This trip grade involves trekking up to 7 hours a day below 5000 meters for the duration of 10 -15 days trip. Any reasonably active person should be able to manage these trips.
The region is located northeast direction from Katmandu, the capital city of Nepal. Trek starts from Kharidhunga, which lies 5 hours drive from Katmandu, the region is multi-ethnic as the inhabitant are dominated by Sherpa, Tamang, and Brahmins and other peoples. Once you are in Kalinchok at the altitude of 3580m one can find a majestic view of the Himalaya and the two big rivers of Nepal Tamakoshi and Sunkhosi are visible, along the trek you will traverse densely forested trail where you may find unique flora and fauna. The excitement of the trek is to meet with a rare ethnic group of indigenous people called Thami of Nepal.
Langtang Ri Trekking & Expedition representative will greet you in an airport & transfer you to your Hotel , after refreshment you will be picked from hotel lobby to office where you will be formally introduced to your Guide and the activities to be enjoyed over the next few days. We will also ask for your passport photographs and any other details required for your trek permits, at this stage
After breakfast, we start an interesting tour around Kathmandu. Escorting by an English speaking guide (can be provide any language speaking guide on request) be, try to give them a full taste of our vivid culture image and an enchanting manner of its people. In our sightseeing tour we go to Monkey temple Swayambhunath, Pashupatinath, Bouddhanath and Kathmandu Durbar square.
Bouddhanath: Bouddhanath is a Buddhist religious complex with a history dating back over 500 years. Located on the eastern edge of Kathmandu it is now a site of great pilgrimage for Buddhist followers who circle its massive stupa, spin its many prayer wheels and visit its beautiful monastery. The main feature of Boudhanath is its huge hemispherical white stupa with central golden tower and the all-seeing eyes of the Buddha. Visitors should circle the stupa in a clockwise direction and spin prayer wheels for good fortune and a good life. Visitors may also enjoy visiting the Thangka painting school within the complex to see highly skilled artists at work on religious mandala paintings.
Pashupatinath: Hindu Temple is a very large and complex and focal point for the Hindu religion. This old and very revered complex of buildings and shrines is dedicated to the Lord Shiva, one of the main deities of Hinduism. While Lord Shiva has multiple forms he is often seen as the destroyer. This has great significance for the Pashupatinath temple as it is the site of many Hindi ritual cremations each day. Pashupatinath is considered by Hindus to be an auspicious site for passing from one stage of life to the next through the purifying and destroying flames of cremation. However, on a happier note, visitors may also get to see the temple in a buoyant festival mode with one of the many Hindu festivals celebrated here through the year.
Swayambhunath: You will first visit the Swayambhunath temple complex that sits atop a high hill overlooking Kathmandu and the entire Kathmandu Valley. Swayambhunath is perhaps the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site in Nepal. It consists of a very large white stupa with the all-seeing-eye of Lord Buddha plus many small stupa and beautifully carved stone shrines. This is a wonderful place to catch your breath and start to understand and appreciate the deep importance of Buddhist belief to the people of Nepal and the Himalaya region. Make sure you ring the many bells to awaken the gods and let them know you are in Nepal. Take the time to enjoy the view over Kathmandu and have your guide point the many other highlights of the city. In the far distance to the east you may also be able to see the hills of Nagarkot where your hotel for tonight is located. If you feel energetic you might also like to try some or all of the 350 steps that lead all the way from Kathmandu city up to your Swayambhunath temple vantage point.
Kathmandu Durbar Square: The next stop today is the beautiful Kathmandu Durbar Square, or the royal palace square of the ancient Malla kings of the Kathmandu Valley. This square and all its architectural treasures are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While some damage to buildings occurred in the 2015 earthquake the site still contains many stunning architectural gems. The original royal palace courtyards are open to visitors and you will marvel at the intricate timber carving and beautifully crafted brickwork of the palace. The open square outside the palace has many beautiful multi-storey pagodas and temples with ornate carving and carpentry artwork that tells some of the story of the ancient kings and their mystical time and beliefs. The square also contains many important Hindu temples and statues such as to Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Durbar Square also contains the unique and intriguing Kumari Chok. This is an ancient and ornate house where resides the Raj Kumari – the Living Goddess. She is a young girl chosen through an ancient and mystical selection process to become the human incarnation of the Hindu mother goddess, Durga. If you are in the courtyard of the home at the right time in the afternoon you may see a brief glimpse of the Goddess at her window.
