September – October
Minimum 2 person required
Snowman Trek in Bhutan is one of the most beautiful treks in the whole Himalayas. Billed as the most difficult trek in the world due to altitude, duration and distance, far more people climb Mount Everest in Nepal than completing this alpine quest. Many return incomplete due to altitude sickness. The trek goes on northern Bhutan along the border with Tibet crossing thirteen Himalayan mountain passes some as high as 5000m. You will have spectacular mountain views of Jumolhari, Jichu Drake, Masangang, Tiger Mountain and Gangkar Puensum and other conspicuous peaks along the norther border.
17KM | 5-6 HOURS | 230M ASCENT | DESCENT 60M | CAMP ALT 2870M
You will drive 12km north of Paro valley from your hotel to the historic Drugyal Dzong ruins at 2,580m, from were your trek starts. Your trekking crew will be waiting here for you. After a brief meeting, you will walk downhill on a wide trail following the Pachhu (river), which then climbs gently traversing through well-maintained rice terraces and fields of millet. Soon the valley widens and the route enters an area of apple orchards, traditional farmhouses and the tiny settlements of Mitshi Zampa and Sangatan. You reach the army post of Gunitsawa at 2,810 after walking for a while through blue pine forest. Here your trekking permit will be checked and stamped. This is the last stop before Tibet and border close to it. You will then cross Pachu River on a wooden bridge and then climb to Sharna Zampa at 2,870m. Just beyond Shana Zampa, there are several meadows surrounded by trees where you will camp for tonight.
22KM | 8-9 HOURS | 690M ASCENT | CAMP ALT 3750M
The trail again follows Pachhu (Paro river), ascending and descending through pine, oak and spruce forests. After 2 hours of continuous hiking and crossing several streams, you will reach at Shingkharap, a stone house at 3110m. A hot lunch will be served after crossing the bridge towards the left side of the river. Little ahead is the trail junction – left an old trade route and invasion from Tibet and right leading to the wooden bridge (we follow the right). After climbing up through rhododendron forests and finally crossing the bridge again, we reach our camp at 3750m, which is amidst beautiful meadows.
19KM | 5-6 HOURS | 290M ASCENT | CAMP ALT 4040M
Although today’s is not a long trekking day, a significant height gain will take place as your trail goes above tree line. From the camp, your path ascends for a while till you reach the army camp. Then follow the river above the tree line enjoying the stunning view of surrounding peaks. We walk through a very muddy section of trail, pass a mani wall and enter yak country. Hot lunch will be served inside a yak herder’s camp. After lunch, we walk past yak herder settlements of Soe and Takethang. Common crops that people grow here are barley, potatoes and turnips. We walk our final approach across a plateau and up a stream bed and Dangochang village to the awesome campsite of Jangothang at an altitude of 4,040m. From here, the views of Mount Jumolhari and Jichu Drake are superb.
Today, you will spend a day by doing four-hour acclimatization hike to the north of your camp. There is practically no trail but you will climb on a open and endless slope till you see the view of Mt Jichu Drakye (6989m). You can scramble further up till 4895m (higher than Mount Blanc) to see amazing view of Mount Jumolhari. You are likely to spot rare blue sheep, Himalayan rhubarb, griffon vultures, golden eagles and the remarkable blue poppy. Jangothang base is a flat grassy land with an old ruined fortress on a hillock in the foreground, beneath the colossal Mount Jumolhari and its neighbour Jitchu Drake. Most people show signs of mountain sickness at this altitude and it is recommended that all trekkers halt here. If you do not wish to hike but simply wish to just relax in camp, whichever option you choose, its certainly going to be a memorable day.
18KM | 6-7 HOURS | 660M ASCENT | 660M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 4010M
The trail follows the stream for half an hour and crosses the bridge to the right side. Start the climb up to the first ridge with a breathtaking view of Jumolhari (7314m), Jichu Drake (6989m) and Tshering Gang (6789m). Then walk towards the valley, almost flat for a while, until you climb to the Ngye La pass at an altitude of 4,700m. After the pass, it is a gradual descent to the camp, enjoying the panoramic view of the surrounding peaks and Lingshi Dzong. If time permits, you can have a detour to this tiny fortress, which is sitting on a hilltop overlooking Lingzhi village below. For centuries, Lingzhi Dzong was a way station for weary Buddhist pilgrims and defense fort against Tibetan and Mongol invaders. Camp at an altitude of 4010m.
12KM | 5-6 HOURS | 160M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 3850M
Visit the Lingshi Dzong, perched on the hilltop with a commanding view of green hills, the winding river and magnificent peaks. For centuries, Lingzhi Dzong was a way station for weary Buddhist pilgrims and defense fort against Tibetan and Mongol invaders. It is an easy day and pleasant walk through villages and yak herders camp. After lunch, a short walk will take you to Chebisa, a charming little village adorned with a beautiful crystal clear waterfall. Camp by the side of stream at an altitude of 3,850m.
