HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SNOWMAN TREK
The Snowman Trek is an extension of the beautiful Laya Gasa Trek, and leads from Laya into high altitudes of the Bhutanese Himalayas. This beautiful and scenic trek is one of the most difficult treks in the world because of the altitude. The trail takes you through some of the most astonishing landscape, alpine remote region and permanent snow-capped peaks of Bhutan. Moreover, the journey offers a wonderful opportunity to dream come true for nature and adventure enthusiast. It also offers a real adventure taking you from 9186ft/2800m to 18000ft/5320m. The Snowman Trek also takes you cross more than 10 high mountain passes.
SNOWMAN TREK DETAILED ITINERARY
At your arrival at Paro International airport, your local tour guide will welcome you and transfer you to your hotel. Rest of the day is at leisure or you can choose to explore the enchanting Paro valley by visiting some of the important historical and spiritual sites in Paro. We suggest you to visit the Paro Rinpung Dzong, National Museum, the ruined Drukgyel Dzong and finally the historical Kyichu Lhakhang.
Day 2: Gunitsawa Village – Sharna Zampa
After your breakfast in the hotel, you will be driving further 16 Km away from the town to Drukgyel Dzong, make a short visit to the ruined Drukgyel Dzong, though the dzong lies in ruin it has a great historical significant that goes back to 17th century. From here the majestic view of Mt. Jomolhari can be visible, towering at 24,00ft/7314m pyramid shape, snow-clad that lies far end of the border of Tibet and it is revered as the abode of goddess Jomo.
Drive further north of Drukgyel Dzong to Guinitsawa village where trek begins from this village were you pass the army post. At the army checkpost your trek permit (provided by your tour operator) will be checked and endorsed. The campsite is on the opposite side of the river, not far from Gunitsawa.
Today your trek journey will lead you to Soi Thangthanka. As the trail continues you will be making numerous ascends and descent as you traverses through meadow laden flowers, juniper and some medicinal plants. The journey takes you through deep forest filled with oak, rhododendron, fir and birch. Heading further, you will gradually descend to a meadow where a camp will be set up. If the weather is appealing this campsite provides you with another best spot for the great view of Mt. Jomolhari.
If you did not see Mt. Jomolhari the previous evening, you will still have a chance to get a great view early this morning. This morning the trek continues up the Paro Chhu valley which widens into patches of alpine meadow and scanty growths of forest. You will cross an army checkpoint along the way and enjoy a spectacular view of high mountain ridges and snow-capped peaks. In this area yaks and their herder’s homes become a regular feature of the landscape. Passing the villages Soe, Takethang and Dangochang is another asset on this day. After reaching Jangothang, one of the most beautiful campsites of the Himalayas, you will again have a spectacular view of Mount Jomolhari.
After a long continuous 03 days walk, the rest day in Jangothang usually spent time in camp, acclimatizing and drinking in the magnificent view of Mt. Jomolhari. This rest day provides several possibility of half-day walk with breathtaking views of snowcapped mountains like – Mt. Jomolhari (7326m) along with Mt. JichuDrakey (6794m), and the high altitude lakes. The region here also provides a great chance to spot some of the blue sheep. If you have a fishing license, you can even choose to go for fishing in the high altitude lakes, Tshophu.
This journey is considered as one of the longest days of the trek. So we recommend you to make an early start. As you head further, just after ten minutes from the campsite the magnificent Mt. Jichu Drakey (6989m) and Mt. Tserim Gang (6789m), appears their presence. As the trail begins rapidly, the final pull begins a gradual ascent to Nyilila Pass (4870m) which usually takes four hours from the base camp till the top of the pass. Enjoy the surrounding mountains and herds of Blue Sheep grazing around the mountain slope. Once you reached the top of the pass, there you will have a spectacular view of Mt.Jomolhari(7326m), Mt. JichuDrakey(6989m), Mt. Therim Gang(6789m). From here, your journey descent downhill till you reached your campsite opposite of Lingshi Village.
Today is the shortest walking day, and you can really take it easy. Shortly after starting you will reach a chorten below Lingshi Dzong. Here, you have the choice of staying on the main trail or taking a detour up to the Lingshi Dzong (4,220m), which sits right atop a high ridge. This Dzong is under reconstruction from a 2011 earthquake which damaged its central building. In addition to a very special atmosphere of mystic tranquility, Lingshi Dzong provides a great view over the valley. After Lingshi Dzong you will be passing the villages of Lingshi and Goyul. In Goyul, the stone houses are clustered together to form a small compact village that is unusual in Bhutan where settlements are usually scattered. On reaching the campsite at Chebisa you will have plenty of time to visit the village houses if you feel up to it. There is also a beautiful waterfall located behind the village that is worth visiting.
