01 Day: – Bumthang – Toktozamp – Khangthang
Our trek begins with a short drive to the head of the valley. From Toktozampa Bridge we walk a half hour to Thangbi Lhakhang, a temple founded in 1470. We’ll spend at least an hour visiting this important temple before continuing on to our camp for the night at the army camp of Khagthang (9,250’).
02 Day: – Khangthang – Shemthang
Today we’ll follow the west bank of the Chamkhar River all day, passing alternating meadows and bamboo forests. In late afternoon we cross to the east bank and our camp at Shemthang (10,750’).
03 Day: – Shemthang – Tsampa Gompa
Today we’ll stay on the east bank of the river, ascending first through bamboo and rhododendron groves, and finally entering forests comprised of spruce, fir, juniper, and birch. In mid-afternoon we’ll reach Tsampa Gompa, the last human settlement in the valley. Above us looms a rock citadel festooned with prayer flags, the abode of Draktsen, an ancient war god from Bhutan’s pre-Buddhist period. Above here no trash can be burned, nor any living being killed. (12,225’)
04 Day: – Tsampa Gompa – Shingku
We now leave civilized Bhutan behind and head off into the pristine high country. Because we’re gaining altitude for quickly today, we’ll stop in early afternoon for purposes of acclimatization. As we ascend along the west fork of the river we’ll pass several seasonal yak herders’ camps. We’ll also pass many boulders with Buddhist mantras beautifully inscribed on them. Camp is at the yak herders’ camp of Shingku, at tree line. (13,825’)
05 Day: – Shingku – Bumarpa
Today’s hike takes us quickly above tree line, and to the yak herders’ camp at Bumarpa in time for lunch. Those wishing to stay active this afternoon can hike to one of several nearby viewpoints to enjoy the dramatic mountain scenery. (14,800’)
06 Day: – Bumarpa – Gangkar Punsum (Base Camp)
There are several options for today’s day hike, ranging from a three hour hike to the base of the glacier emanating from Gangkar Punsum (15,400’) to a full day hike to the most dramatic viewpoint where one of Bhutan’s best mountain views can be seen (16,500’).
07 Day: – Gangkar Punsum (Base Camp)
We’ll have a final day hike from our high camp, to a different place than yesterday. It may also be possible to establish a slightly higher base camp yesterday, depending on availability of water for the camp, thereby enabling further penetration into the interior of the mountains.
08 Day: – Gangkhar Punsum (Base Camp) – Tsampa Gompa
Fully sated with mountain views for now, we retrace our steps back to Tsampa Gompa and camp beside the river. This is the only day we’ll be duplicating our steps.
09 Day: – Tsampa Gompa – Tolathang
Just in case you were getting used to yesterday’s downhill trek, today presents what is perhaps the hardest day of the trek so far. We ascend all morning into a beautiful hanging valley. On our recon trip here we saw blue sheep, blood pheasant, the extraordinary blue Himalayan monal, and the largest bird in the Himalaya, the lammergeyer. Camp is at 14,600’.
10 Day: – Tolathang – Labrang
After an easy hour in the valley, during which we pass a mirror-like alpine lake that’s home to shelduck, we ascend over 1,000’ to the Tholey La (15,685’) and find yet another hanging valley, this one with immense rock walls and towers. We descend this afternoon to our camp at Labrang (13,625’).
11 Day: – Labrang – Chochokmey
We’ll reach tree line early this morning and descend for hours through forests of rhododendron, birch, juniper, spruce, and hemlock. We’ll cross several wooden cantilever bridges as we follow the river’s course, and in late afternoon climb 500’ to our meadow camp with a view at Chochokmey (10,625’).
12 Day: – Chochomey – Menchugang
Our final day of trekking is mostly downhill to the end-of-the-road town of Menchugang. We will drive the short distance from here back to our familiar Hotel in Jakar Valley.