These treks are long, serious and involve a greater level of trekking and mountain experience. Camping is essential, there would be extended periods at altitude and the chances of meeting other people along the way unless they were locals would be very unlikely. For these treks you would need a minimum of four weeks spent in Nepal with the flexibility of your return flight just in case of delays during your trek.
Treks that we consider would fit into this category include the following, but, of course there are many other itineraries available:
As an example here we have provided a Dolpo-Shey Gompo Trek itinerary.
Duration: 25 days | Max Elevation: 5350m | Style of Trek: Camping | Trek Grade: Streneous/hard
Dolpo is situated in the northern part of Nepal and consists of many isolated Himalayan valleys linked by high passes. It is the home of many Tibetan speaking groups of people, who are either Buddhist or of the Bon religion.
Until the end of the 18th century Dolpo was a part of Tibet. The opening of Nepal for tourism in 1951 was the cause of changes for many regions, however, Dolpo was closed again in 1974, since Khampas from Tibet (Tibetans fighting for a free Tibet) were found hiding in the area and repeatedly caused conflicts with the Nepalese army. In 1989 the southern areas of Poksumdo, Tichurong and Tarap were reopened for tourism.
For a long time the population of northern Dolpo consisted of an ethnic group called Bhotias with Tibetan origins, but, after the occupation of Tibet and the uprising in Lhasa in 1959/60 Tibetan refugees moved into the area. The Dolpo-Bhotias and Tibetans live mainly in the villages and subsist on agriculture, trade and animal husbandry.
Phoksundo Lake at 3,627m is a fascinating part of the trek, the 145 meter deep lake is a basin of unearthly turquoise blue ringed by rocky crags and forests and framed by snowcapped peaks. It was formed by a huge landslide that occurred 30,000 – 40,000 years ago that blocked the river. Now Ringmogoan and a Bon Monastery are located on the old landslip dam. Beyond the village the river falls 167 meters to the lower valley.
The Shey Gompa Festival occurs every twelve years and represents a major pilgrimage for many Buddhist. In 2012, the year of the Male Dragon, the festival was held to celebrate 2556 years since Buddha attained Nirvana, it celebrates the 66th anniversary of Holy Crystal Mountain being recognised as a great pilgrimage site. The religious belief is that if you make the kora of Ribu Drukta (Crystal Mountain) in Dragon Year it will equal visiting all 11 remaining major pilgrimages. This is a week-long festival at the time of the full moon of the seventh month (in Tibetan Calendar).
During the festival, all the Buddhist followers from the region and beyond gather to perform traditional dances, wear traditional and antique dresses and are involved in different events - horse riding, archery and lama dances. There is religious preaching by the fifth reincarnation of Tuptup Singe Ishe and other respected high lamas. Many holy pujas and blessings are also made during the festival.
The trek takes a clock-wise direction first visiting Phoksundo Lake before crossing the Kang La 5290m and descending to Shey Monastery. From Shey you will again cross a pass, the Sela La 5094m and visit the old settlement of Saldang before crossing the Jyanta La 5221m and heading south to Dho Trap. Your route now enters the mighty Tarap Khola Gorge which you will descend for two days before reaching Laisicap and the return stage back to Dunai and Juphal airstrip.
This is a camping trek, however, the overnight sites will depend on local conditions and may vary slightly from the locations identified in this itinerary. Depending on water levels this route might involve several river crossings. This is truly a ‘wilderness trek’ and so clients must accept a certain amount of flexibility with the itinerary. Despite the fact that this itinerary is not in close proximity to snow covered mountains several days will be spent above 4500m and in harsh conditions so trekkers must be well prepared.
There are variations that can be incorporated into this trek that could extend it by several days and take you onto Jomsom for your flight back to Kathmandu.
Day 1: Arrive in Kathmandu and transfer to the hotel
Day 2: Have a half day sight-seeing and get ready for the flight to Nepalgunj tomorrow.
Day 3: Morning free, afternoon flight to Nepalgunj and transfer to hotel.
