BHUTAN – Snow Man Trek

Summary of Tour:

The Snowman Trek is an extension of the beautiful Laya Gasa Trek, and leads from Laya into high altitudes of the Bhutanese Himalayas. It takes tough and enduring trekkers into the Lunana region and further on to Gangkhar Puensum and Bumthang or down to Sephu in Trongsa district, depending on which route you choose. The Snowman trek leads through the most remote areas up to very high altitudes. Trekkers have to camp in altitudes above 5,000m more than once, and depending on the seasonal temperatures, the camps are sometimes on snow.  

Day 1 – Arrive at Paro Airport. Altitude: 2280m/ 7524ft above sea level

The flight into Paro brings breathtaking views of the Himalayan Mountains. If the weather permits you will be able to see Mt Everest (8848m, 29,198ft) and other Himalayan mountains. The landing, flying through the Paro valley between the 4000 metre high mountains, starts your day in an unforgettable way! Your Bhutanese representative from Raven Tours and Treks will greet you on arrival and drive you through the beautiful valley of Paro to the hotel you will be staying. This beautiful valley is home to many Bhutan’s oldest monasteries and temples. The country’s only airport is in Paro. The valley is also home to Mount Chomolhari(7,300 meters) situated at the northern end of the valley whose glacier water forms the Pachu flowing through the valley.

Later visit, Drugyel dzong :This ruined dzong is of historical importance. It was built in 1649 by Zhabdrung to commemorate the victory of the Drukpas over the Tibetan invasion in 1644. The Bhutanese still vividly recall and celebrate this victory which was tremendously important to the history of the area. On a clear day (7326m/ 24176ft), you have a fascinating view of the white domed peak of sacred Jhomolhari (Mountain of Goddess).

Kichu Lhakhang(Monastery): It is one of the two most sacred and the oldest temples in Bhutan. It was built in 7th century by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo. It is believed that he took the responsibility to built 108 temples in the different regions of Tibet, Bhutan and in other Himalayan regions to control evil spirits, disease and droughts out of which two of them are in Bhutan.(Kichu Lhakhang in Paro and Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang).

Rimpung Dzong: Means fortress of the heap of jewels. It was built during the time of Zhabdrung (deeply revered to this day as dynamic political and spiritual leader) in 1644. It houses both administrative and monastic bodies. It is also the venue for the Paro festival (Tsechu), held once in a year during spring season (April). The main highlight of Paro festival is that it has the unfurling of the one of the oldest Thongdol (gigantic scroll painting) which literally means Overnight in Paro.

Day 2 – In Paro.

Morning take an acclimatization hike to the famous Taktshang Monastery (Tiger’s nest): This is Bhutan’s most recognizable cultural icon perched 800m/2640ft up a seemingly sheer cliff. Although it was tragically and mysteriously consumed by fire in April 1998 it has now been restored to its former glory. It is believed that in the 8th century, the great tantric master Guru Rimopche/ Padmasambhava (2nd Buddha) flew from Kurtoe (eastern Bhutan) on the back of a tigress to the site where the monastery now stands. The hike takes between one to two hours there and slightly less on the way back.  Most of the route is through wonderfully cool and sheltered oak forests. Although the paths are worn they are easily walked. There is a tea house half way for a break. After the tea house the path is slightly steeper and more open with one area of exposed steps. It is a route that anybody of reasonable fitness can make but those who suffer from vertigo might prefer to wait at the tea house. If you are interested, after visiting what is known as one of the most venerated pilgrimage sites in the country, we will go off the beaten track further up to the temples that are on the hill tops which is known as Ugyen Tshomo Lhakhang, above Tiger’s Nest. It’s so peaceful there and you can really communicate with nature as you enjoy the views from the top be it that of mountains or the valley. No wonder that some monks have chosen this place to meditate for their life!  To go down, we are following a different path that takes us through the pristine thick forest of oaks and rhododendrons festooned with Spanish mosses. Ta Dzong: Means watch tower. It served as a watch tower during the 17th century to guard the region from the Tibetan invasion. It was converted to the National Museum in 1968. It houses a fine collection of Bhutanese art, relics, religious thankas (used to bolster the visualization generated during meditation and were made from Himalayan animal fibers), paintings, animals found in Bhutan, arms and ammunitions and the country’s exquisite stamp collections.

