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HIMALAYAN MOUNTAINEERING INSTITUTE

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Jhomolhari-Laya-Gasa Trek

Two weeks through the high Himalayas

The Jhomolhari - Laya - Gasa trek is an extension of the classic Jhomolhari trek. It starts at Drukyel Dzong near Paro, and leads via Jhomolhari basecamp to Lingzhi. There the route leaves the Jhomolhari trek, and heads east along the Tibetan border to Laya. From Laya the trek turns south to Gasa and Punakha. Description.

Days required

14-16 days. 13 days of trekking, mandatory rest day in Jhomolhari Basecamp for acclimitization; rest day in Laya (beautiful day hikes) and Gasa (hotsprings) reccommended.

Altitude

You will spend seven days above 4,000m.

Highest passes

Nyele La, 4,890m; Jhari La, 4,747m; Sinchu La, 5,005m.

Highest camp

Robluthang, 4,200m.

Difficulty The trail itself is not difficult, but because of the high passes, and high campsBhutan: a trekker's guide , or a shorter description in Lonely  Planet's Bhutan Travel Survival Kit . A 1:50,000 trekking map for the first part of the trek, up to Jhomolhari basecamp, is available from the Tourism Authority of Bhutan for Nu. 300. Trek Description Jhomolhari - Laya - Gasa Trek " id="pdf-obj-3-2" src="pdf-obj-3-2.jpg">

Difficulty

The trail itself is not difficult, but because of the high passes, and high camps there is a serious risk of altitude sickness along this route. Weather can be bad on the passes at any time of the year. In spring the snow clears late, and in fall early snow storms are not uncommon.

Longest day

Robluthang to Limithang, approximately 7-8 hours. You climb from 4,200 m over a 5,005m pass, and down again to 4,140m.

Best season

The windows for good trekking in Bhutan are extremely small: about 3 weeks in April and 3-4 weeks in October. Although the official season extends longer, you have the best chances of clear weather and little snow in the second half of April or first three weeks of October. We did the trek in late April/early May, which is the very end of the best season. Any later would have meant more rain and poor views. But the flowers would have been at their best, though.

Resources

For a complete trail description see Bhutan: a trekker's guide, or a shorter description in Lonely

Planet's Bhutan Travel Survival Kit. A 1:50,000 trekking map for the first part of the trek, up to Jhomolhari basecamp, is available from the Tourism Authority of Bhutan for Nu. 300.

Jhomolhari - Laya - Gasa Trek

Two Weeks through the High Himalayas

Trek description

There are many trekking companies in Bhutan, but we did not know which company offered the best quality service at a good price. After we had been to see some of the companies, we decided to go with a reliable person whom we knew, and who had just started a new trekking company. For the trek, we were provided with a cook, a guide and two people to look after the horses and yaks. We had seven horses from Paro to Jhomolhari, six yaks from Jhomolhari to Laya, and five horses from Laya to Punakha. They carried all of our baggage: food, camping equipment, our own luggage, and the staff's gear.

We started by walking from Drugyel Dzong to the army camp at Gunichawa. Here the trekking permits had to be produced. The trail was littered with stones sticking out of the mud, but was generally good. We camped just beyond Sharna Zampa at 2,870m.

The next morning it was still raining; by the time reached our camp for the day, the rain had turned to snow. Walking on the slippery stones and the muddy trail through the forest was a bit difficult. We reached Thangthangka (3,630m) after six hours.

The walk from Thangthangka to the next camp in Jangothang was pleasant and short. Along the way we stopped in Dangochang to visit a friend of ours, who is working for the National Park. We had brought his mail and even some batteries for his solar system. We installed the system for him in the afternoon. Our friend had a cute little white dog, which decided to follow us all the way to Punakha. The actual walk took only about four hours.

