GHT | Sacred Upper Dolpo to Mustang Trek - Nepal

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 A GHT | Great Himalayan Trail Nepal trek.

Our wild treks into Upper Dolpo, Nepal started while having butter tea with 'Caravan Thinle', the Dolpo village chief from the movie 'Himalaya'. Thinle helped us to create our unique, adventurous treks into remote Upper Dolpo. Each year, with Thinle's nephew Thinle Gyalgen and his white horse, we explore further into spectacular Upper Dolpo, camping at far-flung Tibetan villages and the turquoise Phoksumdo Lake at Ringmo, crossing high Himalayan passes, visiting ancient Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and exploring new trekking routes. This is a remote land of snow leopards, blue sheep and Tibetan nomads on horseback, one of Nepal's most culturally interesting regions.

This year's Upper Dolpo trek includes an exploratory route to Bhijer and Shyamling Gompa, crossing several Himalayan passes from Shey Gompa to reach idyllic Saldang, bustling with village life. Trekking along Nepal's Great Himalayan trail, we finish our Himalayan journey by crossing the many high passes along ancient trade routes to reach Mustang, and are treated to magnificent mountain panoramas of the Annapurna range and the peaks bordering Tibet. En route we stop at remote Mustang villages and summer settlements, rarely visited by Westerners.

Our journey begins with a spectacular flight along the Himalayas to the remote airstrip at Juphal, in Lower Dolpo. We trek up the beautiful Suli Ghad River gorge to the turquoise Phoksumdo Lake, and then along the 'Devil's Trail' and to reach the first of many 5000 meter Himalayan passes, this one leading to Peter Mattheissen's fabled Shey Gompa and the sacred Crystal Mountain. At scenic Saldang, with its gilded monastery and local amchis (Tibetan doctors), we have an extra day to explore the nearby Tibetan villages, busy with their Autumn barley harvest. Trekking past mani walls and ancient chortens deeper into Upper Dolpo we reach the most authentic and interesting part of Dolpo, the beautiful Panzang valley. Off the main trekking routes we arrive in region of 'pure' Dolpo, where we spend several days in the traditional villages sharing salt-butter tea with the locals and doing some bartering for their colorfully striped textiles.

One of the highest inhabited realms on the planet, Upper Dolpo is still a stronghold of the pre-Buddhist, shamanistic Bon religion, as well as Tibetan Buddhism. Upper Dolpo is a breathtakingly beautiful and mountainous region of fortified villages, 'dzongs', turquoise lakes, sacred mountains and high passes, susceptible to heavy snows which isolate it from neighboring regions for much of the year. The trekking is challenging, but the rewards are immense.

Join us for our wild trek into remote and sublimely beautiful Upper Dolpo!

Previous Himalayan trekking experience required for this trek. It is a very remote region and an extremely challenging trek, with many 5000+ meter passes and limited exit points.



Exploratory Bhijer + Shyamling Gompa Route

Day 1 - Saturday, 30 September 2017 - Arrive Kathmandu
Day 2 - Kathmandu
Day 3 - Fly Nepalgunj
Day 4 - Fly Juphal. Trek Rupgad
Day 5 - Trek Chhepka
Day 6 - Trek Amchi Gompa
Day 7 - Trek Ringmo | Phoksumdo Lake
Day 8 - Ringmo
Day 9 - Trek Forest Camp
Day 10 - Trek Ngongda La Base Camp (Snowfields Camp)
Day 11 - Trek Shey Gompa | Cross Ngongda La 5345m
Day 12 - Shey Gompa | Day Hike Tsakhang Gompa
Day 13 - Trek Tata
Day 14 - Trek Bhijer | via Shyamling Gompa
Day 15 - Trek Nengla La Base Camp | Cross Nengla La 5370m
Day 16 - Trek Saldang
Day 17 - Saldang
Day 18 - Trek Khomagaon | Cross Khoma La 4565m
Day 19 - Trek Pu Gompa | Cross Shimen La 4270m
Day 20 - Trek Thinkyu
Day 21 - Thinkyu | Day Hike Tralung Gompa
Day 22 - Trek Mola Doksa Camp
Day 23 - Trek Tsarka (Chharka) | Cross Tsarka La 5030m
Day 24 - Tsarka (Chharka)
Day 25 - Trek Yak Mesa Camp
Day 26 - Trek Yak Doksa
Day 27 - Trek Ghok | Cross Jungben La 5560m
Day 28 - Trek Sangda
Day 29 - Trek Phalyak | Cross Pema Lajun La 4470m + Dolpo La 4310m
Day 30 - Trek Jomsom
Day 31 - Fly Pokhara + Kathmandu
Day 32 - Tuesday, 31 October 2017 - Depart

Traditional Route

Day 1 - Arrive Kathmandu
Day 2 - Kathmandu
Day 3 - Fly Nepalgunj
Day 4 - Fly Juphal. Trek Rupgad
Day 5 - Trek Chhepka
Day 6 - Trek Amchi Gompa
Day 7 - Trek Ringmo | Phoksumdo Lake
Day 8 - Ringmo
Day 9 - Trek Forest Camp
Day 10 - Trek Ngongda La Base Camp (Snowfields Camp)
Day 11 - Trek Shey Gompa | Cross Ngongda La 5345m
Day 12 - Shey Gompa | Day Hike Tsakhang Gompa
Day 13 - Trek Namgung |Cross Cela La 5105m
Day 14 - Trek Saldang
Day 15 - Saldang
Day 16 - Trek Khomagaon | Cross Khoma La 4565m
Day 17 - Trek Pu Gompa | Cross Shimen La 4270m
Day 18 - Trek Thinkyu
Day 19 - Thinkyu | Day Hike Tralung Gompa
Day 20 - Trek Mola Doksa Camp
Day 21 - Trek Tsarka (Chharka) | Cross Tsarka La 5030m
Day 22 - Tsarka (Chharka)
Day 23 - Trek Yak Mesa Camp
Day 24 - Trek Yak Doksa Camp
Day 25 - Trek Ghok | Cross Jungben La 5560m
Day 26 - Trek Sangda
Day 27 - Trek Phalyak | Cross Pema Lajun La 4470m + Dolpo La 4310m
Day 28 - Trek Jomsom
Days 29 + 30  - Extra Days
Day 31 - Fly Pokhara + Kathmandu
Day 32 - Depart

Chitwan National Park | Maruni Sanctuary Lodge
Chitwan + Tharu Villages Wildlife Safari

Add Ons
Kathmandu World Heritage Sightseeing Tour | Pashupatinath, Boudhanath + Swayambunath (+$75)
Kathmandu Durbar Square Walking Tour | Durbar Square (+$50)
Bhaktapur Heritage Sightseeing Tour (+$100)
Patan Heritage Sightseeing Tour (+$50)
Extra Trek Day Gandruk (+105)
Extra Day Chitwan (+$125)
Everest Sightseeing Flight (+$250)
Extension Shivapuri Heights Cottage (+75 Night Depending on Room)
Cycling Trip in Kathmandu Valley (+Trip Price)

Nepal Modules
Nepal & Kathmandu Modules | Customize Your Trip!

We strongly recommend keeping an extra day post-trek in Kathmandu in case of flight delays out of Jomsom.
Make sure you have good travel insurance with helicopter evacuation!


Trip Advisor Reviews

Client Comments
Don't go to Dolpo with anyone else! This trek with Kim and Lhakpa was the best of the ten or so we have done in the Indian (& Nepal) subcontinent. No detail was overlooked, making for a camp that was the envy of other groups! Kim's ability to engage with local villagers added another dimension to our experience as the locals invited us to join them in their schools, homes and daily tasks. The food was imaginative, well-presented and plentiful, and served with a smile. Kamzang Journeys crew were unfailingly helpful and generous with their time, responding to individual needs as far as possible. An experience not to be missed!"
 - Karen D (Australia), GHT | Upper Dolpo to Mustang Trek 2014

"Kamzang Journeys & Kim run great treks! Lhakpa and Kim are highly experienced, skilled guides. Kim's creative finesse makes for truly memorable trekking. A fantastic crew, dedicated & savvy, and a wonderful cook, Junar, are integral to this great team. 

A passion for the cultures of the Himalaya, a depth of knowledge and understanding, are all a part of what Kim shares, with great generosity and exuberance. Interactions with local villagers, from kids to elders, are a big part of Kamzang style.

Kim, I admire your creativity, deep love & knowledge of this part of the world, which you share so generously. You are an awesome trek leader. Your incredible strength & athleticism are matched by your truly deep integrity + compassion. I have the utmost respect and admiration for all that you do. Thank you for your kindness, patience and marvelous, positive spirits + good humor. One of the great joys of this trip was watching you interact with kids + locals. Magical! I am grateful for the skill & great guiding wisdom that Kamzang Journeys exemplifies. The Upper Dolpo trek of October 2014 was an incredible journey. Highly recommended!"
- Susan L (Canada), GHT | Sacred Upper Dolpo to Mustang Trek  2014

"Kamzang Journeys is fantastic! Other hiking groups had to turn back due to heavy snow on passes, Kim, through her extensive local network was able to get us into Upper Dolpo using an alternate route. Her love of Nepal and it's people is evident in everything she does. She had the best price when you look at what's included and length of trip. The food on the trek was outstanding. I was so impressed I am doing another 2 treks with Kim this year. Absolutely outstanding!"
- Lorraine H (Australia), GHT | Upper Dolpo to Jomsom 2013

"We had a wonderful time and greatly appreciated you opening our eyes to Dolpo. Your composure and decision making combined with your fun personality make you truly the best trip leader we could imagine. We look forward to many more trips together!"
- Mary, Kathy & Ross M (USA), GHT| Sacred Upper Dolpo to Mustang 2014

"I've just returned from my second trek in Nepal with Kamzang Journeys. Once again Kim and Lhakpa made the trek unforgettable. We were confronted with some very difficult situations due to unfortunate weather conditions (cyclone), however, Kim re-routed our course assuring our safety and the safety of her crew. In fact the changed itinerary was brilliant and a photographers dream.
Kim and Lhakpa take pride in their treks and bend over backwards to accommodate the differing needs of their clients. Safety is paramount along with fun and a lifetime of memories."
 - Sue W (Australia), GHT | Sacred Upper Dolpo to Mustang Trek 2014

"A heartfelt THANK YOU for a wonderful trek and fond memories of special people and their environment, and to you and Lhakpa for your hospitality and having made it possible to live these moments on the High Himalayan trail. I'll never forget and will always treasure the experience! I read your Kamzang Journeys website regularly and read all the eulogies about your care, support and attention to detail till the last moments of our trek. They all ring true. You are truly a pro and I wanted you to know that it has been greatly appreciated. I consider myself a privileged person to have trekked with you in Nepal!"
- Jan Erik R (Holland, France), GHT | Sacred Upper Dolpo to Mustang Trek 2011

Read More Testimonials
Trekker's Comments

Trek Highlights

  • Turquoise Phoksumdo Lake
  • Shey Gompa & Tsakhang Gompa
  • Traditional Tibetan villages of Saldang, Khoma, Thinkyu & Chharka
  • The remote Panzang region
  • Tibetan Buddhist monasteries
  • High passes en route to Lower Mustang
  • Sangtha village in Mustang
  • A look into 'Old Tibet'
  • Scenes from the movie 'Himalaya'
  • Spectacular Himalayan vistas
  • Few other trekkers
  • Lots of exploration!

