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.
The Lonely Planet describes the Snowman Trek as one of the most difficult treks of the world. Many groups that attempt this tough trek do not actually finish it due to problems with the high altitude or snow blocked passes. Therefore, the best time for the Snowman Trek – unlike the other high altitude treks of Bhutan – is in summer time. Still, those who make it will remember this trek as an outstanding beautiful and maybe as the most rewarding trek of their life.
Your local escort will receive you at the Paro airport and take you to the hotel. After freshening up, you will be taken for a tour of Paro town including the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong and Kycihu Lhakang.
You will be taken for a hike to Taktshang or Tiger’s nest, an uphill walk of about three hours. This hike is basically done to accustom trekkers to the mountain altitude of the Himalayas. The Tiger Nest, precariously perched on a cliff, offers a spectacular view of the Paro valley. You will also get to visit the inner sanctum of one of the most religious sites in the country.
The trek begins from the Drukgyel Dzong (2,580m) road point. Initially, the trail is a gentle climb along the banks of Parochhu adjacent to vast swathes of paddy fields. The trail passes through green meadows, apple orchards and traditional Bhutanese farmhouses. After about four hours of trekking, you will reach the army outpost at Gunitsawa village. From there, you will have to walk to the other side of the river across the Shana Zampa to the campsite.
This is a long trek that involves walking uphill and downhill at short intervals. After climbing uphill through the river valley, you will enter the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Park. The valley narrows down to a single path that descends to a meadow. The camp will be set up here. This is a right spot for the camp as you will be able to see Mount Jomolhari on a clear day.
You resume the trek early in the morning. The trail continues uphill across alpine meadows and stunted vegetation. Along the trail, you will be able to view Mount Jomolhari. You will come across an army outpost on the way, yak herders’ homes, and the beautiful snow clad mountain peaks and ridges on the horizon. The trail further passes through the highland villages of Soe, Takethang and Dangochang. Here you will be able to experience the typical lifestyle and culture of highlanders. You will continue till Jangothang (4,040m), the campsite at the base of the majestic Mount Jhomolhari, the abode of the protective deity Jomo.
A day will be spent at Jangothang. Short hikes offer the opportunity to see lakes and various other mountain peaks like Mount Jomolhari and Mount Jyichu Drakey. There are also possibilities of sighting blue sheep grazing on rocky mountain slopes. There are good short hiking trails in three directions – Jomolhari and its subsidiary mountain chains lie directly west, Jyichu Drakey to the north and a number of unclimbed peaks to the east.
After the day’s halt, you will resume the trek. The trail from the camp ascends through a steep ridge for about half an hour. After that it is a gradual downhill walk to the Nyilila pass at 4,870m. From here, you will be able to view Mount Jomolhari, Mount Jyichu Drakey and Tsherimgang, all above 7,000m. Along the trail, you may also sight herds of blue sheep grazing on the slopes. The downhill trek will take you to Lingshi, a highland settlement at 4,000m. Along this trail you will also come across yak, yak herders and their homes. You will see Lingshi Dzong on a clear day. You will halt at the campsite before you reach Lingshi dzong.
It is going to be an easy day of walking. So relax. Shortly after reaching the Chorten below Lingshi Dzong, you have the choice of staying on the main trail or taking the diversion that leads to the Lingshi Dzong (4,220m), which sits right atop a ridge. Lingshi Dzong offers a serene view of the valley. As you conitue the trek, you will pass through the villages of Lingshi and Goyul. The campsite at Chebisa at the backdrop of the village and beautiful waterfall, you can get time to visit the village and interact with the communities.
The trail goes through a wide pastureland towards Gobu La pass at 4,410m. After crossing the pass, you will descend to the valley. From there you will climb a little after which the trail descends to Shakshepasa (3,980m) where a helipad has been built. You will again climb till the campsite at Shomuthang located above a river, a tributary of the Nochu river.
You will start early as the going is quite tough along this trail. You will climb up the valley and almost after two hours, you will reach Jhari La at 4,750m. From here, you will be able to see Sinche La, the pass you will have to cross the day after. You will also see Mount Gangchhenta (6,840 m) also known as the Great Tiger Mountain. On a clear day, you will also be able to see Tserimgang and the peak of Mount Jumolhari. You will walk down to Tsheri Jathang. This valley is the summer habitat of Takin and rightly declared as the Takin sanctuary. From here you will climb uphill to reach the campsite at Robluthang (4,160m).
