The Jhomolhari Trek

 

The Jhumolhari  Trek takes you from 2,600m up to 4,000m and even 5,224m if you choose and is the most popular route taken.  This is partly because of its access to Paro and Thimphu and the fact that it is of moderate difficulty.  In addition, the duration of the trek is ideal for most visitors.  There are several variations of the route but a trek to Jhumolhari can last from 7 nights to 9 nights and offers flexibility in tour itineraries.
The chance to trek to the base of the impressive Jhumolhari mountain, the beautiful campsites and the amazing views of Jichu Drakey, Jho Drakey, Tshering-Gang and Masang –Gang are the other reasons why this  trek deserves its reputation.

The Trekking Route Options
Jhumolhari Trek  1
7 nights/8 days (alternative route 6 nights/7 days) including one day at Jhumolhari base camp.   This trek takes you to the base camp and then returns to Paro via the Bhonte-La pass (4,890m) along a more easterly route.  A highlight is the section of trek along a high ridge, overlooking two valleys and surrounded by high peaks.
Alternatively, after reaching the base camp and spending two nights there, you retrace your steps to Paro following the river.  Taking this route, the highest altitude reached is 4,000m at the base camp itself.  This is still a decent hike but you can take your time and enjoy the scenery en route.  It can be done by any reasonably fit person of any age.

Jhumolhari Trek 2
9 nights/10 days, including one acclimatization day at Jhumolhari base camp and a day’s halt at Lingshi.  This route takes you over the 4,890 metre Nyile-La and on to Lingshi Dzong (4,370m) before turning in the direction of Thimphu via another high pass.  This is an excellent, challenging trek with great views of the high peaks.  Depending on weather conditions, yaks take over from ponies for the journey beyond the base camp.  The trek ends in a valley near Thimphu.  Since the route between Shodu and Barshong is quite tough because of stony trails, the alternative Jhumolhari trek is, perhaps, more frequently trekked.

Jhumolhari Trek 1

Day 1   Drukgyel Dzong, Paro-Shana
Altitude                       : 2,500m/2,820m
Total Altitude Gain : 320 m
Duration          : 5 hrs
Distance           :           15 km
Level of Difficulty  : Easy
Starting from Drukgyel Dzong, the Fortress that once guarded the Paro Valley against Tibetan invaders, the first day is a pleasant walk following the left side of the Pachu river.  The farm road serves as the trek route and passes through a number of very small villages with traditional houses, rice and vegetable fields to the left and right of the trail.
After about an hour’s walk, the farm road ends at Mitzi-Zampa.  Crossing a bridge to the right side of the river, the trail climbs very gradually for another hour through the trees to Zakhapang (2,600m), where a nice lunch break spot in an open and clean space is found.  There is a small shop selling basic necessities for the locals.
After lunch , the trek continues through blue pine forests, following the river closely.  Gunyitsawa army forests, following the river closely.  Gunyitsawa army outpost appears not long before the end of the first day’s trek.  The campsite at Shana, just beyond, is situated at an altitude of 2,820m in a beautiful open space surrounded by blue pine forest.  Two traditional houses on the other side of the wide, fast-flowing river make up Shana village.

Day 2   Shana-Soi Thangthangka
Altitude            :           2,820m/3,580m
Total Altitude gain       :           760m
Duration          :           8 hrs
Distance           :           16 km
Level of Difficulty       :           Long but not difficult.  Muddy and bumpy path.
This is the longest trekking day, taking eight hours to reach the campsite.  The trail continues to follow the river gradually ascending through a mixed forest of blue pine and oak and , later in the afternoon, tall rhododendron trees, birch, fir and maple.  Though the trail is rocky and bumpy, it is not strenuous but in rainy conditions it can be quite muddy.  There are several simple wooden bridges to cross and sometimes the river reaches right up to the trail.  The lunch break comes after about 4 hours of walking  through an ever-narrowing valley: Shing Karap or Thombu-zam are popular stopping places at around 3,305m.
Several trails lead in other directions, such as the trail to Tremo Lo, which was the old salt-trading route to Tibet.  Not long before reaching the campsite the trail leads up a ridge with a chorten (stupa).  Beyond, in the distance, at the end of the valley the Jhumolhari mountain comes into view.  Finally, after an 8-hour walk, you reach the campsite.
The campsite is located in a spacious clearing and directly faces Mount Jhumolhari.  The view of the early morning sun striking the tip of Jhumolhari is breathtaking.  Mount Jhumolhari, at 7326m, is among the world’s highest mountains.