Kim Bannister Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography

Kamzang Journeys | Country + Regional Photos
Kamzang Journeys Photos

Kamzang Journeys Group Photos
Group Photos

Himalayan Photos
Himalayan Wildlife Photos

Himalayan Bird Photos

Himalayan Flower Photos

Market + Street Food Photos
Asian Markets + Street Food

Travel Reading | Enhance Your Trip!
Travel Books

Online Articles on Upper Dolpo
Himalaya (Caravan) | Movie by Eric Valli (Trailer)

Eric Valli - Website

The History of Dolpo | Drokpa INGO (Kenneth Bauer)

Peter Mattheissen | Smithsonian

We're No Tibetans | Kathmandu Post

Forgotten Regime | Kathmandu Post

Caterpillar Fungus: The Viagra of the Himalaya | NPR

Tibet's Golden Worm | National Geographic

The Emperor's Mighty Brother | The Economist


2017 Dates
30 Sept - 31 Oct
32 Days

2017 Trek Price
+ Early Booking Price - $5680 (Book By April 31)

+ Single Upgrade Options Available
+ NO Single Supplement for Trek (Single Tents)!

+ Total Kilometers of Trek (Approx) - 260
+ Total Miles of Trek (Approx) - 160


  • Western + Sherpa Guide | Kim + Lhakpa Sherpa
  • Upper + Lower Dolpo Permits
  • Annapurna Concervation Area Permits
  • Kathmandu Guest House
  • All Domestic Flights (4)
  • Hotels En Route to Trek
  • Group Transportation by Private Vehicle
  • Airport Transfers
  • NO Single Supplement on Trek
  • Kamzang Journeys Boutique-Style Trekking
    Marmot (or similar) tents, 'gourmet' food with seasonal, fresh produce, French-press coffee, chai, Kashmiri + herbal teas, Katadyn filtered drinking water, warm washing water, library, 'lounge' with colorful Indian rugs, camp chairs, blankets, occasional tent music in evenings, oxygen & PAC bag (when needed), full medical kit, horses, yaks or porters, Western, Sherpa & local guides (when needed), our 5-star Kamzang staff + the signature yellow Kamzang dining tent. NO single supplement for single tents on trek!

Safety & Health Precautions | Included in Trek

  • Thuraya Satellite Phone
  • InReach Satellite Messaging System (Free Texts on Trek)
  • Updated Route Published on InReach Site
  • Helicopter Evacuation Services (excluding cost of evacuation)
  • Oxygen Saturation Monitoring System
  • PAC Bag (Portable Oxygen Chamber)
  • Full Medical Kit + Stretcher
  • Kayadyn Filtered Drinking Water
  • Safe, sanitary, delicious & plentiful food + drinks


  • International Flights
  • Travel Medical + Travel Insurance (both required)
  • Nepal Visa
  • Helicopter Evacuation
  • Meals (while not on trek)
  • Monastery Donations
  • Equipment Rental
  • Alcohol, Sodas & Packaged Drinks
  • Laundry
  • Tips

Tips & Extra Cash
Allow approx $250 for meals (while not on trek), drinks (on trek) and tips. We recommend $300 per trekker thrown into the tips pool for the crew.


Trekker's Comments
Travel Books

Kamzang Journeys Contact
Kim Bannister
Mobile: +(977) 9803414745
On-Trek Satellite Phone: +88216 21277980 (Nepal)
On-Trek Satellite Phone: +88216 21274092 (Tibet & India)

Kathmandu Contact
Khumbu Adventures
Office: +(977) 01 4488352
Lhakpa Dorji Sherpa Mobile: +(977) 9841 235461, 9813 371542
Doma Sherpa Mobile: +(977) 9841 510833, 9803 675361

InReach Explorer
We have a MapShare page that works for sending emails to our InReach messaging device. Give this link to people who want to follow us and have them send us a message so we have their email in the system. We can email them back directly Please tell people not to expect updates every day. There is a ‘message’ button on the top left, and the message sender needs to put their EMAIL address instead of phone number to get a response. Messages are free, enjoy.

Follow Us on Facebook
Kamzang Journeys Facebook
I will post InReach updates to our Kamzang Journeys Facebook page if friends & family want to follow our progress.

Satellite Phone
We carry a satellite phone with us for emergencies. Send us a free message at the online Thuraya link below. We can call you back or email you back. If you want a return call or email include your contact info. You can send this in two SMSs if needed.
Kim Satellite#1: +88216 (21277980) – Nepal
Kim Satellite #2: +88216 (21274092) – Tibet + India (2 choice Nepal + ONLY if permitted in Tibet + India)
Lhakpa Satellite: +88216 (87710076)

Arrival Hotel
Kathmandu Guest House

Nepalgunj Hotel
Siddhartha Hotel (pool)
Single Upgrade - $40

Jomsom Hotel
Trekkers Lodge
Single Upgrade - $15

Kathmandu Guest House Single or Double Upgrades | 3 Nights
Garden Single - $75
Deluxe Single or Double - $300

Kathmandu Guest House Extra Nights
Includes breakfast + 25% taxes
Book with Kamzang Journeys + save on room rates

Kathmandu Guest House | Room Prices
Standard Single - $80
Standard Double - $100
Garden Single - $120
Garden Double - $140
Deluxe Single - $200
Deluxe Double - $220

Kamzang Journeys | Room Prices
Standard Single - $55
Standard Double - $75
Garden Single - $80
Garden Double - $100
Deluxe Single - $160
Deluxe Double - $180

Extra Days in Kathmandu | Customize your Journey!
We have plenty of great suggestions for extra days, or weeks, in Nepal! See our Nepal & Kathmandu Modules | Customize Your Trip! to put together the perfect journey.

Mountain biking, rafting, vespa tours or yoga retreats around the Kathmandu valley or Pokhara, trips to Bhaktapur or Patan (Kathmandu Valley's other historic capital cities), a visit to the Newari temple of Changu Narayan and a night at the Fort Hotel in Nagarkot for sublime Himalayan panoramas, an Everest sightseeing flight, a luxurious stay at Temple Tree Resort & Spa, paragliding, hiking or zip-lining in Pokhara, a spa & wellness getaway at Dwarikas Resort in Dhulikhel, a relaxing excursion to Chitwan National Park Wildlife Safari & Tharu Villages (staying at Maruni Sanctuary Lodge) or Bardia National Park, a weekend of adventure, sauna and pampering at The Last Resort or five-star treatment in historic Dwarika's in Kathmandu.

Kamzang Journeys can customize any of these excursions for you, just inquire!

Kathmandu Happenings

Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography

You can get your Nepal visa either at the airport (or any land border) when you arrive in Nepal, or before you leave home.
Nepal Visa

Health Information
Nepal Health Information

We also recommend bringing probiotics with you to help prevent infections while on trek. Doctor's recommendation!

Travel Medical Insurance
Required for your own safely. We carry a copy of your insurance with all contact, personal and policy information with us on the trek and our office in Kathmandu keeps a copy. Note that we almost always trek over 4000 meters (13,000+ feet) and that we don't do any technical climbing with ropes, ice axes or crampons.

Global Rescue
We recommend that our trekkers also sign up for Global Rescue, which is rescue services only, as a supplement to your travel medical insurance.
Book package through Wicis-Sports via Carlota Fenes (

Wicis-Sports Wearable Tech | Sports Package
Live personal heath stats via a wearable chest strap heart rate monitor.
Track your vitals (heart rate, temperature, oxygen saturation), the weather, GPS locations, altitude, speed, bearing and stream LIVE via a Thuraya satellite hot spot. Partners: OCENS (weather), Global Rescue, Aspect Solar.

"Thuraya Telecom + WiCis Sports offer connectivity to Himalayan treks + expeditions"

"Founded in 2011 by Harvard and Stanford anesthesiologist Dr. Leo Montejo and located in the Lake Tahoe area, the company’s goal is to promote the use of mHealth and tracking devices to make adventure sports safer and engage their followers with real time data that is either private or also available to social medial platforms."

Book package through Wicis-Sports via Carlota Fenes (

We have a full medical kit with us including Diamox, antibiotics, inhalers, bandages, re-hydration, painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs etc. but please bring a supply of all prescription and personal medications. Kim has First Aid, CPR and Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certifications as well as many years of experience with altitude in the Himalaya but is NOT a qualified medic or doctor, so please have a check-up before leaving home, and inform us of any medical issues. This is for YOUR OWN safety.

DO bring all prescription medications and good rehydration/electrolytes. We advise bringing your own Diamox, Ciprofloxin, Azithromyacin & Augmentin. We have all of these with us but the Western versions are always better than the Indian equivalents.

PAC Bag + Oxygen
We carry a Portable Oxygen Chamber, or Gammow Bag, with us on many treks. There is no charge for use of the PAC bag but oxygen is $300 per canister (cost price, pass on to insurance company).

Notes on Itinerary
Although we try to follow the itinerary below, it is ONLY a guideline based on years of experience trekking in the Himalaya. At times local trail, river or weather conditions may make a deviation necessary; rivers may be impassible, snow blocks passes, and landslides wipe out trails. The trekking itinerary and campsites may also vary slightly depending on the group's acclimatization rate or sickness.

The Himalaya are our passion, and we take trekking seriously. Although everyone is here on vacation, please come with a dollop of patience and compassion added to your sense of adventure ...

Arrival Kathmandu

You will be met at the airport by the Kathmandu Guest House van or our Kamzang Journeys driver. Look for a sign with your name on it AND the Kathmandu Guest House sign. You will be driven to the Kathmandu Guest House (or the hotel of your choice) where your rooms have been booked for you. Kim will meet you at the Kathmandu Guest House to go over details and get you settled into Kathmandu.

Arrival Hotel
Kathmandu Guest House

You can get your Nepal visa either at the airport (or any land border) when you arrive in Nepal, or before you leave home.
Nepal Visa

Temperatures + Clothing
Kathmandu during trekking season, in the spring and autumn, is usually warm (t-shirt, sandals, light pants or skirts) during the day, and gets chilly (light fleece or windproof top) in the afternoon. Nights can be cold enough for a sweater or light jacket, or warm enough for t-shirts. Summer is hotter and wetter; you’ll need a rain jacket and umbrella. The winter months (November – March) are chilly in the mornings and evenings, cold enough that you might start the day in a down jacket, but often warms up enough to wear a t-shirt by mid-day. Nights get cold enough for a down jacket if you’re sitting outside in the spring and autumn, and much colder in the winter when you won’t leave the hotel without your down jacket. It never snows in Kathmandu, leave your snow boots behind. Keens or lightweight sandals great for wandering around Kathmandu, and for trekking in lower altitudes.

Trekking is a mixed bag of temperatures. LAYERS are the key as hot can change quickly to freezing crossing the passes and snowfalls are common. We often have some rain below 3000 meters in the spring and early autumn, and it can rain hard in the summer. Have a wide range of layer-able trekking clothes for summer to winter temperatures. Keep a lightweight down jacket or synthetic jacket with you at all times, available inexpensively in Kathmandu. A lightweight rain poncho and umbrella for trekking recommended spring and summer. Be prepared! See our GEAR LIST for full details on gear, shoes, clothing, electronics and meds for the trek.

There are lots of real gear shops (North Face, Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, Sherpa Gear) and of course many fake ones in Kathmandu, so if you don't think you have the right gear starting the trip it will be easy to pick-up stuff once in Kathmandu. We have sleeping bags, duffel bags down jackets to rent.

