The previous post described the trek from Shana to Laya over a 10-day period; this route is sometimes packaged as the Jomolhari Trek and has yet other names. From Laya, trekkers descend to Gasa and a vehicle ride back to Thimphu.
Now we were off on the second half of our Snowman Trek. The route from Laya to Upper Sephu Via Chozo or Thanza also has a number of names, the Lunana Snowman Trek being the most common. It includes seven high passes and campsites that are mostly at or above 4000 meters.
Thanks to almost daily rain and low cloud cover, the expected views of Himalayan peaks during the first half of our trek were scarce. After a rather cool and rainy rest day spent in Laya, we hoped for better weather and clearer skies as we set off from Laya for Lunana.
Thanks to our ten days on the trail, the concern about acclimatizing properly was no longer an issue. Unfortunately, the combination of dry air and increased breathing rate can cause problems; one of our trekkers had to end the trek at Laya because of a cough that only seemed to get worse. I had seen a fellow trekker hit by the same respiratory problem on a 22-day Everest region trek a few years ago.
The day’s 17.6 km. walk was a tough one. Starting in Laya at 3800m, we would descend past a military camp/checkpoint to the left fork in the trail at 3240 m. and then scramble on some fairly rough and, in the forest sections, muddy “trail”. Cloud cover and occasional rain had me wondering if we would ever get some decent weather. By the end of the day, we were back up to above 4200 meters!
The next day was a shorter one – 11 km. and included another pass, Tsemo La at 4905 m.
Just around the corner from where the dog was, we walked into this stunning vista; it was perhaps the most spectacular of the trip so far.
Some two hundred meters above is Keche La (4666m). The two following images show the initial section above the campsite and then the nearby Keche La itself.
Over the pass and down the other side. Now we were definitely in the isolated district of Lunana with its river, the Pho Chhu flowing down from the three glacial lakes above Chozo and Thanza.
In 1994 a glacial lake outburst flood had a catastrophic impact on the swollen river all the way down to Punakha. In reading about the event I had worried about our campsite location at Chozo. The village of Lhedi pictured below sits high above the flood plain. I remember thinking -“I hope the same is true of Chozo.” (It was!)
After a lunch stop at the east end of Lhedi (just beyond the school), we continued on to Chozo, sometimes walking on a rocky but dry “trail” on the floodplain itself and sometimes on one side or the other – as in the image below.
Chozo was another point on the trek at which one horse team would turn back to its starting point (Laya in this case) while a local team would be hired to take us to the next point (in this case, to the very end of the trek at Upper Sephu). We spent two nights in Chozo. Since the second day out of Laya, the blue skies in most of the pix in this post show that the weather had improved. We’d get more sun in the days to come.
The resident monk would let us enter the dzong and see the second -floor shrine room.
As I look at that team of horses crossing the bridge below Chozo in the image below, I realize now that they may have been some of the horses that the guide had hired for the last leg of the trek – i.e. the section from Chozo down to Nikka Chhu.
The next morning at our campsite to the west of Tsho Chena, a brief shower at below 0ºC put a dusting of snow on everything!
Less than forty-five minutes later here is what things looked like at the same campsite!
A couple of days of dramatic passes – Loju La (5115m) above and Rinchen Zoe La (5300m) in the two images below!
No matter where we were, lunch involved a full sit-down with folding tables, table cloths, plates and cutlery, and super comfortable Helinox chairs! Three horses and three three staff members made sure that it all happened quickly. The food was prepared at breakfast time and then kept on heat-retaining containers until lunch.
Here is what it looked like on the day we crossed Loju La – it was a rather exposed spot on the high altitude plateau we were traversing.
In the next couple of days, we would go from the stark and treeless vistas of high-altitude Himalayas – what you would expect to see on the Tibetan plateau – to increasingly luxuriant foliage as more and more plants appeared.
On the last morning, we covered almost twenty kilometers before arriving at Nikka Chhu. There to greet us were staff members of – Yangphel, the Thimphu adventure travel agency which had organized the actual trip. I learned that this was the second year that Yangphel had done the trip for the out-of-Bhutan company through which I actually booked the trip.