Today we will transfer to the Domestic Airport and board our flight to Nepalganj. This flight provides good views of the Himalaya to the north. There will be time in the evening to have a look around the town which is situated 1.5 miles from the southern Nepalese border with India. Here it is quite hot and tropical.
A wonderful early morning, 45-minute flight over the Himalayan foothills, with the major peaks including Annapurna and Dhaulagiri to the northeast. After an exciting landing at the mountain airstrip at Juphal you meet your trek support crew. It takes about an hour to descend through the village below the airstrip. We’ll then walk through terraced fields to the Bheri River and the narrow gorge leading, in 2 hours, to Dunai. This is a much larger village or small township and is the administrative headquarters of the Dolpo region.
The walk this morning trail is mostly flat up to our lunch stop, following a small stream. After lunch we enter a forest and the trail soon begins climbing up the side of the treeless Thulo Bheri Valley. The rocky trail crests a ridge and enters the Phoksumdo River Valley, finally reaching another ridge marked by cairns at 2500 meters. From here we have a view of Kagmara Peak up the valley before the trail descends gently and we come to the dispersed winter settlement at Dhera. The trail out of Dhera offers a steady uphill climb to our campsite for the night at Rohagaon. Many of the villages in this area are involved in the production of a lotus-like plant called ‘chuk’ that is used to make vinegar and medicines. It is dried and flown from Dolpo to Nepalganj and exported to India. In his book, Matthiessen describes the village of Rohagaon as having “a majestic prospect down the valley of the Suli Gad to the low snow peaks in the western reach of Dhaulagiri.”
The trail passes through the lower part of Rohagaon and turns into another side canyon and descends through deep dark forest to a large stream. After some time to Phoksumdo National Park entrance at Ankhe is reached where our National Park permit is checked. There are three villages in this area that have a strange name connection: Parela, meaning eyelash, Rohagaon meaning eyebrow, and Ankhe meaning eye. After reaching the river at 2950 meters, the trail becomes a collection of rocks and sticks that form a dyke along the riverbank. We continue upstream to a bridge and reach our campsite on the other side of the river. Our stop for the day is located on the opposite side of the Suli Gad River at a place known locally as Reji.
We continue to track the river and the going is fairly easy initially. A stop at the National Park Office near Sumdo is well worth a visit. From Sumdo the trail is very severely uphill and slow going, as we have now left the river and follow the path high above the water. We ascend to a ridge, about 12,710ft/3,875m, from where we will have the most staggering views of a 1,000ft/300m waterfall, the highest in Nepal, and our first view of Phoksumdo Lake, a study in turquoise. We descend through birch forests to the upper reaches of the Phoksumdo Khola and on to the picturesque settlement of Ringmo with its mud plastered chortens and mani walls. The village now has solar panels helping to improve the quality of life of the villagers. From the settlement it is a short walk to the shores of Phoksumdo Lake where we will set up camp.
We can visit the nearby B’on Tibetan pre-Buddhist monastery and spend time exploring the seemingly ancient village of Ringmo with its fortress-like walls built to keep its inhabitants safe from invaders in the past. A walk part way round the lake is also very relaxing as you contemplate what life was and would be like in this secluded location. Phoksumdo Lake is three miles long, a half-mile wide and reputed to be near a half-mile in depth. A geologist would say that the lake was formed when an earthquake collapsed a mountain, but local tradition has a different story as Matthiessen explains on page 134 of ‘The Snow Leopard’: “When B’on was the great religion of the Land of B’od, of which this region was once part, there was a village where this lake now lies. In the eighth century, the great Buddhist saint Padma Sambhava, the ‘Lotus-born,’ came to Phoksumdo with the intent of vanquishing the mountain demons. To this end, he persecuted a B’on demoness who, fleeing his wrath, gave these villagers a priceless turquoise, making them promise not to reveal that she had passed this way. But Padma Sambhava caused the turquoise to be turned to dung, upon which the villagers, concluding that the demoness had tricked them, betrayed her whereabouts. In revenge, she wreaked upon them a disastrous flood that drowned the village beneath turquoise waters.”