Two Weeks through the High Himalayas Trek description There are many trekking companies in Bhutan, but

An ancient fort guards Jhomolhari's peak

We stayed at Jangothang for two nights to acclimatize. The next morning we made a difficult excursion up to and along the ridge behind Jhomolhari base camp. We climbed for four hours to about 4750m. There was no trail and everything was covered with snow, but the breathtaking

views are worth the effort. The climb up was extremely steep, because we insisted on taking a difficult route. At the top the northern horizon is dominated by the masses of ice and rock making up Jhomolhari (7,314m), Jichhu Drake (6,989m), and Tserim Kang (6,789m).

To the south, lower mountains jut up from the Jangothang valley as far as the eye can see. On the way up, we saw plenty of blue sheep, Tibetan snowcocks, and Himalayan griffons.

The sixth day was not long, and the weather in the morning was good, but in the afternoon it was snowing heavily, with strong winds. We had to cross a high pass, Nyile La (4,890m) between Jangothang and Lingzhi. On the way we saw many marmots and more griffons. Our camp was a short distance before Lingzhi, at 4010m. From here we had spectacular views of Tserim Kang.

On day seven, walking between Lingzhi and Chebisa, there were many interesting sights:

Lingzhi Dzong, Lingzhi village, and Goyul village at 3870m. That village has a different style of stone house, which is unusual in Bhutan. We visited a family there; their kitchen and bedroom were in separate buildings. The houses were neat and nicely decorated. We camped in Chebisa valley at 3880m, one hour past Goyul. It was very windy in that village, especially in the afternoon. Many people came to see us, because few tourists pass there. Most of the villagers were Tibetans, who had fled Tibet. They still run a lively smuggling trade with their old homeland.

views are worth the effort. The climb up was extremely steep, because we insisted on taking

Kitchen in Goyul

The next morning we made a steep climb up to the ridge behind Chebisa. On the rocks near the top there were again many blue sheep. From there, we walked down through a thick rhododendron forest until our next camp in Shakshepasa at 3980m. This was another short day, and we reached camp by lunch time.

The following morning, day eight, we had to climb up again to a pass of 4747m at Jhari La, and from there down into a dense forest of rhododendron and cedar.

We were supposed to see a big snow peak, Gangchhenta (Great Tiger Mountain, 6,840m), and the top of Jhomolhari, but they were covered in clouds. Before we reached our camp at Robluthang (4,160m), we met three local Layap ladies sitting near the river. They are different from other Bhutanese people, wearing dresses made from yak hair, long hair, and strange bamboo hats.

On the ninth day, we had to cross Sinche La at 5005m, the last and highest pass on our trek. It was a long and hard day. After going down via a rocky trail and a short walk on a good trail through a beautiful cedar forest, we stopped for the night in Limithang (4,140m).

The next morning, the clouds lifted just long enough to see Gangchhenta towering above the camp site. We started walking a little later than usual, because the walk from Limithang to Laya was short and easy. Laya village has a simple hospital, school, and interesting houses. The Layaps were friendly, and eager to sell their bamboo hats. We stayed in Laya for two nights. The second day we only went for a short five hour hike to the ridge above Laya. From the top the views of Masang Gang (7,165m) and the Tibetan border were magnificent.

We were supposed to see a big snow peak, Gangchhenta (Great Tiger Mountain, 6,840m), and the

Laya and Tsenda Khang (7,100m)

After a rest day in Laya, we were ready to walk again to the next camp in Koina (3,050m). This day was not too long, and easy. There was an army camp on the opposite side of the valley below Laya, where the guides register the names of the trekkers. It was nice to walk on a good trail through the forest, but unfortunately it was hot in the afternoon. In Koina we were lucky this time; it was not as muddy as usual. During the rainy season it is very muddy and there is a lot of horse dung around the camp.

Between Koina and Gasa we walked rather further than the previous day, and the trail went down steeply after crossing a ridge at 3,900m. On the way down, we saw Satyr Tragopan, Himalayan Monal, and Blood Pheasants. They look like chickens, and all of them have beautiful colours. In Gasa (2,770m), we went to see Gasa Dzong and the bazaar down the hill. After looking around in Gasa village, we camped for two nights at the Gasa Hot Springs for a rest and a bath in one of the hot pools. Even the dog got a cleaning!

