Snowman Trekking

snowman-trekkingSnowman Trekking  is an extension of the beautiful Laya Gasa trek, and leads from Laya into the 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. This is one of the most difficult treks offered in Bhutan due to the high altitudes and steep ascents and descents along the path. Trekkers have to camp in altitudes above 5000m more than once and depending on the seasonal temperatures, the camps are sometimes on snow. Snowman Trekking  beautiful trekking culture and nature explore trekking where is typical life style and great tour and trekking in the Bhutan program.

Snowman Trekking  is considered one of the most scenic treks in Bhutan, offering amazing views of some of the most pristine and unspoiled landscapes in Bhutan. The trek begins at Drukgyal Dzong in Paro and takes you through gorgeous alpine meadows, high mountain passes and dense sub-tropical jungles before terminating at Sephu in Trongsa.

Along the trail you will be able to spot indigenous animals such as blue sheep, marmots, musk deer and Takins, the national animal of Bhutan. You should not even rule out the possibility of seeing the rare snow leopard. You will travel through remote mountain villages inhabited by Layaps (people of Laya), a distinct segment of the Bhutanese society with unique culture, traditions and appearance.

The best seasons to complete this challenge are from mid June to mid-October.
This trek also takes in a visit to the awe inspiring Taktsang Monastery (Tigers Nest) and to visit two other Dzongs in Paro on arrival.

We can customise this trek to suit your needs.

Trek Facts

Trek: Snowman Trekking I
Trek starts: Drukgyal Dzong (Paro)
Trek duration: 26 days/33 days including transportation
Grade: Strenuous
Maximum altitude: 5050m
Minimum altitude: 2250m
Trek ends: Sephu (Trongsa)

Trip Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu and a representative of Unique Nepal Adventure Trek will welcome and transfer you to your selected hotel by private vehicle.

Day 2: Fly from Kathmandu to Paro (2250m). This flight into Paro is one of the most spectacular mountain flights to take, as it flies past Everest, Makalu, Kanchenjunga and many more peaks. The flight takes around an hour and a half. We will then go to our hotel and take refreshment and visit Ta Dzong (National Museum) and Paro Rinpung Dzong.

Day 3: After breakfast, we drive to Kyichu Lhakhang. King Songtsän Gampo built the Lhakhang in the 7th century AD. The associated legend is that – this is one of 108 Lhakhang’s built in a single night by the king to tame his kingdom’s borders. Return to stay for lunch, rest and prepare for the trek up to Taktsang Monastery (the “Tiger’s Nest”).

Drive to the star of the trek. Trek (or horse ride) to Taktsang Monastery (trek time is 2-3 hours depending on weather and fitness level).Taktsang is perched on a precipitous 900 meter cliff. The monastery has been restored at painstaking efforts to former glory after a fire in 1998. The legend is that Guru Padmasambhava flew to this holy place on the back of tigress to meditate. More recently, one of the most enlightened abbots in modern Bhutan history, Geshe Gendun Rinchen (1926 – 1997) also known as Draphugpa (Of the Caves), was born in a small cave by the path to the monastery. Tea and refreshments will be taken at Taktsang Café for about an hour’s rest to take photos and view the scenery. We will then descend to road point (horses cannot be ridden) and drive back to Paro to prepare for the trek.

Day 4: Drukgyal Dzong – Sharna Zampa
Distance 17 km, 4-5 hours, 360m ascent, 80m descent, camp altitude 2850m.
We first drive to Drukgyal Dzong (2580m) where the road ends. The next stop is the ancient ruins of Drukgyal Dzong (30 minutes). The Dzong is a monument to the Shabdrung’s victory against an invasion of allied Tibetan-Mongolian forces in 1649. The name “Drukgyal Dzong” thus translates to “Fortress of Victory”. The Dzong was destroyed in a fire in the 1950s. On clear days, Drukgyal is an excellent place to view the glorious mountain Jomolhari.  The trek begins with a gradual climb and the trail follows the Paro Chhu passing beautiful meadows, paddy fields and impressive farm houses. After about four hours you will reach the army post at Gunitsawa village. At the army check post your trek permit will be checked and endorsed. The campsite is on the opposite side of the river, not far from Gunitsawa.

Day 5: Sharna Zampa – Thangthangkha
Distance 22 km, 7-8 hours, 770m ascent, 10m descent, camp altitude 3610m.
On this long day, the trail continues with lots of small ups and downs. After going uphill through the river valley, you enter the Jigme Dorje National Park. The valley finally 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 views of Jomolhari.

