familiar to anyone who has trekked in Nepal, the main difference being that camp crew is much smaller and there are no tea houses along the way.
*Note: Use designated campsite only approved by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. No campfires and cooking fires at the campsites. Usage of LPG (liquid petroleum gas) is mandatory for cooking. Pack out solid waste (pack it in and pack it out), should not bring out flora and fauna products, respect the nature and culture of the area. Most trekking routes are in the National Parks and Reserves.
It is essential that participants undertake regular walking and hiking in the months leading up to start of the Tour so that you can enjoy up to the full what the trek offers. The itinerary gives an indication of distances and elevations involved. Previous experience of multi-day trekking as well as extended periods of camping in mountains over 3,000mts is preferable.
Every effort has been made to allow gradual acclimatization to altitude, but this is a factor unpredictable for anyone, even those who have performed well on past trips. On this trip we camp over 4,700m and sometimes at 5,000m so this must be borne in mind. Many folk have their own ideas how to combat the effects of altitude and we always carry Diamox (Acetazolamide) with us and use it if we feel the need.
If you plan to use such a drug for the first time, visit your doctor well in advance of the trip and ensure that you have a trail at home so that you understand what the effects is on you before administering at height. If anyone where to suffer a bad reaction to altitude and need to lose height the route of the trek allows us to do so at certain points of the trek.
At valley floor conditions are likely to be humid, even hot on sunny days, becoming less so as we rise towards the tree line. We all appreciate that mountain weather is unpredictable, and difficult to forecast in areas we visit only rarely but our experience is that one should experience rain at some point on most days, that snow may fall on high passes but not lie long, and that sunny, clear periods, usually from dawn into the mornings, when encountered, afford stunning views, memories and pictures.
Day1: Arrive in Bhutan
The flight into Bhutan takes you over the Himalayas, offering glimpse of the highest glacial peaks. On arrival at the airport, after immigration and custom formalities, your local guide-for the whole trip, will receive and transfer you to the hotel. After check-in and refreshment/lunch, start exploring Paro, the sites include: The National Museum, housed in a 17th century watch tower which will serve as a great introduction before you delve deeper into the country. Then visit the Rinpung Dzong the medieval provincial capital fortress the watch tower protected for three hundred years of civil strife. Later take a short walk down to Nyemi Zampa (Cantilever bridge) that connects the valley to the dzong.
O/N at Hotel in Paro. Elevation: 2,300m.
Day2: Paro Halt
After breakfast before the sun is to strong, hike to taktsang (literally translated as Tiger’s Nest). Built in 1600’s, this incredible monastery/temple clings to a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900mts into the valley below. The history states that Guru Rinpoche, the Tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tigress. Looking at the monastery/temple flying tigress doesn’t seem so impossible after all. The trail to the monastery/temple climbs through rhododendron and pine forest, lichens overhanging from the trees above notifies that you are walking amidst pristine forest, surrounded with clean, fresh air without any pollution. It takes 5 hours in total to hike and visit the shrines inside.
Visit the ruins of Drukgyal dzong, in the northern corner of the valley overlooking the village of Drukgyal, founded by Zhabdrung in the 17th century, which was lost to a fire in 1965.
On the way back visit the kyichu Lhakhang, founded by the Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo to overcome a giant ogress whowais lying over the Himalayas trying to stop the spread of Buddhism. Legends has it that the King built 108 of these temples throughout the Himalayas.
O/n at Hotel in Paro. Elevation: 2,300m.
Day3: Drukgyal to Shana. 15kms, 5-6 hours, 360m ascent, 80m descent.
Drive to Drukgyal, the starting point of the trek. Visit the ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong, built as a monument of victory over the Tibetians invaders in the 17th century. From here you can see the crown of Jumolhari 7314m, the base of which we will be making camp in few days. The trail follows Paro river gently uphill through a narrowing valley of paddy fields. You will pass many traditional farmhouses along the way. The campsite is in a meadow past an army outpost. Camp altitude 2800m. Overnight in Camp/Tent.
Day4: Shana to Thangthangkha. 22kms,7-8 hours, 770m ascent, 10m descent.
Continue uphill following the river and through the valley, which narrows and closes in after some distance. The trail then winds up and down along the drainage. Most of the trail actually is uphill after the initial climb. The campsite is located in a meadow with stone shelter. Camp altitude 3400m. Overnight in Camp/Tent.
