The Snowman Trek
Regarded as the most difficult trek in the world, the snowman trek still inspires and continues to awe many intrepid trekkers. It is also said that more people have summited everest than have successfully completed the snowman trek. This abridged version of the Snowman Trek is an extension of the beautiful laya / gasa trek and leads from laya into the remote highlands of the bhutanese himalayas before emerging back into civilization.
A reasonable level of fitness is a must for this adventure owing to the physical demands of altitude, duration and remoteness. Therefore only a handful of hard core trekkers walk this trail each season to challenge the mountains and themselves.
We will be trekking on some ancient trails, yak herders encampments, high passes, glacial lakes, unsurpassed scenery and secluded villages that are isolated from the rest of the country for many months of the year. The best window of time is from the end of September until October since the weather gods are usually merciful during this period.
Since safety takes precedence above everything else on our trips, the expedition will be backed by some of the most experienced trekking guides, an efficient team comprising of camp staff, trek assistant, your very own mountain chef, local support from villages along the trail and a caravan of horses/yaks.
We will take care of all the logistics, provisions, camp equipment and to allow you a clear mind to embrace the beauty of our mountains, the tranquility and the intact environment on the expedition.
Grade : Strenuous +
Trek starting point : Gasa
Trek finishing point : Sephu Village (Between Trongsa and Wangdue)
Trip Duration : 24 Nights & 25 Days / 7 Nights in hotels & 17 nights camping
DAY 1 / Flight to Paro,Bhutan (2250m)
The flight into Paro offers panoramic views of the himalayas, this exhilarating airplane ride makes the experience a befitting introduction to the spectacular beauty of our remote mountain kingdom.
Soon after completing the airport formalities, you will be met by our tour/trek guide and driver. We spend the afternoon visiting some of the cultural sights in close vicinity.
DAY 2 / Paro (2250m)
Today we begin the acclimatization day with an exploration of the National Museum (former watch tower), estb in 1968. It houses some of the finest specimens of art including masterpieces of bronze and paintings. The Museum with its extensive collections interprets history and culture of Bhutan through its exhibits. The environment gallery here also provides useful information and maps along the snowman route.
We also visit the Paro Rimpung Dzong(fortress/castle )built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal the first spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan, the Dzong houses the monastic body and district administration Enroute we take the traditional walk (15 mins)route across the 16th century cantilever bridge.A walk through the bridge, over a stone cobbled path, offers an up close view of the architectural wonder of the Dzong as well as life around it.
Later in the afternoon there will also be adequate time to enjoy some time out in town or visit a farm house in the valley to explore the traditional way of life and living.
DAY 3 / Paro to Thimphu (2330) / 1 hour drive
Day excursion/ Acclimatization hike to Taktsang Monastery (3100m) which is popularly known as the Tiger’s Nest, the most awe inspiring monastery and also probably the most photographed one in Bhutan . It is said that the patron saint of Bhutan, arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery hence it is called “Tiger’s Nest”. This is among the most scenic hikes in the country and also a favored pilgrimage site for travellers to Bhutan.We will lunch at the cafeteria before we take the walk back. In the afternoon we depart to Thimphu, capital city of Bhutan. The drive takes just an hour across farmlands, apple orchards, wayside villages and pristine nature. Thimphu has a population of about 100,000. The town is made up of just three lines of shops and is the only capital in the world without traffic lights.
DAY 4 / Thimphu to Punakha (1200m) / 3 hours drive
After breakfast we drive 30 minutes to arrive at Dochula pass ( 3050m) to behold the panoramic view of the eastern Himalayas. Upon arrival in Punakha we visit the “castle of great happiness ”, the temple of fertility and the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan amongst others.
DAY 5 / Punakha to Gasa (2760m) / 3 hours drive
The three hour drive from Punakha to Gasa traverses through the sub tropical forests, villages, farmlands and primeval broad leaved forests. This area is also the natural habitat of the national animal, takin. The rich eco system en-route is also home to many birds and a variety of wildlife . It was only in 2015 that a motor-able road had begun to connect the northern frontier of Gasa. We will meet our trekking crew and the first group of pack animals. The afternoon will be spent getting our gear ready for the trek tomorrow and exploring the villages of Gasa. Altitude of Gasa: 2760m
DAY 6 / Gasa to Koina / Trek commences
Distance 15 km/ Time 6 hours
The day begins with a long climb to Balela pass (3900m), through thick forest of bamboo and fir. There is a small rock cairn and a few prayer flags at the pass. The route then descends through a thick forest to Koina camp close to a tributary (of the Mochu river) which emerges in a jet from a narrow gorge. Altitude of Koina 3240m
DAY 7 / Koina to Laya
Distance 16 km/ Time 6 hours
The trail winds along the river valley offers breathtaking views of the river, feeder streams and waterfalls. We then follow the river and cross a bridge and walk through juniper and fir forests until we reach the military transit camp at Take Hankhar. From here Laya is just one hour away.