Gasa Dzong and Kang Bum (6,200m) After Gasa Hot Springs, we had a short walk to

Gasa Dzong and Kang Bum (6,200m)

After Gasa Hot Springs, we had a short walk to our last camp in Damji. It was a pleasant walk, except for the many leeches on the ground, which had come out after the rain the previous night. Early in the morning, we walked another three hours to meet the car at the end of the road near Trashitang. Our friend's dog, which we had named Katu (white), was still with us. We took him in the car, but he had never seen a car before, so he got carsick immediately.

Finally, we left him behind in Punakha. It was sad to see him go, but it was still a long drive to Thimphu

Although we had some slight problems, we really had a great time and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. We were also happy with the food which we had on the trek. Back home, we like to think again about our 16 days trip and everything we saw. We still remember Katu, and wonder where he is now.

Gasa Dzong and Kang Bum (6,200m) After Gasa Hot Springs, we had a short walk to

Punakha Dzong

Snowman Trek

Exploring the outer reaches of Bhutan's High Himalayas

Trekking route

This is the most difficult trek in Bhutan! The official snowman trek starts in Paro, and leads via Lingshi and Laya to the remote Lunana in northern Bhutan. From there you can either reutn to the lateral road at Nikka Chhu, or continue to Bumthang. Description.

Days required

If you start from Paro, then it is about 24 days, including a rest day in Laya. You can cut off a few days by starting in Punakha; then it is minimally 19 days. We took 20 days from Punakha, including a rest day in Laya (better is to rest at Rodenphu), and Thanza. The last night we slept at the road in Nikka Chhu, you could save a day by driving back to Thimphu right away.

Altitude

This is a true high altitude trek: from Laya on you stay continuously above 4000m. If you leave from Paro, then you already reach 4000 at Jomolhari basecamp.

Highest passes

Gangla Karchung La, 5230m; Jaze La, 5251 m; Loju La, 5155m; Rinchenzoe La, 5332m.

Highest camps

Tshochena, 4975m; Jichhu Dramo, 5060m.

Difficulty

This trek is not for the weak! Although individual day treks are not difficult, you are in the field for about 3 weeks, far from anywhere. Once you have passed Laya, there is no going back. If you get stuck in, say, Thanza, it is a long way out!

Longest day If you decide to walk in one day from Thanza to Tshochena, it willBhutan: a trekker's guide , or a shorter description in Lonely Planet's Bhutan Travel Survival Kit . Trek Description The Snowman Trek First Week The Snowman trek is the most difficult trek in Bhutan, because one has to walk and camp at high altitude for nearly three weeks. As long as one has no problems with the high altitude and the weather is good, it is not a particularly difficult trek. But, if something were to happen along the way, someone would have to carry you down to the nearest house, or try to find a telephone to " id="pdf-obj-9-2" src="pdf-obj-9-2.jpg">

Longest day

If you decide to walk in one day from Thanza to Tshochena, it will take you 8-9 hours, climbing about 1200m from 4000 up to 5250 m. Therefore, it is better to stay overnight at Dhamji. If you do, then the longest day is the one from Jichhu Dramo to Chukarpo - about 8 hours, if you walk down a bit from Chhukarpo to the better campsite.

Best season

The window for good trekking on the Snowman Trek is extremely small: the only time you have a chance of good weather is the first 3 weeks of October. Although the official season extends longer, if you go at any other time, you'll either get very wet, snowed in, or both. We started on October 1 from Punakha, and had great weather. We even didn't see any leaches.

Resources

For a complete trail description see Bhutan: a trekker's guide, or a shorter description in Lonely Planet's Bhutan Travel Survival Kit.

The Snowman Trek

First Week

The Snowman trek is the most difficult trek in Bhutan, because one has to walk and camp at high altitude for nearly three weeks. As long as one has no problems with the high altitude and the weather is good, it is not a particularly difficult trek. But, if something were to happen along the way, someone would have to carry you down to the nearest house, or try to find a telephone to

get a helicopter from Thimphu. Both are often several days' walk. Initially, many people planned and wanted to go with us on the trek, but in the end they all bailed out and only two of us went.

