Jumolhari is the second highest mountain in Bhutan at 7326 m. We did an 8-day trek in Jigme Dorgi National Park which takes you 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. The two of us were accompanied 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 meals that our chef was able to create in a tent made us really impressed. We used ‘Keys to Bhutan’ and although they weren’t fast with returning emails, in the end they organized a great trek and gave us excellent staff. Our guide, Passang, was very knowledgeable and passionate and willing to make changes to the trek based on our abilities. Our chef, Kuenzang, made some of the best meals we had for our whole time in Bhutan.
We arrived in Bhutan from sea level so gave ourselves longer to acclimatize. Other groups didn’t do this, and there were quite a large number of people that had to turn back or be heli-evacuated. We did the trek at the end of March and had snow almost every afternoon. It usually melted quickly, but it was cold at night.
Times listed below include 1 or 2 drink breaks and lunch break.
Jumolhari Yaksa Trek
Day 1 – 15 km, 500 m elevation gain, 4 1/2 hours
The trek starts at the small village of Drugyal, 2300m. The first day is up a dirt road that passes several homesteads and farms. You can take the car for this day, but we wanted to see rural Bhutan as well as use it for acclimatization. You camp just before the entrance to Jigme Dorgi National Park, 2800 m.
Day 2 – 21 km, 830 m elevation gain, 5 1/2 hours
From camp the rocky trail slowly climbs up broad river valleys of Paro Chhu and then Paa Chhu (Rivers). It’s up and down through a forest of birch, pine, willow and rhododendron trees. Camp Thangthangkhah is at 3630 m with a nice view of Jumolhari.
Day 3 – 16 km, 460 m elevation gain, 5 hours
The trail soon gets above tree-line and continues as a slow climb up the Paa Chhu (River). You’ll pass a few yak herders’ homesteads and a small village before arriving at Jumolhari Base Camp (also called Jangothang), 4090 m. From camp there is a beautiful view of Jumolhari. (5 hours)
Day 4 and 5 – Acclimatization –
Base-camp 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. Other groups only stayed 2 nights. Day 4 – We hiked to the top of a mountain beside camp where we had incredible views of the peaks down the valley and a full view of Jumolhari and its moraine lakes (3 hours). Day 5 – The second acclimatization trek was to Nyili La (Pass), 4800 m. 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. (4 hours).
Day 6 – 17km, 800 m elevation gain, 3 1/2 hours
The trail begins with a short, steep climb to a large plateau that goes past picturesque Tshophu Lake (4430 m). There is a gorgeous view of Jumolhari and Jichu Drakey reflecting in the lake. Above the lake was a large, snowy bowl surrounded by large peaks that takes you to Bongtey La (Pass), 4900. It’s a steep descent down a grassy hill. The hill ended in a very steep rocky gorge that led to the valley bottom and Yaksa camp at 3800m.
Day 7 -14 km, 750 m elevation gain, 3 1/2 hours
The trail goes up a long, wide valley with dwarf rhododendron and juniper bushes to reach our the next pass, Thomba La, 4550 m. It’s a short descent down a grassy hill to Thombu camp, 4150 m.
Day 8 – 10 km (approx), 150 m elevation gain, 1500 m elevation loss, 2 3/4 hours
The final day begins with a long, ridge-walk with steep hills on either side. This ends at the final long descent, 1 ½ km of steep elevation over a few km. It goes past very interesting rock formations, a steep rocky gully and back into a forest of rhododendrons, pine and birch trees.