Dress conservatively in Kathmandu and on the trail as a rule. Shorts are okay if they aren't too short, mini skirts aren’t recommended. Sleeveless t-shirts are absolutely fine, but perhaps avoid tank-tops on the trail. Super tight doesn't go over so well with the village elders. Many of the younger generation in Nepal wear modern Indian or Western-influenced clothes, but remember that you haven't signed up for a beach or surf vacation. Use your good judgment, be an ambassador for western tourists! Please ask Kim or your guide if unsure about appropriate clothing.

Duffel Bags
We have North Face style duffel bags with Kamzang Journeys logos for sale (XL, orange). They are (mostly) waterproof, mid to lightweight (lighter than North Face) and good quality. Price 4000 NRP (about $40)

Cultural Issues
Nepalis are very open and welcoming, but there are a few issues you should be aware of to make your stay in Nepal more fulfilling. Use your right hand to pass things, shake hands or do most anything. Left hands are somewhat taboo. Nepali's often place their left hand on the right forearm when passing things to others, a sign of respect. Best not to pat kids on heads, or point feet ahead of you at monasteries. Don't walk over someone's legs or feet, but put your hand down in front of you to signal them to pull their legs to the side. Take off shoes and hats when going into Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples, don't use flashes inside monasteries or temples in general, be respectful of a puja (prayer ceremony) if attending one. You can talk, all religious are very tolerant, but be aware of your level of voice.

Nepalis don't anger quickly, so try not to raise your voice if exasperated or angry as it only will make a situation worse. Do bargain at shops, with taxis and rickshaws, but don't fleece them. They are poor and making a living, generally.

Give small donations on the streets if you choose, but try not to encourage begging too much. Be aware of who you are giving money to, and please only give small amounts. If you do want to donate to a cause, ask about our Kamzang Fund or other responsible organizations.

Pampering Yourself in Kathmandu
We’re happy to book your rooms before or after the trek (or upgrade during the trek) at other boutique or luxury hotels in Kathmandu. We recommend Dwarika’s, Shangri-La, Yak & Yeti or Hyatt. We can also direct you to wonderful spa & massage centers in Kathmandu.

Tips for Staff
We recommend at least $200 per person to go into the tip pool for the staff. Please bring Nepali Rupees (NRP) with you on the trek for the tips. It’s nice to buy the staff drinks on the last night. Or any other night that you feel like getting them a bottle of Kukure Rum!

Tips in General
Tips are always appreciated but they don’t need to be extravagant. 100 NRP to carry bags to/from your room is fine. The women who clean your room will be happy with 100-200 NRP when you leave, and 100 NRP is good for drivers to/from the airport. Round up taxi fares. A larger tip would be expected for a daytrip in a car, perhaps 500 NRP. 10% is included in most restaurant and hotel bills in Nepal, and if it’s not included it’s still expected. Check your bills, and still round up at restaurants. Feel free to give out small change to the beggars in the streets (5, 10, 20 NRP) but try not to give it out to the street kids who use it for glue to sniff.

Cash + ATMs
You’ll want some cash with you on the trek for drinks, snacks, beer, sodas, etc. There are often  chances to during the trek, and usually local crafts to buy en route. (You’ll want your tip money in NRP as well). There are ATMs in KTM but they don’t dispense large amounts of cash (usually 10-20,000 NRP) so you’ll be best with currency or TCs to change.

International Medical Center Kathmandu

Kathmandu + Kathmandu Valley Information
Our personalized 'Insider' list of things to do, places to go, what to visit, the most happening restaurants + the best hotels in Kathmandu and the beautiful Kathmandu Valley.
Happenings in Kathmandu

Gear List

Travel Photography Gear Guide
The Complete Guide to Gear for the Landscape Photographer

Gear List
This is a guideline, not a bible, for the gear you will need on the trek. Ask if you have questions! One 15 kg (33 lbs) maximum weight limit for the duffel bag for flights. 20 kg (50 lbs) weight limit for treks.

  • Duffel Bag
  • Day Pack (35-45 L)
  • Sleeping Bag (-20F | -30C recommended)
  • Air Mattress | Thermarest
  • Down Jacket
  • Trekking Boots
  • Crocs (evenings & washing) 

  • Trekking Pants
  • T-Shirts
  • Long-sleeve Trekking Shirts
  • Trekking Jacket
  • Wind & Rainproof Jacket & Pants (lightweight)
  • Thermal Top & Bottoms (evenings)
  • Lightweight Long Underwear (to sleep in or layer under clothes)
  • Socks
  • Gloves (2 pairs, lightweight & heavier for passes)
  • Wool Hat
  • Baseball Cap or Wide-brimmed Hat
  • Camp Towel
  • Trekking Poles (optional, recommended)
  • Down Booties
  • Camp Towel
  • Sunglasses (+ extra pair)
  • Water Bottles | Nalgenes (2-3)
  • Bladder (optional, recommended)
  • Toiletries, Sunscreen with SPF, Lip Balm with SPF
  • Watch (with alarm)
  • Extra Batteries
  • Battery Chargers
  • Head Lamp (+ extra)
  • Yak Trax or Micro Spikes (small crampons, inquire per trek)
  • Water Purifying Tablets, Small Water Filter or Steripen (for daytime filtering)
  • Camp Washing Bowl (optional, collapsible for clothes)
  • Laundry Soap
  • Hand Sanitizer (keep in daypack)
  • Small Solar Panel (optional, recommended for music, phones, tablets)
  • Books or Kindle
  • Zip-Lock | Plastic Bags
  • Soft Toilet Paper | Tissues (we supply toilet paper but you will want something softer for blowing your nose)
  • Baby-Wipes | Wet-Wipes OR Chux (for washing)
  • Rehydration | Electrolytes
  • Snacks!
  • Personal Medical Supplies

NOTE: We have a 'dress code' for the evenings in the tent, which essentially means you'll be changing out of your trekking clothes and into clean, dry evening clothes!

Medical Supplies
We strongly suggest bringing Western meds with you as there are a lot of Indian fakes on the market!

Suggested: Diamox, Azithromyacin, Ciprofloxacin, Tinidazole or Flagyl & Augmentin. Bring COMPEED for covering blisters & good tasting electrolytes &/or rehydration salts (Emergen-C is a good American brand). The local versions aren’t very appealing.
We also recommend bringing strong knee & ankle supports & braces, ACE bandages for sprains & strains, Tegaderm &/or other would coverings. Duct tape is always useful. We're happy to take excess medical supplies off your hands when you leave if you won't need them and pass them on to others. We use lots of the large amount we have with us to treat locals as well as our own trekkers ...

Comments on Gear
Layers are essential for trekking. Quality is more important than quantity. It’s worth investing in the great, newer lightweight trekking gear available in all gear shops, online or in Kathmandu.

Kim's Gear Suggestions: I generally wear a trekking t-shirt, light trekking pants, a mid-weight shirt, a lightweight synthetic jacket (instead of a fleece), a lightweight jacket and pants for wind and rain. If the weather looks stormy or it’s a pass day I carry a lightweight down jacket and a storm-weight jacket. I always have a pair of lightweight gloves (heavier ones additionally for pass days), a hat, a baseball cap and an extra pair of socks in my day-pack. I generally trek in low Merrill hiking shoes, and Keen boots on very cold days and over passes. I always carry Crocs with me in case of river crossings, or to air my feet at lunch. I carry a 38 L (although it looks larger) Black Diamond day pack although I also love Osprey packs. On pass days I carry Yak Trax and trekking poles, and I always have an extra pair of sunglasses, electrolytes, my camera, a medical kit, a Steripen, snacks and lots of water in my pack. My favorite gear brands available in Kathmandu are Sherpa Gear, Mountain Hardwear and Marmot. I wear lots of Patagonia gear although it's not available in Kathmandu.

Good trekking boots are essential. High boots are best, but you don’t need climbing or plastic boots (for mini-crampons or micro-spikes). You can also get away with low, sturdy trekking boot, which I wear quite often except for over the passes. Trekking poles are not required but strongly recommended, especially for going down passes which are often steep and icy and for treks with river crossings. Bring gators if you tend to use them but they’re not required if you don't own a pair. Micro-spikes (mini-crampons) or YakTraxs are almost always useful (or essential) for the pass crossings. We will have at least one ice ax with us. It’s also good (possibly essential) to have a pair of plastic Crocs for washing and to wear in the lodges in the evenings. Tevas take a long time to dry and are relatively heavy.

Good, polarized sunglasses are essential. Do bring an extra pair. Don’t forget a sun hat and/or a baseball cap, an extra headlamp and have plenty of sunscreen and lip balm with SPF!

The weather is changeable in the Himalaya, so again I recommend that everyone has a strong, WATERPROOF duffel bag for the trip (although they do tend to weigh more). We supply covers that go over the duffel bags to protect them from rain, dirt & rips.

Nights are chilly to cold, so a down jacket and a WARM sleeping bag are essentials. For your sleeping bag, we recommend a DOWN bag of 0 to -20 F (-18 to -28 C). Mine is -20 F. At lower altitudes I open it and sleep under it like a quilt and up higher am toasty warm during the cold nights. Campsites near passes can get COLD. Rentals available. The dining tent is a Tibetan style ‘yurt’, with blankets and camp chairs on the ground. It warms up in the evenings with the gas lamp but it is still important to have warm clothes for the evenings. I always use down booties which are great when it’s cold, but a pair of thick wool socks also work.

Bring extra large plastic bags or stuff-sacks in case of rain. You can pack electronics in them or stash your sleeping bag and clothes. The weather is changeable in the Himalaya, so again I recommend that everyone has a strong, WATERPROOF duffel bag for the trip. We supply covers that go over the duffel bags to protect them from rain, dirt & thorns.

Everyone gets their own Marmot Thor 2 tent without a single supplement. Singles have a 2-person tent and couples share a larger, 3-person version.

Day Pack
We recommend a 35-45 liter day pack (ask at your gear shop if you’re not sure of the capacity). Better to have it too large than too small as on pass days you’ll need to carry more warm gear. Most have internal water bladders built in, which are good for ensuring that you stay hydrated. Make sure it fits and is comfortable before purchasing!

In your day pack, you will be carrying your camera, 2 liters of water, a jacket, wind & rain pants, hat, gloves, extra socks, sunscreen, snacks, electrolytes, water purifying tablets, filter, or Steripen camera, hand sanitizer, a pack-cover and often a down jacket. I slip my Crocs on the back in case of unexpected stream crossings or for lunch. Lhakpa & I carry small medical kits in our day packs.

We bring KATADYN expedition-sized water filters along on the trek for fresh drinking water, ecologically the best way to get water in the Himalaya’s fragile trekking regions. Bring your own filter pump, Steripen/UV purifier or iodine/chlorine tablets for fresh water while trekking. NOTE: To be extra safe with your drinking water, you can drop one purifying tablet into your water bottle after filling with our filtered water. Make sure you wait the required amount of time before drinking, and don’t add anything with Vitamin C as this negates the iodine.

Please bring at least TWO (and better three) Nalgene, Sigg or other unbreakable plastic/metal water bottles. Camelbacks and other bladder systems are good for trekking but can leak, so as a back-up it’s best to also bring a Nalgene or other water bottle.

NOTE: We do not provide boiled water for drinking on either our tea-house/lodge or our camping treks although there is endless hot water for herbal, black or green teas, hot chocolate, hot lemon as well as Indian chai and Kashmiri tea.

You will NEED snacks hiking at altitude, even if you’re not a snacker. People crave unusual foods at altitude!  Energy bars, ‘GU’ gels, chocolate bars, dried fruit & nuts, beef jerky (or whatever) are important to have along for long days, pre-lunch bonks and passes. Lemonade mix, Emergen-C or similar drink mixes are great to have for hot days in your water bottles, and it is ESSENTIAL to bring electrolytes with you every day.  

