It is touted as one of the most challenging treks in the world. As much as it takes one into the extreme snow-capped northern frontiers of the high Himalayas, it is breathtakingly beautiful. The route traverses highland settlements, amazing vistas of Bhutan’s highest mountains, and more than a dozen scenic mountain passes where a very few have stepped before. The journey is unforgettable, as it meanders through alpine meadows, conifer, juniper and rhododendron forests, beautiful and balmy hot springs, valleys inhabited by yak herders and highlanders, glacial lakes, the head waters of Bhutan’s major rivers and spectacular views of the Tibetan plateau. This part of the world is also the home of the elusive snow leopard, the blue sheep, the Takin and many other varieties of wildlife. The experience is other-worldly, quiet and meditative with almighty nature as your only constant companion from start to finish.

Day 1: Gunitsawa village to Sharna Zampa
Trek time: 40 minutes
Camp Altitude: 2,850m
The trek begins at Gunitsawa village and leads to an army post where at the checkpoint your trek permits provided by your tour operator will be checked and endorsed. The campsite is on the other side of the river, not far from Gunitsawa.

Day 2: Sharna Zampa to Thangthangkha
Distance: 22km
Trek time: 7-8 hours
Camp altitude: 3,610m
Second day of the trek is long and tiring. The trail continues with ascents of 770m and 10m descent. The uphill hike through the river valley narrows gradually to a mere path which descends to a meadow where a camp will be set up. If the weather favours, you will be able to have the first glimpse of Mt. Jumolhari.

Day 3: Thangthangkha to Jangothang
Distance: 19km
Trek time: 5-6 hours
Camp altitude: 4,080m
The trek continues upwards to Paro Chhu valley. Along the way you can enjoy spectacular view of high mountain ridges and snow-capped peaks. You will pass through villages of Soe, Takethang and Dangochang. The day ends at Jangothang, one of the most beautiful campsites of the Himalayas, and a view of Mt. Jumolhari is a treat.

Day 4: Halt at Jangothang
Today will be a rest day. The day will allow you to take day hikes with beautiful views of lakes and mountains like Jumolhari and Jichu Drake. There are good short hiking trails in three directions. Jumolhari and its subsidiary mountain chains lie directly west, Jichu Drake to the north and a number of unclimbed peaks to the east. This is a good chance to spot blue sheep.

Day 5: Jangothang to Lingshi
Distance: 18km
Trek time: 6-7 hours
Camp altitude: 4,010m
Today will be one of the longest days of the trek. After a short walk from the camp, the trail is a rapid climb for about half an hour with about 840m ascent till Nyilila pass at 4,870m. You will see herds of blue sheep grazing on the mountain slopes. The trek is greeted by a beautiful U-shaped valley in the Lingshi basin which gives you a wonderful view of the Lingshi Dzong. Tserimgang and its glaciers rise up at the north end of the valley. The campsite is next to a stone hut just before reaching Lingshi Dzong.

Day 6: Lingshi to Chebisa
Distance: 10km
Trek time: 5-6 hours
Camp altitude: 3,880m
Today is the shortest walking day. A little further below Lingshi Dzong, you have the choice of staying on the main trial or taking a detour up to the Dzong. You will pass through the clustered village of Goyul. On reaching the campsite at Chebisa you will have plenty of time to visit the people in the village. There is also a beautiful waterfall located behind the village.

Day 7: Chebisa to Shomuthang
Distance: 17km
Trek time: 6-7 hours
Camp altitude: 4,220m
The trek today begins with a long ascent behind Chebisa village through a wide pastureland towards Gobu La pass which will take about 2-3 hours. There are chances of spotting large herds of blue sheep above the trail. After crossing the 4,410m Gobu La, you will descend into the valley and then climb again for a short while before descending again to Shakshepasa valley. Another short climb and you will reach the campsite at Shomuthang.

Day 8: Shomuthang to Robluthang
Distance: 18km
Trek time: 6-7 hours
Camp altitude: 4,160m
The day begins with climbing up the valley to view Kang Bum (6,526m) and some edelweiss. After two hours of climbing uphill you will reach the 4,750m Jhari La from where you can catch the first glimpse of Sinche La pass. You will see a big snow peek in the north called Gangchhenta standing at 6,840m, also known as the Great Tiger Mountain. You will reach a beautiful and wide valley called Tsheri Jathang. This valley has been declared as a Takin sanctuary, the national animal of Bhutan. A little climb uphill will lead you to your campsite in a rocky meadow at Robluthang.

Day 9: Robluthang to Limithang
Distance: 19km
Trek time: 6-7 hours
Camp altitude: 4,140m
Today, the trek will start with an initial 40-60 minutes ascent before gradually raising another hour and a half through a boulder field. It then starts on an hour of steep ascent before reaching Sinche La at 5,005m. This will be the final and highest pass on the trek if you do not intend to continue the Snowman Trek from Laya. You will see a glacial lake at the foot of the valley. You will also see classic examples of lateral moraines. Below the moraine, you cross the Kango Chhu and reach Limithang campsite. The peak of Gangchhenta towers over the campsite.

Day 10: Acclimatisation day in Laya
Today is a day to spend recuperating from the trek to Laya and prepare you for the rest of the challenging trek. It is recommended to walk up to Laya to acclimatise and not just remain at the junction leading to Lunana. It is worthwhile to spend a day in Laya to enjoy the beautiful views and experience the extraordinary inhabitants of Laya.