Early in the morning on the first of October, leaving, we drove from Thimphu to Tashithang. Tashithang is located 30 km north of Punakha along a dirt road. Our trek started with a short hike from there (1800 meters) to Damji. It wasn't a long walk, and we already knew the trail from Tashithang to Laya, which we walked in the spring. We were lucky to have good weather; the trail was dry, and so there were no leaches on the trail. Our party included eleven horses, a guide, a cook, a cook assistant, and two horsemen along with us until Laya. They also provided a dining tent, a kitchen tent, and a toilet tent for us.

get a helicopter from Thimphu. Both are often several days' walk. Initially, many people planned and

Farms in Damji

The next day the trail was not difficult, even though it was hot. Endang was lucky to see a deer on the trail. The horses were much slower than us, so we still had to wait for our horses for an hour after we reached the campsite in Gasa.

get a helicopter from Thimphu. Both are often several days' walk. Initially, many people planned and

Gasa and Kang Bum (6,200m)

On Tuesday we left at exactly the time we wanted to. At 8 o'clock in the morning we started walking to Koina, but our guide and cook left 30 minutes later. They walked very fast, and could always catch up with us within a few hours. We were jealous when we heard that they saw a black bear on the trail. The trail was slightly difficult because of a landslide, and we had to walk

up and up until reaching Bele La at 3900 m. From the pass we followed a steep and muddy trail down to Koina. There were a lot of bamboo thickets and numerous Rumex plants growing near the river. The campsite at Koina is notorious in Bhutan, because of the thick black mud and ample horse manure surrounding a small stone hut. There are only a couple of tiny spots to pitch your tent, or you can share the smoke-filles hut with the rats.

Wednesday morning was a short and easy walk. From Koina we had a short steep climb up over a spur, and from there an undulating trail to the Army camp just before Laya (3400m). We met many Layap people who were going to Gasa to dance at the Gasa Tshechu. This time we had lunch at the campsite, though we usually stopped for lunch at 12 o'clock somewhere along the way, at a spot with a beautiful view. It was early and still sunny when we reached the campsite. After eating our lunch, we washed the clothes that we had been wearing for four days!

Thursday was a rest day, but early in the morning Rogier went up the mountain near our camp to about 4,300 meters. The guide went to Laya to get some yaks, because the horses that came with us had already gone back to Damji. Horses are not strong enough to walk and carry the heavy loads up the rest of the trek.

The cook stayed in camp with us, and I dried our clothes on the shrubs, and had a cup of tea while writing. After Rogier came back, the cook prepared fried eggs, porridge, beans, and toasted bread with peanut butter jam for our breakfast. Every day the cook prepared a different menu. I saw there were a lot of fresh vegetables, boiled chicken and pork, eggs, and biscuits etc., when they were unpacking, and packing again. We also washed our hair, and cleaned ourselves with warm water in the sun, and enjoyed the views.

up and up until reaching Bele La at 3900 m. From the pass we followed a

Rodenphu campsite

Friday morning our party left the army camp with eight yaks, and retraced the trail from the day before yesterday, until reaching the turnoff to the Rhodophu trail. The trail was muddy, and rough with a lot of boulders, and went up steeply. It passed through a large forest that had been burnt by yak herders who wanted to turn it into pasture. After five hours walking we reached Rhoduphu campsite (4,300m), surrounded by mountains. Our camp was in a pasture near the river, which was fed by a glacial lake near Tshenda Kang mountain (7,000m). Nearby was a yak herder's stone house with a wooden roof.