Bring something to share in the tent in the evenings if you want. Cheese is great as a treat on a cheese-board before dinner (Blue, Stilton, Yarlsburg, good Cheddar, Brie, etc). If you would like, bring a bit of your favorite and we’ll throw it on a cheese board for appetizers one night.

NOTE: Nothing besides your personal snack food is required, but it’s fun to see what everyone comes up with!  Almost all basics available in Kathmandu, so no need to over-load.

We have Western down jackets to rent for $1.50 per day.  We also have good super-down sleeping bags to rent (0 to -10 F) for $2.50 per day.

Duffel Bags
We have North Face-style duffels with Kamzang logos for sale, L & XL. They’re very good quality and come in Yellow (L) for $35, Orange (XL) for $40 or Orange (XS) for $30.

Packing & Storage
It’s easiest to pack and unpack from a duffel bag, especially when the temperature drops, and easiest for porters to carry. Inexpensive and decent quality duffels are available in Kathmandu but it’s best to invest in a strong, waterproof duffel such as a North Face. You can store extra gear in Kathmandu at the Kathmandu Guest House storage room free of charge. Valuables can be stored at the Kathmandu Guest House in private safety-deposit boxes for 2 NRP per day.

Almost all gear is now available in Kathmandu, from real (North Face, Mountain Hardwear, Sherpa, Marmot shops in Thamel) to inexpensive knock-offs. The real gear shops take credit cards.

Upper Dolpo

Upper (Inner) Dolpo
The mystique of remote Upper (Inner) Dolpo, closed to foreigners for decades and still culturally Tibetan, has been enhanced by Matheissen's 'The Snow Leopard', David Snellgrove's 'Himalayan Pilgrimage' and George Schaller's 'Stones of Silence' among many other travel accounts. Legend has it that the ubiquitous Guru Rimpoche, who spread Tibetan Buddhism throughout the Himalayas, discovered this hidden land, a 'beyul' or refuge, over 1700 years ago, and it has been inhabited by Tibetan nomads, drokpas in Tibetan, for over a thousand years.

Upper & Lower Dolpo are now part of the Nepali region of Dolpa, but historically came from the Zhangzhung Bon-po kingdom which dominated Western Tibet for over a thousand years, later defeated by the first Tibetan dynasty, Yarlung, between the sixth and eighth centuries. Afterwards, Dolpo was governed by the Kingdom of Lo (now Mustang, formerly part of Tibet) until the Gorkha Kingdom took it over during its consolidation of Nepal a century and a half ago. Since then, it has remained isolated, partly due to its remote location, and partly because of the Khampa guerillas using Mustang and Dolpo as a base during their fight against the Chinese occupation of Tibet after 1959.

It has only been open for trekking and tourism since 1989, and then only parts of southern Lower Dolpo were opened. There is still a special restricted area permit needed to trek above Phoksumdo Lake in Shey Phoksumdo National Park, Nepal's largest park, which has only been a viable trekking region since 1999 because of the Maoist activities in this region.

Upper Dolpo has a population of approximately 5000 inhabitants, many of whom head south for the winter, and is home to some of the highest villages on the planet.

The Snow Leopard | A Pictorial Companion - Leo Montejo

Leo Montejo trekked on our GHT | Upper Dolpo to Mustang Trek in 2014 and is an avid photographer, and a fan of Peter Matthiessen and George Schaller. All proceeds from the book will go to mHealthKarma to buy medical equipment and or medicine for countries like Nepal.

From Amazon: "The Himalayas have always seduced mountain climbers, philosophers, scientists, governments and the writer Peter Matthiessen who went there not only to follow George Schaller in his quest for the snow leopard, but also for the more difficult journey of finding a better truth about himself. In 2014, the author followed their steps in an effort to document what is often hard to visualize while one reads "The Snow Leopard". While enduring cold and the difficulties of high altitude, he was able to beautifully document the land of Dolpo, this rarely visited part of the world. The result is magical and it will no doubt inspire those who have read the book and yearned to travel to this distant land. The book is the perfect companion for those who admire Peter Matthiessen's work, "The Snow Leopard", and follows it chronologically with pictures tied to most of the days in his book. All benefits from the sale of this book will go to mhealthkarma, a charity helping bring inexpensive medical devices to the needy."


Day 1 - Arrive Kathmandu 1340m
You'll be met at the airport by a representative from Khumbu Adventures, Kamzang Journeys or the Kathmandu Guest House, so look out for a Kathmandu guest house sign when you leave the airport. They will bring you back to the Kathmandu Guest House, where your rooms are booked. Relax in their beautiful, newly expanded garden and recover from your jetlag.

Kim will meet you at the guest house and introduce you to Thamel, the main tourist area of Kathmandu. Thamel is a myriad of banners, signs, music shops, bakeries, internet cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels, shops of all imaginable varieties and eccentrically clad backpackers. Over dinner we check your insurance details (please have a copy of your travel medical insurance policy with you), go over gear and get to know each other over a beer at New Orleans or another of Kathmandu's many cafes and restaurants.

Day 2 - Kathmandu
Morning meeting at 9:30 AM in the back garden of the Kathmandu Guest House. The day is free to explore Kathmandu, take excursions into the Kathmandu valley, shop, visit the spa, have a massage or just read a book in the lovely Kathmandu Guest House gardens. We'll have time for a bit of gear shopping in Thamel for anyone who needs to, and in the evening will head out for dinner of wood-oven pizza at the Roadhouse Cafe.

Sightseeing in Kathmandu
Kathmandu is filled with World Heritage sites and sacred destinations, crowded with traditional neighborhoods and colorful festivals. Spend a few days exploring Nepal's exotic capital and the history-laden Kathmandu valley. We can arrange sightseeing guide, vehicles and guides as required. See Kathmandu Heritage + Happenings for more details.

We recommend beginning with Pashupatinath in the early morning, and moving on to Boudhanath mid-morning. Hindu Pashupatinath on the sacred Bagmati river and its sacred temple complex is one of Nepal's most important sites, a powerful cremation site and Nepal's most important Hindu temple. Here, monkeys run up and down the steps of the burning ghats, and trident-bearing saddhus draped in burnt-orange and saffron sit serenely meditating, when they’re not posing for photos-for-rupees. Local guides can explain the significance of the complicated ceremonies. Please be respectful when taking photos.

Boudhanath, in the midst of traditional monasteries (gompas) and hung with long strings of multi-colored prayer flags, attracts Sherpas, Tibetans and tourists alike for daily circumambulations (koras) of the iconic stupa. The striking Buddha eyes of Boudhanath Stupa watch over a lively and colorful Tibetan community and attract pilgrims from all over the Himalayan Buddhist realm. There are wonderful spots for lunch at Boudhanath (Roadhouse Cafe has wood-oven pizzas and a breathtaking view of the stupa and colorful Nepals circling it), and it's a good place to learn the technique of thanka painting and purchase a thanka (Buddhist mural). See also Bhaktapur for more options for shopping for thankas.

Wander through the many temples, pagodas, courtyards and the museum at Kathmandu Durbar Square, a timeless gathering spot and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Kathmandu Durbar Square, including the old royal palace, is Kathmandu's 'Palace Square', a showcase for the world renown artisans and craftsmen of Kathmandu and a synthesis of Hindu and Buddhist palaces, temples, stupas and statues. The Malla and Shah kings ruled over the Kathmandu Valley during the centuries of the building of the layers of this Durbar Square. Along with their opulent palaces, the square surrounds numerous courtyards and temples, all works of art with intricate and often erotic carvings. Kathmandu Durbar Square is known as Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square, a name derived from a statue of Hanuman, the monkey devotee of Lord Ram, at the entrance of the palace. The social, religious and urban focal point of the city, Durbar Square is often the site of festivals, marriages and other ceremonies such as Teej. Some important structures are Hanuman Dhoka Palace, Kumari Ghar (Abode of the Living Goddess), Taleju Temple, built between the 12th and 18th centuries, the 17th century stone inscription set into the wall of the palace with writings in 15 languages.

In the evening (take the interesting back streets from Durbar Square) climb the many steps to the gilded Swayambhunath stupa (known as the monkey temple) which rises from the Kathmandu valley floor at 1420 meters and is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Nepal. . Swayambunath, the 'self created’  stupa, was founded over 2000 years ago at a time when the Kathmandu valley was filled by a large lake, with a single lotus in the center. Mythology says that Manjusri, a bodhisvatti, drained the lake with one cut of his sword and the lotus flower was transformed into the stupa. From its commanding views of Kathmandu, circumambulate Swayambunath's white-washed stupa, painted with distinctive Buddha eyes, the complex a unique synthesis of Buddhism and Hinduism. Another interesting time to visit Swayambunath is in the mornings, when Nepalis visit the temple dedicated to the God of Smallpox to with colorful offerings for the goddess.

Stop to photograph reflections in Kathmandu's many pokhari's, or ponds, including the beautiful Rani Pokhari (queen's bath) near New Road, and the Naga Pokhari (pond of the snake gods of the underworld) just beyond the palace gates. The many bathing ghats, square enclosures with steps leading down to water spouts, often decorated with naga heads, are also interesting and colorful gathering spots.

Day 3 - Fly Nepalgunj 150m
We are scheduled on either the morning flight to tropical Nepalgunj in Nepal's western Terai region. Our scenic flight over the terraced hillsides and thatched villages of Nepal's green middle hills transports us to Mahendra Airport in Nepalgunj, the largest city in the western Terai. Set in the steamy plains of southern Nepal less than ten kilometers from the border of India, Nepalgunj is a jumping-off point for many flights and buses into western Nepal. The drive to our hotel passes through this bustling town, a mix of modern and old Nepal. We stay the night at the air-conditioned Siddhartha Hotel, which has a pool and is a rick-shaw ride from the colorful bazaar of Nepalgunj. We'll get together in the evening for dinner and cold beers, and by the pool during the day!

NOTE: Only breakfast is included in Nepalgunj. IF the group is delayed in Nepalgunj due to cancelled flights, everyone is responsible for their own extra nights and meals. Single room options available in Nepalgunj ($40). Bring bathing suits for pool!

Day 4 - Fly Juphal 2490m. Trek Rupgad 2075m
We'll be up early for our forty-five minute flight to Juphal. The exact departure time is determined by the Mahendra airport the same morning. We'll have beautiful views of the wrinkle of green ridges, peppered with small, terraced villages and surrounded by snow-capped peaks, from our small craft as we head north towards Juphal, the main airport of the Dolpo (Dolpa) region. It's an exciting landing on their newly paved landing strip, built onto a small plateau just above town. Juphal and the surrounding villages, built high above the Thuli Bheri River, are a mix of Hindu and Buddhist inhabitants with many ancient animist and shamanistic elements thrown in, an interesting vignette of the middle hills culture of Nepal. Women wear traditional Nepali dress, sarong-like skirts, and adorn themselves with gold nose-rings and earrings and thick, colorful strands of glass beads.

We'll have some time to explore this interesting village of wooden and mud white-washed houses while waiting to meet our yak driver, Nima, and his yaks, dzos and horses which come from Dunai. There are a few small Nepali shops where basics like biscuits, sodas, juice and rum are available.

NOTE: If we have to stay in Juphal, we'll be at the opposite end of town at the largest campsite/guesthouse, behind a well-stocked shop. We will probably have an early lunch here as the staff sorts the newly arrived gear and loads the animals.