17KM | 6-7 HOURS | 570M ASCENT | 290M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 4130M
Begin your trek with a stiff climb up a ridge to Gogu La pass (4,500m) taking nearly four hours. The sights of rare blue sheep is common on the rocks near the top of this pass. After the pass, descend through rhododendron bushes to a lunch stop. Afternoon continue along the trail with intermittent ascents and descents and after crossing the stream, through rhododendron forests and yak herders camp we arrive at Shakepasa at 3980m. From there, we walked down through a thick rhododendron forest until our next camp in Shakshepasa at 3980m. Climbing steeply up to the northern side of the valley and passing by a couple of yak herder’s camp, we arrive at our camp, which is beside a stream at an altitude 4,250m.
17KM | 6-7 HOURS | 570M ASCENT | 290M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 4130M
The trek starts by walking through edelweiss bound trail with a climb to Jari La pass at altitude 4,700m. The snow capped peak visible to the south-east is Kangbum at 6526m. Then descend to Tsarijathang valley, the summer residence of rare Himalayan Takins (national animal of Bhutan). From here we may have to cross the stream as most of the time the footbridge is washed away. After crossing the stream towards the left, the trail ascends till you reach Robluthang, a rocky meadow camp at an altitude of 4,200m.
19KM | 7-8 HOURS | 850M ASCENT | 870M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 4140M
Today, you will cross the highest pass in our entire trek. Climb all way up through boggy patches crossing stream, traversing marmot holes and moraine, you will reach at the top of Shingchen La pass (5005m). The view of snow-covered Gangchenta or the Tiger Mountain (6,840m) filling the northern horizon is simply stunning. After the pass, descend through rough rocky trail following moraine river valley to Kango Chhu River. The path is quite narrow and you may have to cross a stream again and get wet. After walking through cedar forests we arrive Lingmethang (4,140m), which is a beautiful scattered meadow by the river with Tiger Mountain towering behind your campsite.
10KM | 3-4 HOURS | CAMP ALT 3850M
In the morning you wake up with a superb view of Gangchenta peak in front of you. The walk to Laya is very pleasant with wonderful views. You will pass through a damp forest, filled with moss and singing birds. Arrive at Laya village, the second highest settlement in the country, at altitude of 3,800m.
Explore around Laya village. You can go and visit any of the houses around. Even to a perfect stranger, traditional Bhutanese hospitality is extended and a cup of tea and Chang (local, wine) is always offered. The people in this valley are very interesting especially the women. They wear conical bamboo hats decorated with turquoise and silver ornaments.
19KM | 7-8 HOURS | 900M ASCENT | 70M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 4160M
The trek leads down to the Lunana trail junction and then climbs to hilltop with good views over the Mo Chhu and the Rhodo Chhu. The trail follows Rhodo Chhu valley, first through mixed conifers and then through rhododendron, above the tree line. From top of large rockslide, there is a view of the glacial valley and a massive glacier on Tsenda Gang (7100m). Our camp is at Rodophu at 4160m just beyond a wooden bridge across the Rhodo Chhu river.
17KM | 5-6 HOURS | 755M ASCENT | 15M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 4900M
The trail today also follows the alpine grassland where yaks bound in plenty. The path follows the river through rhododendron shrubs before turning right up the hill. You will then climb to a high open valley through meadows to Tshomo La Pass (4915m). The views of the Mount Jomolhari and Tibetan borders are absolutely breathtaking. Next you will hiking on the barren plateau intersecting several yak trails and after some time you will be arriving at Narithang (4900m), which is your camp for tonight.
18KM | 6-7 HOURS | 220M ASCENT | 770M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 4350M
Today you will be climbing Ganglakarchung Pass at an altitude of 5120m. From the pass, the views of Kangbum (6530m), Tsendhen Gang (7100m), Teri Gang (7300m) and Jejegangphu Gang (7120m) are superb. You will descend through massive moraines to the edge of straight cliff with views of glacial hanging from Teri Gang that forms two turquoise-colored lakes at the base. The lake towards the left in 1961 due to outburst has caused a flood downstream in Punakha destroying the Mochu Bridge. Descend through a steep path to the U-shaped valley following the Tangchu stream towards right to arrive at your camp at 4350m.
15KM | 5-6 HOURS | 250M ASCENT | 310M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 4350M
Your trail passes through the junipers down the Tangchu River on the left passing through amazing waterfalls. After a gentle climb out of the valley for sometime, you will be making a steep ascent to Woche Village, the first settlement in Lunana region at an altitude of 4350m. The Woche village marks the beginning of the Lunana region and above the village, you will see tomorrow’s route to Ledhi.
19KM | 6-7 HOURS | 300M ASCENT | 450M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 4200M
Start climbing up the Woche valley and cross a small stream to go over a moraine. You will then descend to a wooden bridge across a Woche Chu River and climb up past a clear glacial lake to reach Keche La pass (4650m) with magnificent views of nearby mountains including three-prong peaks of Jejegangphu Gang mountain. The trail then descends to Pochu Valley and reaches Thaga village at 4050m. In the late afternoons, one can expect bitterly cold winds at Thaga Vilalge in autumn. From the Thaga village, we descend passing few scattered settlements, waterfalls and reach Lhedi (4200m) after walking along the Phochu River bed. Lhedi village consists of a school, Basic Health Unit and a wireless station.
