Bhutan’s Snowman Trek: Day 22 – Tampoe Tsho To Rerethang Via Tempe La

Previous Post: Day 21 – Tsho Tsho Thampa to Tampoe Tsho

  • calendar date: October 19, 2019.
  • time: 6 hours including lunch and a stop at the Snowman Trek store above Rerethang
  • distance: 11 km.
  • start point altitude: Tampoe Tsho  4323m
  • endpoint campsite: Rerethang 3670m
  • high pass crossing: Tempe La  4665m
  • Maps: Bart Jordans’ Trekking In Bhutan has some useful overview maps of the many possible variations of the Snowman, as well as of other treks.
  • See here for a Google Earth view of the day’s walk. It helps to use the Google Chrome browser! The location marker is for Rinchen Zoe La.
  • I used a Sony RX100 III to frame 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!)

Thampe Tsho campsite – morning shot

Our last full day of trekking – and a scenic one at that!  On tap was our last pass of the trek (it was #11) and then a walk along the shores of two lakes, one 100 meters below the more famous one known as Om Tsho. Then a steep descent to the headwaters of the Nikka Chhu, which we would follow all the way down for the next day.

the trail to Tempe La from Tempe (Thampoe) Tsho – from the bottom right to top left

It started with a walk into the middle of the terrain pictured above and then curled left up to the pass. In an hour we had ascended about 300 meters on a walkable trail.  I stayed up there for a few minutes but, given the chilling effect of the blowing wind, decided to generate some heat by heading down the other side.

Tampoe Tsho to Tempe La

a view from Tempe La back to Thampoe Tsho

Tempe La – looking down to Tempe Tsho

cairn and prayer flags on Tempe La above Thampoe Tsho

looking south from Tempe La – the trail to Sephu

I’d end up lounging about a half-hour down at the bottom of the hill, enjoying the wind-free spot and the sunshine.  The two images below show the actual trail from the pass; it heads diagonally to the left and stays above the rock-strewn valley floor where I was waiting. I’d eventually join the rest of the crew a kilometer further down.

the start of the trail down from Tempe La

satellite view of Tempe La – Om Tsho area

One last look back at Tempa La and then it was time to move forward!

panorama for the trail between Thampe La and Om Tsho

It would not take us long to come to one of those WOW moments, one of those memorable views. In this case, it was of Om Tsho (4322m).

The lake is famous for supposedly yielding Buddhist “treasures” to Pema Lingpa (1450-1521).  He was a Bhutanese-born follower of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism.  They had apparently been put there by the Himalayan Buddha, Guru Rinpoche, some six hundred years previously! These treasures are known to  Himalayan Buddhists as terma; the one who finds them, thanks to guidance from Guru Rinpoche, is called a terton.  An hour spent reading through The Life and Revelations of Pema Lingpa turned up no mention of Om Tsho and what he found there; nor did another half-hour of internet surfing of other sources! It is quite likely that what Lingpa is said to have hauled out of the lake included a text..It is believed that the terma texts were written in a Dakini script that only the terton could translate!

All of this brings to mind Joseph Smith, who claimed to have found a similar “treasure” [the Golden Plates] in upper New York State.   The plates would provide the foundation of a religious movement known as the Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormonism), an offshoot of Christianity. Smith was able to translate them from a language that he did not know thanks to angelic help.  Coincidently, the number of believers is approximately the same – 15 million Mormons and 20 million Himalayan or Vajrayana Buddhists, an offshoot of the Buddhism of Siddhartha Gautama.

Om Tsho is the lake pictured below.  I took the photo from the spot indicated by the red circle in the satellite image above.

Om Tsho – a view from the north

the horses of our lunch team pass by the top of Om Tsho

a Snowman Trail view of Om Tsho from the south end

From Om Tsho the trail dips down to cross its outlet stream and then climbs up again to a ridge overlooking a second smaller lake 100 meters below.  In the image below I am looking down at that outlet stream and some of our horses and crew as they cross it and continue upward.

our horses as they cross the outlet stream from Om Tsho

The first of two steep downhills are up next:

  • 150 meters down to the lower lake from Om Tsho
  • 230 meters down to the broad valley floor and the headwaters of the Nikka Chhu

satellite view – Tempe La to Zezey Thang

the smaller lake below Om Tsho – with inflow from the upper lake

The trekkers in the two images are starting or are in their descent from Om Tsho to the lower lake.

Snowman trekkers on the ridge below Om Tsho

the trail from Om Tsho to the lake below

When I reached the lower lake I sat on a rock at the top end of it and looked down at another nice view.  On the left of the image below, you can see the trail and one of my fellow trekkers, who is pushing on to the other end. When I myself got there I found a single string of prayer flags draped across the outlet stream of the lake. It was one of those rare occasions when I did not feel compelled enough to take a photo!

the top end of the small lake below Om Tsho

And then the second steeper and longer drop in elevation. Here is the Lonely Planet Guide To Bhutan description:

From the second lake to the headwaters of the Nikka Chhu is a descent so steep that even yaks are reluctant to come down this stretch.  LP Guide To Bhutan

a few of our horses coming down a steep section to Zezey Thang

waterfall from the lake just above ZeZey Thang

from the Snowman Shop to the Rerethang Campsite

the yak herder’s place south of Zezey Thang

the headwaters of the Nikka Chhu

yak herder’s drying sheets by Rerethang

two young women tending the Snowman Shop

the Nikka Chhu as it approaches our campsite on its floodplain

approaching our Rerethang campsite after a brief stop at the Snowman Shop for beverages

Next Post: Day 23 – Rerethang To Upper Sephu

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