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Snowman trek KANDOO | Snowman Trek
Kandoo Adventures: June 1st 2020

Plan your trek on the Snowman trail

Kandoo's View

Apart from climbing Aconcagua, this is the toughest trip Kandoo operates. It regularly wins the title of the toughest trek in the world. To give you an idea of how tough it is, there are more Everest summiteers each year than trekkers who complete the Snowman trail. 

Three things combine to make this an awesome challenge. It is a long trip: 18 days of walking every day is very hard on the body. Staying well by eating properly and staying fully hydrated is critical. Second, although you will be walking not climbing, the paths are very difficult. Finally to add to the difficulty, it crosses eleven passes over 4500m and you are above 4000m for nearly the whole of the trek.

The trail runs all the way along the border of Bhutan with Tibet. Apart from the occasional military outpost the only signs of other people you will see are yak herders, isolated farming settlements and the occasional monastery. For those who do take on this trek the rewards are as great as the challenge. There are great views of the high peaks Chomolhari, Jichu Drake, Masangang, Tiger Mountain and Gangkar Puensum.

This is a truly classic adventure for the toughest Kandooer with previous experience of long distance trekking at high altitude.

The Snowman trek is subject to closure because of snow and is almost impassible during winter. The recommended season for this trek is March-May and September-November.

We only offer the Snowman trek as a private tour.

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Snowman Trek visiting Gangkar Puensum - Kandoo Adventures Route Profile

Detailed itinerary

Day 1Arrival

The flight to Paro on a clear day is one of the most spectacular of all mountain flights. One can see Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and other peaks in Bhutan such as Chomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tsering Ghang. The Kandoo team will meet you at the airport and transfer you to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. The journey takes around 2 hours and leads through the Paro valley to the confluence of the Paro and Thimphu rivers at Chuzom. If time permits we will visit the King's Memorial Chorten, continuously circumambulated by people, murmuring mantras and spinning their prayer wheels. Construction of this landmark was the idea of Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (“the father of modern Bhutan”). Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it serves both as a memorial to the late King and as a monument to peace.

Later you will attend a pre-trek briefing with your Lead Guide to prepare you for the challenge ahead. We will spend the night at a hotel in Thimphu.

  • Elevation: From 2250 metres to 2350 metres
  • Driving distance: 55 kilometres
  • Drive time: 2 hours
Day 2Cultural Tour of Thimphu, drive to Punakha

Today we will take a tour of Bhutan’s capital city. We begin with a visit to the National Library, which holds a vast collection of ancient Buddhist texts and manuscripts, some dating back several hundred years, as well as modern academic books on Himalayan culture and religion. Next we will visit the nearby Institute for Zorig Chusum, commonly known as the Arts & Crafts School. The Institute offers a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan and during the visit, we can see students learning the various skills taught at the school. We then take a drive towards city centre to visit the Textile museum and Folk Heritage Museum. These museums, both of which opened in 2001, provide fascinating insights into Bhutanese material culture and way of life. (Please note both the National Library and the Institute for Zorig Chusum are closed at weekends and government holidays, and the Textile Museum in closed on Sundays and government holidays).

We finish our tour with a sightseeing visit to Trashichhoe Dzong, “the fortress of the glorious religion”.  This impressive monastery and fortress has housed the seat of Bhutan's government since 1968, the throne room of His Majesty the King and various government offices. It is also the summer residence of the Chief Abbot and central monk body.

Later in the afternoon we will drive to Punakha via the Dochu La Pass (3,088m), through magnificent forest of rhododendron and magnolia. From the pass, there is a far-reaching view of the eastern Himalayan peaks and the Lunana trekking route. 

  • Elevation: From 2350 metres to 1600 metres
  • Highest point: 3088 metres (Dochu La Pass)
  • Drive time: 4-5 hours
Day 3Cultural tour of Punakha Dzong, drive to Gasa

This morning we will take a guided tour of the Punakha Dzong, the second largest dzong in Bhutan. Built strategically at the confluence of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it serves as the religious and administrative centre of the region. After lunch, we will drive up the valley, following the Mo Chu river to the village of Gasa Tshachu, famous for the curative powers of its hot springs.  We will camp overnight here.