19KM | 5-6 HOURS | 250M ASCENT | CAMP ALT 4250M
The trek is slightly easy today. We will follow the north bank of Phochu River passing through several small farms and then reach Chuzo Village (4090m) sometime around the lunchtime. Enroute visit the Chezo Dzong. We follow the trail along the riverbed and then climb a steep hill overlooking Thanza valley at 4250m.
You have two optional activities for today. You can either visit the Thanza village or explore nearby glacial lakes. Thanza Village is virtually untouched, medieval-like society. Most people wear clothes they make by hand, weaving and dyeing their own material. They fashion their own unique hats, boots and and jewelry. Their homes are built from stone walls, hand-hewn wood shingles and clay mortar. They survive on grains battered with yak meat and cheese from the lower valleys. Optionally, you can hike through small moraine rocks to clusters of Raphstreng Tsho and Thorthormi Tsho. These lakes are the source of Phochu River of Punakha, which caused a flood in 1994 due to moraine outburst. The view of 7100m Table Mountain (locally known as Zongphu Gang) is superb as it forms 3000m high wall of ice and snow behind Thanza Village.
19KM | 8-9 HOURS | 870M ASCENT | CAMP ALT 5120MAfter breakfast, you will start climbing the ridge, overlooking the great view of the Table Mountain and the Thanza valley below. The altitude of the ridge is 4,500m and it gradually rises up to 4,650m. After the picnic lunch, trek upwards following the left side of the bridge and enjoying the views of the snow-capped mountains. Upon further climbing of the ridges, you reach the campsite of Tshorim at an altitude of 5,120m.
16KM | 6-7 HOURS | 110M ASCENT | 260M DESCENT, CAMP ALT 4970MThe day starts with a short climb to the Tshorim Thso. You walk on the side of the lake enjoying a panoramic view of the Gophu La ranges. The last climb to the Gophu La pass (5,230m) is very short. After the pass descend to the base camp, walking along the ridge to enjoy a great view of Gangkhar Puensum. If interested, one can divert to the left side to climb up the pyramid peak for a better view or you can go down to the base camp nearby Sha Chhu.
14KM | 6-7 HOURS | 770M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 4200MThe trail is fairly easy following the Sha Chhu which gradually descends towards Geshe Woma which is at an altitude of 4,200m.
18KM | 8-9 HOURS | 600M ASCENT | 800M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 4000MAfter breakfast, the trek continues following the Sha Chhu for about 2 and half hours until we begin the stiff climb towards Saka la pass at 4800m. As the visibility along the Saka la trail is rather poor, it is advised that the trekkers must use the top of the ridge to follow the right trail. Picnic lunch will be served close to a yak herder’s camp. After the lunch and a little rest, we start uphill climb to Sakala pass. After the pass, we start to descend towards some lakes enjoying the beauty of this wonderful place. We come across yet another beautiful scene overlooking some small lakes with the gigantic views of the mountain peaks.
14KM | 5-6 HOURS | 400M ASCENT | 810M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 3590MAfter breakfast, we will start a short climb leading towards Julila pass (4,400m). After the pass, descend to the riverside through dense rhododendron shrubs, juniper and conifer forests. A short climb after the bridge leads us towards Dur Tsachu (hot spring) where it is believed that Guru Padmasambhava is supposed to have taken bath. These hot springs might be the most stunningly beautiful hot springs of the Himalayas.
18KM | 8-9 HOURS | 1100M ASCENT | 835M DESCENT | CAMP ALT 3850MFrom the hot springs it is a long and steady climb with of course, splendid views of mountains in Lunana. First we climb the Gutong La Pass (4550m) before coming to several beautiful deep blue lakes with yaks grazing on the surrounding pastures and yak herder’s huts. We then ascend second pass, Jule La Pass (4685m) before the final descent to our camp at Tshochenchen at 3850m.
27KM | 9-10 HOURS | 660M DESCENT | CAMP ALTITUDE 3190MWe trek downhill from Tshochenchen, following Yoleng Chhu river through thick forests of cypress, spruce, juniper, maple and hemlock. A short climb brings us to our campsite at Gorsum.
18KM | 6HOURS, 540M DESCENTAfter a nice breakfast, we will follow the Chamkhar Chhu, descending gradually although few climbs is unavoidable. Finally, the long journey on foot ends here at the Dur village. From here, transport will pick us up and drive to our hotel in Bumthang. Overnight at a hotel in Bumthang.
Lee & Haydan, USA
Fiona Healy & Hanat, Arizona
Sunandan & Monica Ray, Canada
Merak Sakten Trek was opened only in 2012 after three decades of inception of tourism in Bhutan and so far very few trekking groups have visited this remote region in Eastern Bhutan.
Jumolhari trek in Bhutan is the most enchanting adventure trek in the Himalaya. After an acclimatization hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery, you will start the trek from historic Drugyal Dzong ruins.
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