Visit the Farm House: Bhutan is justly NOT famous for its cuisine, which is somewhat predictable. Eating at a local farmhouse at least gives a slightly different variation, and a chance to see the inside of such a home, rather than just the brightly decorated exteriors.(Please note that if you take hot stone bath or eat in the traditional farm house then you need to pay extra). Later stroll around the town. Overnight in Paro Day 3 – Snow Men Trek (The Queen of Himalayan Trekking) Standard: Strenous Duration: 24 days Distance: 216.7 miles/ 348.7 km Altitude Gain: 31,429ft/9579.5m Altitude Loss: 23,770ft/7245m Accommodation: Camping/Tents Start: Drukgyel Dzong (Paro) Finish: Nikka Chhu (Trongsa) Drive from Paro to Shana. Drive to the end of the motor road at Drukgyel Dzong to begin the trek.  Today’s trail follows the river uphill through a narrow agricultural valley as far as the border army camp at about 2890 m/9410ft.  (15 km/9.3miles, 5 hrs walk). Day 4 – Shana to Soi Thangthangkha. The path from Shana ascends through the river valley with pine and rhododendron forests.  On the way, there is a fantastic view of Mount Jomolhari.  We will camp in a meadow with a stone shelter at an altitude of about 3575m/11,730ft.  (22 km/13.6miles, 6 to 7 hours walk). Day 5 – Soi Thangthangkha to Jangothang. The trail continues to follow the river and passes a small army post where the valley begins to widen again.  Views of high ridges and snow-capped peaks can be seen on all sides.  At this altitude (about 4040 m) it is possible to see yaks and yak herders.  Camp is beneath a ruined fortress at the base of Mount Jomolhari. Altitude:4044m/13,260ft.   (17 km/10.5 miles, 5 hours walk) Day 6 – Halt at Jangothang. It’s possible to walk to Tsophu and hike in various directions: towards Mount Jomolhari and its subsidiary to the west, Jichu Drake to the north and unclaimed summits and ridges to the east. Day 7– Jangothang to Lingshi. The trail climbs gradually to Nyili La Pass (4680 m).  Broad yak pastures can be seen along the length of the route.  If the weather is clear, there is an excellent view of Lingshi Dzong as we descend into the Lingshi basin.  Tserim Kang and its descending glaciers can be seen at the north end of the valley. The Lingshi area has 118 households and about 300-400 people, some of whom live a great distance from Lingshi. There also used to be some Tibetan refugees.5 to 6 hrs walk, distance 21km). We camp at an altitude of 4010 m/13,150ft. Day 8 – Lingshi to Chebisa. Today we head northeastward, ascending past the Lingshi Dzong across high alpine pastures dotted with rhododendron and Daphne to Chebisa village. At the head of the valley, as short stroll from the camp, is a tall waterfall cascading from a gap in rocky cliffs with a suspected hanging lake behind. (16kms 3/4 hrs walk alt. 13090ft/3990m) Day 9 – Chebisa to Shakyapassang. If you rise early in the morning you will probably see in the small village of Chebisa a haze of cooking fires, children emerging to chatter away and have their photograph taken. It is still an unsual sight to see western trekkers in this region and the children are always fascinated with the cameras. We gradually climb over Gombu la pass (alt. 14566ft/4440m) and the view from there is spectacular and then we descent to our camp through a forest of cypress.( 14.5kms/5 hrs walks, Camp at alt. 13123/4000m).

Day 10 – Shakyapassang to Robluthang Tpday’s trail traverse around many grassy slopes to the Jare la pass (alt. 15698ft/4785m). Blue sheep and lammergeirs can often be seen. We then descend gradually to our campsite.(16kms. 7/8 hrs walks. Camp at alt. 13648ft/4160m.)

Day 11 – (Oct 5)Robluthang to Lingmithang It will take us around 4 hours to gradually reach a pass which is perhaps the hardest of the trek known as Sinche la pass(alt. 16404ft/5000m).Descending through boulders and grassy slopes, unparalled views open outbefore us. When we are about the reach our campsite the forests are thick and out lovely riverside camp is surrounded by very tall conifers and the Tigers Ears as our backdrop.(14 kms. 6/7 hrs walks. Camp at alt. 13648/4160m.)