Descending steeply out of Juphal through the terraced village of Dhagmara, decorated with frayed pink spots on the white-washed walls and hung with tangerine-colored marigold leis for Desain. The local Hindus are weathered by the harsh mountain sun, slightly resembling and ancient, carved animistic figures on the rooftops. Contouring around the terraced village fields, we pass wooden bridge posts carved with shamanistic faces which connect fields of red sorghum, millet, corn, buckwheat, local rice and other local grains as we drop to the main trail far below. Other ancient customs such as hanging a dead raven on a high post make today's hike an interesting one. Once down the steep hill, the last section on a dirt trail, we continue to hike along a wide trail following the western bank of the clear, turquoise Thuli Bheri River. In back of us is Tripurakot village, an important Hindu pilgrimage sight with a tantric Kali temple, perched high on a hillside. Across the river are clusters of local villages, starting to resemble the Tibetan villages that we encounter higher up but with connected terraces. We pass more of the wooden, folk-artsy animistic figures along the trail, a throw-back to pre-Hindu and pre-Buddhist days, still in use, and continue to descend down to the river. After a few hours of easy walking along a newly built road, with the Kanjiroba range behind us, we reach a small, wooden bridge (which we cross) and a few tiny tea-houses of Rapghad and camp at a green clearing on the Rupghad Khola.

At camp we will introduce you to the 'Kamzang-style' trekking set-up: our signature Kamzang yellow dining tent, your personal Marmot Thor tents and our fantastic staff. After lunch, it's an hour and a half walk to some hot-springs on a tricky trail; wear good shoes if you're headed that way! Otherwise, have a cup of chai, relax and enjoy the afternoon. (2.5 hrs, 7 km)

Day 5 - Trek Chhepka 2675m
Leaving camp, we have a short walk to the new suspension bridge, at the confluence of the Thuli Bheri and the Suligad, which leads to the Army post and Upper Dolpo. A short walk up-river along the left bank brings us to a small bridge or another new suspension bridge, both leading to the small hamlet of Sulighat, the entrance of Shey Phoksumdo National Park, Nepal's largest park (3555 square km) established in 1984. We have a seven hour trekking day, starting along the Suligad River through forests of pine, fir, cyprus and birch surrounded by steep canyon walls. The trail is dusty and hilly, sometimes high above the river and often right along the bank. In two hours we reach the small hamlet of Kalarupi followed closely by the three-house village of Kageni after two hours of cliff-side walking, just afterwards crossing the Suligad on a small, wooden bridge to reach the small campsite at Raktang. Continuing along the western bank of the river, we pass several goths (grazing pastures) and the basic stone huts at Jyalhasa, an overgrown seasonal settlement of the Ringmo inhabitants. A short way past this settlement is a wonderful swimming spot on sculpted rocks; we often have lunch here and cool down as it's a hot hiking day.

After lunch we have to climb slightly and hike through open woods for an hour or so, crossing the river again at Shyanta where the owners of small campsite and shop keep bee-hives. Notice the carved bridge posts along the way, and the fields of marijuana used for hemp-seed oil. This region belongs to the pre-Cambrian Himal zone in geological terms, and is made up of garnet, schist, mica and quartzite which form talus slopes and make the valley sparkle in the sunlight. It's only another hour of climbing through a lovely and rocky forest to reach the grassy campsite at the small hamlet of Chhepka, a small Tibetan settlement tucked away amongst the steep hill-sides. These Tibetans arrived here forty or fifty years ago, refugees from Tibet. In the Autumn the Tibetan women, dressed in their striped Tibetan skirts but having adapted a mix of Tibetan and Nepali clothes, will be beating their crop of dried barley with wooden threshing sticks and drying corn for animal fodder. You can head down to the river for a wash or there is a tap next to camp, and cold beers and/or salt-butter tea are available at the local Tibetan shop owned by the lovely Nyima. Look out for langurs sneaking down to raid the fields from the nearby hillsides. (7 hrs, 16 km)

Day 6 - Trek Chuniwar | Amchi Hospital 3115m
Another great day of wooded gorge trekking, reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest. During the day we'll cross the Suligad many times, mostly time staying close to the river; we cross four bridges over the Suligad before reaching Rech, two afterwards and cross at least one tributary stream on a bridge. We hike on a trail of tangled roots and stones, up stone staircases and through flowering, thick woods of bamboo and indigenous trees which include firs, birches and larches (deciduous conifers) turning their Autumn hues. We trek through a dramatic, deep-sided gorge, often hiking right by the riverside on flat, stone steps. Bird watchers will love this section of the valley; wag-tails and redstarts flit from rock to rock along the riverbank, and the trees are alive with many other varieties of small birds.

After approximately two hours of hiking after leaving Chhepka we reach a riverside camp and take a break in the shade of large firs or on the rounded river rocks. From here, we start again with a steep climb of about 150 meters to a viewpoint hewn out between rock and tree-trunk. After admiring the Suligad views, we have a steep descent and a riverside walk on a stone path built right along the river. We'll stop for lunch at a lovely spot by the river, and then continure for half an hour to the small village of Rechi and its small campsite. From Rechi, we have another hour of hilly trekking to reach camp. We pass a small bridge leading west and then, soon afterwards, reach the confluence of the Pungmo Chu and the Suligad, now known as the Phoksumdo Khola. From the west bank of the river a trail leads northwest towards the Kagmara La (pass) and on to Jumla. Our trail to Phoksumdo Lake the next day follows the west bank of the river, and the trail on the east of the Phoksumdo River branches off to the east and leads to Dho Tarap. Thus the name Sum (three) Duwa (trails).

Dolpo starts to have a real Tibetan feel from now on, the locals dressed in traditional Tibetan garb, and the women adorned in their Tibetan turquoise, coral and amber necklaces. Eventually we reach the lively Tapriza Cultural school and adjoining gompa, attended by children from villages all over lower Dolpo. The school is named after an important master from the ancient Zhang Zhung kingdom in western Tibet who achieved 'Rainbow Body', or enlightenment. It's a good cause if someone is thinking of donating to a school. After visiting the kids we pass through the northern gate door, descend slightly to the river which we cross on a small bridge and then ascend very gradually to camp ten minute further on in the small hamlet of Chinwar. (6 hrs, 16 km)

Day 7 - Trek Ringmo 3615m
A classic Himalayan trekking day as we ascend towards Phoksumdo Lake and the large village of Ringmo (village at 3652m), the northernmost village in Lower Dolpo and the the gateway to Upper (or Inner) Dolpo. After freshly brewed coffee (the sun hits the campsite late morning) we head up quite steeply through barberry, cotoneaster and juniper for twenty minutes to Polam (3270m), one of the winter doksas of the Ringmo-pa. We ascend steeply for another 45 minutes through juniper to our first viewpoint (and stop), and then another half an hour, switch-backing on a spectacular, dusty, alpine trail to a viewpoint gazebo (3700m) strewn with multicolored Tibetan prayer flags. This gazebo overlooks the magnificent waterfall, 200 meters high, that drain into the Suligad. A bit further up at another set of prayer flags and we finally view the turquoise Phoksumdo Lake itself, a magnificent sight. The snow-capped peak to the lower right corner of the lake is Norbung Kang (6085m). We continue along this high, sandy trail, descending slowly through a lovely forest of larches and birch turning their Autumn colors to Phoksumdo Khola (river). Just past a series of entrance chortens we reach atmospheric Ringmo, built right on the banks of Phoksumdo Lake. Legend tells of a demoness that caused this lake to be formed during Guru Rimpoche's conversion of Dolpo to Buddhism, a perpetual symbol of the struggle between the Bon and Buddhist religions.

This is wild country, a region of alpine meadows, flowered pastures, rivers, natural springs, soaring mountain views. Steve Razzetti, the author of 'Trekking and Climbing in Nepal', writes about this region of Lower Dolpo: 'your heart will sing. This is trekking country to live for'. Enough said! We camp for the night at a spectacular, grassy campsite below the cluster house in Ringmo, right at the south end of the lake, and will have the afternoon to relax and wash up (next to the yaks, in the river draining the lake as it's a sacred lake) ...

Wander up into town after lunch. Several of the local tea-houses, fast encroaching on this little village, sell colorful, wool Dolpo blankets and a variety of other things, lots of which come from Kathmandu these days. Local Dolpo-pa women will often be weaving their traditionally striped 'kamlo seta' and 'kamlo zangba', striped white or dark blankets, on wooden looms outside their houses. Tibetan striped blankets are called 'liu letpa' in local dialect, and also available along with colorful, locally woven belts and bags. Nima's family has a traditional tea-house at the top of town, not far from our campsite, where you can shop, get a cup of salt-butter tea or a cold beer. Ask to see the yersta gumbu that our friend Nima trades in. (4 hrs, 6.5 km)

Day 8 - Ringmo
An acclimatization and exploration day in this picturesque Tibetan village of flat-roofed stone houses, mani walls and Tibetan chortens surrounded by juniper, larch and juniper forests. There is a small gompa in town along with an impressively repainted kane chorten (entrance chorten), one 300 and the other 500 years old. The ancient, white-washed Thasoon Chholing Bon-po Gompa, 500-800 years old,  is a twenty minute walk from our campsite along the forested eastern shores of the lake, worth taking a short hike. There are four monks who reside at the Bon Monastery and will give us a tour.

As we're camped right on the shore of the spectacular Phoksumdo Lake, the deepest lake in Nepal at 650 meters, with nothing living inside it because of the cold and high mineral concentration, take some time to soak in the fabulous surroundings. Remember the harrowing scene in 'Himalaya' when Thinle's yak caravan attempted the 'Devil's Trail'? We look out onto this impresive trail from the dinint tent. Yak caravans will be heading in and out of Ringmo on their way north towards the border of Tibet, and our most northerly destinations, Saldang, Thinkyu and Tsarka. Gaze back at the snow peaks behind us; the lovely triangular snow-peak to the east is Norbung Kang (6085 m), the same we saw from the gazebo.

Ringmo is part of the Paleozoic geological zone, formed of shallow marine environments. Much of this zone is limestone and quartzite with bands of siltstone and limestone. To the east of Ringmo is the Mesozoic or Tibetan Sedimentary zone (dinosaurs), formed by sandstones, slates, shale and shallow continental platform sediments. In this section many ammonites can be found.

Jackels can sometimes be heard howling just outside of the village as well as around other parts of these high Himalayan regions.

Day 9 - Trek Forest Camp 3675m
More stunning Himalayan trekking ahead of us as we trek along the western shores of Phoksumdo Lake, ascending on the narrow, cliff-side trail (the 'devil's trail'). We head north along this dramatic, precipitous (and slightly exposed) trail high above the lake, the scene of the famous yak scene in 'Himalaya'. The mountain and lake views are wonderful if you can take your eyes off the trail! Half an hour later, we descend back down to the lake, cross a small stream which passes through a lightly wooded valley and then climb steeply, much higher this time and along a trail of loose scree and slippery sand. We eventually reach a crest at 3920 meters, followed by another at 4030 meters, the first especially worth a long rest and many photos. Ringmo La is a narrow pass 4090 meters another half an hour of climbing above us. We continue along this spectacular trail, staying high, as the lake opens up in different aspects in front of us, often with himalayan griffins and lammergeyers soaring high above us. Near the northern end of the lake we make a long, gradual descent through a lovely forest of craggy Himalayan birches to reach our scenic and grassy lake-side campsite at Chabluk Phu, a local grazing area, just where the trail hits level ground. We'll have lunch by the lake and collect some drift wood for a roaring bon-fire in the evening. One year our yaks wandered into the lake to cool down, a few still loaded (with Kim's bags), another sort of perfect ending to a Himalayan day.