[I booked the trip through World Expeditions, an Australian-based company that I have used before. Their website attracts the clients and creates the small groups that make the adventures possible for solo travellers like me. My contact was with one of their sales agents in Ottawa; they dealt with the Bhutan visa requirements and provided prompts on all the other things I needed to take care of before departure – current passport, Indian visa since I was flying to Paro via Delhi, mountaineering-level insurance, special dietary requirements, etc.]
The Yangphel staff had prepared another sit-down lunch complete with red and white wine and beer. I’ll admit I stuck to apple juice and water, knowing how the alcohol would affect me after the 20 km. hike that morning!
By that evening we had driven to Punakha and a fantastic hotel (the Zhingham Resort) overlooking the Punakha Dzong.
Day-By Day Snowman Trek Trip Report
- Day 1 – Paro To Shana To Thongo Samba
- Day 2 – Thongo Samba Thangthangkha
- Day 3 – Thangthangkha To Jomolhari Base Camp
- Day 4 – Rest Day/Acclimatization Day at Jomolhari B.C.
- Day 5 – Jomolhari B.C. To Lingshi Via Nyile La
- Day 6 – Lingshi To Chebisa
- Day 7 – Chebisa To Shomuthang Via Gombu La
- Day 8 – Shomuthang To Robluthang Via Jare La
- Day 9 – Robluthang To Limithang Via Sinche La
- Day 10 – Limithang To Laya Village
- Day 11 – Rest Day In Laya Village
- Day 12 – Laya To Rodophu
- Day 13 – Rodophu To Narethang Via Tsemo La
- Day 14 – Narethang To Tarina Via Kang Karchung La
- Day 15 – Tarina To Green Lake Via Woche
- Day 16 – Green Lake To Tshojo Via Keche La
- Day 17 – Rest Day in Chozo (Tshojo)
- Day 18 – Chozo To Tsho Chena Via Sintia La
- Day 19 – Tsho Chena To Jichu Dramo Via Loju La
- Day 20 – Jichu Dramo To Tsho Tsho Tshampa Via Rinchen Zoe La
- Day 21 – Tsho Tsho Thampa To Tampoe Tsho
- Day 22 – Tampoe Tsho To Rerethang Via Tempe La
- Day 23 – Rerethang To Upper Sephu
Is the Snowman Trek worth the US $300 a day, given other Himalayan trekking options?
Here are a couple of the treks in nearby Nepal that I’ve done. They rival and perhaps surpass the Snowman as must-be-done epic trekking adventures – and like the Snowman Trek, they include the Tibetan Buddhist cultural overlay that I have until recently found especially enchanting.
The HighPasses of Everest Trek:
- Parts One & Two-Lukla to Namche to Chhukhung
- Part Three- Chhukhung to Everest via Kongma La
- Part Four: Lobuche to the Kokyo Lakes Via Cho La
- Part Five- Gokyo to Lukla via Renjo La
The Upper Mustang-Phu Valley Traverse Via Saribung La
- Pre-Trip Planning and Preparation
- Day 1 – Jomsom To Kagbeni
- Day 2 – Kagbeni to Chele
- Day 3 – Chele To Tamagaon
- Day 4 – Tamagaon To Tsarang
- Day 5 – In And Around Tsarang
- Day 6 – Tsarang To Yara Via Dhi
- Day 7 – Yara To Luri Gompa Via Tashi Kabum
- Day 8 – Luri Gompa To Ghuma Thanti
- Day 9 – Ghuma Thanti To Parsye Khola
- Day 10 – Batsyak Camp To The Damodar Kunda
- Day 11 – Damodar Kunda To The Japanese Base Camp
- Day 12 – Japanese Base Camp To High Camp
- Day 13 – Khumjungar Moraine High Camp To Moraine Camp Below Bhrikuti Shail
- Day 14 – From Moraine Camp Below Bhrikuti Shail To Phu
- Days 14-15: In And Around The Village of Phu
- Day 15 – Phu To Meta
- Day 16 – Meta To Koto
- Day 17 – Koto To Tal