Jumolhari Yaksa Trek: Part 2, Bhutan’s High passes

Bhutan is more beautiful than we had ever imagined. We did an 8-day trek through gorgeous steep valleys and past majestic mountain peaks in the Jigme Dorji National Park. The first 3 days took us to Jumolhari Base Camp (click here for Part 1). On our second acclimatization day at Jumolhari Base Camp we hiked to Nyili La (Pass), 4800 m. For details to climb this trek click on Jumolhari Laksa Trek or find it under Treks.

Paa Chhu River
Paa Chhu River
Last homestead below Mt Jichu Drakey
Last homestead below Mt Jichu Drakey
View from approach to Nyili La
View from approach to Nyili La

On the long plateau leading to the pass we saw dozens of yaks grazing, a few fuzzy marmots and 2 Tibetan cocks. On the final ascent to the pass we were passed by pack horse carrying loads.

View from acclimatization trek
View from acclimatization trek
Mt Jichu Drakey from acclimatization trek
Mt Jichu Drakey from acclimatization trek
Horses carrying loads near Nyili La
Horses carrying loads near Nyili La

Nyili La gave us spectacular views of snow-capped Mts. Jumolhari and Jichu Drakey side by side with Tshering Gong (Mt) on the other side of the pass.

View from Nyili La (Pass) of Mts Jumolhari and Jichu Drakey
View from Nyili La (Pass) of Mts Jumolhari and Jichu Drakey

Being this high meant that any precipitation would fall as snow. Every morning we had clear blue skies, but by early afternoon we had snow. The day we left Base Camp, the trail was covered in a thin layer of snow. We saw 2 sets of prints from 2 different snow leopards on the snow crossing our trail, they were most likely from earlier that morning. The trail took us past picturesque Tshophu Lake (4430 m). At the lake we saw a large Ruddy Shel Duck and behind us, one last beautiful view of Jumolhari and Jichu Drakey reflecting in the lake.

Tshophu Lake
Tshophu Lake
Ruddy Shel Duck and its reflection on Tshophu Lake
Ruddy Shel Duck and its reflection on Tshophu Lake
Mts Jumolhari and Jichu Drakey reflecting in Tshophu Lake
Mts Jumolhari and Jichu Drakey reflecting in Tshophu Lake

Above the lake was a large, snowy bowl surrounded by large peaks. If there was more snow, we’d want to ski there.

Approaching Bongtey La (Pass)
Approaching Bongtey La (Pass)

After crossing the snowy pass of Bongtey La, 4900, it was a steep descent down a snowy and then a grassy hill. The hill ended in a very steep rocky gorge that led to the valley bottom and our next camp, Yaksa (land of yaks).

Bongtey La (Pass)
Bongtey La (Pass)
View on the descent from Bongtey La
View on the descent from Bongtey La
Descending to Yaksa Camp
Descending to Yaksa Camp
Descending a rocky gorge to Yaksa Camp
Descending a rocky gorge to Yaksa Camp
View from Yaksa Camp
View from Yaksa Camp

That night we had a lot of wet, heavy snow and thought we may not be able to continue, but the next morning, the sun was shining, and it was decided that we could go. We hiked on a snowy and then muddy trail up a long, wide valley with dwarf rhododendron and juniper bushes to reach our next pass, Thombu La, 4550 m. Not far from camp we passed a yak farmer milking her yaks. They stayed in place because their horns with tied to a post.

Morning after a snowy night at Yaksa Camp
Morning after a snowy night at Yaksa Camp
Morning after a snowy night at Yaksa Camp
Morning after a snowy night at Yaksa Camp
View from Yaksa Camp
View from Yaksa Camp
Morning after a snow night at Yaksa Camp
Morning after a snow night at Yaksa Camp
Farmer milking her yaks
Farmer milking her yaks
Trail leading to Thombu La (Pass)
Trail leading to Thombu La (Pass)
Ascending Thomba La (Pass)
Ascending Thombu La (Pass)
Dwarf Rhododendrons on the slopes below Thomua La
Dwarf Rhododendrons on the slopes below Thombu La

Just before the pass the weather became bad, so we hurried down a grassy hill to Thombu Camp, 4150 m.

View from Thombu Camp
View from Thombu Camp
Breakfast at Thombu Camp
Breakfast at Thombu Camp

The final day began with a long, ridge-walk with steep hills on either side. This ended at the final long descent. We had over 1 ½ km of steep elevation to lose. It took us past very interesting rock formations, a steep rocky gully and back into a forest of rhododendrons, pine and birch trees.

Long ridge-walk before the final descent
Long ridge-walk before the final descent
Rock features on the descent
Rock features on the descent

Finally, at the bottom, we had one last, delicious meal prepared by our chef, Kuenzanyk. After a night’s rest, we’ll be ready to see more of this amazing country.

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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