Day5: Thangthangkha to Jangothang. 19kms, 5-6 hours, 480m ascent.
Gradual climb as the vegetation turns rapidly alpine, past an army outpost until the landscape opens up into wide valley. The view around is surrounded by high ridges and the snow-capped mountains all the way to Jangothang. You will also come across yaks and yak herders camps. Camp altitude 4040m. Overnight in Camp/Tent.
Day6: Jangothang Halt (Basecamp).
Rest or explore the valley. There are many options for exploring including climbing the ridge behind the camp for better view of Jumolhari and Jichu Drakey or walk to the glacial basin of Jumolhari or to the glacial lakes of Tshophu. A stop here does good for acclimatization since the route here on goes higher.
Day7: Jangothang to Lingshi. 18kms, 6-7 hours, 840m ascent, 870m descent.
After about 15 minutes from the camp the trail climbs rapidly for about half an hour and then becomes a gradual ascend to the Nyelila pass 4870m. You might see herds of blue sheep grazing on the slopes of the mountains. From the pass you will have spectacular views of Mt. Jumolhari, Jitchu Drakey and Tsherim Gang, all of them rising above 7000m. On the way down to the camp you will pass by some of the yak herders tent, made from yak wool where the herders take shelter while on the move to various pastures for their yaks. Before you drop down to the campsite, Lingshi Dzong comes into view overlooking the village and the route to Laya. Camp at Chazithang (4,010m). Overnight at Camp/Tent.
Day8: Lingshi to Chebisa. 10kms, 4-5 hours, 280m ascent, 410m descent.
It is the shortest walking day, and you can really take it easy. Shortly after starting you will come to a chorten below the Lingshi Dzong. Here, you have a choice of staying on the main trail or taking a diversion up to the Lingshi Dzong (4220m), which sits right atop a ridge. After Lingshi Dzong you will be passing the villages of Lingshi and Goyul. In Goyul, the stone houses are clustered together to a small compact village that is unusual in Bhutan where village houses are normally scattered.The campsite of Chebisa has a beautiful waterfall behind the village. Camp altitude 3880m. Overnight at Camp/Tent.
Day9: Chebisa to Shakeypasa to Shomuthang. 17kms, 6-7 hours, 890m ascent, 540m descent.
The trail climbs up to the Gobu La pass, another chance to see herds of blue sheep. After the pass you descend to the valley into Shakeypasa 3980m, where a helipad had been established. Climb from here till you reach the campsite of Shomuthang above a stream, which is a tributary of the Mo Chhu. Camp altitude 4220m. Overnight at Camp/Tent.
Day10: Shomuthang to Robluthang. 18kms, 6-7 hours, 700m ascent, 760m descent.
It is a two hour climb to the Jhari la pass 4750m, from here you catch the first sight of Shinche la, the pass you will cross tomorrow. Gangchenta, The Great Tiger Mountain 6840m, can be seen to the north. Tsherim Gang and the peak of Jumolhari can also be seen on a clear day. From here the trail drops down to Tshari Jathang, herds of Takins, Bhutan’s National Animal, migrate to this valley in summer and remain here for about four months. Climb up a little to get to the campsite of Robluthang 4160m. Camp altitude: 4,160m. Overnight at Camp/Tent.
Day11: Robluthang to Limithang. 19kms, 6-7 hours, 850m ascent, 870m descent.
Climb gradually up to the Shinche la pass 5200m, the highest pass on the trek. After the pass, descend down to a little stone house where a few Laya women dressed in typical costume with long pointed bamboo hats on their heads live. On the other side you will see an impressive terminal moraine and a glacial lake at the foot of the valley. Below the moraine, cross the Kango Chu and soon reach the Limithang campsite. The peak of Gangchenta towers over the campsite. Camp altitude 4140m. Overnight at Camp/Tent.
Day12: Limithang to Laya. 10kms, 4-5 hours, 60m ascent, 340m descent.
The trail goes downhill along a narrow winding river valley. After sometime, the trail passes through deep forest and finally enters the west side of the Laya village. In the centre of the village is a school and a basic health unit with telephone connections. The campsite is below the school. Camp altitude 3840m. Overnight at camp/tent.
Day13: Laya Halt.
This day is to explore and learn about the tribal community of the remote Himalayan region of Laya (very unique to the country and the world). Visit the community school, hike to the village of Lungu if you still have enough energy after ten days of rigorous trek.