Day 6: Thangthangkha – Jangothang
Distance 19 km, 5-6 hours, 480m ascent, camp altitude 4080m.
If you did not see Jomolhari last evening, you will have a great chance to get a great view this early morning. This morning the trek continues up the Paro Chhu valley, which widens into patches of alpine meadow and sparse growths of forest. Cross an army outpost along the way and enjoy a spectacular view of high mountain ridges and snow-capped peaks. Yaks and the herder’s homes become a regular feature of the landscape. Passing the villages of Soe, Takethang and Dangochang is another asset on this day. Reaching Jangothang has one of the most beautiful campsites of the Himalayas, where you will again have a spectacular view of Jomolhari.

Day 7: Jangothang – Rest day
The rest day in Jangothang 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 trek around the area. There are good short trekking trails in three directions. Excellent views can be had to Jomolhari and many other peaks to the west, Jichu Drake to the north and there are a number of unclimbed peaks to the east.

Day 8: Jangothang – Lingshi
Distance 18 km, 6-7 hours, 840m ascent, 870m descent, camp altitude 4010m.
After fifteen minutes from the camp, the trail climbs rapidly for about half an hour and then becomes a gradual ascent to the Nyili La pass at 4870m. Whilst on the climb you can enjoy the surroundings. You might see herds of blue sheep grazing on the slopes of the mountains. From the pass you will have spectacular views of Jomolhari, Jichu Drake also known as Ts(h)erim Kang and many other names. On the way down to the camp you will pass by some of the yak herder’s tents, made from yak wool, where the herders take shelter while on the move to various pastures for their yaks. As you come down into the Lingshi basin, you get a wonderful view of Lingshi Dzong on a clear day. Unfortunately the Dzong was damaged by an earthquake on 18th September 2012. Jichu Drake and its glaciers rise up at the north end of the valley. The campsite is next to a stone hut you reach just before Lingshi Dzong.

Day 9: Lingshi – Chebisa
Distance 10 km, 5-6 hours, 280m ascent, 410m descent, camp altitude 3880m.
Today is the shortest walking day and you can really take it easy. Shortly after starting you will reach a chorten below Lingshi Dzong. Here, you have the choice of staying on the main trail or taking a detour up to the Lingshi Dzong (4220m), which sits right atop a high ridge.  This Dzong is under reconstruction from a 2011 earthquake that damaged its central building. In addition to a very special atmosphere of mystic tranquillity, Lingshi Dzong provides a great view over the valley. After Lingshi Dzong you will be passing the villages of Lingshi and Goyul. In Goyul, the stone houses are clustered together to form a small compact village that is unusual in Bhutan, where settlements are usually scattered. On reaching the campsite at Chebisa you will have plenty of time to visit the village houses if you feel up to it. There is also a beautiful waterfall located behind the village that is worth visiting.

Day 10: Chebisa – Shomuthang
Distance 17 km, 6-7 hours, 890m ascent, 540m descent, camp altitude 4220m.
The morning starts with a long ascent behind Chebisa Village (2-3 hours) through a wide pastureland towards Gobu La (pass). On the way, you will see a few people herding yaks. There is also a great chance to spot large herds of blue sheep above the trail. After crossing Gobu La (4410m), you descend into the valley, then climb again a little bit, before descending again to Shakshepasa (3980m), a large U-shaped valley. Climbing from here you will finally reach the campsite at Shomuthang, above a river, which is a tributary of the Nochu Chhu.

Day 11: Shomuthang – Robluthang
Distance 18 km, 6-7 hours, 700m ascent, 760m descent, camp altitude 4160m.
You begin by climbing up the valley to view Kang Bum (6526m) and some edelweiss. After two hours of climbing you will reach Jhari La (4750m), from where you catch the first glimpse of Sinche La, the pass you will have to cross the day after. The big snow peak in the north is Gangchenta 6840m, better known as the Great Tiger Mountain. If the weather is clear, Tsherim Gang and the top of Jomolhari will be visible. The camp by the river is called Tsheri Jathang located in a beautiful wide and remote valley. Herds of Takin, the Bhutanese national animal, migrate to this valley in summer and remain for about four months. The valley has been declared a Takin sanctuary. Climb up a little bit and you will reach the campsite at Robluthang in a rocky meadow.

Day 12: Robluthang – Limithang
Distance 19 km, 6-7 hours, 850m ascent, 870m descent, camp altitude 4140m.
The trek starts out with an initial 40-60 minutes ascent before gradually rising for another hour and a half through a boulder field.  It is then a one hour steep ascent before reaching Sinche La (5005m) – the final and highest pass on the trek that is if you don’t intend to continue the Snowman trek from Laya onwards.  As you descend the far side of the pass you will see an impressive terminal moraine and a glacial lake at the foot of the valley. You can see classic examples of lateral moraines where the glacier has pushed rocks up both sides of the valley. Below the moraine, you cross the Kango Chhu and soon reach the Limithang campsite. The peak of Gangchenta towers over the campsite even though it is quite a distance away.