Altitude of Laya: 3800m
DAY 8 / Laya
Today will be left aside for acclimatization and an exploratory tour of the wonderful laya village . The settlement here is renowned for its traditional way of life unperturbed to a large extent to the forces of modernization. There will be ample opportunities today to visit local homes, temples and simply get up close and personal with the people of the Bhutanese highlands.
The layap’s are semi-nomadic yak-herders. In contrast to women in the rest of the country, the laya women wear their hair long and wear a distinctive dress made of yak hair and sheep's wool - a black skirt with brown vertical stripes, a black jacket and a special conical bamboo hat.
DAY 9 / Laya (3,800m) to Rodophu (4215m)
Time: 7-8 hours
Distance : 14.5 km
Altitude gain : 975m
Altitude loss : 560m
We start hiking early as today is one of the toughest days of the trek. After leaving the Army Camp and crossing the river we begin our ascent towards Lunana and the most remote stages of our trek. It will take us more than three days to reach the first settlement of Lunana, woche village. The forest is luxuriant and the steep trail winds up among tall trunks and root buttresses. As we climb higher we walk among pines, oaks and rhododendron, emerging finally to a broad river valley of alpine pastures. We are at a higher elevation therefore our evening camps will be cooler.
DAY 10 / Rodophu (4215m) to Narithang (4940m), (via Tsemo La Pass 4905m)
Time: 7 hours
Distance: 16 km
Altitude gain : 725m
We cross the Rodophu Chu river and walk upstream through a wetland until a high, open valley (4600m) is reached. Due to the altitude, the vegetation here is mainly alpine herbs, grasses, moss and lichen, growing on rocks. The trail climbs gently through a wet area and then starts to climb steeply to Tsemo La pass. After a steep climb through some boulders another smaller high valley opens up, and the pass can be seen at the end. It takes 3 hour from the camp to the Tsemo La Pass (4905m). On the other side is a small lake, and the mountain of Gangla Karchung is visible. Just above the pass to the west is a small hill from which there is a great view of the peaks and even some of the glaciers that feed the rivers and nurtures civilization in our valleys.
The trail continues for 3 to 4 hours along a big, generally flat, barren plateau with a few ups and downs. Herds of himalayan blue sheep graze on this plateau and we might be lucky to spot a few on the trail today. Our campsite is towered over by the massive Gangla Karchung(6395m).
DAY 11 / Narithang (4940m) to Tarina (3938m), (via Gangla Karchung La Pass 5020m)
Time : 8 hours
Distance : 16 km
Altitude gain : 80m
Altitude loss : 1082m
From the camp we climb for about an hour to the Gangla Karchung La pass (5020m). The view from the pass is breathtaking and the whole range of mountains including Jekangphu Gang (7100m), Tsenda Kang and Teri Gang (7300m) can be seen. The pass descends along a large moraine. We will be rewarded with great views again today which includes a massive glacier that 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 the Punakha Dzong. Finally, it is a very long descent through thick rhododendron to Tarina valley. Several waterfalls cascade down the sides of the valley.The campsite is a nice flat spot in the forest.
DAY 12 / Tarina (3938m) to Woche (4163m)
Time : 6 hours
Distance : 14 km
Altitude gain : 225m
Altitude loss : 0 m
The walk leads down through conifer forests following the upper reaches of the Pho Chhu river. We will also be passing by 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 Woche village is the first settlement reached after Laya. Woche forms the traditional boundary between the highlands of Laya and Lunana.
DAY 13 / Woche (4163m) to Lhedi (3900m), via Keche La Pass (4666m)
Time: 6 - 7 hours
Distance : 13km
Altitude gain : 503m
Altitude loss : 765m
The trail goes through juniper , fir forests and rhododendron bushes. The climb up to Keche La pass (4,650m) offers great views of surrounding mountains again. After the pass we descend to the riverside walking through a village with a stunning view of Table Mountain and other peaks. After crossing a small settlement at Shansa and a powerful waterfall – the trail follows a new route through a boulder area in the riverbed formed after the 1994 glacier outburst flood. A short but steep climb leads to Lhedi, a small village with a school that is open for only five months a year. It has Basic Health Unit and a Radio Wireless Station.
DAY 14 / Lhedi (3900m) to Thanza,Lunana (4100m)
Time : 4 - 5 hours
Distance : 17 km
Altitude gain : 220m
Altitude loss : 0 m
Today’s trek starts through the last forest encountered for the next couple of days (fir and juniper). After some time, a big unusually deep U-shaped valley comes in from the north.
The trail continues following the left bank of the river, ever since 1994 the trail has followed this newly created riverbed. After 45 minutes climb back onto the moraine we reach chozo, with an old Dzong. Chozo is located at the foot of a big grass-covered moraine ridge. It is an easy walk to Thanza on a good clear trail with little climbing, crossing a big, sandy plain.
DAY 15 / Thanza,Lunana (4100m)
A new group of pack animals from Lunana will take over the caravan as the yaks from Laya will return back.Today will be a rest day which can also be used for washing, relaxing, hiking, taking pictures or exploring the highest settlement of Thanza.