Day 12 – Lingmithang to Laya. This morning we walk directly away from the mountain environment before us and we descend to Laya village which is the first principle village of the trek. Life is not so easy in this cooler, isolated location that is snowed in winter. Much of their living is reliant on Yaks(meat, wool and dried cheese). Perhaps you may come across snow and our guide will do their best to achieve out trip program without compromising safety.( 9 kms. 4 hrs walks. Allt. 12467ft/3800m)

Day 13 – Rest day in Laya.

You can visit the small community of Laya and stroll around, meet people of Laya and see how they live.

Day 14 – Laya to Roduphu The traiol leads through the middle of Laya and descends through the forest of spur to the Mo Chhu river and towards an army post that guards the frontier with Tibet. After crossing the river we begin our ascent towards Lunana and the most remote part of our trek. We reach to our campsite after crossing the forests of pine, oak and rhododendron. Being in the higher elevation the night will be bit cold.(14.5kms. 7/8 hrs walks. Camp at alt. 13828ft/4215m)

Day 15 –Roduphu to Narithang Today we will have to cross the river and ascend the slope covered with dwarf rhododendrons. We will then have to cross a small pass known as Tsemo la pass( alt. 16902ft/4905m). We then descand and witnees a line of snowy peaks. Our camp is on grassy slopes.(16kms, 6/7 hrs walks.Camp at alt. 16207ft/4940m.)

Day 16 – Narithang to Tarina It takes up to 1 and half hour to reach the pass known as Karakachu la pass (alt. 16469ft/5020m). We will come across many peaks which feed the lakes and the river system before us. We drop through the rhododendron forest to the valley floor where ourcamp is set in a clearing of little further downstream (16kms. 6/7 hrs walks.. Camp at alt. 12919ft/3938m.)

Day 17 – Tarina to Woche Following the river and sometimes walking in it, we descend the valley to see the impact of a number os large landslides.We will now climb over the ridge to a village known as Woche which is the first village of Lunana.( 14 kms. 5/6 hrs walks. Camp at alt. 13658ft/4163m)

Day 18 –  Woche to Lhedi Today we ascend to the pass known as Keche la pass ( alt. 15308ft/4666m). as we move towards our destination, we see distant unnamed peaks but have to descend continually to Thega village and the river of the Phu Chhu, one of the principle river of Lunana. The temperature are warm here and we trek leisurely beside the river to the village known as Lhedi.(13 kms. 4/5 hrs walks.. Camp at alt.12975ft/3900m.)

Day 19 – Rest Day in Lhedi Time to do washing, relax or perhaps go for a walk.

Day 20 – Lhedi to Tanza We now head toward Tanza where in recent times there has been a washout of the valley by the bursting of a large glacial lake near Tanza. This is considered t be one of the main town of Lunana.(17kms. 3/4 hrs walks. Camp at alt. 13451ft/4100m)

Day 21 – Tanza to Tshochena This is a trekking region where weather can change at any moment and we should be well equipped for that. We ascend to the pass known as Jaze la pass (alt. 16896ft/5150 m) and then we come across dazzling array of peaks and pastures. Camp is set on a barren plateau where blue sheep maybe seen.(16 kms. 7/8 hrs. Climb over. Camp at 16272ft/4960m.)

Day 22 – Tshochena to Jichu Dramo The trail undulates between snow capped peaks and crosses the Loju la pass at alt. 16879ft/5145m. Winding around several ridges, more expansive views open out before us including a distant views to our most major pass of the trek. We continue to our camp which is at ( 19.5kms. 6/7 hrs walks.. Camp at alt. 16601ft/5060m.)

Day 23 – Jichu Dramo to Tsho Tsho Tshang Leaving our camp we follow the main valley down beside the river entering the forest and warmer temperature. The trail weaves in and out of boulders at the side of the river, and then enters thick tall forest of pines, rhododendron, birch and maple. We then climb over Rinchen Zoe pass (alt. 17473ft/5326m) and then camp at (19.5 kms. 8/9 hrs walk.. Camp at alt. 14599ft/4450m.)

Day 24 – Tsho Tsho Tshang to Tampoe Tsho We now trek which brings to the camp just beneath our last pass. We wind up through the forest following a narrow valley to a hanging lake. Wec drop down and our camp is set be a lake a little further( 19 kms. 8/9 hrs walks. Camp at alt. 14288ft/4355m.)