From the lake, we trek another 45 minutes past the lake, along a flat, trail, to our lovely Forest Camp, blanketed in pine needles, tucked away amongst a grove of large pines. Local Dolpo-pa will pass through on their way to or from the doksas or higher up in Dolpo. (5 hrs, 11 km)

Day 10 - Trek Ngongda La High Camp (Peter Mattheissen's Snowfields Camp) 4625m
Yet another incredible day of hiking, with a few river crossings (sandals) where we really start to gain some altitude. We are entering the real Dolpo, and to enter into this mystical land we have to cross the Ngongda La or Kang La (pass), called the Kanga La in Peter Mattheissen's 'The Snow Leopard'.

Starting with a level walk to the northwest through scrub and briar changing to bright autumn colors, after an hour we reach a small campsite tucked away in the evergreens. Be ready for a large-ish river crossing soon afterwards. The valley is magical as we head north along the small Phoksumdo Khola with the Kanjiroba range and hanging glaciers providing a spectacular backdrop. Another hour later we pass a small campsite marked by a beautiful mani stone. The valley transforms into an open forest of birches and rose-buds, and then narrows as we follow the stream upriver to the first major river intersection to our right.

At the confluence of Tuk Kyaksa Khola we climb through stones and boulders on a small trail, crossing the stream several times by rock-hopping, wading or on small, wooden bridges. Finally, a few tough hours later, we reach our 'high' camp, which Matheissen named Snowfields Camp. We've made a large ascent in altitude today, so take some Diamox, drink lots of water and have a rest as we set up our cold but scenic campsite for the night. We were snowed in at this campsite in 2009 (with our tents almost collapsing) thus living up to its name Snowfields Camp! But wow, the next day was spectacular. (6 hrs, 10.5 km)

Day 11 - Trek Shey Gompa 4375m (cross Ngongda La 5345m)
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 snow-lion, perhaps the same lama who founded Shey Gompa, called 'Ribu Drurta' in the Dolpo dialect. (see page 248, George Schaller 'Stones of Silence')

Most people know Shey Gompa from Peter Mattheissen's 'The Snow Leopard', an inner journey and travelogue about his experiences trekking in Upper Dolpo with biologist George Schaller in 1973. Their team went to Dolpo to study blue sheep, and search for the elusive and magnificent snow leopard. Matthiessen was then studying Zen Buddhism, and searching for the Lama of Shey Gompa on retreat at Crystal Mountain.

We'll have an early start for the challenging pass crossing and the long day, heading up the rocky valley behind camp and then climbing steeply past a small waterfall for about an hour and a half to reach a small grassy plateau, a perfect resting spot. Heading to the left, our climb is even steeper as our trail switch-backs up scree or snow to the base of the pass, where we will soon turn left and hike up a steep trail traversing loose slate to the crest of the Ngongda La (Kang La) at an impressive 5345 meters. And what a panorama we are treated to for our efforts. We'll admire the views of the snow-peaks Shey Shikkar and Kang Chunne, both just over 6000 meters, and Kanjiroba behind us before descending steeply down (or glissading down through the snow) to the wide valley floor. Be ready for snow on the northern side of the pass!

After stopping for lunch by the small stream (Hubalune Khola) that we follow down the valley, we pass a long, ancient mani wall; two hours later we finally spot Shey Gompa and the neighboring village of Shey, a tiny hamlet of four houses and fifteen or so year-round inhabitants. In the winter, Shey is isolated from much of Dolpo by the surrounding passes, and snow is reported to be often waist-deep. A red chorten marks the entrance to Shey, where we stay for the next two nights near the gompa at a wonderful, grassy campsite. We are entering George Schaller's blue sheep and snow leopard country, so keep the binoculars ready. (7-8 hrs, 14.5 km)

Day 12 - Shey
For those needing a rest day, the 11th-13th century, ochre Shey Gompa is a wonderful monastery full of colorful Tibetan murals and old statues that the gate-keeper, a monk who takes on the caretaker roll for three years, will open up for us. The Kagyupa gompa was fabled to have been constructed by a Tibetan Buddhist lama, arriving on the back of a mythical snow-lion. 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. Crystal Mountain was pronounced a sacred peak in ancient texts called 'dho' locals told us. 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. Sadly, there was a theft of many priceless artifacts from Shey Gompa in 2015, and the keeper of the monastery was quite badly beaten by the robbers. This monastery keeper, a lay lama, was first married to the late Caravan Thinle's daughter, and his son is Sonam Sangpo, a monk living in Kathmandu who will eventually return to spend the rest of his life at this monastery.

'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)

Optional Daytrip from Shey | Tsakhang Gompa 4520m
For those wanting to hike we'll make a pilgrimage to a sacred gompa situated up a valley to the west of Shey, Tsakhang Gompa (which means red house, after the cliffs), perched amongst craggy, ochre cliffs. Descending down to the river, we head west to the left of the long mani wall and climb again on the left side of the river. We spend the next 1 1/2 hours hiking on a high, undulating trail marked by mani walls and chortens atop the many ridges that we crest. Soon we have views of Tsakhang Gompa of the Kagyupa sect, knows for its teachers Tilopa, Marpa and Milarepa. We drop briefly to a small, intersecting stream, passing white flags en route, and then climb again to the gompa, set spectacularly in the cliff-side and with a sunny slate deck in front. The white gompa on the left is the dukhang, or puja gompa. To the left of this is a sacred spring in a small cave, in back of a white chorten, and below that an important lama's hand print in a rock. Look for the saligram in the rock on the pathway nearby. The same lama's footprint is under a small door between the two gompas. The larger gompa also houses a kitchen and a small prayer room filled with colorful Buddhist paintings and rare thankas. The incarnation of the first Tsakhang lama, the 17th 'trulku' of this line, is a young lama from Phijor now studying in Kathmandu.


Shyamling Bhijer Route - Exploratory
We plan to trek the remote Shyamling Bhijer route over the Nenga La pass to Saldang if we haven't lost any days because of missed flights to Juphal or weather.

Day 13 - Trek Tara Doksa 3920m
It's a ridge day of high trekking to reach the small settlement of Tata where we set up our first camp of this four-day exploratory route.

Day 14 - Trek Bhijer 3850m (via Shyamling Gompa)
Staying on the ridges, we trek to the Bon Shyamling Gompa where we'll hope for a caretaker to show us around. Shyamling Gompa in Bhijer is the first Bon Gompa in Upper Dolpo, founded in the 13th century by a lama of the same name. There are 22 chortens at Shyamling, and documents showing support from the emperor of China.

From here we have several more hours of trekking northeast to reach the large Dolpo village of Bhijer where one of our yak drivers resides. Bhijer is on the border of Dolpo and Mugu, and has another Bon gompa in the village.

Day 15 - Trek Nengla La Base Camp
Passing by two small seasonal settlements (Phulak and Phalang), we stay to the left and above the Yamchho Khola and camp somewhere below the Nengla La Pass (5368m).

Day 16 - Trek Saldang 4090m (cross Nengla La 5368m)
Ascending the Nengla La (5368m), we'll stop at this remote pass to take in the views before descending to scenic Saldang village, Thinle Gyelgen's home. Option also to descend to Karang village depending on trail conditions and snow on the pass.


Traditional Route from Shey | Flight or Trek Delay Itinerary

Trek Namgung 4430m (cross Cela La 5105m or Thinle La 5165m)
The next few days cover some of the most culturally interesting regions of the trek, and the scenery is equally spectacular. We leave Shey and head east along the Sephu Khola towards the Shey La (or Cela La), a gradual three hour hike up the valley past doksas (seasonal settlements) and many ancient mani walls. We may pass Saldang inhabitants en route to or from Shey as the people of Saldang own this region. Turning to the right and starting to climb less gradually following a small stream we soon reach the last steep climb which brings us to the prayer-flag festooned Shey La (Cela La) at 5105 meters. From the windy pass, we are treated to magnificent panoramic views of the peaks surrounding Dolpo, with Mustang to the far east, Tibet to the north , and Kanjiroba, Kagmara and Riu Dhukta, or the Crystal Mountain, to the West. The landscape resembles more and more the arid plateaus and cathedral-like canyons of neighboring Mustang as we descend through this other-worldly landscape.

NOTE: We may opt to climb up the hill on a smaller trail behind Ringmo to what we named the 'Thinle La' (5265m), about 4 hours from Ringmo. This is a more remote route, beautiful high Tibetan tundra, where blue sheep roam (we watched a show of male blue sheep dominance in 2015). There are several small, rocky streams to jump and several winding contours opening up to incredible views over Upper Dolpo before reaching the pass. The well-worn trail to our left as we ascend leads to Saldang doksa, and the flat topped peak to the right of Crystal Mountain is Tsho Kalpo Kang.

We descend quite steeply to a small stream, where we continue to contour around the hillsides heading towards Namgung. We'll stop for lunch at a seasonal herding settlement, and then follow our yaks, kicking up dust, towards camp. Once around the hillsides, the ancient red and white Namgung Gompa, perched on the hill-side behind Namgung village, appears impressively below us, the older gompa built into the cliff while the newer gompa sits with the two houses of Namgung. Other ruins of ancient gompas and dwellings are built into the cliff-side near Namgung, adding to the mystique of this area. Take a walk down to the crumbling gompa, but be careful as the trail is crumbling and often precipitous. Our campsite is a ten minute walk above the small, five house and fifteen inhabitant village (we arrive first at camp), and we can walk down in the afternoon or morning to visit the Namgung Monastery. The lama has the key (his son studied in India) and will perhaps show us the ancient prayer books housed in the prayer room. From the village it's another five minutes to the old gompa, where there isn't much to see. (6.5 hrs, 12 km)

Trek Saldang 4090m (cross Saldang La 4540m)
A short, beautiful hike along the high trail leading to Saldang, with large birds of prey and sometimes migrating Demoiselle cranes soaring above us (in October), passing several doksas and villagers collecting wood or traveling these 'highways' en route. After a few hours of easy contouring and several climbs to mani wall topped ridges, we crest a ridge topped with prayer flags and look down on Saldang below us and the crinkle of dun-colored mountains to the north, bordering on Tibet. You can see the route to the Panzang valley from the ridge, and can pick out much of our route after leaving Saldang. The beautiful, pyramidal snowcapped peak at the border of Tibet is Danphesail. We call this point Saldang La although it's not really much of a pass ...

OLD ROUTE: After more contouring and several steep, sandy descents, we reach Caravan Thinle's typically Tibetan-style house at the northern end of the village (4175m), where we will try to stop for some salt-butter tea and a cup of Tibetan barley beer, or 'chang'. Our first year in Saldang the low-caste butchers were in Thinle's yard skinning three sheep, which would be cured and dried for future use. Thinle's grandson, Dorji Gyalgen, is about 17 years old, and attended the Saldang school until class 6.

NEW ROUTE: It's a long, steep hike directly down the hillside to our camp, crossing several eroded run-off ditches along the way. Our campsite is at the far east of this large village, not far from the school and fifteen minutes above the ochre Saldang's Samye Choeling Gompa, 750 years old, one of Upper Dolpo's oldest monasteries, gilded and sparkling in the mid-day sun. The gompa was recently repainted by the renown Dolpo artist Tenzin Norbu and an apprentice, and rebuilt in 1997 by Nyima Lama Rimpoche with help from the community.

