Exploring the outer reaches of Bhutan’s High Himalayas
This is the most difficult trek in Bhutan! The official snowman trek starts in Paro, and leads via Lingshi and Laya to the remote Lunana in northern Bhutan. From there you can either reutn to the lateral road at Nikka Chhu, or continue to Bumthang. Description.
If you start from Paro, then it is about 24 days, including a rest day in Laya. You can cut off a few days by starting in Punakha; then it is minimally 19 days. We took 20 days from Punakha, including a rest day in Laya (better is to rest at Rodenphu), and Thanza. The last night we slept at the road in Nikka Chhu, you could save a day by driving back to Thimphu right away.
This is a true high altitude trek: from Laya on you stay continuously above 4000m. If you leave from Paro, then you already reach 4000 at Jomolhari basecamp.
Gangla Karchung La, 5230m; Jaze La, 5251 m; Loju La, 5155m; Rinchenzoe La, 5332m.
Tshochena, 4975m; Jichhu Dramo, 5060m.
This trek is not for the weak! Although individual day treks are not difficult, you are in the field for about 3 weeks, far from anywhere. Once you have passed Laya, there is no going back. If you get stuck in, say, Thanza, it is a long way out!
Kids in Thanza (Lunana)
If you decide to walk in one day from Thanza to Tshochena, it will take you 8-9 hours, climbing about 1200m from 4000 up to 5250 m. Therefore, it is better to stay overnight at Dhamji. If you do, then the longest day is the one from Jichhu Dramo to Chukarpo – about 8 hours, if you walk down a bit from Chhukarpo to the better campsite.
The window for good trekking on the Snowman Trek is extremely small: the only time you have a chance of good weather is the first 3 weeks of October. Although the official season extends longer, if you go at any other time, you’ll either get very wet, snowed in, or both. We started on October 1 from Punakha, and had great weather. We even didn’t see any leaches.
For a complete trail description see Bhutan: a trekker’s guide, or a shorter description in Lonely Planet’s Bhutan Travel Survival Kit.