  • Elevation: From 1600 metres to 2570 metres
Day 4Gasa to Chamsa

This morning we start our trek climbing up through thick sub-tropical forest to the village of Chamsa.

  • Elevation: From 2570 metres to 2900 metres
  • Trekking distance: 10 kilometres
  • Trek time: 3-5 hours
Day 5Chamsa to Laya

The trail descends to the bank of the Mo Chhu river. After crossing the river, we have lunch by the bridge. From here it is a gradual climb up to Laya, passing by an army camp en route, to our overnight campsite.  The Laya people are very friendly and will happily pose for photographs with you in their native dress. 

  • Elevation: 2900 metres to 3840 metres
  • Trekking distance: 20 kilometres
  • Trek time: 7-8 hours



Day 6Laya to Rhodophu

From Laya, we descend, passing by the army camp once again and continuing to follow the river. After lunch, we continue climbing upwards through rhododendrons until we reach a hanging valley where there are often yaks grazing. We will camp here by the river.

  • Elevation: From 3840 metres to 4350 metres
  • Trekking distance: 19 kilometres
  • Trek time: 8-9 hours



Day 7Acclimatisation day at Rhoduphu

Today we will take a hike up to higher altitude to help our acclimatisation for our big push tomorrow as we climb up to higher altitude. 

Day 8Rhodophu to Narethang

Today we climb up to Tsimola La Pass (4,700m). After crossing the pass and summit we will have superb views of Lunana and the peaks of Mt. Chomolhari and Mt. Jichu Drake. We continue to ascend up to 4900 metres to Narethang where we will camp for the night. Tomorrow morning we will start our climb up to Ganglakarchung La Pass, at 5100 metres this will be the highest point of our trek so far.

  • Elevation: From 4350 metres to 4900 metres
  • Trekking distance: 17 kilometres
  • Trek time: 5-7 hours
Day 9Narethang to Tarina

We will walk over fairly level ground before starting the climb up to Ganglakarchung La Pass (5100m).  The view from the trail is breath-taking, a panorama of mountain peaks rising over 7000 metres, including Masagang and Tsendegang. This is arguably one of Bhutan's most stunning mountain viewpoints so make sure you have your camera at the ready.  After crossing the pass we start our long descent down to the Tarina valley and much welcome lower altitudes.

  • Elevation: From 4900 metres to 3980 metres
  • Highest point: 5100 metres (Ganglakarchung La Pass)
  • Trekking distance: 18 kilometres
  • Trek time: 5 -7 hours
Day 10Tarina to Woche

The path descends through coniferous forests, following the upper reaches of the Pho Chhu river. The trail then climbs over a ridge and drops to Woche at 3,800m, the first village of Lunana.

  • Elevation: From 3980 metres to 3800 metres
  • Trekking distance: 17 kilometres
  • Trek time: 6-7 hours
Day 11Woche to Lhedi

Today’s trek begins with a walk through juniper and fir forests and further ahead through rhododendron bushes. We climb up to the Keche La Pass (4,480m) and pause to enjoy the wonderful mountain views. After the pass, we descend to a river, with stunning views of Table Mountain and other peaks en route. We walk upstream along this river, which is one of the main tributaries of the Pho Chu river, as far as Lhedi village, where we camp overnight.

  • Elevation: 3800 metres to 3650 metres
  • Highest point: 4480 metres (Keche La Pass)
  • Trekking distance: 17 kilometres
  • Trek time: 6-7 hours
Day 12Lhedi to Thanza

The route continues to follow the river, rising gradually to Choejong village (the largest village in Lunana) where we stop for lunch. After lunch, we visit the village temple before continuing on our trek until we meet the river again, which we cross by a suspension bridge. Soon we reach our campsite at Thanza, the second largest village in Lunana.

