Jumolhari – Yaksa Trek: Part 1, Bhutan’s Highlands

Waking up to a gorgeous view of Mt. Jumolhari outside our tent gave us a hint of what spectacular mountain views we’d have on the rest of our trek in Bhutan.

Mt. Jumolhari is the second highest mountain in Bhutan at 7326 m. We did an 8-day trek in Jigme Dorgi National Park which took us to the base of Jumolhari and over several high-altitude mountain passes. In Bhutan you are required to hire a guide for your entire stay, including the trek. We were accompanied on the trek by a guide, chef, assistant and a horseman with 7 horses carrying all the gear including tables, chairs, a dinning tent and a toilet tent! It’s not our usual style of trekking, but the delicious meals our chef was able to create in a tent, at altitude really impressed us.

Horse carrying loads on the trek
Horse carrying loads on the trek

The trek started at the small village of Drugyal, 2300m, where there is an old fortress built in 1654.

Drugyal Dzong (Fortress)
Drugyal Dzong (Fortress)
Traditional Bhutanese architecture, including phallus symbol on the wall.
Traditional Bhutanese architecture, including phallus symbol on the wall.
Two Bhutanese women going on a pilgrimage
Two Bhutanese women going on a pilgrimage
Traditional Bhutanese architecture
Traditional Bhutanese architecture

We trekked for 3 days along the Paro Chhu and then Paa Chhu (Rivers), first on a dirt road and then a rocky trekking path. The trail slowly climbed 1700 m to reach Jumolhari Base Camp at 4090 m. The river valleys were broad and filled with birch, pine, willow and rhododendron trees and gave us beautiful glimpses of the surrounding high mountain peaks.

Mossy forest
Mossy forest
Pine forest
Pine forest

We passed small villages of potato farmers and as we got higher they became small hamlets of yak herders.

Traditional Bhutanese architecture
Traditional Bhutanese architecture
Paro valley
Paro valley
Village kids along the Paro Valley
Village kids along the Paro Valley
Traditional Bhutanese architecture
Traditional Bhutanese architecture
Yak herder
Yak herder
Yaks grazing
Yaks grazing

There were also many Buddhist chortens (stupas), mani walls and player flags along the trail. Mani walls have a mantra etched in to them and must be passed on your right side. The trail eventually brought us above tree-line and the huge peaks came into view.

Buddhist Chorten at fork of Paa and Paro Chhus(Rivers)
Buddhist Chorten at fork of Paa and Paro Chhu (Rivers)
Chorten on the trail
Chorten on the trail
Mani Wall on the trail
Mani Wall on the trail
Camp 2, ThangThankgkha
Camp 2, ThangThankgkha

Arriving at Jumolhari Base Camp (also called Jangothang) we were treated to an amazing view of this majestic peak.

Jumolhari Base Camp (Jangothang)
Jumolhari Base Camp (Jangothang)
View from Jumolhari Base Camp
View from Jumolhari Base Camp
Breakfast at Base Camp (Jangothang)
Breakfast at Base Camp (Jangothang)

Jangothang means land of ruins. This camp is located at the site of an ancient castle ruin. The legend is that the king wanted a mountain to be cut down so he could get an earlier sunrise. His subjects instead decided it was easier to cut off his head, so they did, and abandoned his castle.

Jumolhari and Castle Ruins
Jumolhari and Castle Ruins
Jumolhari with Castle Ruins and Buddhist Chortens
Jumolhari with Castle Ruins and Buddhist Chortens

Basecamp is surrounded by many spectacular, high elevation peaks. We spent 2 extra days here so we could explore the area more and to help acclimatize. We hiked to the top of a mountain close to camp where we had incredible views of the peaks down the valley. On our way up, we saw a dozen blue sheep that are similar to Rocky Mountain Sheep. We also saw many Golden Eagles soaring overhead and a couple of Hill Partridges.

Blue Sheep
Blue Sheep
View from acclimatization trek
View from acclimatization trek
Acclimatization trek
Acclimatization trek
View of camp on acclimatization trek
View of camp on acclimatization trek

From the summit we had a full view of Jumolhari and its moraine lakes and we got a glimpse of Mt. Jichu Drakey that we’d see more of the next day. Read about this in Part 2 (coming soon).

Mt Jumolhari and its moraine lakes
Mt Jumolhari and its moraine lakes
View from acclimatization trek
View from acclimatization trek
View from Acclimatization trek
View from Acclimatization trek

For details to climb this trek click on Jumolhari Laksa Trek or find it under Treks.

For extra pics from this trip go to Gallery/Bhutan. For extra pictures from other blogs go to Gallery at monkeystale.ca Click on a picture to view it as a slide show.

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4 thoughts on “Jumolhari – Yaksa Trek: Part 1, Bhutan’s Highlands

  1. Maggie and Richard, these pictures are fantastic. It hard to imagine people living as they do. Canadians are so spoiled and have too much.

    Like

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