Take advantage of the free afternoon to wander through this fascinating, scenic Tibetan village, past mani walls and through kane chortens, down village alleyways and around tilled barley fields. An interesting fact about Dolpo and the caste system last year from a visiting Lama, a relative of Thinle's. Dolpo still retains an ancient caste-system, discarded throughout much of the rest of the Tibetan Buddhist world, which doesn't permit Dolpo-pa of the higher castes to eat with or enter the house of lower-caste Dolpo-pa.

The school kids from the local Saldang school will be by in the afternoon, as will lovely Tsering Sangmo, Amchi Thundup from the movie 'HImalaya''s teen aged granddaughter. We are trying to find sponsors for her to study English in Kathmandu as she didn't get the chance for an education while in Saldang. Amchi Thundup's house is just below the campsite; we might be privileged to enter their family lhakhang (prayer room) and to see the ancient texts, murals and statues. (3 hrs, 7.5 km)


Day 17 - Saldang
A free day in wonderful Saldang, the largest village in the Nangkhang region of Dolpo, with several options for exploration:

OPTION 1: Make a loop through the remote villages north of Saldang, where the Autumn harvest will be in full force. We'll leave Saldang heading past Caravan Thinle's house, climb to a chorten and trek for 1 1/2 hours on a high, slightly exposed trail high above the Nagon Khola. After contouring around about three large ridges we climb to a large, stone chorten and look down to the twin villages of Karang and Marang, in their own valley and bustling with local, village life. Thinle will introduce us to his friends and relatives, and we'll hope to have the chance to visit his elder sister for some dried cheese (churpi) and salt-butter tea. Karang has a beautiful gompa on the far end of the village (4150m), near Thinle's sister's house, and another smaller one higher up on the far hillside.

OPTION 2: Explore Saldang, as the maze of alleys that winds through the village is endlessly fascinating. Below us, adjoining Samye Choeling Gompa, is the Amchi Hospital run by Amchi Thundup and his son. The amchi is one of the stars of the movie 'Himalaya' and showed us the instrument that was used in the movie to burn Thinle's chest when after the snow-storm. There is a great book on the making of Himalaya in the newer annex of the gompa below our campsite, definitely worth a walk up. The amchi speaks a bit of English, his son speaks more, and both are welcoming and fascinating to talk with. We'll have a chance to go inside a local house and have some suija (salt-butter tea), beer and snacks (the later two probably from China).

We might have a chance to have tea in the amchi's kitchen, a chance to experience traditional Dolpo life. We sat with local villager feasting on 'dhiro' and mustard-greens curry with fermented cheese sauce in the Spring of 2016, in exchange for their work planting barley in the amchi's fields.

OPTION 3: Hire horses (approx $25 per person) for a day-trip to Yanger Gompa, one of the oldest and most important in Dolpo, three or four hours to the north of Saldang along the eastern bank of the river. It's a beautiful ride along the deep canyon bottom, crossing the Nagon River numerous time, but the saddles are NOT comfortable and it can be a long, cold ride!

NOTE: Kamzang Journeys does not take any responsibility for our trekkers when hiring and riding a horse! Horses are contracted with the local providers and the riders.

Day 18 - Trek Khoma 4215m (cross Khoma La 4565m)
The next few days take us into the remote, stunningly beautiful and purely Tibetan Panzang valley and some of the best trekking in all of the Himalaya.

Heading downhill past Saldang Gompa along the route to Dho, we cross the Nagon Khola (sandals) and head straight up the dusty ridge on a steep, rocky switch-backing trail for an hour. Dropping down to a dry, black riverbed, we climb even more steeply and for quite a while to a grassy plateau where we'll stop for a much-needed lunch break. From our lunch plateau we'll have views of Damphesail Peak, a lone pyramid, and a snow-capped range in Tibet (or at the border) further to the left.

A further fifteen minutes brings us to the Khoma La (4565 meters), from where we contour gradually down to eventually reach the beautiful village of Khomagaon, locally called Khoma ('gaon' means village in Nepali) where we camp next to the beautiful new school on a large, flat and somewhat grassy plateau. Just before we reach camp we pass directly through Khoma Gompa and school where we might be greeted by the villagers. Dolpo blankets and aprons will certainly be on offer in the afternoon outside our tent, which will be transformed into a Central Asian bazaar! (5.5-6 hrs, 10.5 km)

Day 19 - Trek Pu Gompa 3990m (cross Shimen La 4270m)
After fortifying ourselves with freshly-brewed coffee, we leave Khomasgaon, drop down to the river, and after an hour or so cross the Gurchhu Khola on a wooden bridge. Right afterward, we ascend and contour for another hour to a small pass, the Shimen La (4270 meters). From the crest of the pass you can look down valley into expansive and green Shimen village. From here it's a short but steep and sandy hike down to the intersection of the northern trail from Saldang, which follows the Panjyan (Panzang) Khola. We are now in the Panzang district of Dolpo, which Kenneth Bauer writes much about in his book, High Frontiers. He's got a great website and organization called DROKPA ( which you should take a look at before or after coming to Dolpo. Shimen is just past this intersection, across a small, wooden bridge. Snellgrove, who visited Dolpo in the 1960s, wrote 'Shimen is the most pleasant of Dolpo's villages just because of its many trees' and you'll notice the difference between Shimen and Khoma! Shimen Gompa is in the middle of town, and we may stop to visit a family that we helped last year before continuing on to our campsite an hour (plus) down the valley.

Once through bustling Shimen, where villagers will be threshing their barley, we continue past long, crumbling mani walls with ancient chortens and drop down to the river. We follow this trail along the Panzang Khola for about an hour before turning right up a narrow canyon and climbing steeply to  Mendo, is a seasonal doksa with a mani wall and stone enclosures. To the north a trail ascends to the Yanan La (5487m) into Tibet, a locally used trade route. Continuing another 15 minutes out of Mendo we cross a wooden bridge to reach the small Pu Gompa, where camp is set near a lovely grove of willows and next to a refreshing stream. There may be a monks living in the gompa who will open the prayer rooms for us in the afternoon, and we'll certainly be visited by blue sheep watching us from the steep ridges across the river. Note the ancient meditation cave retreats, the ruins of an old monstery and chortens across the river, up in the hillsides. (6 hrs, 15.5 km)

Day 20 - Trek Thinkyu (Thinje) 4160m
Heading south along the Panzang Khola along the eastern bank we trek past more carved mani walls giving thanks to the local gods and Namgyal Chorten high up in the hills across the river. We stay along the river bank and enjoy the easy trekking to a seasonal village and then to the small hamlet of Phalwa, where another trail branches off to the north heading to the Tibetan border and the Marim La (5488m), signifying how important trade still is between Dolpo and Tibet. Crossing the intersecting stream, we climb slightly to an impressive group of large and ancient chortens and mani walls adorned with fluttering, multi-colored Tibetan prayer flags where we may stop for lunch and enjoy the serene setting.

We trek another hour to Thinkyu, a sprawling and fascinating village, home to many of of the villagers from the movie 'Himalaya'.  Tenzin Norbu, the well-known 'Ngagpa' painter of Dolpo comes from Thinkyu in the Panzang region. In the old times, his ancestors, also monk painters, traveled to Lo Monthang in Mustang to pay their tribute in murals, thankas and mani walls. Today his family still resides over the small gompa high above the village.

Our campsite is one of the most idyllic yet, across a covered wooden bridge on the grassy banks of the Panzang Khola which veers off to the south and Tokyu (near Dho). Take advantage of this wonderful, warm and sunny spot to do some laundry, go for a wash. Kula Ri is the sacred peak in front of the village and Baikher Danda is the craggy range directly to the east of Thinkyu. Relax and enjoy Dolpo! (4 1/2 hrs, 11.5 km)

Day 21 - Thinkyu
We have a free day to do some exploring of this remote section of Dolpo, very close to the border of Tibet. Thinle and Nima know many people in this village so we'll have a chance to visit some of the local households and wander the village with the goats and sheep. There is an interesting and ancient look-out tower back across the covered bridge and ten minutes past that landmark is the wonderful Siddhartha Kulu Mountain School where the students were practicing their dances for parents' day in 2009. (

Head straight up the hill in back of the school to reach Tralung Gompa, just past the long mani wall and surrounded by large, ancient chortens, well worth the 400 meter scramble. We had salt-butter tea with the resident lama Karma Tenzin in 2009 (who has since passed away, sadly). Kenneth Bauer writes very engaging accounts of staying with Tenzin Norbu's father, Karma Tenzin, and mother, Yangtsum Lama at their house gompa, Tralung Gompa. His account provides a wonderful look into the harsh every-day life of the Dolpo-pa. (We have his book in our library).

Continuing further southeast along Polte Khola, it's a flat one hour walk through small hamlets of Nilu and Dhaugaon to Polte village, all of which will be bustling with the harvest-time threshing and winnowing of the barley and digging up of the potatoes.

Day 22 - Trek Mola Doksa Camp 4518m
We are truly off the map today with a long hike following the local trade route southeast, heading towards Mustang. En route we might  pass villagers from Tsarka with their yak caravans heading to or from Tibet or picking up supplies that they stashed, a timeless vignette. The trail is easy-going at the start, following the Panzang River along the eastern banks past green kharkas where locals will be brewing their morning salt-butter tea.

After three scenic hours we reach the intersection where the Panzang Khola intersects the Sulun Khola. This is an alternative route to Dho Tarap in Lower Dolpo. We continue to follow the river on the same side as our trail climbs and descends, and we lose the views as we pass through narrowing, windy canyons with boggy valley bottoms, good grazing for the ubiquitous yaks. We'll stop for lunch at the intersection of the Humlum Khola and enjoy the rest at this lovely spot.

After another few hours the valley widens and becomes more rocky, and after crossing a small stream feeding from a large glacial valley we climb and descend again to the wide plateau of Rapka (4535m). There are two campsites at Rapka, the closer one slightly less covered in yak-dung and another one half an hour away which is a bit more dung-saturated. Both have expansive views and make good stopping points for the night. If all goes well we will continue on another 45-minutes to an hour further, past more seasonal settlements, crossing the Dikhun Khola at the sumdo and camping just a few minutes past the crossing. You'll need your Crocs for this crossing as the rocks are slippery. Beware, the river is cold as is the evening temperature once the sun falls behind the hills! (7-8 hrs)

Day 23 - Trek Chharka 4310m (cross Chharka La 5030m)
We have a long, eight hour day in front of us with a pass in the middle of it so we're up early to get a head-start on the day. Continuing down our wide valley for five minutes (if we camp at the last camp), we have to wade the wide, icy but shallow river to get to the access valley for the Chharka La (Mola Bhanjyang) at 5030 meters . The Lakkyan Khola turns to the flood-plain like Myantoku Khola, a small river which we have to ford several times (again, bring your Crocs). We have to climb a bit on the right side of the river, drop back down and then at the chortens start climbing again. There is a false summit, or the pass has two summits, so don't let the first one fool you. We have another hour or so to go before reaching the Chharka La (5030m) where we met a huge yak caravan descending in years past, kicking up dust as the yaks ran down the pass, a fantastic sight back-lit by the sun. Just past the cairn-topped pass look to the right for a breath-taking view of the Dhaulagiri range.

We have another 2 1/2 or 3 hours of contouring, sometimes steeply up or down, to reach Tsarka and will probably pass villager en route collecting the evening's firewood. It's a wonderful time of day to be hiking, so forget the length of the day and look around at the classic Dolpo landscape glowing in the high mountain sunrays. Once we reach the line of impressive chortens along the trail we are close to camp. From here Tsarka Gompa is just below us to the right and Chharka village is below straight ahead. You might recognize the village from 'Himalaya' - much of the movie was filmed here. We pass the village school on the left as we descend, pass through the large kane that marks the beginning of the main village, and then wind our way through this ancient village to reach our campsite in the tilled barley fields just above the Chharka Khola. Just below our campsite is the bridge that leads to the newer part of the village and a few shops, and behind us is the old village, with small, walled alleys that fill with Pashmina sheep and goats in the evening.