From the lakeside we follow the trail that skirts the edge of the lake itself. This precarious trail is suspended on a gangway of wood supported on pegs driven into crevices in the rocks and signals the remoteness of the area you are about to enter. On this stretch of trail the going is slow and allows us to stop and take in the mythic view. The path heads very steeply up, to 13,251ft/4,040m, and then plunges down again to the valley bottom to enter the flood plain of the Phoksumdo Khola. We will pitch our tents for the night alongside the river at the northern reach of Phoksumdo Lake, but within the confines of the forest to avoid the worst of the wind which is prevalent in the valley bottom. This camp will be close to Matthiessen and Schaller’s Silver Birch Camp.
This morning we continue along a level path through a glacial valley that now heads due north. As the valley narrows we enter a world of impressive vertical cliffs and contorted rock formations. At the confluence of the Phoksumdo Khola and another, unnamed, mountain stream there is an old wooden bridge. Here we take the barely discernible path to the northeast up a cavernous side valley. “There is no trail up this grey valley, only dim paths that lose themselves…” Here we must clamber over rocks and boulders and to ford a stream that rushes down the steep valley. “… a chasm in the northern walls where the torrent comes down from the ice fields of the Kang La.” A long climb brings you to a sheep meadow (kharka) where the trail veers up a steep ravine. A hard climb to the top brings us to yet another valley where we can see the Kang La, the pass that leads us to Crystal Mountain and Shey Gompa. We camp just before the pass in a place that Peter Matthiessen christened ‘Snowfields Camp.’ There are quite a few stream crossings today, so we will need to carry our river sandals or other footwear suitable for knee-deep (chilly) water crossings.
Now begins our trek to the fabled Shey Gompa and neighboring ‘Crystal Mountain’ (which takes its name from the veins of quartz that traverse its base), the most sacred peak in Dolpo which Dolpo pilgrims circumambulate each July or August, during the full moon, before the yearly grain harvest. The sacred mountain is knows as the ‘Kailash’ of Dolpo; the mythology behind it describes a Tibetan Buddhist lama who battles the fierce local mountain spirit on a snowlion, perhaps the same lama who founded Shey Gompa. We’re up early for our challenging pass crossing, heading up the rocky valley to the base of the pass, where we turn west and hike up a steep trail traversing loose slate to the crest of the Kang La (5375 meters). What views we are treated to for our efforts! We have views of the peaks Shey Shikkar and Kang Chunne, both just over 6000 meters, before descending steeply down to the wide valley floor. Be ready for snow on the northern side of the pass! We are entering George Schaller’s blue sheep (and Snow Leopard) country, so keep the binoculars ready. After stopping for lunch by the stream that we are following down the valley, we pass a long, ancient mani wall and finally spot Shey Gompa and the small village of Shey.
We have decided to postpone our passing under the red chorten that marks the entrance to Shey by deviating off of the main path and join the pilgrimage route that circumambulates the sacred Crystal Mountain. Our camping spot on Day 12 will depend on natural water sources. What an epic approach into the fabled Shey Gompa! Our camp for the next two nights will be made just below the gompa on a wonderful grassy campsite.’I flew through the sky on a snow lion And there, among the clouds, I performed miracles. But not even the greatest of celestial feats Can equal once rounding on foot this Crystal Mountain.’ – Drotob Senge Yeshe (the lama)
As Shey means crystal, this monastery is also known as the Crystal Monastery. The lama of Shey resides at a red hermitage known as Tsakang gompa which is west of Shey. It is more of a retreat than a monastery. Tsakang had been a meditation center for many famous lamas from Tibet. Shey Gompa belongs to the Chaiba community, followers of the Padmasambhava and Kagyu sects. It was the first Kagyupa monastery and its founder was the lama Ten-szin- Ra-Pa. The monastery was built during the 11th century. In Dolpo the ancient Tibetan way of life combines animism with the teachings of the Buddha. Drutup Yeshe ntroduced Buddhism in the Dolpo Valley. Many centuries ago he came to Dolpo and appeared before a wild people whose supreme God was a ‘fierce mountain spirit.’ Crystal Mountain is to the west of Shey monastery. It is a very strange mountain indeed. Its contorted cliffs are laced with quartz and embedded with a rich variety of marine fossils. Shey Gompa stands above the confluence of Kangju Nala and Yeju Nala. Near the confluence there is a group of prayer mills turned by water wheels. For those needing a rest day, the 11th-13th century, ochre Shey Gompa is a wonderful monastery, with colorful Tibetan murals and old statues inside which the gate-keeper, a lay monk, and his family will open for us. The murals are not old, but there is a valuable scroll that describes the mythology behind sacred Crystal Mountain and Shey Gompa, including where to find the milky lake in the interior of the Crystal Mountain kora which allows the pilgrim to see Mount Kailash in the far distance. To the left of Shey Gompa is another gompa, built into the cliff-side. You might remember the prayer-room inside from the movie ‘Himalaya.’ Make a ‘kora’ of the gompa complex and relax for the rest of the day with a book, soaking in the spectacular views from our campsite. For those wanting to explore, we’ll make a pilgrimage to a sacred gompa to the west of Shey perhaps venturing even further the valley towards Phijor and Samling Gompas. But first, perched among the craggy, red cliffs, is the smaller but perhaps more important Tsakhang Gompa (which means red gompa, after the cliffs) of the Kagyupa sect, knows for its teachers Tilopa, Marpa and Milarepa. The incarnation of the first Tsakhang lama, the 17th ‘trulku’ of this line, is a young lama from Phijor now studying in Kathmandu. The gompa is filled with colorful Buddhist paintings and rare thankas.
We begin the day following a pleasant track amidst juniper, which ascends to a grey, stony canyon. This then begins to zig-zag over bare rocks and coarse eroded soil until it eventually brings us to a flat spot suitable for lunch if the weather is fine. After our meal we continue very steeply up for 20 minutes before traversing to the top of the Saldang La. Here we enjoy great views towards the arid landscapes of Mustang and the distant snow peaks of Tibet. The subsequent descent towards the north is long and tiring but we finally come upon the welcome sight of pastures of grazing yaks, sheep and nomadic tents made from yak hair. This signals our approach to Namduna Gaon. Like Shey, the Namgung monastery is of the Karma-pa sect. The monastery, a red stone structure, is built against the backdrop of a cliff on the north wall of a gorge. The red and white colors of the gompa and its stupas are the only color in this stark landscape. The village itself consists of only six stone houses and has terraced fields on both sides of the tributary, which flow down to the Nam Khong valley. The economy of the region is based on agriculture, animal husbandry and trading. In Dolpo only one crop a year can be grown and this is mainly barley. In some villages, buckwheat, oilseed, potato and radish are also cultivated. Recently the main cliff temple collapsed and the villagers have now built a beautiful new monastery in the village itself.
In the morning after packing up the loads we leave the Namgung monastery and start climbing a scree slope. Further on it begins a long thrilling traverse along barren mountains. Looking down into the valley bottom it is very evident that the people have made best use of the fertile valley as one sees the neat terraced fields showing bright patches of green and ripening crops. We ascend to 15,432ft/4,705m before going hiking down steep slopes to the picturesque village of Saldang, situated on a plateau high above the Nam Khong Nala and the biggest village of the Inner Dolpo area. Though the village lies at about the same altitude as Ringmo they couldn’t look any differently. Ringmo, a Himalayan village is situated below the tree line while Saldang belongs to the arid zone of the trans-Himalayan Tibetan plateau. The village stretches for almost 1.5 miles on an open slope and consists of five villages having eighty well-built houses with nearly six hundred villagers. It is prosperous, not only agriculturally, but also for its strategic location on a trade route to Tibet. After the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959, trade with Tibet was virtually stopped. It has been restored to some extent through the barter system by which Tibetan salt reaches mid- Nepal. The Drokpa people from the western plains of Tibet collect salt from the dried lakes north of Tsangpo.
Today we have the option of making the full day excursion to the ancient Yangjer Gompa, which is situated 3 to 4 hours north of Saldang. The gompa of Yangjer is one of the oldest and most important in the Upper Dolpo region. For those wishing a more leisurely day, there are many options for the day’s explorations. One is to make a loop through some of the villages north of Saldang, where the autumn harvest will be in full force. Follow the Nagon Khola north to Karang and Marang villages for a look into village life. We might have the chance to visit a local house for some dried cheese (churpi) and salt-butter tea.
