Preparations are underway for our trek to Jomolhari starting from Paro and heading deep into the heart of Bhutan and the sacred mountain, Jomolhari. Our journey will depart from Albuquerque in June on our way to Bangkok. We will travel to Bhutan and visit temples and dzongs as we become acclimated to the Bhutanese way of life.
Our preparations for the trek will include a short drive to the trail head jus north of the town of Paro. Our gear will be loaded on horses and we will start our travel in the dense forests of the lowlands. This first, short day (40 minute hike) passes the army check point and our trek permit. The campsite is on the opposite side of the river, not far from Gunitsawa across a suspension bridge.
The first real day of hiking (22 km), about seven hours on the trail, has lots of small ups and downs. After going uphill through the river valley, the valley narrows gradually to a mere path which descends to a meadow where a camp will be set up. From here, if weather permits, you will have the first great view of Mt. Jomolhari. As we wind across the country, we will stop in the various places and have the chance to get to know the people and places we stay.
Our Day 3 (5-6 hours; 19km) on the trail reveals the impressive Himalaya range. If you did not see Mt. Jomolhari the previous evening, you will have a chance to get a great view early this morning. The trek continues up the Paro Chhu valley which widens into patches of alpine meadow and scanty growths of forest. You will cross an army checkpoint along the way and enjoy a spectacular view of high mountain ridges and snow-capped peaks. In this area yaks and their herder’s homes become a regular feature of the landscape. Passing the villages Soe, Takethang and Dangochang, you will get the chance to talk with local families. After reaching Jangothang, one of the most beautiful campsites of the Himalayas, you will again have a spectacular view of Mount Jomolhari.
Day 4 is a rest day in Jangothang and provides plenty of possibilities for day hikes with great views of lakes and snow capped mountains such as Jomolhari and Jichu Drake. There are good chances to spot some blue sheep on the upper slopes of the valley. Jangothang is a perfect environment for your acclimatization. You can also trek up to Tosoh or hike around the area. There are good short hiking trails in three directions. Jomolhari and its subsidiary mountain chains lie directly west, Jichu Drake to the north and a number of unclimbed peaks to the east.
On Day 5 (6 – 7 hours; 16km) the trail leads to a last settlement in the valley and drops to the Paro Chhu. Passing the lake of Tshophu (4,380m) you will climb up steeply to Bhonte La pass at 4,890 m, the highest point of this trek route. Reaching the Dhumzo Chhu river, you trek downstream passing the few houses of Soi Yaktsa (Dhumzo) to arrive at your camp soon after.
For Day 6, (8 hours; 22km) our longest day, the trail climbs up to the Yelila pass at an altitude of 4,930m. From the pass, on a clear day you will get an excellent view of Jomolhari, Tserimgang and Masanggang. The trek from the pass to the campsite at Shodu is a steep downhill.
Day 7 (5 hours; 16km) is a beautiful hike that follows the Thimphu Chhu through rhododendron forests, past beautiful waterfalls along the way. The valley narrows till the path takes to the slopes and gradually ascends to the ruins of Barshong Dzong.
On Day 8, (4 hours; 15km) we head downhill to the Thimphu Chhu river valley, through dense forests of rhododendron, birch, conifer, maples and bamboos and then ascends to pasture lands. The camp is in a meadow.
On Day 9, (3 hours; 8km) the trail continues through forested areas winding up and down and through a small pass. Langurs (monkeys) can be seen along the way. In Dodena, you will exit the Jigme Dorji National Park and reach the road head next to a impressive cantilever bridge.
On Day 10, the trek finishes at the Cheri Monastery above the Paro valley. A trip into the shrine room is worth the effort and a short prayer for our safe travels is offered.
- Chhu – river in Dzongkha