Day 3   Soi Thangthangka-Jangothang
Altitude            :           3580m/4,000m
Total altitude gain        :           420m
Duration          :           4 hours
Distance           :           11 km
Level of Difficulty       :           Short and easy
The third day’s trek is a short one and so it is possible to set off a little later and progress at a leisurely pace.  When you reach the army outpost, you are required to stop and register your entry permits issued by the army headquarters in Thimphu.  This matter will be taken care of by your guide.
The Pachu river is again to the right and the trail passes through some very small villages made up of two or three houses each: these are called Jomphu, Tegithang and a little furtheron, Dotabithang.  By now, at an altitude of 3,860m, the path has reached above the tree line.
In less than 4 hours, it is possible to reach Jangothang, the Jhumolhari base camp, just in time for lunch.  A small community hall has been built out of stone and wood to provide protection from the elements.   The cooking can be done inside and all the trekking gear can be stored here.
The altitude at the base camp is 4,000m and is a beautiful place to spend the night.  The imposing, rounded bulk of the Jhumolhari mountain fills the view of the Northeast and in the evening the profile of the ruined Jangothang Dzong, populated by huge raves creates a mystical atmosphere.
Apparently, a proud king once ruled this area from the Dzong.  Myth has it that the king had instructed his subjects to raze one of the mountains to the ground because it was blocking the sunlight.  In a meeting to discuss how this Herculean task was to be achieved, an old lady suggested that it would be simpler to chop off the head of the king rather than the top of the mountain.  Thus, the deed was carried out.

This area is rich in bird life.  Birds sighted en route include the Fire-tailed Sunbird, Ibisbill, White-throated Dipper, Yellow-billed Chough, Rosy Pipit, Snow Pigeon, Blue-fronted Redstart, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Blood Pheasant, Snow Partridge and many more.

Day 4 Jangothang – Halt
Today is a day to rest and acclimatize to the altitude.  The body also needs time to adjust to the falling temperatures, especially during the night.
There is an opportunity to explore the valley and enjoy wonderful views of the mountains.  A 1 hour trek a little further up the valley to the right of the campsite takes you to a point from where you can view the majestic, cone-shapped Jichu Drakey piercing the clear blue sky.  Jichu Drakey cannot fail to remind you of the Matterhorn from this perspective.  It is a sight of behold! Many rank this as the most beautiful mountain in Bhutan.  An hour’s leisurely trek will take you to the twin lakes of Tshophu.  For those taking the Lingshi variation of the trek, this day trek is important.
An alternative 4 ½ hour excursion for the fitter trekker is to the viewpoint at 5,244m, a climb of more than 1000 m.  this view point, located between the two glacier tongues of the Jhumolhari massif affords spectacular views of the Jhumolhari and the Kungphu peak (6,789) in the North, as well as Masang-Gang (7,194) and other peaks all over 5,000 m to the east.
This is the furthest point reached by those opting for the shortest Jhumolhari trekking route.  From Day 5 to Day 7 they will retrace their steps to Drukgyel Dzong in Paro, staying at the same campsites or at other optional stopping points on the same route.
The routes taken by Trek 1 and Trek 2 also diverge from this point.  We will first cover the shorter route taken on Trek 1, via Dhumzo to Paro and then look at the other option to go on, via Lingshi, to Thimphu in Trek 2.

Day 5   Jangothang – Dhumzo/Soi Yaktsa
Altitude :          4,000m/3,730m
Total Altitude loss: 270m
Duration          :           7 hours
Distance           :           16 km
Level of Difficulty:      Strenuous
The day’s hike is the most difficult on this shorter version of the trek.  It starts by having to make a continuous one-hour climb to the twin lakes of Tshophu located at an altitude of 4,310m.  these two beautiful lakes are surrounded on both sides by rocky cliffs and they reflect the two peaks of Jhumolhari to the left and the beautiful Jichu Drakey to the right.  The sight is breath-taking.  From this point on you can expect to see the black yak’s hair tents belonging to the nomadic yak-herders that live in this area.
Following the left side of the lakes, the steep climb continues taking the trekker up to the top of the ridge.  Ruddy Shelducks and Common Mergansers are sure to be sighted swimming and wading along the shores of the lakes in which huge trout are said to be abundant.  This is also the territory of Blue Sheep with massive horns who graze in large groups of 70 or more.  Many sightings of the elusive Snow Leopard have been reported from this area.
Almost 4 hours of steady climbing brings you to the top of Bontey-La at an altitude of 4,760m.  This is the highest point on this trek route and the view is breathtaking.  One more hour of downhill trekking brings you to Laptsa, a good place to stop for lunch.
From here the trek is downhill all the way with beautiful mountain scenery to enjoy.  The rocky face of the cliffs that rise almost 1,000m would make for great rock-climbing.
Seven hours after the trek began you will arrive at the campsite which is located just beyond the delightful village of Soi Yaktsa at an altitude of 3,730m.  The ladies from the village come in the evening to sell local handicraft items, milk, dried yak’s meat and a variety of vegetables.