  • Elevation: 3650 metres to 4000 metres
  • Trekking distance: 17 kilometres
  • Trek time: 7-8 hours



Day 13Acclimatisation at Thanza

A welcome day of leisure, for relaxing, reading, catching up with the washing, or just strolling around. If you are feeling really energetic, you can climb up to the ridge for yet another splendid view of the mountains.

  • Elevation: 4000 metres


Day 14Thanza to Tshorim

Today our trek starts with a climb up to the ridge, from where there is a great view of Table Mountain and Thanza valley below. We cross the ridge, and enter a small valley with a stream running through it. We continue to follow the stream up the valley, enjoying the view of snow-capped mountains, and have lunch near a crossing point. We then climb up out of the valley, crossing some small ridges to reach our campsite at Tshorim.

  • Elevation: From 4000 metres to 5125 metres
  • Trekking distance: 19 kilometres
  • Trek time: 8-9 hours
Day 15Tshorim to Gangkar Puensum Base Camp

Today’s trek is one of the highlights of the trip. The day starts with a short climb up to the Tshorim Lake. We walk around the side of the lake, enjoying the panoramic view of the Guphola ranges before climbing up to the final stretch, the Gupho La Pass (5,230m) which is very short. After crossing the pass, we descend to the base camp, walking along the ridge and enjoying a great view of Gangkar Puensum. Depending on how you are feeling, we can detour left and climb up a pyramid shaped peak for a better view, or we can go directly to Base Camp (4,970m) near the Sha Chhu river, where we will set up the camp.

  • Elevation: 5125 metres to 4970 metres
  • Highest point: 5230 metres (Gupho La Pass)
  • Trekking distance: 16 kilometres
  • Trek time: 6-7 hours
Day 16Gangkar Puensum Base Camp to Geshe Woma

The trek continues to follow the Sha Chhu river, descending gradually to Geshe Woma where we camp for the night.

  • Elevation: 4970 metres to 4200 metres
  • Trekking distance: 14 kilometres
  • Trek time: 6-7 hours


Day 17Geshe Woma to Warathang

The path continues along the course of the Sha Chhu river for two and half hours until we begin the stiff climb to Saka La. We stop for lunch near a yak herder’s camp, then climb up to Saka La Pass (4,800m). We can take in the stunning views on the descent to the lakes before another short ascent takes us across the Warathang La Pass (4,590m). The scenery once again is stunning. We finally descend once more to our campsite at Warathang.

  • Elevation: From 4200 metres to 4000 metres
  • Highest point: 4800 metres (Saka La Pass)
  • Trekking distance: 18 kilometres
  • Trek time: 8-9 hours


Day 18Warathang to Dur Tshachu

A short half-hour climb takes us up to Uli La Pass (4,400m). After crossing the pass we descend to the riverside through dense rhododendron, juniper and conifer forests. We then cross a bridge and after a short climb reach the hot springs at Dur Tshachu, where legend has it that Guru Padsambhava bathed in the 8th century.

  • Elevation: 4000 metres to 3950 metres
  • Highest point: 4400 metres (Uli La Pass)
  • Trekking distance: 14 kilometres
  • Trek time: 5-6 hours


Day 19Dur Tshachu to Tshochenchen

From the spring, it is a long and steady climb blessed with great views of the mountains of Lunana. First we cross the Gokthong La Pass (4,650m) before descending to several beautiful deep blue lakes at 4220m, with yaks grazing on the surrounding pastures, and yak herders’ camp. We then ascend the second pass, Jule La Pass (4,700m), before our final descent to our camp at Tshochenchen.

  • Elevation: From 3950 metres to 3850 metres
  • Highest point: 4700 metres (Jule La Pass)
  • Trekking distance: 16 kilometres
  • Trek time: 8-9 hours
Day 20Tshochenchen to Gorsum

We trek downhill from Tshochenchen, following the Yoleng Chhu river through thick forests of cypress, spruce, juniper, maple and hemlock. A short climb brings us to our campsite at Gorsum.