Day 4: Morning flight to Jhupal 2475m in Lower Dolpo
Trek easily along the Thulo Bheri River to Dunai 2340m 3 hours. Here you will meet your full trek crew and the mules.
Day 5: Trek to Inner Dolpo following the Suli Gaad River north to Chhepka 2720m 6 hours
Day 6: Continue following the river through a steep sided gorge to reach Renje and then onto Sanduwa our an overnight halt at 3010m
Day 7: Following the Phoksundo Khola
Before crossing a ridge and descending to Ringmo and Phoksundo Lake 3620m, camp on the shores of the lake just beyond Ringmo, 6 hours
Day 8: A day for acclimatisation at the lake.
There are opportunities for day hikes here and a visit to Ringmo and the Bon Monastery is highly recommended.
Day 9: Continue north on an ‘exciting trail’ above the lake
(see the French film Caravan or re-titled Himalaya) and ascend into the valley beyond to reach the camping place at 3750m although the route reaches nearly 4000m crossing the ridge, 7 hours. Depending on water levels a river crossing might be necessary today
Day 10: Leaving the main valley
You follow the route of Peter Matthiessen (Snow Leopard) heading north up a narrow trackless valley to 'Snowfields' camp at around 4400m. The map shows the GHT route heading up the Tuk Kyalsa Khola, however, this route is difficult, especially for mules and may require several river crossings 6 hours.
Day 11: Cross the Kang La (5375m)
Descend to Inner Dolpo following the river valley to Shey Gompa and set up camp close to the monastery 6 hours.
Day 12: A rest day with chance to explore the locality or possibly do the kora of Crystal Mountain (8 hours).
Day 13: Turning east cross the Sela La pass 5095m with tremendous views of Tibet and Mustang
Descend to pastures at Namgung 4430m with its monastery tucked under the cliff. It is possible to camp here but if the group is strong a better camp site can be found another 2 hours further on with even better views across Tibet. A member of our last group to camp here saw a snow leopard stalking blue sheep.
Day 14: With the extended walk yesterday it is only 1 hour to the settlement of Saldang with time to spend exploring the village, a true insight into the ways of Dolpo.
This is followed by a leisurely trek along the Nagoan Khola. The trail climbs high above the river and you will see a magnificent building with a fine chorten under which you pass before descending to the river and another crossing. A camp will be found in this locality 6 hours.
Day 15: Today is a short day and a camp will be found before crossing the Jyonta La at around 4500m 4 hours
Day 16: An easy start following the river, then a climb to a grazing area below the Jyanta La.
Crossing the pass at around 5221m. Descend into the Jyanla Khola valley passing beneath some incredible sandstone cliffs and follow the valley to Tokyu and onto Dho Trap at 3944m camping near the monastery 7 hours
Day 17: The next two days will take you on an incredible journey down the Tarap Khola gorge.
Today the gorge is fairly wide with the river gently following the line of least resistance along the valley floor. Tonight the camp will be near Toltol 3523m 6 hours.
Day 18: Continuing to descend the Tarap valley the gorge narrows and the river gathers pace.
After climbing away from the river for a short distance the trail descends steeply to the Laina Odar camping area at 3370m 6 hours
Day 19: The trail continues down-stream to join the main valley crossing the suspension bridge at Laisicap.
Follow the left (southerly bank) along the Thull Bheri River to Tarakot 2537m where we’ll spend the last night in the wilderness 6 hours.
Day 20: Continue along the river bank toward Dunai 5 hours.
Day 21: The final day of the trek, with a sting in the tail!
After following the gentle trail for around one and a half hours Juphal can be seen high on the hill side and with another one and a half hours and 300m of ascent the trek finally returns to the tiny airstrip for the final night.
Day 22: An early start to be at the airstrip for the first flight back to Nepalgunj
Hopefully you will then be able to make a quick transfer to the Kathmandu flight arriving back in your hotel around mid afternoon. However, the Juphal flight might be delayed due to poor weather in which case it might be necessary to spend a night in Nepalgunj.
Day 23: Contingency day in case of domestic flight problems
Day 24: Contingency day in case of domestic flight problems
Day 25: international departure