Day 6   Dhumzo/Soi Yaktsa – Thombu
Altitude            :           3730m/4,070m
Total Altitude gain:      340m
Duration:         6 hours
Distance           :           11 km
Level of Difficulty :     Difficult
The route today is through a nice wooded area.  For a while, only a gentle ascent is made through alpine meadows.  Once the climb to the Thombu-La begins, the climb begins to get more strenuous.  The pass is reached about 5 hours later.  The altitude here is 4,410m.  Lunch is often taken just before reaching the top of the pass, at an altitude of 4,240m, where there is a cozy yak-herder’s camp to provide shelter from the chill outside.
One hour downhill from the Thombu-La is the campsite at Thombu Shong (4,070m).  The campsite is situated in a beautiful valley where you will see two yak-herder’s dwellings built out of stone, with a wooden shingle roof.  You can still see the Thombu-La peak to the rear of the camp.
Yaks graze in this valley  that stretches endlessly into the mountains beyond the campsite.  The Jho Drakey mountain is located to the left and can be seen if you trek up the mountain ridge to the left and right side of the campsite.

Day 7 Thombu Shong-Shana/Zakhapang
Altitude            :           4,070m/2,600m
Totoal Altitude loss:    1,470 m
Duration :        7 hours
Distance           :           12 km
Level of Difficulty : Difficult
Other than a short 45 minute climb at the beginning, the day’s trek is downhill all the way.  The trail follows a ridge affording great views of the valleys on either side and a wonderful view of Jho Drakey.   A steep descent of 2-3 hours then follows.
The trek route reaches full circle at the army outpost of Gunyitsawa.  It is reached about 5-6 hours after setting out in the morning.  At 2,800m, the day’s walk sees a dramatic drop of 1,270 m.
Trekkers can camp again at the same campsite as the first night in Shana or continue a little further downstream.  A short 2-hour walk brings you to another possible camp site called Zakhapang, at an altitude of 2,600m.  Trekking as far as here would make the final day’s walk a short one.

Day 8  Shana/Zakhapang-Drukgyel Dzong, Paro
Altitude            :           2,600 m/2,500m
Total Altitude Loss:     100 m
Duration : 2 ½ - 3 hours
Distance :         10km
Level of Difficulty       :           Easy
On the final day you will trace your footsteps back from Shana or Zakhapang along the Pachu river to Drugyel Dzong.

Jhumolhari Trek 2
Day 1-4 Drukgyel Dzong, Paro – Jangothang and Halt as in Trek 1.

Day 5   Jangothang-Lingshi
Altitude : 4,000m/3915m
Total altitude loss        85 m
Duration          : 5-6 hours
Distance           :           12 km
Level of Difficulty:      Strenuous
Depending on the conditions, yaks will replace ponies on this section of the trek to Lingshi.  As you climb steeply above the base camp and into an area of glacial moraine, the views of Jichu Drakey and Jhumolhari change along with your perspective.  A steep and steady climb, sometimes through snow, brings you to the Nylie-La pass at 4,890m.
From the top of the windy pass enjoy the 380 degree view.  Tshering Gang (6,789) also comes into full view.  If you have yaks and snow, the image of the yaks zig sagging down the other side, towards Lingshi, black against white is striking to see.

Day 6 Lingshi – Halt
Lingshi Dzong stands, impressively isolated, on a promontory.  It is the administrative centre of the region and a very small population of monks is based here.  It used to be an important fortress protecting the main trading and communication route between western Bhutan and old Tibet.  Built around 1668 it experienced many raids and sieges by Tibetan invaders and was partly destroyed by an earthquake in 1897.
There is also a plant nursery at Lingshi, established by the Institute for Traditional Medicine to grow high-altitude plants for use in medicines and dyes.
It is recommended to make a day’s halt at Lingshi to explore the area, take time to spot and photograph blue sheep, birds and the wild mountainous scenery.  The route to Laya continues in a northerly direction from Lingshi.  The Jhumolhari trek turns south towards Shodu, following the Mo chu valley.