Day 25 – Tampoe Tsho to Maurothang Today it will take around 1 hour to reach the last pass of our trek known as Tempe La pass (alt: 15305ft/4665m 21 kms). From here the trek is all downhill till our campsite and then from now on we follow Nika Chhu river through rhododendron and pine forest and yak pastures.( 6/7 hrs walks. Camp at alt. 12132ft/3698m.)

Day 26 – Maurothang to Nika Chhu to Punakha This is the last day of the trek and it follows the Nikka Chu through thick, lush forest that is cool and pleasant. We emerge into bamboo thickets and patchwork hillsides of crops and houses of Sephu district. We finall reach the road side where you vehicle will be waiting for you to pick you up and then drive to Punakha.22 kms. 5/6 hrs walks.

Then drive to Punakha. Altitude: 1350m/4455ft above sea level. Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955. It is the winter seat of the Je Khenpo(Chief Abbot) and the monk body. It has a temperate climate and its rich fertile valley is fed by Pho(male) Chu and Mo(female) Chu (river).(3 hrs drive) Later you can relax and stroll around. Overnight in Punakha. Day 27 – Punakha to Thimphu.  Altitude: 2320m/ 7656ft above sea level Thimphu is a bustling town on the banks of the Thimphu Chhu and set gloriously in the hills of the Thimphu valley. It is home to the Bhutanese Royal Family, the Royal Government to several foreign missions and development projects. Bhutan’s only golf course, a nine-hole circuit, is situated next to the magnificent Tashichoo Dzong.

Morning visit, Punakha Dzong (fortress): Built in 1637 by Zhabdrung which is remarkably located between the rivers of Mo (Female) Chu (river) and Pho (Male) Chu. Until the time of second king it served as a seat of the king. Now it is the winter capital of the central monk body.

Then hike to Chimi Lhakhang: This Temple was built by lam Drukpa Kuenley (The Divine Madman) in 1499. It is about thirty minutes hike across fields from the road – a welcome chance to stretch your legs after the drive.  His style of teaching was thought shocking, insulting and including obscene behavior. His outrageous actions and sexual antics were a deliberate method of provoking people to discard preconceptions. In the temple you will receive a blessing from his wooden phallus. Wooden phalluses are often found hanging in the four corners of the houses and also phalluses are painted on the walls of houses. It is the common belief that this helps in driving away evil spirits. Later visit the weekend market: The days are absolutely central to the lives of the Bhutanese, but there are many reasons to visit other than the delicious fresh food on offer every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.There are regular competitions centered on the national sport of Bhutan – archery – as well as the opportunities to buy beautifully handcrafted items such as yak tail dusters and butter tea cups.  The people crowd the stalls every day, dressed in full colour and gathered to meet and to barter, much like the street markets in London!

Paper factory: The handmade paper making in Bhutan stemmed from the age old tradition originated in 8th century of Bhutanese history. It began as domestic ancient activity which is still in practice in remote areas. The handmade paper constitutes as valuable National heritage of Bhutanese cultural identity and is preserved through all the ages. The Traditional paper is recognized and held high esteem both in home and outside world. Jungshi Paper Factory was established in November 1990 as an undertaking of the Royal Government of Bhutan. The unit now boasts as a major and sole dealer in handmade paper and its products.

Later visit, Zorig Chusum Institute (Thirteen Crafts): It was established in 1971 by the Royal Government in order to preserve the invaluable heritage and promote the arts of Bhutan. The two main objectives of the institute are a) to preserve and promote the traditional arts and crafts and b) to create job opportunities for the underpriviledged group of the society, school dropouts and unemployed youths.

Mini zoo: Here you can see just one animal – Bhutan’s national – the Takin. This is an extremely rare member of the goat family. Found in herds in the very high altitudes (13,125ft and over). They live on a diet of grass and bamboo. It can weigh as much as 550 pounds. The zoo was emptied in accordance with Buddhist principles, but the Takin came back so the keepers decided to look after them, also in accordance with Buddhist principles!

Sangaygang View Point: As well as being the location of the transmitter tower of the only national television tower in the country (BBS), the view point is also the perfect place to take in some truly breathtaking views of the entire city of Thimpu.  On a clear day you can see the ubiquitous prayer flags fluttering on the hills in the distance as well as the whole of the Thimpu valley – needless to say, this is THE place to take your camera and capture the essence of a remarkable country.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is also known as the Lover’s Point! And also later visit Kuenselcholing hilltop where the largest Buddha in the world is being built.

