Bhutan’s Snowman Trek: Day 13 – Rodophu To Narethang Via Tsemo La

Previous Post: Day 12 – Laya To Rodophu

  • calendar date: October 10, 2019.
  • time:  7 hours
  • distance:  16 km.
  • start point altitude: Rodophu  4220m (my Garmin device)/ 4215 m (Jordans guidebook) ); 4160m (Lonely Planet’s Guide to Bhutan 2017 – the camp it mentions is below the bridge))
  • endpoint campsite: Narethang  4920 m;
  • high pass crossing: Tsemo La  4885 m;
  • Maps: Bart Jordans’ Trekking In Bhutan has some useful overview maps of the many possible variations of the Snowman Trek, as well as others.
  • See here for a Google Earth view of the day’s walk. It helps to use the Google Chrome browser!
  • I used a Sony RX100 III to capture most of the images you’ll see below; a fellow trekker’s Huawei P30 captured the others. (Thanks again, O, for letting me use them!)

An interesting day coming up! Usually, the pass of the day is also the high point and by the day’s end you find yourself at a campsite a few hundred meters lower in altitude.  On this day our pass – Tsemo La – was at about 4900 m and that is where we would mostly stay for the rest of the day. Our campsite was actually about twenty meters higher than the pass!

Robophu to Tsemo La to Narethang


a horseshoe job in the field – Robophu campsite

looking east at our Robophu camp- early morning

There was some frost on our tents when we first got up but by the time we left the early morning sun was drying them out. The first hour involved a fairly steep 250-meter climb up to the point you see in the image below. Down on the flood plain of the Rodo Chhu, you can see our campsite; the tents are still up!

looking back from the south at our Robophu campsite after our initial steep climb

Then, as the topo map shows, the ascent became more gradual as we made our way up a wide valley towards our pass of the day, Tsemo La. Along the way, we saw more of those alpine “beacons”, the Rheum nobile or “chogo metho” as the locals call them.   Autumn was definitely in the air!

a trail beacon below Tsemo La – or Rheum nobile (aka Sikkim rhubarb)

Approaching Tsemo La:

The pass is at 4885m (my Garmin); 4905m (Jordans). The next two images show some of the final terrain we covered to get there.  Once there, we found the usual stone cairn (laptse is the local term) and the strings of prayer flags. As for the spectacular mountain views – not so much.  During the three hours that it had taken us to get there, the clouds have moved in and covered the nearby peaks that would dazzle on a clear day.

approaching Tsemo La, our high pass for the day

Tsemo La coming up – a switchback trail to the pass

the view from Tsemo La of the top of the valley we had walked up from Rodophu

enjoying the view from Tsemo La – on the way to Narethang

Our 800-meter ascent from the river floor done, the day’s hard work was replaced by an undulating trail that went up and down but never by more than 100 meters or so until we got to our 4900-meter campsite on a high alpine plateau.  The satellite image below conveys some of the differences between morning and afternoon.

Along the way, we got some beguiling but never quite revealed views of striking peaks to the east and north.

taking in the view after crossing Tsemo La

panoramic view as we head to Lunana country from Tsemo La

Within a half-hour after leaving the pass, we stopped for lunch. The eye-popping blue of the trumpet-shaped flowers of the gentian plant caught my eye on the edge of the meadow where we had stopped.  While we sipped on our post-lunch tea, the tent crew came by with a dozen of our pack horses. We would find most of our tents up when we got there a couple of hours later!

gentian on the mountainside at 4500 m

some of our horse team passing by on the way to Narethang

the trail to Narethang  two hours after crossing Tsemo La

By 4 we were at our Narethang campsite.  For the second day in a row, I forgot to take some pix of the camp as we walked into it.  Here is one from the next morning –

our Narethang campsite the next morning

Coming up – the most spectacular day of the trek so far with some incredible WOW moments as we walked into one stupendous view after another.

Next Post: Day 14 – Narethang To Tarina


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