We recommend you to make an early start because from the village of Chebisa to Gobu-La Pass (4510m) will take you uphill around 3 hours. On this day you will also have an opportunity to spot the Blue Sheep above the trail, Branded Vultures, Himalayan Griffons and several yak herders hut en-route. After crossing the pass, you will descent down to the valley through rhododendron bushes and a stream at about 4170m. The trail from here again ascent a short uphill through a cedar forest and then descent downhill through deep forest of fir and birch and then finally reaches to the village of Shakshepase (3980m), a large U-shape valley. Climbing from here you will finally reach the campsite at Shomuthang (4200m), in a cluster of brush beside the river. The river below your camp is a tributary of Nochu River.
You begin by climbing up the valley to view Kang Bum (6,526 m) and some edelweiss. After two hours of climbing you will reach Jhari La (4,750m), from where you catch the first glimpse of Sinche La, the pass you will have to cross the day after. The big snow peak in the north is Gangchhenta 6,840 m, better known as the Great Tiger Mountain. If weather is clear, Tserim Kang and the top of Jomolhari will be visible. The camp by the river is called Tsheri Jathang located in a beautiful wide and remote valley. Herds of takin, the Bhutanese National Animal, migrate to this valley in summer and remain for about four months. The valley has been declared a takin sanctuary. Climb up a little bit and you will reach the campsite at Robluthang in a rocky meadow.
Today you will have to climb one of the highest pass on this trek, the Sinche La Pass (5005m). This pass is one of the final and high pass and takes around five hours. Crossing the pass you will gradually descent downhill and as to the far side of the pass you will have a glimpse of impressive terminal moraine and glacier lakes at the foot of the valley. Below this moraine you will pass through rough, rocky trail into a glacial valley, you will reach eventually to KongoChhu (stream) and from here a short climb takes you through rhododendron trail and cedar forest interspersed small meadow and soon reach to Limithang campsite with a towering peak Mt. GangchenTa (6840m) over the campsite though it lies quite a distance away from your campsite. The campsite of Limithang is at 2140m.
A lovely and pleasant walk, you will traverse all the way downhill through narrow and winding river valley. This extremely pleasant walk takes you through densely forested region with moss an singing birds, you will also have a spectacular view of – Mt. GangchenTa(6840m) and Mt. Masagang (7165m). Finally, you will reach Laya, the village of Laya is one of the second highest village / settlement in the country at an altitude of 3,800m. Your campsite is just below the school.
If you have trekked from Paro Valley you should spend a day recuperating from the trek to Laya and preparing yourself for the rest of this challenging but spectacular trek. If you have started from Gasa (Punakha) you should also walk up to Laya to acclimatize, and not just stay at the trail junction to Lunana. It’s worthwhile to spend one day in Laya just for the great views from Laya and its extroadinary inhabitants.
From Laya we descend to an army camp and continue following the river till the turn off point to Rhoduphu. After lunch the climb continues through rhododendron bushes till you reach the camp at Roduphu just next to the Rhodu Chhu.
After following the river for about half an hour you will have a steady climb to a high open valley at 4,600m and then further up to Tsomo La (4,900m). Tsomo La offers a superb view of Lunana, Mount Jomolhari and Jichu Drake, and the Tibetan border. The route then crosses a flat, barren plateau at about 5,000m. The campsite at Narethang is towered by the peak of Gangla Karchung (6,395m).
From the camp you will climb for about an hour to Gangla Karchung La (5,120m). The view from the pass is breathtaking and the whole range of mountains including Jekangphu Gang (7,100m), Tsenda Kang and Teri Gang (7,300m) can be seen. The pass descends along a large moraine. Again one has great views: a massive glacier descends from Teri Kang to a deep turquoise lake at its foot. Up here a glacial lake burst through its dam in the early 1960s, causing widespread damage and partially destroying Punakha Dzong. Finally, it is a very long descent through thick rhododendron to Tarina valley, where you will find several good campsites along the Tang Chhu.
The walk leads down through conifer forests following the upper ridges of the Pho Chhu, passing some impressive waterfalls. The trail then climbs over a ridge and drops to Woche, a settlement of a few houses, the first village in the Lunana region.
