Chomolhari Trek

Bhutan: The Chomolhari Trek

Day 1 ~ Paro - Thimphu (7,725')
Fly to Paro (7,500'), Bhutan, on Druk Air, the national airline of Bhutan. If the weather cooperates, you might have spectacular views of four of the ten highest peaks in the world—Everest, Cho Oyu, Makalu, and Kanchenjunga—plus peaks in Bhutan such as Chomolhari, Jichu Drakye, and Tsering Kang. After meeting the tour Guide at the Paro airport, we'll drive into town for lunch. Afterward, we drive to
Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. The remainder of the day is free to rest and relax.

Day 2 ~ Thimphu
After breakfast we drive to the north end of the road to Dodina (8,600') and hike an hour up a steep hill to visit Cheri Monastery, or Goemba, built in 1620 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and established with an original staff of 30 monks. Nowadays the monastery serves as the main meditation center of the country and has more than 70 monks undergoing their three-year, three-month retreat. Inside is a silver chorten holding the ashes of the Shabdrung’s father. On our return we’ll visit Tango Goemba (another steep one-hour climb); founded in the 12th century (the present building was constructed in the 15th century). It is now a Buddhist institute for higher learning. Time permitting; we’ll visit Tashichho Dzong, seat of the royal government and central monastic body, upon our return from the hike. (1 hour driving; 4 hours hiking.)

Day 3 ~ Thimphu – Paro (7,500')
Our morning tour will include a visit to the School of Arts and Crafts (or “painting school”), where Bhutanese children can follow a six-year program in traditional arts, such as drawing, painting, woodcarving, and sculpture. We’ll also visit the Textile Museum, National Institute of Traditional Medicine, and Folk Heritage Museum. Afternoon return drive to Paro. In the afternoon we’ll visit the National Museum, housed in an old watchtower above the Paro Dzong. The museum’s collections include displays of spectacular thangkas (religious scroll paintings), bronze statues, and Bhutan’s beautiful stamps. Time permitting; we will also visit the Paro Dzong itself, built in 1644 by the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.

Day 4 ~ Paro
Today we’ll take a steep, 2-hour hike to a teahouse, where we enjoy a great view of Taktsang Monastery (its name means “tiger’s nest”), perched on a cliff 2,700 feet above the floor of the Paro Valley. Taktsang is the most spiritual place for the Bhutanese and a major pilgrimage spot. Our hike follows a steep switchback trail through the forest. After breaking for tea and cookies, you will have the option to sit outside the building and admire the monastery and its beautiful surroundings or, if you feel energetic, to continue another hour to a closer viewpoint. Much of Taktsang was destroyed by a fire in April 1998, but it is now completely rebuilt. We’ll have some time in the afternoon to explore Paro on our own. (5 hours hiking)

Day 5 ~ Begin trek - Shana Zampa (9,450')
We drive about 15 minutes to Drukgyel Dzong (8,500'), where our pack ponies are loaded up with all the gear for our trek. Drugyel Dzong was built in 1960's to commemorate the victory of Bhutan over the Tibetan armies and to guard the Paro Valley against further aggressions. In 1951 it caught fire and was never repaired except for the shingled roof erected in 1985 to prevent further damage. It is now an empty shell--a place to meditate on the past. After visiting the ruins of the Dzong, we begin by walking along the Paro River, following it as it winds past traditional farmhouses with cultivated fields of red rice, chilies, potatoes, and millet. After about five to six hours of walking, we arrive at our first campsite by the river near the village of Shana at 9450 feet, where the forests are alive with numerous birds and brightly colored butterflies. (10½ miles, 5½-6 hours hiking.) 

Day 6 ~ Soi Thangthangkha (11,840')
We continue up through the valley of the Paro River, which gradually narrows as the trail leads higher, winding up and down through a thick, lush forest of oak, pine, and juniper. The trail becomes very rocky, muddy, and strenuous, climbing up and down while slowly gaining altitude. As we get closer to our camp for the night, we begin to see the snowcapped summit of Chomolhari (if the weather is clear), a mountain that is sacred to the Bhutanese. This is a long, hard day with lots of ups and downs and rock hopping; it can be very muddy. We camp at Soi Thangthangkha (11,840'). (13½ miles, 9-9½ hours hiking.) 

Day 7 ~ Jangothang (13,382')
We continue following the Paro River on a demanding, rocky trail, and then the valley widens again, opening to a spectacular area surrounded by high snowcapped ridges. A few yak-herding families are based in this area, and we may be lucky to pay them a visit and try some of their dried yak cheese. Camp at Jangothang (13,382') below a ruined fortress near the base of Chomolhari. (11½ miles, 5½-6 hours hiking.)

Day 8 ~ Rest day (13,382')
Today is a free day to rest and explore the area. You can hike to an open area where you can sit and watch the grazing blue sheep, or you can walk to a nearby glacier at the foot of Chomolhari. Of course, you can also opt to stay at camp, take in the views, and rest for the challenging day ahead.

Day 9 ~ Soi Yaksa (12,450')
Our trail starts with a short steep hike to Tshopu (14,300'), one of the two trout-filled glacial lakes we will pass on the way to Bhonte La (“La” means “pass”). From here, we often see blue sheep, fat marmots, and migrating Himalayan birds, as well as incredible views of Jichu Drake, a beautiful snowcapped peak alongside Chomolhari. We continue for about one hour to our lunch spot below Bhonte La (16,000'). After lunch we cross the pass and make a long, steep descent to the yak-herding valley of Soi Yaksa (12,450'). There are only a few families living in the area and they produce some of the best yak-wool cloth we’ll see along the trail. Yak herders and their families will come to our camp as early as 6:00am with items to sell, such as cloth, yak tassels and ropes, jewelry, etc. (10-12 miles, 8-9 hours hiking.)

Day 10 ~ November 13 ~ Taybu (13,700')
Our hike today starts with a very gentle uphill trail to the top of the eastern ridge of the Soi Yaksa valley. From here we can enjoy an incredible view of the amphitheater of mountains to the north. Little by little the very top of Chomolhari and Jichu Drake reappear on the distant horizon as we approach our lunch spot. After lunch, we cross Thombu La, a 15,000-foot pass with panoramic views of the eastern Himalaya (on a clear day, you can even see Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world), before descending to our camp at Taybu (13,700') by the mid-afternoon. This area is rich pastureland for yaks, and we’ll probably see nomadic yak herders camped in their traditional woolen tents. (7-8 miles, 5-6 hours of hiking.) 

Day 11 ~ Shana (9,413')
After a short, steep climb out of camp, we leave the remote mountain area by following a ridge. From this vantage point we get a glimpse of the Paro Valley to the south before we start our steep descent (4,500' of elevation drop) for most of the afternoon and return to Shana (9,413'), where we spent our first night of camping. (6-7 miles, 5-6 hours hiking.)

Day 12 ~ Paro (7,500')
A four- to five-hour walk brings us back to the trailhead at Drukgyel Dzong. Lunch upon arrival. We bid farewell to our staff and ponies before we board our van for drive to Paro

Day 13 ~ Departure
Morning transfer to the Paro airport for departure on your flight



welcome to the land of happiness


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