Day 11: Laya to Rhoduphu
Distance: 19km
Trek time: 6-8 hours
Camp altitude: 4,160m
Today we descend to an army camp and continue following the river till the turn-off point to Rhoduphu from Laya. After lunch, we will continue to climb through rhododendron bushes till we reach the campsite just next to a river in Rhoduphu.

Day 12: Rhoduphu to Narethang
Distance: 17km
Trek time: 5-6 hours
Camp altitude: 4,900m
After following the river for about half an hour, you will face a steady climb to a high open valley at an altitude of 4,600m and then further hike up to 4,900, Tsomo La pass. The pas offers a superb view of Lunana, Mt. Jumolhari and Jichu Drake. You can also see the Tibetan border. The trial then crosses a flat barren plateau at about 5,000m. The campsite at Narethang is towered by the peak of Gangla Karchung (6,395m).

Day 13: Narethang to Tarina
Distance: 18km
Trek time: 5-8 hours
Camp altitude: 3,970m
Today you will climb for about an hour to Gangla Karchung. The view from the pass is breathtaking and while whole mountain ranges like Jekangphu Gang (7,100m), Tsenda Kang and Teri Gang (7,300m) can be seen. As the pass descends along a large moraine, you can see a massive glacier from Teri Kang to a deep turquoise lake at its foot. Finally, it is a very long descent through thick rhododendron to Tarina valley, where you will find several good campsites along the Tang Chhu.

Day 14: Tarina to Woche
Distance: 17km
Trek time: 6-7 hours
Camp altitude: 3,910m
The walk leads down through conifer forests following the upper ridges of the Pho Chhu, passing 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.

Day 15: Woche to Lhedi
Distance: 17km
Trek time: 6-7 hours
Camp altitude: 3,700m
The trek starts through juniper and fir forests, and further through rhododendron bushes. The climb up to Keche La pass (4,650m) leads you to great views of surrounding mountains. After the pass, you will descend to the riverside walking through a village with a stunning view of Table Mountain and others. You will then follow up the river till Lhedi Village.

Day 16: Lhedi to Thanza
Distance: 17km
Trek time: 7-8 hours
Camp altitude: 4,150m.
In clear weather, you will have great views of the Table Mountain (7,100m). Around lunchtime you will pass the small village of Chozo which has a Dzong still in use. Upon reaching Thanza you will see the Table Mountain again which forms a 3,000m high wall of snow and ice behind the village. Although there are possibilities to camp
directly at Thanza, most groups prefer to camp in Thoencha.

Day 17: Rest at Thanza
Today we will rest at Thanza and walk around the village to experience the people’s way of life. You can also climb up the ridge for fascinating views of lakes and mountains. From here, we will need to arrange for new yaks as our companion yaks will not go further than Thanza.

Day 18: Thanza to Tshorim
Trek time: 8-9 hours
Camp altitude: 5,120m
Having chosen the route to Bumthang the trek starts by climbing a ridge with a great view of Table Mountain and Thanza valley below. The ridge altitude is 4,500m and it rises gradually up to 4,650m. After lunch, you will walk upwards towards the left side of the bridge to enjoy the view of snow-capped mountains. You reach the campsite of Tshorim after climbing more ridges.

Day 19: Tshorim to Gangkhar Phuensum Base Camp
Trek time: 6-7 hours
Camp altitude: 4,970m
Today will be the highlight of the trek. The day starts with a short climb to the Tshorim Tsho. You walk on the side of the lake enjoying a panoramic view of the Gophu La ranges. After that pass descend to the base camp, walking along the ridge to enjoy a great view of Gangkhar Phuensum. If interested, one can divert to the left side to climb up the pyramid peak for a better view or you can go down to the base camp near Sha Chhu.

Day 20: Gangkar Phuensum Base Camp to Geshe Woma
Trek time: 6-7 hours
Camp altitude: 4,200m
The trail further follows the Sha Chhu and descends gradually to Geshe Woma.

Day 21: Geshe Woman to Warathang
Trek time: 8-9 hours
Camp altitude: 4,000m
The path continues following Sha Chhu for two and a half hours until the stiff climb to Saka La begins. Visibility along the Saka La trail is poor so one must see top of the ridge for guidance. After having lunch nearby a yak herders’ camp you climb up to Saka La (4,800m). The path then descends to a couple of lakes and another short ascent is stunning. Scenery once again is beautiful with small lakes and the mountain peaks.

Day 22: Warathang – Duer Tsachu
Trek time: 5 hours
Camp altitude: 3,590m
A one hour climb leads to Juli La (4,700m). After the pass, you descend to the riverside through dense rhododendron, juniper and conifer forests. After the bridge a short climb leads to Duer Tsachu. These hot springs, where Guru Padmasambhava is supposed to have taken bath, might be the most stunningly beautiful hot springs of the Himalayas. You might want to spend an extra day at Duer Tsachu.

Day 23: Duer Tsachu – Tshochenchen
Trek time: 8-9 hours
Camp altitude: 3,850m
From the hot springs it is a long and steady climb again with great views of mountains in Lunana. You will also come across blue lakes and yak herder huts.

Day 24:Tshochenchen – Duer Village
Today is the last day of the trek and your porters change from yaks to horses. The path follows the Chamkhar Chhu, descending gradually with a few climbs in between. The trek ends here when you arrive at Duer village.
From here you drive to Jakar (Bumthang).

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