We depart Saldang for the fairly easy walk to Sibu, following the Namgung Khola southwards and passing picturesque hamlets, such as Namdo, which are surrounded by terraced fields of barley. Our path passes alongside many mani (prayer) walls, chortens and small gompas. These sights once again remind us how Buddhism is interwoven in each and every aspect of people’s life here. We continue further on to the small village of Raka, the last settlement before the first of the two high passes between here and Maduwa (Murwa)
We can hike the following stretch in two days. Walking time to Rechi is about4.5 hours (including breaks) and from Rechi to Chhepka is 3.5 hours as well.The walk to Rechi goes almost entirely through beautiful pine forests. Leaving Maduwa, the path is rather flat at first, with some ups and downs (Nepali flat) and stays close to the river (Phoksumdo Khola). After half an hour however, the path goes away from the river and we start a 30 minute steep climb. At the top of the climb we have a beautiful last view back towards Phoksumdo Lake with colorful Buddhist prayer flags flapping in the breeze. From here it is down, down and more down. The first 45 minutes is rather steep but the path then levels as we reach the river and the Amchi Hospital. This is a very interesting place and worth a visit. This clinic is highly frequented by local people. An Amchi is a doctor who is educated in traditional Tibetan medicine and is a lama (monk) as well. Tibetan medicine has a tradition of thousands of years and uses techniques such as pulse analysis and urine analysis for diagnosis. For treatment medicines made of herbs and minerals are used, together with physical therapies, like Tibetan acupuncture. In the Amchi Hospital you can see a collection of locally-collected herbs and minerals used to cure people. From here, it’s a 1.5 to 2 hour walk to Rechi (9,645ft/2,940 m). We continue on an easy path through forests of singing birds. On the way we will encounter local traders with their mules or jhopas (crossbreed between yak and cow) loaded with goods to sell at market. Just before Rechi, there is a tent-hotel with a camping spot, where we will stop for lunch. From our lunch spot it is another 3 to 3.5 hours to Chhepka. This afternoon, as we follow the Phoksumdo Khola, we will certainly start to notice a change in temperature and in vegetation. We are now walking through bamboo forest and large walnut trees. Chhepka is a lovely small village, surrounded by fields of barley.
The day starts with a short climb before beginning a gradual descent to Shyanta (8,000ft/2,520m). Shyanta is known for its honey cultivation, so we must stop for a cup of honey tea. About half an hour after leaving Shyanta, we leave the forest and suddenly walking through a dry arid landscape with the snowcapped Kang Tokal (6294 m) in plain view. We will pass through the villages of Raktang, a winter place for people from Ringmo and Kageni. To Juphal it’s a 3 to 3.5 hour walk on a small path through fields of barley and wheat, with walnut, peach and apricot trees.
Early morning flight to Nepalganj. This is a wonderful 35-minute flight over the Himalayan foothills, with fine views of the main peaks including Annapurna and Dhaulagiri to the north. You then connect with the flight back to Kathmandu. Transfer to our group hotel and relax.
Free days in Kathmandu for sightseeing, souvenir shopping, catching up on emails and exploring the endless maze of streets that make up the Thamel area.
Based on your departure time, you will be transferred to the airport approximately 3 hours in advance.
Footwear : Well broken-in walking shoes - these must be suitable for snow, thick socks, light socks, camp shoes.
Clothing : Down or fiber filled waterproof jacket and trousers, sweater or fleece jacket, underwear, warm and cotton trousers or jeans, shirts and T-shirts, shorts, long underwear, wool hat, sun hat, gloves, bathing suit, track suit.Other equipment: Sleeping bag (5 seasons), lock, day pack, water bottle, sun cream, sunglasses, flashlight with spare bulbs and batteries, lip salve, gaiters.Other items: Insect repellent, toilet articles, diary, toilet roll, laundry soap, wet ones, pocket knife, towel, sewing kit, plasters, binoculars, camera, film, cards and personal medical kit.Recommended equipment list: Trekkers need to provide their own personal clothing and equipment. Some items of equipment are available for hire from us as like Down Jacket
Duration: 29 days
Best Time to go: June – Sep
Max. Altitude: 5373m at the Kang La Pass
Group Size: Min 4 pax
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