  • Elevation: From 3850 metres to 3190 metres
  • Trekking distance: 27 kilometres
  • Trek time: 9-10 hours
Day 21Gorsum to Dur, drive to Bumthang

This is the last day of the trek where we change from yaks to pack ponies. We have to set off early in order to reach Bumthang before dark. The path follows the Chamkhar Chhu river, descending gradually with few climbs. The trek ends when we reach the village of Dur. From here, transport will pick us up and drive us to our lodge in Bumthang.

  • Elevation: From 3190 metres to 2650 metres
  • Trekking distance: 18 kilometres
  • Trek time: 6 hours
Day 22Cultural Tour of Bumthang

The Bumthang valley is the cultural heartland of the nation. The hills around the valley are filled with monasteries dedicated to Guru Padsambhava. The valley is also the ancestral home of the great Buddhist teacher, Pema Linga, from whose descendants the present monarchy traces its origin. We spend time exploring the valley, visiting Jakar Dzong, Kurje Lhakhang, Jambey Lhakhang and Tamshing Lhakhang, before returning to our lodge for the night.

  • Elevation: 2650 metres
Day 23Fly from Bumthang to Paro

Today we fly from Bumthang to Paro.  We will have free time today to rest and relax at our hotel.

  • Elevation: 2650 metres to 2250 metres
Day 24Cultural tour to Tiger's Nest Monastery

In the morning we will take an excursion to Taktshang Lhakhang, commonly known as 'The Tiger’s Nest Monastery'. Undoubtedly one of the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, the Taktshang monastery is one of the most breath-taking temples in the world. This Buddhist place of worship is perched on a cliff-top at around 3,110m (10,000ft) above sea level. The main temple complex was built in 1692, and is considered to be one of the holiest for the Bhutanese people. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche, an 8th-century Indian Buddhist master, arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery, thus the name ‘Tiger’s Nest’. The site has been recognized as a sacred place and was visited by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who was a Tibetan Buddhist Lama and the unifier of Bhutan as a nation-state and is now visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime. On 19 April, 1998, a fire severely damaged the main structure of building but now this Bhutanese jewel has been restored to its original splendour.  We start our steep climb up to the Tiger's Nest Monastery from the car park at 2600 metres; from here the monastery looks like a small white dot on the cliff.  As we ascend through rhododendron forests we will catch glimpses of the monastery.  At the half way point we take a short rest break and are rewarded with awesome views of the Tiger's Nest coming closer into view.  Another shorter steep climb and we reach the second viewpoint where the famous photographs of Taktshang Lkhang were taken.  We then descend down the stone steps to cross the narrow gorge before climbing up the other side to enter into the heart of the Tiger's Nest.  

After lunch we will visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. The building of this temple marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan. We will then drive to Drukgyel Dzong, a ruined fortress where Bhutanese warriors fought Tibetan invaders centuries ago. In the early 1950s, Drukgyel Dzong was almost completely destroyed by fire. It is now listed in Bhutan's Tentative List for UNESCO inclusion. In 2016, to celebrate the birth of His Royal Highness, The Gyalsey, as well as to commemorate two other significant events, namely the arrival of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel to Bhutan in 1616 AD and the birth year of Guru Rinpoche, the Prime Minister, Lyonchen Tshering Tobgay, announced that the Dzong will be rebuilt and reinstated to its former glory. The snowy dome of sacred Chomolhari (7326m), ‘the bride of Kangchenjunga', can be seen in all her glory from the approach road to the Dzong.

After our tours we will return to our hotel in Paro.

  • Elevation: From 2250 metres to 3110 metres to 2250 metres
Day 25Departure

We will collect you from your hotel and drive you to Paro airport for your departing flight to Kathmandu or Delhi.

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