Day 13:Limithang – Laya
Distance 10 km, 4-5 hours, 60m ascent, 340m descent, camp altitude 3840m.
Today, you walk downhill all the way along a narrow, winding river valley. After a long time, the trail takes you through a densely forested region. The trail leads you to the west side of Laya village. From the west of the village you will have spectacular views of Gangchenta and also Masagang. In the village centre is a community school and a basic health unit with a telephone connection. The campsite is located below the school.

Day 14:Laya – Rest day
If you have trekked from Paro Valley you should spend a day recuperating from the trek to Laya and preparing yourself for the rest of this challenging but spectacular trek. If you have started from Gasa (Punakha) you should also walk up to Laya to acclimatize and not just stay at the trail junction to Lunana. It is worthwhile to spend one day in Laya just for the great views and its extraordinary inhabitants.

Day 15:Laya – Roduphu
Distance 19 km, 6-8 hours, 1030m ascent, 750m descent, camp altitude 4160m.
From Laya we descend to an army camp and continue following the river until the turn off point to Roduphu. After lunch, the climb continues through rhododendron bushes until you reach the camp at Roduphu just next to the Rhodu Chhu.

Day 16: Roduphu – Narethang
Distance 17 km, 5-6 hours, 740m ascent, camp altitude 4900m.
After following the river for about half an hour you will have a steady climb to a high open valley at 4600m and then further up to Tsomo La (4900m). Tsomo La offers a superb view of Lunana, Jomolhari and Jichu Drake and the Tibetan border. The route then crosses a flat, barren plateau at about 5000m. The campsite at Narethang is towered by the peak of Gangla Karchung (6395m).

Day 17: Narethang – Tarina
Distance 18 km, 5-6 hours, 270m ascent, 1200m descent, camp altitude 3970m.
From the camp you will climb for about an hour to Gangla Karchung La (5120m). The view from the pass is breathtaking and the whole range of mountains including Jejekangphu Gang (7100m), Tsendagang (6960m) and Terigang (7060m) can be seen. The pass descends along a large moraine. Again one has great views: a massive glacier descends from Teri Kang to a deep turquoise lake at its foot. Up here, a glacial lake burst through its dam in the early 1960s, causing widespread damage and partially destroying Punakha Dzong. 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 18: Tarina – Woche
Distance 17 km, 6-7 hours, 270m ascent, 330m descent, camp altitude 3910m.
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 19: Woche – Lhedi
Distance 17 km, 6-7 hours, 980m ascent, 1190m descent, camp altitude 3700m.
The trek starts through juniper and fir forests and further ahead, through rhododendron bushes. Climb up to Keche La pass (4650m) where one can have the great view of surrounding mountains again. After the pass, descend to the riverside walking through a village with a stunning view of Table Mountain and others. Follow up the river until Lhedi Village. Lhedi has a basic health unit, a school and a wireless telephone connection.

Day 20: Lhedi – Thanza
Distance 17 km, 7-8 hours, 450m ascent, camp altitude 4150m.
In clear weather, you will have great views of Table Mountain (7100m).  Around lunchtime you will pass the small village of Chozo (4090m), which has a Dzong still in use. Reaching Thanza again you will have a great view of Table Mountain, which forms a 3000m 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 21: Thanza – Rest day
In Thanza, walk around and experience some village life, or climb up the ridge for fascinating views of lakes and mountains. But as it takes time to arrange new yaks (the yaks from Laya will not go further than Thanza), you might have to spend one day at Thanza anyway.

Day 22: Thanza – Danji
Distance 8 km, 3-4 hours, 80m ascent, camp altitude 4230m.
From Thanza, the trail climbs up to a large boulder from where you will have excellent views of Thanza, Thoencha and Chozo village and the surrounding mountains. After a few hours of relatively flat and easy walking, you will reach a yak meadow with some yak herders’ huts. The meadow is an excellent campsite, with a great chance to spot some blue sheep on the hills above. A trail junction near the campsite will give you the choice between the routes up to Gangkhar Puensum base camp and further on to Bumthang or to Sephu (Trongsa). Both routes are described in this website.

Day 23: Danji – Tshochena
Distance 12 km, 5-6 hours, 980m ascent, 240m descent, camp altitude 4970m.
Having chosen the route to Sephu, the trek crosses the creek and after a long climb, you will reach Jaze La (5150m) with spectacular panoramic mountain views. The path then descends between snow covered peaks and a couple of small lakes to the campsite near the shore of Tshochena Lake.

Day 24: Tshochena – Jichu Dramo
Distance 14 km, 4-5 hours, 230m ascent, 150m descent, camp altitude 5050m.
You follow the bank of the blue green lake before arriving at a ridge at 5100m, where there is another spectacular view in all directions. After going up and down over small hills to reach a glacial lake, the route descends first before climbing again up to the next pass, the Loju La (5140m). Finally after crossing a small saddle (5100m), you will enter a wide glacial valley from where the trail descends gradually to the campsite at Jichu Dramo.

