Drukpath Trek (4 nights/5days)
[spoiler title=’Day1: Paro – Jele Dzong (8km 4-5hr, 3436m) ‘]
Altitude gain – 3503ft/1068m, Altitude loss – 269ft/82m
We meet our trek crew and the horses above the Ta Dzong. Today’s trek climbs non-stop over 1065m, before dropping down over 80km to camp. This is a major effort at this altitude, so take your time and drink as much as possible. The trail winds its way steeply through blue pine forest and around several farmhouses and fenced apple orchards.
After 1hr or so of steady climbing there will be nice views over the Paro valley. Visible above is Jele Dzong, located on top of the ridge and surprisingly nearby. At 9825ft/2995m, after 2hr trekking, the route passes a long Mani wall in a big flat grassy field – a possible campsite but with poor water sources. Climb steadily up now through blue pine, fir and bamboo. The trail continues up through the forest. Just before reaching small pass (11,540ft/3518m) below the Dzong, the route opens up a bit. Tonight’s small campsite (11,270ft/3436m) is a little way down from the pass. It can be cold here because wind, which often picks up in the afternoon. You may be able to hear the monks playing instrument in the lhakhang during one of their prayer sessions.
Overnight at Jele Dzong campsite.
[spoiler title=’Day2: Jele Dzong – Tshokam (9km, 4-5hr, 3962m) ‘]
Altitude gain – 1726ft, Altitude loss – 0ft/0m
From Camp, climb back to the ridge and the small pass leading to the Dzong (11,790ft/3595m). The valley to the east of Jele Dzong is Gidakom. At the village of Gida is a hospital that traditionally treaded leprosy and tuberculosis. About halfway down this valley is forestry roads winds up and gets quite close to the Dzong. At the end of the valley are several lakes.
Leaving the Dzong walk north for about 10min on the ridge with the beautiful view before disappearing into forest, this looks rather bleak as a result of damage by bark beetles. Cross over to the easterly side of the ridge at 12,135ft/3700m). Go up and around a small peak, a steep 100m ascent to an altitude of 12,300ft/3750m). Looking back you see part of the Paro valley. To the south, the Dagala range is visible (another trekking area). After 3hrs walk you will pass a possible campsite Jangchu lhakhang, (12,365ft/3770m). After a hour climb, the better campsite, Tshokam (12,995ft/3962m), is reached, just after a small saddle.
Overnight at Tshokam campsite.
[spoiler title=’ Day 03: Tshokam – Jimilangtsho 10km, 6-7hr, 3880m)’]
Altitude gain – 700ft/213m, Altitude loss 965ft/295m
The ridge walk followed by the trekkers is about 2hr longer than the pack animals’ route, and more spectacular. Weather permitting, there are several views on snowy peak to the north and grand view down into the valley.
Climb gently for several hours and reach a small pass at about 13,350ft/4070m. After a short decent there is a small campsite at Labanah. Continue along the ridge to the next small pass (13,380ft/4080m), with a north view to Jhomolhari. Keep climbing slowly on the ridge. On the opposite side there is a view of Jimilang Tsho. At 13,695ft/4175m a small stone shelter next to a small lake is reached. There are many lakes here, shelters for yak herders, and a yak trails. Two possible trails lead to the large sacred lake Jimilang Tsho The higher trail is more challenging and can be overgrown; despite this, this is recommended. The area above the lake to the east is especially remote.
At the east side of the lake is a good campsite (12,726ft/3880m). The lake has plenty of trout; locals are often seen standing in the cold water up to their knees, using bamboo spears to catch trout at the outlet of the lake.
Overnight at Jimilangtso campsite.
[spoiler title=’Day 04 Jimilangtsho – Simkotra Tsho (7km 3-4hr, 4090m) ‘]
Altitude gain/loss several small ups and downs.
Walk around the lake to its far (western) end; there is a split in the trail. Once branch is that used by pack animals; the other soon starts to climb up above the lake. There is some steep climbing through bushes, but later good views will open up. An exposed cliff trail leads to a small saddle (13,450ft/4100m). From here, you can see the next lake below Jane Tsho; 12,975ft/3956m 1.5 – 2hrs).
From the lake a wide stone path between rhododendron bushes traverses a valley with a small lake below. There are lakes just above, Dungtsho Tsho and Dungtsho Sama, regarded as male and female. The local people believe that the second (female) lake has a powerful spirit, who gets easily provoked if anything dirty gets near the lake. If this happens, bad weather will ensue, which only can stopped by endless prayers.
Climb up the ridge and after 1hr a viewing point at 13,610ft/4150m is reached, with lake below, Simkotra Tsho (13,415ft/4090m), which has some stone ruins nearby. This is tonight’s camp.
Overnight at Simkotra campsite.
[spoiler title=’Day 05: Simkota Tsho – Phajoding – Thimphu (10km, 5-6hr, 2300m) ‘]
Altitude gain – 755ft/230m, Altitude loss – 1330ft/405m)
The trail is good, but there are seven minor climbs to small passes before you finally look down to Phajoding monastery and Thimphu. Monks frequently pass here on their way to meditate at the sacred lake Jimilang Tsho.
When climbing up Bhutan Himalayas can be seen. From the pass, climb 250m up to a small rocky outlook (14,170ft/4320m) on the left side. It is covered with prayer flags this place was formerly used for sky burials, and has an incredible view over the whole of Bhutan Himalayas. After this excursion descend a little, then climb to pass (13,430ft/4095m), and is very windy. There is a good view over the last part of the trek: a steep descent to Phajoding monastery and finally Thimphu.
Overnight stay at hotel, Thimphu.