DAY 16 / Thanza (4100m) to Danji (4540m)
Time: 4 hours
Distance : 8 km
Altitude gain : 500m
Altitude loss : 0 m
From Thanza/Thoencha, the trail climbs up to a large boulder from where you will have excellent views of Thanza, Toencha and Choso village. After a few hours of relatively flat and easy walk, you will reach a yak meadow with some yak herders’ huts. This is an excellent campsite with great chance to spot some blue sheep on the hills above. A trail junction near the campsite will give you the choice between the routes up to Gangkhar Phuensum base camp and further on to Bumthang or to Sephu in Trongsa.
DAY 17 / Danji (4540m) to Tsho Chena (4960m) via Jaze La Pass (5150m)
Time : 5 hours
Distance : 9 km
Altitude gain : 610m
Altitude loss : 190m
The route to Sephu ( exit point on this trek) crosses a creek and after a long climb we will reach Jaze La (5,150m) which has 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.
DAY 18 / Tsho Chena (4960m) to Jichu Dramo (5060m) via Loju La Pass (5145m)
Time: 6 hours
Distance : 14 km
Altitude gain : 230m
Altitude loss : 150m
We leave the camp early today to allow time for coping with altitude and also for enjoying the spectacular scenery along the trails.
We begin with a climb up to the first of three passes at about 5100m, a nameless pass. There is a beautiful 360º panorama with many snowy peaks. Several trails lead to a big lake to the second pass, Loju La (5145m). Descend to another small lake. The third and last pass is a small one. From here go sharply around the corner to get a view into a wide glacial valley. The campsite Jichu Dramo is located just below the Rinchen Zoe La pass (5326 m).
DAY 19 / Jichu Dramo (5060m) to Chu Karpo ( 4680m)
Time : 6 hours
Distance : 18 km
Altitude gain : 320m
Altitude loss : 760m
Right after leaving the camp we will climb through a moraine to Rinchen Zoe La (5,320m). Spectacular mountain scenery with Gangkhar Phuensum amongst the impressive mountains is the reward for climbing the highest pass on this trek route. After descending the pass the route leads into a wide valley with several lakes and goes steeply down along a moraine to the Thamphe Chhu. After a couple of hours we arrive at the campsite at Chukarpo.
DAY 20 / Chu Karpo (4600m) to Tampoe Tsho (4355m)
Time : 6 hours
Distance : 18 km
Altitude gain : 400m
Altitude loss : 700m
We will be traversing some streams and stay on the west side of the river. The trail then passes through the treeline and after 3 to 4 hours we arrive at the Gala Pang chhu river gorge.Shortly after a steep climb through a forest of juniper and silver fir forests we leave the valley floor behind and embark on a steep final climb next to a waterfall which leads us to the beautiful tampoe tso lake, located behind a small knoll. The turquoise-coloured lake is situated in a circle of steep mountain slopes. Our camp is set here next to the picturesque lake.
Day 21 / Tampoe Tsho (4355m) to Maurothang (3698m) via Tempe La Pass (4665m)
Time : 5 hours
Distance : 20 km
Altitude gain : 310m
Altitude loss : 965m
It is a reasonably steep climb on a good trail to the pass of Tempe La (4665m), which is marked with prayer flags. Start descending on a steep trail on ice or snow-covered stones. A little climb through a small gap leads to a sacred big lake, Om Tsho. Follow the trail around the lake to its outlet, where boulder-hopping is on the program. Enjoy the view towards the mountains, the lake and prayer flags. The descent gets steeper now (150m), passing a waterfall, cascading down c100m to the second, smaller lake. A very steep and dramatic descent follows, to reach Zezey Thang (3900m). The yaks have a very difficult time descending, too. We are now at the headwaters of Nikka Chu, the river we will follow until the end of the trek at Sephu. A good, clear path follows the left bank of the river through forest and meadows. If everything goes to plan, this should be the last night camping. The yaks don’t go much further down due to the low altitude, warmer temperature and problems with mixing with cattle.
DAY 22 / Maurothang (3698m) to Sephu (2627m), trek concludes and we transfer to Punakha / 3 hours drive
Time : 5 hour
Distance : 23 km
Altitude gain : 0 m (some small climbs)
Altitude loss : 1070 m
The flora changes into thick bamboo forest and low bamboo grass which leads us to Sephu village which is located just alongside the lateral road. Our vehicle/s will be awaiting your arrival at the Sephu village for the 3 hour drive to Punakha.
DAY 23 / Punakha to Thimphu / 3 hours drive
Today we enjoy the drive across the scenic vistas and mountain villages to Thimphu,the capital of Bhutan. There will also be ample opportunities along the way for photo stops and some sightseeing along the way. There will also be plenty of options for sightseeing in Thimphu.
DAY 24 / Thimphu to Paro / 1 hour drive
In the morning we leisurely drive to Paro. We spend the day with some cultural sightseeing or you may choose to spend some free time at the market or simply relax at your hotel in Paro.
DAY 25 / Paro,Bhutan to Onward destination
We bid you goodbye and happy travels