Day 25: Jichu Dramo – Chukarpo
Distance 18 km, 5-6 hours, 320m ascent, 730m descent, camp altitude 4600m.
Right after leaving the camp you will climb through a moraine to Rinchen Zoe La (5320m). Spectacular mountain scenery with Gangkhar Puensum amongst the impressive mountains is the reward for climbing the highest pass on this trek route. Rinchen Zoe Peak (5650m) towers above the pass the west. Descending from the pass, the route leads into a wide valley with several lakes and goes steeply down along a moraine to the Thampe Chhu. Here the vegetation begins to thicken again and you will see the first real trees since Lhedi. After a couple of hours you reach the campsite at Chukarpo.

Day 26: Chukarpo – Thampe Tsho
Distance 18 km, 5-6 hours, 400m ascent, 700m descent, camp altitude 4300m.
The descent continues along the river until you reach the yak herder huts at Gala Pang Chhu (4010m). From here the trail climbs steeply towards Thampe Tsho, a beautiful clear turquoise lake, with the campsite next to it.

Day 27: Thampe Tsho – Maurothang
Distance 14 km, 5 hours, 330m ascent, 1020m descent, camp altitude 3610m.
From the lake you climb steeply to the last pass on your trek, the Thampe La (4600m) with a good chance to spot some blue sheep on the way. Then the path descends to the sacred lake Om Thso. Passing a waterfall you will reach another smaller lake 100m below, to descend steeply to the Nikka Chhu. The path finally leads through mixed forest to a large clearing on the banks of the river with a few yak herder huts.

Day 28: Maurothang – Sephu
Distance 18 km, 5-6 hours, 990m descent.
On the last day of this extraordinary trek, your porters will have to change from yaks to horses as the yaks will not be willing to go further down. The path follows the Nikka Chhu, to reach a large grassy area overlooking the road and the village of Sephu. You finally reach the road at the bridge going over the Nikka Chhu at Sephu, where you will find several stores (mainly selling bamboo products) and small restaurants.

Day 29: Sephu – Thimphu
Early morning drive to Thimphu. Lunch will be at Wangdue town/guesthouse.  If time permits, do some sightseeing and shopping for some souvenirs. Stay overnight at a hotel.

Day 30: Thimphu – Paro
Drive back to Paro for 4-5 hours and have an evening walk around Paro city and do some sightseeing and shopping for some souvenirs. Stay overnight at a hotel.

Day 31: Fly back to Kathmandu. Stay overnight at your selected hotel in Kathmandu.

Day 32: Souvenir and sightseeing in Kathmandu.

Day 33: A representative ofUnique Nepal Adventure Trek will drop you off at Tribhuvan International Airport by private vehicle.

Price Includes:

  • Airport pick-up and drop off by private vehicle.
  • Two nights in your selected Kathmandu hotel with breakfast.
  • All meals during the trek (lunch, dinner, breakfast and tea or coffee).
  • Accommodation in a hotel in Paro and Thimphu.
  • Accommodation in twin shared tents with mattress.
  • All necessary equipment for camping.
  • One English speaking government trained license holder and well informed trekking guide.
  • Dependent on group size, cook, kitchen boy and extra horses)
  • All expenses for guide and porters – meals, accommodation, salary, equipment, insurance, transportation (bus/flights) etc.
  • First Aid kit bag.
  • Government and local area taxes where applicable. These include Royalty fees and road permit fees.
  • Return transportation from Kathmandu to Paro by flight.
  • Transportation from Paro to the start of trek and from the end of trek to Thimphu and then onto Paro by private vehicle.
  • A Bhutanese visa fee, where the cost is dependent on the time of year you visit. See the link for Bhutan Information for prices.

Price Excludes:

  • Nepalese entry visa fee and departure tax. (See the ‘Visa Information’ link under ‘Trekking Info’ for current fees)
  • Travel insurance.
  • Soft and alcoholic drinks (mineral water, hot water, coke, fanta, beer, spirits, etc).
  • Snacks (Chocolate, biscuits etc).
  • Hot water, hot shower, heater charge, battery charge, phone calls and laundry service.
  • Donation, tips and personal expenses.
  • Emergency evacuation and medical equipment.
  • In case of natural calamities i.e. political unrest, cancellation of flight due to weather, landslides, etc, the extra charge will be borne by themselves.
  • Lunch and dinner in Kathmandu.
  • Please note that you cannot hire equipment and other personal items in Bhutan such as (sleeping bag, down jacket, hiking boots, etc). You must either bring these items into the country by yourself, or they can be hired from Kathmandu.