Narethang and Gangkla Karchung The trail from the campsite was difficult; we climbed up to a

Narethang and Gangkla Karchung

The trail from the campsite was difficult; we climbed up to a pass on a rocky trail through dwarf rhododendron bushes. We could not see all of the mountains from the pass (4,900m), because it was cloudy, and we started late. The yak herder also had to find one of his yaks on the top of the mountain. After the pass we walked at the same elevation for three hours, and finally reached the campsite at Narethang at 4,934 meters on a small plateau beneath the 6.395-meter peak of Gangla Karchung. This time we saw many blue sheep, and five Tibeten Snowcocks on the slope above the trail. There were also some cute blue birds, called Grandana.

Narethang and Gangkla Karchung The trail from the campsite was difficult; we climbed up to a

Looking at Tarina Valley and Teri Kang

On Sunday morning it was extremely cold when we had our breakfast. We quickly set off and climbed again to Karchung La pass at 5230 meters. From the pass we saw three glacial lakes under the peaks of Gangla Karchung, Jejekungphu Gang (7300m), and Tsenda Kang(7100m). It

was too soon to climb to 5200m for me, so I was not feeling well, and we walked quickly to the next campsite, which was down in the Tarina valley at 4020 meters. The trail was difficult, going down steeply through a rough moraine. Parts were dreadful with lots of rhododendron roots, and slippery mud. Once we got below 4500m, I felt fine again. In retrospect, we should have spent our rest day at Rodenphu, not in Laya. That would have allowed us to acclimatize better.That night it rained for the first time on the trek.

Intro | Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3

The Snowman Trek

Second Week

The second week started from Tarina with an easy walk down through a conifer forest along the river, with many waterfalls on both sides. After three hours we started to walk up to the campsite in Woche. Woche is a little village at about 3,950 meters where the Lunana area starts. We heard that people in Lunana like to take things from outside tents, so we never put our things outside.

was too soon to climb to 5200m for me, so I was not feeling well, andIntro | Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 The Snowman Trek Second Week The second week started from Tarina with an easy walk down through a conifer forest along the river, with many waterfalls on both sides. After three hours we started to walk up to the campsite in Woche. Woche is a little village at about 3,950 meters where the Lunana area starts. We heard that people in Lunana like to take things from outside tents, so we never put our things outside. Tarina Valley The next day, the trek was a gradual climb towards Keche La at 4,666 meters, and then downhill to Thega village. From there we continued walking to the next village. We stayed at about 3,700 meters in Lhedi, where there is wireless station, school, and Basic Health Unit. It was very windy when we reached the campsite in front of the houses in Lhedi, overlooking Tangshigang Mountain across the Po Chhu valley. " id="pdf-obj-13-16" src="pdf-obj-13-16.jpg">

Tarina Valley

The next day, the trek was a gradual climb towards Keche La at 4,666 meters, and then downhill to Thega village. From there we continued walking to the next village. We stayed at about 3,700 meters in Lhedi, where there is wireless station, school, and Basic Health Unit. It was very windy when we reached the campsite in front of the houses in Lhedi, overlooking Tangshigang Mountain across the Po Chhu valley.

Po Chhu Valley and Table Mountain Wednesday morning we left Lhedi for Thanza, which is the

Po Chhu Valley and Table Mountain

Wednesday morning we left Lhedi for Thanza, which is the last village in the Lunana area. It was hot while we were walking along the wide river, with lots of rocks and broken trees. After several hours we reached the small village of Chozo (4000m), which has a small Dzong. The houses there are made of stone, and surrounded by stone walls. It only took one hour to walk from Chozo to Thanza. It was also hot, and very windy in the large river flats, and at one point the flats had turned into a massive sand sea, just like a desert. From this area we could see Table and Dashay mountains, and many yaks grazed on the flats. Thanze is similar to Chozo; the houses are also made of stone. On the same day we met four American tourists also just arrived in Thanza, but they had started the trek from Bumthang and were going to Punakha.

Po Chhu Valley and Table Mountain Wednesday morning we left Lhedi for Thanza, which is the

Dhamji Campsite

The following day we had a rest at the same place. We wanted to go to the lake in the morning, but it was cloudy and raining. After breakfast we were given warm water to wash our hair, and Rogier tried to repair his camera bag, but could not fix it. The guide arranged to change to

different yaks for the next stretch from Thangza to Nika Chhu. In the afternoon we went to RaphtsenTsho lake (4,400m) for four hours, even though the weather was not good. Had the skies been clear, we would have been able to see beautiful mountain views all around.