The trek starts through juniper and fir forests, and further ahead, through rhododendron bushes. Climb up to Keche La pass (4,650m) where one can have the great view of surrounding mountains again. After the pass, descend to the riverside walking through a village with a stunning view of Table Mountain and others. Follow up the river till Lhedi Village. Lhedi has a basic health unit, a school and a wireless telephone connection.
In clear weather, you will have great views of Table Mountain (7,100m). Around lunchtime you will pass the small village of Chozo (4,090m) which has a dzong still in use. Reaching Thanza again you will have a great view of Table Mountain which forms a 3,000m high wall of snow and ice behind the village. Although there are possibilities to camp directly at Thanza, most groups prefer to camp in Thoencha.
In Thanza walk around and experience some village life or climb up the ridge for fascinating views of lakes and mountains. But as it takes time to arrange new yaks (the yaks from Laya will not go further than Thanza) you might have to spend one day at Thanza anyway.
From Thoencha, the trail climbs up to a large boulder from where you will have excellent views of Thanza, Toencha and Choso village and the surrounding mountains. After a few hours of relatively flat and easy walking, you will reach a yak meadow with some yak herders’ huts. An excellent campsite with a great chance to spot some blue sheep on the hills above. A trail junction near the campsite will give you the choice between the route up to Gangkhar Puensum base camp, and further on to Bumthang or to Sephu (Trongsa). Both routes are described in this website.
Having chosen the route to Sephu, the trek crosses the creek and after a long climb, you will reach Jaze La (5,150m) with spectacular panoramic mountain views . The path then descends between snow covered peaks and a couple of small lakes to the campsite near the shore of Tshochena lake.
As you follow the bank of the blue green lake before arriving at a ridge at 5,100m, where there is another spectacular view in all directions. After going up and down over small hills to reach a glacial lake, the route descends first before climbing again up the next pass, the Loju La (5,140m) . Finally after crossing a small saddle (5,100m) you will enter a wide glacier valley from where the trail descends gradually to the campsite at Jichu Dramo.
Reaching Rinchen Zoe La (5,320m) you will have spectacular mountain scenery with Gangkhar Puensum amongst the impressive mountains. Rinchen Zoe Peak (5,650m) towers above the pass the west. Descending from the pass, you will encounter several lakes. As you continue the vegetation begins to thicken again and after a couple of hours you reach the campsite at Chukarpo.
The descent continues along the river till you reach the yak herder huts at Gala Pang Chhu (4010m). From here the trail climbs steeply towards Thampe Tsho, a beautiful clear turquoise lake, with the campsite next to it.
Thampe La (4,600m) will be the last pass for you in this trek and on the way you will have a good chance to spot some blue sheep. Then the path descends to the sacred lake Om Thso. Passing a waterfall you will reach another, small lake 100m below to descend steeply to the Nikka Chu. The path finally leads through mixed forest to large clearing on the banks of the river with a few Yaks herders hut, Maurothang.
The last day of this extraordinary trek, your porters will have to change from yaks to horses as the yaks will not be willing to go further down. The path follows the Nikka Chhu to reach a large grassy area overlooking the road and the village and the Sephu. You finally reach at the road side at Nikka chu bridge at Sephu where you will find several stores (mainly selling bamboo products) and small restaurant. Punakha lies at an elevation of 4430ft/1315m.
Today your drive takes you to Paro via Thimphu (7700ft/2350m). In the morning visit the Punakha Dzong saddled at the confluence of Pho Chhu (river) and Mo Chhu (river). This massive building was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. After the dzong drive to the tiny village of Lobesa to visit the Chemi Lhakhang (No Dogs Temple) which is about 30-40 minutes’ walk though the cultivated fields to the hilltop temple. The temple dated back to 1499 and was built by lam Ngawang Chogyel in honor of his brother Lama Drukpa Kuenley (divine madman). After the temple your drive takes you through Dochu La Pass (10150ft/3100m) which provides you with a refreshing overview of your trek. From the pass straight drive to Paro via Thimphu.
After your morning breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for your onward destination. Your tour guide and driver will see you off at the airport.
- All meals
- Tea and snacks
- Complementary bottled water in car
- Government levy
- Visa fee
- Entrance fees
- permits and sightseeing
- Flight tickets
- Medical/Travel insurance
- Drinks and Beverages
- Internet Bills
- Phone and other bills of personal nature