Tashichho Dzong : The names means – Means Fortress of Glorious Religion. It was built in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and was reconstructed into present structure by the late King, His majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the year 1962-1969. It houses the secretariat building, the throne room and the office of the king, and the central monk body. In the evening if you wish, Raven Tours and Treks can make arrangements to take you to enjoy the recent trends of the younger Bhutanese, who  spend their evenings  in the discotheques, or in the entertaining hubs where there are live performances of Bhutanese songs and dances (traditional and modern) by the best Bhutanese bands. If you wish you can even test your singing talents in the bars that offer Karaoke. Overnight in Thimphu. Day 28 – Depart from Paro. Early breakfast at the hotel and your escort from Raven Tours and Treks will assist you with exit formalities and bid you farewell. WHAT TO TAKE FOR THE TOUR Down/fiber filled jacket Hiking shorts (for men) or skirt Hiking/trekking boots Socks for hiking boots Sunscreen for lips and face Water proof jackets Sunglasses Pajamas Sneakers Long and short T- shirts or cotton shirts Thermal Sweaters Gloves Sun Hats Walking Sticks Binoculars Back pack Suitcase

CHECKLIST

•    Valid passport (valid for six months after your date of entry into Asia)

•    One other picture ID, such as driver’s license (in case of emergency and for use as a substitute of passport or incase of loss of your passport) Photocopy of passport page to carry in wallet

•    Air tickets (Make a copy of flight tickets which may be helpful, in case of loss)

•    Visa Clearance (Make a copy of visa clearance which may be helpful, in case of emergencies)

•    Credit cards, visa debit cards, ATM cards are not accepted in Bhutan. Travelers cheques and some cash are highly recommended.

•    Mobile (if your cell phone is from CINGULLAR USA or ATNT (USA) operators then your cell phone will work in Bhutan.)

TOUR COST – All Tours are subject to an Acceptance Payment/Deposit of £200.

Cost per person on twin share basis as per itinerary

Tariff: The Royal Government of Bhutan sets minimum selling prices for packages to Bhutan and this must be paid in US dollar /Euro prior to arrival in Bhutan as follows:

US$180 – per person/night in the high season (March, April, May, August, September, October, November, December and February)

US$150 – per person/night in the low season (January, June and July)

For single traveller surcharge of US$40 per night will be levied.

For 2 people travelling surcharge of US$30 per person/night will be levied.

US$20 per person as a visa processing fee

The minimum price includes: Government taxes, Accommodation in 3 to 4 star category hotels, 3 meals a day, guide, Transportation, Visa processing fee, Trekking equipments, porters and cooks while trekking and museum fees only. For student and children discounts please contact us.

Payment. 1.On acceptance – £200 per person, Acceptance Payment/Deposit (non refundable) by bank transfer or cheque payable to “S W & M Miller”. Your Contract for all tour arrangements is directly with Raven Tours & Travel, Bhutan to whom payment for the tour is made.

2. Eight weeks prior to arrival in Bhutan or on Acceptance  – Full Payment in US $, by International Bank Transfer, direct to Raven Tours

Cancellation Charges 35 days prior to arrival a cancellation fee of US$200 per person will be applicable. 30 days notice of cancellation a fee of 25% of the total amount will be applicable. 25 days notice of cancellation a fee of 50% of the total amount will be applicable Less than 25 days notice incurs the full amount. Acceptance Payment non refundable Included in the Cost

•    Accommodation on a twin sharing, room and breakfast basis at the hotels specified, •    Full board at Wildlife Park if applicable. •    Any single room subject to supplement shown. •    All transfers, sightseeing and excursions by air-conditioned vehicle. •    Services of an English speaking local guide (or a naturalist in National Parks) •    Entrance fees at monuments and parks where applicable •    Train journeys where applicable •    Domestic Flight (economy), where applicable, are subject to change. •    Porterage at airports, rail stations and hotels (not tips). •    All currently applicable taxes. •    The UK pounds price shown is based on current exchange rates.

Excluded from the Cost

•    Expenses of a personal nature such as table drinks, laundry, telephone calls, Internet charges, mineral water, tips, shopping etc. •    Any other meals or services not mentioned in the programme. •    Any international airfare or any airport taxes. •    Any Government or State taxes subsequently introduced. •    Travel Insurance

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