Day14: Laya to Rodophu. 19kms, 6-7 hours, 1030m ascent, 70m descent.
After the village the trail drops to the river and follows the river left till the army out-post. Then the trail leads gradually downhill to Lunana trail junction, taking left the trail leads to a ridge with good views of the rivers below, Mo Chhu and the Rhodo Chhu. The forest on this side has been burnt down, the trail continues to climb gradually up the Rhodo Chhu valley through rhododendron shrubs above the tree line. At the top of the large rock slide there is a view of the broad glacier valley and a massive glacier on Tsenda Gang 7100m, towering overhead. Overnight in camp/tent.
Day15: Rhodophu to Narethang. 17kms, 6-7 hours, 720m ascent.
The path crosses the wooden bridge and follows the river upstream through rhododendron shrubs for 20 minutes before turning right up the hill to Tshomo La 4900m, providing views towards the Tibetian border and Jumolhari. From here the trail becomes more gradual but still ascending to the camp to Narethang 4900m. Overnight in camp/tent.
Day16: Narethang to Tarina. 18kms, 5-6 hours, 270m ascent, 1200m descent.
From the camp the trail ascends for an hour up to Gangla Karchung la 51200m, Mountain views are great from here, Kangbum 6526m, Tsenda Gang 7300m, Teri Gang 7300m, and Jejkangphu 7100m can be seen. The Path descends along a large moraine to the edge of a near-vertical wall, views from the ledge are breathtaking- among the best along the entire trek. The trail drops steeply from here to the Tarina Valley, which provides lots of campsites just by the river. Camp altitude 3,938m. Overnight in camp/tent.
Day 17: Tarina to Woche. 17kms, 6-7 hours, 275m ascent, 330m descent.
The trail leads through conifer forest down the Tang Chhu on the river left, passing some impressive waterfalls cascading down both sides of the valley. The trail climbs gently out of the valley past several landslides and eventually climbs steeply to the northeast into the high side valley of Woche. Woche is a small settlement of 5 houses at 3940m and is the first village in the Lunana region. Overnight in camp/tent.
Day18: Woche to Lhedi. 17kms, 6-7 hours, 980m ascent, 950m descent.
The path to Lhedi begins below the camp and climbs the Woche valley, crossing a stream and climbing over a moraine before descending to a wooden bridge across the Woche Chhu. It then climbs to the Keche La 4650m. From the pass there are excellent views of the surrounding mountains, including Jejekangphu Gang’s triple peak. Descend down to Thega village 4050m, and then the trail gradually follows the Pho Chhu bank up to Lhedi 3700m. There is a school and a BHU, camp just beyond the school. Overnight in camp/tent.
Day19: Lhedi to Thanza. 17kms, 6-7 hours, 400m ascent.
The trail follows the north bank of the Pho Chhu past several small farms into Chozo village 4090m, There is a small dzong in the village, and to the right is a ridge which offers good views of the Table Mountain. The trail to Thanza continues along the left bank of the Pho Chhu through a flooded area full of sand, which will take another two hours to the camp. Camp altitude 4100m. Overnight in camp/tent.
Day20: Thanza Halt.
This day is taken as a rest day for the trekkers and arranging the pack animals for the next day, here the pack animals of Laya leave us and go back so we switch pack animals with the Lunaps, the people of Lunana.
Day21: Thanza to Danji. 8kms, 3-4 hours, 80m ascent.
The route climbs from Toench to a large boulder on the hill south of the village, from here there are excellent views of the villages below and the surrounding mountains. The path then turns east up a side valley another few hours you are at Danji camp 4180m. Overnight in camp/tent.
Day22: Danji to Tshochena. 12 kms, 5-6 hours, 490m ascent, 240m descent.
There is a trail junction just after the camp, the trail up the valley leads to the Gangkar Puensum base camp and to Bumthang. The path to the right crosses a creek and leads up a rocky side valley. It is a long climb to the Jaze la pass 5150m, which offers spectacular views of mountains in all directions. The path then descends down to Tshochena passing small lakes to the camp at 4900m. Overnight in camp/tent.
Day23: Tshochena to Jichu Dramo. 14kms, 4-5 hours, 230m ascent, 140m descent.
