Day 1: Participants arrive from around the world to join in magical Paro, Bhutan. Staff will meet you upon arrival outside the Customs Hall at the Paro airport once you have completed customs and immigration formalities. You will transfer right away to your nearby hotel for a restful afternoon or evening and a good night's sleep. Optional activities include exploring the village of Paro on foot and taking in the shops. (Lunch, Dinner)
Day 2: Taksang Gompa (Tiger's Nest). This renowned monastery is set out on a sheer cliff and offers spectacular views. Inside the monastery are a large image of Padmasambhava (The Indian Buddhist Saint who converted Druk Yul and Tibet) and numerous thangkas depicting him. (Thangkas are Buddhist paintings done on cotton and mounted on fabric. They can be rolled up and carried like scrolls. Usual subjects include mandalas or Tibetan deities.) The temple 's nickname derives from the legend that Padmasambhava was transported from Tibet to this cliff on the back of a flying tiger. Usually visitors are not allowed inside the monastery; however, the steep (3,200 feet) hike up to a nearby view point is a good preparation for the days to come. Overnight again at our local resort in Paro. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 3: Visit the Natural History Museum at Ta Dzong and the district dzong called Rinpung dzong-fortress of a mountain of jewels, which is now the seat of administration and an institute for monks. Overnight again at our guest house in Paro. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 4: Ground transportation to the ruins of Drukgyel dzong (monastery fortress) in the northern part of the valley which is where the road ends. This once was a strategic post built to repel invading Tibetan forces from the north and protect the famous Kyichu lhakhang (temple), one of 108 sacred lhakhangs built by the Buddhist King Srongtsen Gampo of Tibet.
Following the gently rising Paro river valley, we pass traditional farms and homes. After about an hour we cross to the east bank on a bridge. As we continue, the valley begins to narrow. Camp near Shana (9,500 feet), just beyond an army post. The climb today is 1,600 feet. Distance: 11 miles. Walking Time: 5 to 6 hours. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 5: Continue walking uphill through the river valley. The valley narrows to a gorge and mixed forest replaces the fields. The trail becomes more difficult as it winds up and down along the drainage. The climb is about 2,900 feet. Camp is in a small meadow at Soi Thangthangkha (11,800 feet). Chomolhari looms above our camp. Distance: 12 miles. Walking Time: 8 to 9 hours. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 6: The valley divides and we continue hiking up the western fork of the Pa Chu (chu means river). The forests diminish to windblown scrub trees, shrubs and finally just yak pastures. Up above is an unbroken chain of snow-capped peaks which forms the border with Tibet. We 're in the heart of some of Druk Yul 's best yak grazing areas. Stop for lunch at a yak herder's camp. We may be able to look inside one of the smoky, black yak-hair tents. There are stacks of blankets, wood, dried yak dung and wooden pack saddles. If the yak herders aren't there, we can still see the same foundations they use for their tents. We 'll try some traditional butter tea.
We'll camp at Jangothang (13,250 feet) behind a ruined fortress and at the base of Chomolhari. The climb today is about 1,800 feet. Distance: 11 miles. Walking Time: 5 to 6 hours. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 7: We 'll stay over at our camp at Jangothang for acclimatization. Options include day hiking or a full rest. Chomolhari is directly west. Jichu Drake is to the north.
Chomolhari, also known as Jumolhari or Jomolri, is often called "the bride of Kangchenjunga." It is a steep symmetrical peak that tilts slightly westward and is said by many to be the most beautiful peak in the whole Himalayan range. It is considered to be the abode of the god Jomo Lhari. The sacred peak was first climbed by a joint Indo-Bhutanese expedition in 1970. The first team left a sanctified Buddha image on the summit. The second team from the same expedition disappeared when a sudden storm completely enveloped the mountain. Climbing is no longer allowed on the mountain. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 8: Hike up the rocky path to Nyle La ('La' means pass) at 15,600 feet and descend on a trail along a long moraine toward Lingsi Dzong. Large herds of bharal (goat-antelopes) are common in this area. Tseri Kang mountain and its descending glaciers are at the north end of the valley. Camp is at Lingshi (13,000 feet). The hike today includes approximately 2,500 feet of uphill and 2,700 feet of downhill hiking. Distance: 13 miles. Walking Time: 5 to 6 hours. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 9: Stay over at Lingshi. Visit Lingshi Dzong, a 16th Century fortress still used as an administrative office today. Day hike to Tshoke Lake (14,760 feet) base camp of Jichu Drake. Wildlife includes blue sheep and musk deer. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 10: Turn south from Lingshi and ascend to the 16,200 foot Yali La, the highest pass of the trek. If the weather is clear there will be excellent views of Chomolhari, Tserim Gang and Masa Gang. Camp is at Shodu (13,000 feet). Distance: 14 miles. Walking Time: 8 or 9 hours. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 11: Follow the Thim-chu (river) through rhododendron, bamboo and pine forests. Many fine water falls along the way. The camp is just below Barshong Dzong, another ruined fortress. Distance: 10 miles. Walking Time: 5 to 6 hours. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 12: Descending gradually through a forest of thicker rhododendrons we enter the pasture lands. Camp in a beautiful large meadow with flowers at 11,900 feet. Distance: 5 miles. Walking Time: 5 to 6 hours. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 13: Climbing up-hill to a small pass, the trail winds up and down along the drainage. Langur monkeys will probably be seen. These small gray monkeys have distinctive black faces and live in troops of as many as fifty. Although they are a threat to crops they are considered sacred and not killed.
At Dodina we meet our ground transportation for transfer to Thimpu (7,900 feet). Overnight at our local hotel in Thimphu. Distance: 9 miles. Walking Time: 4 to 5 hours. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 14: Time for sightseeing and shopping in Thimphu, the picturesque capital of Bhutan and then transportation back to Paro to overnight at our guest house. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 15: Transfer to the international airport for your scheduled departure flight from Paro¹. We can assist with any additional overnight needs or other requests you might have while in Bangkok, Kathmandu or New Delhi on request. (Breakfast)
Scheduled Dates: Bhutan Cholmolhari Trek — October 4 – 18, 2015, from Paro.
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