Day 7 Lingshi-Shodu
Altitude            :           4,000m/3,815m
Total altitude loss        :           185 m
Duration          :           6-7 hours
Distance           :           19 km
Level of Difficulty       :           Long and difficult

The trail to Shodu starts with a climb towards a chorten on a ridge opposite the camp and into the Mo-chu valley.  After crossing the river the ascent towards the Yele-La (4,950m) begins.  It takes 2-3 hours to reach the pass from where there are views of the snowy peaks of Jhumolhari, Gang-Chenta, Tshering-Gang and Masang-Gang.  In places the paths are sometimes quite narrow and cut into the rock face.  At Jimenameshing there are many large boulders and switchbacks.  Many people find this route quite difficult because of the rocks, boulders and pebbles.
After a tiring day’s ascent, the descent to the campsite in a meadow at Shodu (3,815m) is quite short.  Since this is the main trail to Thimphu, you may meet other Bhutanese travelers en route or at the camp.

Day 8  Shodu-Barshong
Altitude            :           3,815m/3,685m
Total altitude loss:       130 m
Duration:         5-6 hours
Distance:          16 km
Level of Difficulty:      Moderate and Pleasant

The river that you are now following is the Thimphu-chu and you will stick closely to the river all day, criss-crossing back and forth over log bridges and passing through an area with steep rock faces and beautiful waterfalls.  After crossing to the left bank, the trail then ascends towards the ruins of Barshong Dzong (3720).  The campsite is here but, since it is quite muddy and steep, another campsite called Domshisa, 1 to 1 ½ hours further down, near a river, is a popular option.

Day 9 Barshong – Dolam Kencho
Altitude:           3,685m/3,428 m
Total altitude loss        :           257 m
Duration:         5-6 hours
Distance :         15 km
Level of Difficulty :     Moderate
The trail starts with a gentle descent and passes through a dense forest of rhododendron, birch and conifer trees.  It then gets quite steep and the trail is very rocky, with many steep cliffs above you.  Again you are following the Thimphu-chu and there are several ridges and streams to cross during the day.  At one point the river makes a very sharp turn south.  The trail to the right leads you towards the campsite, opening into pasture land as you approach Dolam Kencho (3,428m).

Day 10  Dolam Kencho – Thimphu

Altitude : 3,428m/2,600m
Total Altitude loss:      828m
Duration:         3 hours
Distance :         8 km
Level of Difficulty : Moderate and short
The final day’s trek is not all downhill but rather it twists and turns and rises and falls, following the Thimphu-chu most of the time.  At points the river is far below you.  After reaching a pass at 3,510 m the descent then starts towards Dodena.  Again, there are some very steep cliffs and beautiful mixed forests of rhododendron, bamboo and conifer.
After about 3 hours you emerge at Dodina, and the black topped road.  To your right, is a traditional Bhutanese bridge.  Far above to the right as you emerge from the trail is Cheri Goenpa and the many meditation huts around it.  They are literally perched and dug into the steep mountainside.  Cheri Goenpa is one of the premier centres of meditation.  Tango Goempa, which is located high on the mountain to the left is a major centre of monastic learning.
The drive back to Thimphu from Dodena now takes about 45 minutes, past villages and farms.  Just after crossing the bridge by the Bhutan Power Corporation workshop, there is a large Chorten (stupa).  You can also see a prayer-wheel turned by a watermill and a huge, beautiful painting of Guru Rimpoche on a rock face.

Out Services:
The support team usually consists of a qualified trekking guide, a cook, and a number of assistants depending on the number of trekkers.  A variety of Bhutanese and international dishes are served on treks. 
The ponies and yaks used on treks are accompanied by their owners, who go ahead of the group so that camp is already set up by the time you arrive.
We provide a dining tent, toilet tent, dome or A-frame sleeping tents (twin-sharing), mattress, foldable tables and chairs, plates and cutlery and a washing bowl with hot water for a morning wash.  Basic First Aid Kit is also provided.
Guests are required to bring their own sleeping bags, suitable for sub-zero temperatures.