Upper Mustang-Phu Valley Traverse Via Saribung La: Day 3 – Chele to Tamagaon

Previous Post: Day Two – Kagbeni To Chele

Day 3 – Chele to Tamagaon via Syanboche

Day 3 – Chele To Tamagaon

  • time: 5 hours
  • distance: about 15 kilometers
  • high point:  Syangboche La 3850
  • campsite: Tamagaon – New Tenzing Hotel & Restaurant – 3600 m
  • Maps: Himalayan Map House Upper Mustang Trek Map.  See here for info on hardcopy maps from Himalayan Map House.
  • Nepal Govt Survey Dept 1:50,000 topos: 2883 04 Muktinath2983 16 Lomanthan  

Leaving Chele, we soon came to the sign pointing the way to Ghyakar. The village sits on a plateau at the other end a long suspension bridge spanning a deep gorge as seen in the image below.

our porters lead the way to the suspension bridge and Ghyakar

Ghyakar – shortly after 7 a.m. scene

It was at this village that we were joined by a handler from Jomsom and his train of six donkeys; they would help move our food supplies, fuel,  and tenting gear all the way to Damodar Kunda seven days later.  Beyond that point, the glacial terrain and altitude are not appropriate for the donkeys. They would return to Jomsom where the donkeys’ owner would perhaps have a new job for the handler.

As it is, the improved road system means that vehicles can transport more and more of the goods that Mustangi horses and donkeys used to carry.  A decade from now fewer animals and handlers will be making their living from this traditional activity in the Kali Gandaki valley corridor from Jomsom to Lo Manthang.

hired donkeys and handler getting things ready

From Ghyakar we first walked up one side of a deep valley –  that of the Ghyakar Khola, down to a small trickle of a stream – and then scampered back up the steep trail on the other side.

On the “plus” side of this particular route (roughly indicated with the dashed red line in the map) is that it bypasses two small passes –

  • Taklam La (3675)
  • Dajori La (3735m)  
  •  [BTW the Tibetan word for “pass” is la.]

Our trek notes do not make any sense for this bit of the route.

A more challenging day ahead with the crossing of three passes. We cross a long suspension bridge hanging over the canyon which is used to access the village of Ghyakar, and climb on a dusty trail to the first pass, Taklam La (3624m) and then Dajori La (3735m).   See here for the World Expeditions itinerary

It has us both walk through Ghyakar (the path I marked in red) and over the two passes on the cliff route on the other side of the gorge (i.e. the trail marked in brown).  My understanding is that most groups no longer use the Taklam La/Dajori La route.

trekkers on the road to Samar

panorama – a morning walk up the edge of a gorge from Ghyakar

the switchbacks trail down to the gorge bottom

Once we got up to the top on the other side,  it a leisurely walk on to the village of Samar, first passing the Himali Hotel on the outskirts.

approaching Samar from Ghyakar

our crew – donkeys, porters, guides, trekkers – walk past Samar’s Himali Hotel and Lodge

porters approaching Samar village gateway

We took a bit of a breather in the village itself, just long enough to sip on some water and munch on an energy bar. Then I set off for a quick ramble around the settlement. The whitewashed exteriors of the buildings and the piles of sticks and skinny logs on the rooftops were evident here; so too were the chorten and the village mani wall and a ram’s horn or two.  I snapped a few photos and then returned to where we left our packs.

a view of Samar’s houses and streets

Samar door with ram’s horn above

Our brief respite over, we headed for the northern gate, which you can see in the image below at the top of the long mani wall.  You will also notice the strips of hot pink marking tape. It told us that the 2018 Mustang Mountain Trail Race had passed through this morning. The tape pops up in a few of the following images!

Samar wall of prayer wheels leading to village exit gateway

exiting Samar – a steep descent awaits!

Having left the Kali Gandaki corridor itself, we were treated to another one of the side valleys whose streams feed into it.  Once again, we descended into a steep valley from one side, forded an almost non-existent stream (thanks to it being April and not a few months later!), and then followed the switchback trail up on the other side.

coloured chortens outside of Samar’s Northern gateway

looking back at Samar’s northern gateway and the three coloured chortens

a close-up view of the mountains N of Samar

more chortens on the pass N of Samar

Having regained the 100 or so meters we had lost in dropping down into the steep valley, we had lots of mostly flat terrain to deal with until we reached our lunch destination, a solitary teahouse set back from the edge of a steeply dropping cliff edge. In the image below it is located about a third of the way into the photo. Also, there were our donkeys and some workers from the nearby road construction crew.  After lunch, we would follow that road in the image below right around the corner.

a view of the next stretch of road – from mid left to the center of the picture

our donkeys at the lunch stop S of Syangboche

road S of Syangboche – one of many sections being worked on

It was at a pass just south of Syangboche that we met our first trekking group, four Italians with the mandatory guide and a couple of donkeys and their handler.  We would meet them a couple of mornings later at the Ghar Gompa above Tsarang. They were on their way to Lo Manthang before their return to Jomsom.

the pass to the S of Syangboche – Syangboche La?

There is not a lot to Syangboche – one street and maybe a dozen buildings. However, there seemed to be lots of activity as we walked up the road through the village. It looked like owners on one side of the road were working on the drainage pipes.

Syangboche rest stop before the last pass of the day

main street Syangboche – some construction going on

As we leave Syangboche behind there is a bit of uphill to deal with before we get to our destination for the day.  Our trip notes say “Ghiling,” but we are going to Tamagaon.

The reason was not apparent – it may have had to do with road construction in the Ghiling area, or it may be that the approach from Tamagaon to the next day’s first pass is easier than the path from Ghiling.  Whatever the case, Tamagaon it was. We found three or four buildings, a nearby mani wall and some chortens, and space for our tents and for our donkeys to graze.

looking back at Shyangboche – on the way to Tamagaon

colourful chorten N of Shyangboche

Tamagaon – Day 3’s endpoint

Tamagaon door with ram’s skull

ram’s skull on top of a Tamagaon wall

Next Post: Day 4 – Tamagaon To Charang

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