We started next morning's walk with nine yaks. From here we had to walk and sleep at around 5,000 meters for three days. From Thanza we walked to Dhamji at 4,680 meters, climbing slightly for three and a half hours. This day's walk actually should take eight to nine hours, but we decided to break up the trek, and completed the walk in two days. There were many blue sheep on the way up, and at one point they approached to within a few meters of the campsite, when by chance they came down from the mountain. It was clear and cold at night.

different yaks for the next stretch from Thangza to Nika Chhu. In the afternoon we went

Tshochena

Saturday early morning was beautiful, and we saw icy mountain views all around, especially when we were on Jaze La pass at 5,251 meters. The trek climbed up on rocks and down to the campsite beside Tshochena lake at about 4,917 meters. It had always been windy in the afternoon for three days, but this time it was snowing, and colder than before.

different yaks for the next stretch from Thangza to Nika Chhu. In the afternoon we went

Glacier Lake near Loju Pass

The next day's walk had gradual ups and downs along a rocky trail until we crossed Loju La pass at 5,155 meters. From there we enjoyed a panorama of snowy peaks and glacier-covered

mountains all around. The weather was very clear, and only slightly windy. We passed some beautiful lakes on the way to our next campsite in Jichu Dramo (5,060m) just before the next and last pass. The lakes were blue and green in colour and very clean.

mountains all around. The weather was very clear, and only slightly windy. We passed some beautiful

Jichu Dramo Valley

The Snowman Trek

Third Week

We started the third week with a steady climb, up to Rinchenzoe pass at 5,327 meters, which was the highest pass on this trek. We had good weather and excellent views from the pass in all directions. From the pass we walked down to Chukarpo (4,609 m) for four hours with a lot of rocks on the trail. It was snowing a bit in the afternoon when we reached the campsite, so we went down a bit further to ,400 meters. This campsite was much better than the one at Chukarpo itself.

mountains all around. The weather was very clear, and only slightly windy. We passed some beautiful

Rinchenzoe Massif

On Tuesday morning our small group continued walking down along the river. After two hours we finally saw trees, rhododendrons everywhere, and also many birds, including some blood pheasants. The path was mainly covered in boulders until it began to climb quite steeply through junipers. We camped near the final pass of this trek, beside a beautiful lake at Thampe Tsho

(4,350m).

Rinchenzoe Massif On Tuesday morning our small group continued walking down along the river. After two

Om Tsho

The next day we went up to the final pass, Thampe La, at 4665 meters. From there the trail dropped steeply down for five hours until we reached the campsite in Maurothang at 3610 meters. There were two lakes, and a beautiful waterfall on the way down. One of the lakes is called Um Tsho, locally believed to be sacred after Pema Lingpa found a number of religious treasures in it. The lake was deep blue, and very clean.

Rinchenzoe Massif On Tuesday morning our small group continued walking down along the river. After two

Civilization! Sephu village

On Thursday we continued gradually down over the rocks through bamboo thickets and broken trees. We stopped for lunch and changed the yaks to horses in Sephu, because it was too hot for the yaks to go down further. We had less luggage than before, so they changed to only five horses. Sephu village has a school, and numerous farms, and the people have begun the

construction of a community road from the lateral road at Nikka Chhu Bridge. We stayed near the bridge on the lateral road, and waited for the car from the trekking company to pick us up the next morning.

construction of a community road from the lateral road at Nikka Chhu Bridge. We stayed near

Waiting to return to Thimphu

The last day we only waited for the car, and drove back to Thimphu. I was happy to go home, have a shower and meet friends again. We were lucky that most of the time we had good weather, and good food, even though I was always concerned about the next culinary adventure. Everything went well, even though it was a long and tough trek, but we completed it without a hitch. We also enjoyed the company of our guide, cook, and helper on this trek.