After crossing Sinche La (5,005m) – the highest pass on the route – you will head towards Laya. On the way you will come across Laya women clad in their traditional attire weaving. From here you can catch the view of a glacial lake at the foot of the valley and a terminal moraine. The descent will continue, and after crossing Kango Chhu reach Lemithang campsite (4,140m). From the camp, the peak of Gangchhenta is visible.
The trail continues to descend along a narrow river valley and leads to a dense forest. The trail continues on the west side of Laya village from where you can view Gangchhenta and Masagang. The campsite is below the school in Laya (3,840m).
You will take the day off and rest in Laya. You can engage in short hikes, visit the community school and meet local inhabitants. The interaction would enrich your understanding and knowledge of these people’s lifestyle, culture, and traditions.
From Laya, the trail descends to an army camp and follows the river until the turn-off point to Rhoduphu. After lunch, the climb continues through rhododendron bushes till you reach the campsite at Roduphu (4,160m), next to the Rhoduchhu.
The trail follows the river for about half an hour after which it climbs up to an open valley at 4,600m and further up to Tsomo La at 4,900m. From here, you can have a spectacular view of Lunana, Mount Jomolhari and Jyichu Drakey, and the Tibetan border on the other side. The trail then crosses a flat, barren plateau at about 5,000m. The campsite at Narethang (4,900m) is towered by the peak of Gangla Karchung (6,395m).
From the campsite, the trail climbs up for about an hour to Gangla Karchung La. From this pass at 5,120m, you will have a magnificent view of the Jekangphu Gang (7,100m), Tsenda Kang and Teri Gang (7,300m). The trail then descends along a large moraine, and continues downward through thick rhododendron vegetation to Tarina valley. You camp along the Tangchhu (3,970m)
The trail runs through conifer forests on the upper ridges of the Pho Chhu. Along the way, you will come across beautiful waterfalls. The trail ascends over a ridge and then descends to Woche (3,910m), the first village in the Lunana region.
The trail continues through juniper and fir forests, and further through rhododendron bushes. The route ascends to Keche La pass at 4,650m from where you can have spectacular view of the mountain ranges. The trail then descends to the riverside and through a village from where you can see the table mountain. The trek continues up the riverside till the village Lhedi (3,700m).
From Lhedi, you will walk few hours to reach Thanza village where you will take the day off.
Here you will be able to walk around the village, interact with local people and experience the highland culture.
The trail climbs up to a large boulder from where you will get an excellent view of Thanza, Toencha and Choso village and the surrounding mountains. The trail is relatively easier and after a few hours of walking through almost flat area, you will reach a meadow with a few yak herders’ huts. Near the campsite at Danji (4,230m), there is a trail junction – one route leading to Gangkhar Puensum base camp and the other to Bumthang or to Sephu in Trongsa.
This trek will follow the route to Sephu. The trail crosses through the creek and after a long climb, reaches Jaze La at 5,150m. After the pass, the trail descends to the campsite near Tshochena lake (4,970m). Along the way, you will come across several lakes.
The trail goes along the banks of a green lake before arriving at a ridge (5,100m) from where you can have a spectacular view of the mountain ranges. The trail then ascends and descends over small hills and reaches a glacial lake. After that, the route descends and then again ascends to first Loju La (5,140m). Finally after crossing a small saddle (5,100m) you will enter a wide glacial valley from where the trail descends gradually to the campsite at Jichu Dramo (5,050m).
The trail ascends through a moraine to the highest pass on the trek Rinchen Zoe La (5,320m). From here, you will see a panoramic view of Gangkar Puensum. The route then descends to a wide valley with several lakes and further down along a moraine to the Thamphe Chhu. From here, you will be able to see trees. After a few hours of walk, you will reach the campsite at Chukarpo (4,600m).
The route descends along the river till you reach the yak herder huts at Gala Pang Chhu at 4,010m. From here the trail climbs steeply towards Thampe Tsho (4,300m)
The route ascends steeply to the last pass on the trek the Thampe La at 4,600m. Along the way, you may sight herds of blue sheep. After the pass, the trail descends to the sacred lake Om Tso. After passing a waterfall you will reach another smaller lake 100m below. After that, you will descend steeply to the Nikka Chhu. The trail leads through mixed forest to large clearing on the banks of the river with a few yak herder huts at Maurothang (3,610m).
This is the last phase of the trekking. The trail follows the Nikka Chhu and finally reaches the village of Sephu and to the road point at the Nikkachhu bridge.
Early in the morning, you will be driven to Thimphu. On the way, you will visit the Wangduephodrang dzong.
You may like to take rest after the tiring trekking. However, depending on your choice, you can visit certain historical monuments in Thimphu. You may also take a tour of the city and do some shopping.
You tour guide will see you off at the airport.