The trail follows the shore of the blue-green lake before climbing to a ridge at 5100m, from the ridge there is a 360-degree panorama view of the snowy peaks, the microwave tower and the road at Dochula are just visible in the distance. The path makes several ups and downs over small rounded hills before coming to the Loju La pass 5140m. There are many trails at the pass the correct path leads you across a small saddle at 5100m into a wide glacier valley. Then the trail gradually descends to the camp at Jichu Dramo 5050m. Overnight in camp/tent.
Day24: Jichu Dramo to Chukarpo. 18kms, 5-6 hours, 320m ascent, 730m descent.
After leaving camp the trail climbs through a moraine to Rinchen Zoe La 5320m, which divides the Pho Chhu and the Mangde Chhu drainages. The Rinchen Zoe peak towers above the pass 5650m and the major Himalayas stretch along the northern horizon. From the pass the trail descends to Metachuta and further down to Chukarpo 4600m. Overnight in camp/tent.
Day25: Chukarpo to Thampe Tsho. 18kms, 400m ascent, 640m descent.
The trail continues to descend along the right bank of the river until it reaches Gala Pang Chhu 4010m. From here the trail begins to climb through junipers and silver firs towards Thampe Tsho passing 4300m. Overnight in camp/tent.
Day26: Thampe Tsho to Maurothang. 14kms, 5 hours, 280m ascent, 1020m descent.
The trail climbs steeply to Thampe La at 4600m. The path descends to Omtey Tsho, sacred lake where Pema Lingpa found a number of treasures, then drops down 100m to the lower Omtey Tsho lake. Then it’s a steep descend to the bottom of a ridge and levels with the river running by, cross a wooden bridge and follow the river downstream on the right bank to the Maurothang camp 3610m. Overnight in camp/tent.
Day27: Maurothang to Sephu. 18kms, 5-6 hours, 990m descent.
The trail stays to the right bank of the river for a while before crossing to the east bank into a mixed deciduous and bamboo forests. Eventually it emerges into a large grassy area, overlooking the Sephu village and the road, another hour along the feeder road you should meet your transport, where the Snowman Trek ends.
Then drive to Trongsa for the night stay, where hot shower and a comfortable bed will be waiting for you, a well deserved rest after the tough trek.
Day28: Trongsa-Punakha, 124kms, 5 hours drive.
After breakfast drive over the Pele La Pass (3,300m) and down into Punakha through Wangdiphodrang, Punakha 1,280m above sea level was the former capital until 1955. It is one of the most fertile valleys in the country, farmers grow two rice crops in a year along with seasonal fruits and vegetables.
We stop at Lobesa for a short hike to Chimmi Lhakhang, a popular destination for fertility blessings including foreigners.
Later visit the Punakha Dzong, built right at the confluence of the Mo Chhu (female) and the Pho Chhu (male) rivers. It is the winter seat of the Je Khenpo- the Head Abbot, and the central monastic body.
O/n at Hotel in Punakha. Elevation: 1,280m.
Day29: Punakha-Thimphu, 76kms, 2.5 hours of driving
Today we drive over the Dochula Pass (3,150m) to Thimphu, the capital city. With a population of 100,000, it is like no other capital city-the valley is unique, displaying harmony of tradition and modernity. There are no traffic lights and policemen direct traffic at intersections. Yet it is the biggest city in the country and the seat of the government as well as the main hub of commerce in the country.
En route to Thimphu we stop at the Dochula pass for pictures, as the pass heralds the most enchanting view of Bhutan’s Himalaya peaks including the highest unclimbed mountain in the world Gangkar Puensum (24,835ft/7,560m).
In Thimphu we visit the Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory, here you can see the traditional way of making paper with barks of Daphne plants. Bhutan in the ancient days was the biggest supplier of paper in the Himalayan region for printing religious scriptures and prayers.
National Memorial Chorten, built in 1974 in memory of the third King, His Late Majesty, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, lovingly known as the “Father of Modern Bhutan”.
Drive up to Kuenselphodrang to see the giant Buddha (169ft/51m).
The takin Preserve which showcases the National Animal along with few species of deer and mountain goats.
Visit the Drubthop Nunnery, where you can see the female Buddhist practitioners engaged in their daily rituals. Later visit the Tashichoedzong, the summer seat of the Je Khenpo-the Head Abbot, and the central monastic body, it also houses some ministries, the Golden Throne and the office of the King.
O/n at hotel in Thimphu. Elevation: 2,320m.
After an early breakfast, transfer to Paro airport for your onward destination.