Our campsite in Chharka is a bit dusty but a nice one with the sound of the rushing river to lull us to sleep, and we'll be visited by villagers and their herd of sheep and goats, possibly even a posse of yaks! (7-8 hrs)

Day 24 - Chharka
It was a long day yesterday so we've scheduled an extra recovery day today, a chance to visit this interesting hamlet of closely-built, white-washed dwellings, medieval in feel. If you're up early hike back up to the chortens above the village for a atmospheric photo of the village clothed in the morning smoke. Chharka has a Bon-po monastery, Sarchhen Gompa, above the main village which is interesting to visit. This gompa is only 25 years old, rebuilt after the 250 year old gompa across the river became inhabitatable. You can see the ruins of the older gompa from the new gompa; the original gompa is 1000 years old, somewhere up the valley behind our camp. Have a wander though town and visit some of the old Tibetan-style houses and tea-houses across the river, visit the shop to re-supply or have a wash down by the (chilly) river. We'll have lots of visitors if you just want to relax at camp with a book.

We'll often set up an impromptu 'medical center' inside our dining tent as we usually have a line of Chharka-pa waiting patiently outside to see a doctor. The same year we arrived just in time for a big Tibetan festival, with all the typical Dolpo components: chanting, dancing, music, eating and drinking in the 'chang hall', socializing and everyone dressed in their finest Tibetan garb. Truly an amazing experience! As we couldn't cross the passes to Jomsom, we spent an additional night in Chharka so got the chance to go inside some of the typically-Tibetan style houses and drink a few cups of salt-butter tea while Lhakpa and Kim stocked up on silver-dollar sized potatoes (about all they had to sell in town).

Day 25 - Trek Yak Mesa Camp 4575m
On towards the series of passes that will eventually lead us to Jomsom and Lower Mustang. We look forward to a short but lovely day of walking ahead of us, crossing the small bridge over the Chharka Khola to the other section of Chharka and then continuing for about fifteen minutes and crossing the Chharka Khola again on a new, metal bridge. We follow the right side of the river for another hour or so, mostly level, and then start to climb gradually only to descend back to the river at Naliyang Sumdo, the intersection of the Chharka Khola and the Thansan Khola. We cross the river on another new bridge and then climb very steeply to the top of the ridge, from where we follow this high trail which ascends gradually up the high plateau to a more defined trail. We soon reach a small, grassy campsite with a spring and great views, yaks grazing along the hillsides.

Continuing to ascend gradually, contouring on a rocky trail around the hillside, we descend steeply to large, open, tundra-like pastures which is Yak Mesa Camp. The peaks in back of camp turn golden in the evening at sunset, a sublime sight. (4 1/2 hrs, 12 km)

Day 26 - Trek Yak Doksa Camp 4990m
After having had a shorter day yesterday we've got an eight-hour day again today. After breakfast we climb on a scree trail and then descend to follow the Thansan Khola, which widens considerably after the valley on the right emerging from the cluster of 5000 meter peaks and narrows after another hour or so. We reach a grassy campsite and doksa called Yakulung (4665m) after trekking right next to the river, and then another that locals call Dinger (4765m) , a large, grassy plateau where we might stop for lunch. We continue to follow the undulating trail along the Thansan Khola, now climbing more steadily, and finally reach our campsite which we've named Yak Doksa Camp. We'll collect a large pile of dung for a roaring fire in the evening as it's cold at our highest campsite on the trek! (4 1/2 hrs, 12 km)

Day 27 - Trek Ghulden River Camp 4240m | Ghok 4110m (cross Niwar La | Jungben La 5560m)
Our double pass day today has to be on the top-10 list of Himalayan trekking days, a spectacular day of superlatives ...

From the intersection of Malung Khola and Thansan Khola we head in back of camp directly up the right side of the icy, shallow Thansan Khola for half an hour. We cross this small stream on flat rocks and climb gently to a large plateau, a grazing area for 200-300 yaks. Continuing to climb gently, we reach a rock cairn called the Niwas La at 5120 meters, and then continue to traverse this vast plateau. After a rest we'll make the last steep 300 meter climb up the Jungben La at 5560. And what a view from the prayer-flag festooned top of the pass! We're treated to 360 degree views, with Dhaulagiri dominating the skyline. The Jungben La marks the border of Dolpo and the Annapurnas; we've now entered Mustang and the Annapurna region ...

After a good rest and many photos we start down an extremely steep 400-meter switchback (which is possible to descend by scree jumping straight down and through a narrow canyon-like opening) to the river below, where we stop for a well-deserved lunch on a grassy plateau at 5145 meters. We then cross the stream on flat rocks and contour on a winding, gradually ascending trail to the next pass which we've called Sangtha Ridge (5130m), and locals perhaps call Kewar La. From here, more incredible views which include the Thorung La on the Annapurna Circuit and the peaks of Mustang. Another very steep switchback down to the next ridge with cairns of sticks and more steep descents through a more forested section of trail to our camp far below, at Ghulden River camp on a spur of land in the midst of this jagged slope. A waterfall makes a dramatic drop just above our camp and falls down to a small, icy river near us. The evening is lovely as the sunset sends a pink glow over the distant snow peaks across the Kali Gandaki. The winter settlement of the Sangda villagers, Ghok, is 45 minutes to the east of camp, or to the left as you look down valley; we may decide to continue on to Ghok for the night and spend some time with these remote villagers from the most far-flung of Mustangi villages. (7 1/2-8 hrs, 13.5 km)

Day 28 - Trek Sangda 3780m
The trails are more remote in this valley, so be aware of exposed trails during our remote hike to Sangda and keep an eye out for snow leopard tracks! Leaving camp we head to the right as we face down valley, cross a small ridge and hike down through a light forest of juniper and low brush, red with autumn colors, to a small plateau. We continue to the right and descend steeply on exposed trail, partly washed by mudslides. We hug a cliff-side trail and descend steeply past falling icicles until we reach the bridge at Kyalunpa Khola (Sangda bridge, 3875m - Sangda Phedi on map?). Climbing steeply up the opposite bank we pass a small doksa and contour on somewhat exposed, high trails with views across the steep valley to Ghok. We eventually reach a large chorten hung with Tibetan prayer flags at Chotse La (4125m) where we bought a horse saddle blanket right off a horse one year. The scenery is spectacular as we descend steeply through hoodoos and past narrowing canyons and peaks open up in front of us. Dhampus Peak (6012m) is the southwestern most peak in this massif, and moving east from there is the Sechi Lek (5981m), Tashikang (6386m) and Tasartse (6343m). We'll stop for lunch by a small river and then ascend for half an hour past ancient chortens to Sangda, where camp is being set up at the uppermost reaches of the village at the school. Below us the flat mud roofs of the village with flags on four corners and backed by a mosaic of harvested fields makes a pretty picture. There will probably be no one in this remote outpost of Gurungs, though, as this is the summer settlement of the villagers (who we met at Ghok). This is blue sheep and snow leopard territory , so have your binoculars out.

Sangda is a settlement which used to have 20 households but now only has 14. The stone ruins across the river is the old village of Sangda. The children of Sangda only attend their school in the village for 3 months each year, a challenging scenario for the villagers. (4-5 hrs, 13.5 km)

Day 29 - Trek Phalyak 3175m (cross Pema Lajun La 4470m & Dolpo La 4310m)
From Sangda, we start climbing right away, switchbacking to the first large chorten on the ridge above us. We contour above the spring and campsite below us to the next ridge-top chorten spending most of the morning making a high traverse, crossing another three or four ridges to the first pass of the day, marked by a large cairn of white stones. It will take us another hour of similar terrain, possibly with snow covering the trail, to reach the second, smaller pass. From here, we descend quite steeply into the Kali Gandaki valley, past a monastery cave (somewhere), and easily crest the Pema Lajun La (4470m), also called the Bhima Lojun La, marked with a larger stone cairn and a prayer flag pole. Just below we'll stop for lunch at a large, flat rock. We've got another half an hour of relatively easy climbing to reach one of the most scenic passes of the trek which we've called the Dolpo La (4310m). From the pass we have a magnificent vista, looking out to snow-capped peaks and down to Mustang's patch-work of trails and villages far below. Kagbeni, Jharkot, Muktinath, Thorung Peak, the Thorung La, Niligiri, Dhaulagiri and the Kali Gandaki are all visible, an awe-inspiring site!

The northern trail goes steeply and directly down to Kagbeni. We descend steeply on a wide trail which is being made into a road, and have a few more hours of contouring around, up and down the steep canyons to reach the last ridge above our destination, the Phalyak La (3850m). Below sit the fortress-like villages of Phalyak and Dhakar Jhong, the later across the small stream; we set up camp for the night in the yard of a hotel in Phalyak. Phalyak is an interesting Mustangi village which holds an annual archery festival as most of the Mustangi and Manangi villages do. We stumbled upon one a few years back and followed the pre (or post) festival procession around town, the locals imbibing plenty of chang, or barley beer. (8 hrs, 19.5 km)

Day 30 - Trek Jomsom 2724m (optional - cross Dhakar Jhong La 3470m)
Stick your heads out of your tents (or rooms) to see the sunrise on Niligiri and Dhaulagiri before breakfast. Himalayan sunrises and sunsets are one of the many things that remind us of why we've come all this way, and endured these hard, cold trekking days!

After crossing over to neighboring Dhakar Jhong, passing through the center of the village with its tri-colored chortens, the women grinding juniper for incense and then the small pond surrounded by willows, we climb easily to a ridge 300 meters above the village which we've called Dhakar Jhong La (3470m) and then head directly south down a steep, sandy trail towards Jomsom, the district headquarters of Mustang, back to 'civilization' (road, trekkers, shopping, beers, bakeries & coffee shops) on the Annapurna Circuit. We reach the long, cobbled path that connects upper and lower Jomsom, along which beautiful textiles, woven on hand looms in the traditional style, and are displayed by Mustangi women. At the Trekker's Lodge in the lower section of Jomsom near the airport hot showers await. We'll celebrate our wonderful journey through remote Dolpo in the evening with our five-star crew, hand out tips and bonuses and down a few cold beers with the boys. (3.5 hrs, 12 km)

Day 31 - Fly Pokhara + Kathmandu
The end of an amazing trek, and an equally impressive exit as we fly by Dhaulagiri and the Annapurna range to reach Pokhara, where we transfer to a flight to Kathmandu. Back in Kathmandu, our rooms are waiting for us at the Kathmandu Guest House, hot showers being the first order of the afternoon! We'll head out to dinner at the Roadhouse later, and celebrate our incredible journey through Dolpo.

NOTE: In the case of flight cancellation out of Jomsom, we'll pay for the rooms and everyone will be responsible for their own meals as if in Kathmandu.

NOTE: Unless you have flexible flights we strongly suggest you add at least one, and perhaps two days in Kathmandu at the end of the trek that allow for possible flight delays in getting out of Jomsom.

Day 32 - Trip Ends
Transfer to the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) for your flight home. Namaste!

Kathmandu | Optional Sightseeing Tour Bhaktapur
One more day in Kathmandu, with an optional sightseeing excursion by private vehicle to Bhaktapur. Bhaktapur which translates as 'Place of Devotees’ and is also known as Bhadgaon, is an ancient Newar city approximately 15 kilometers east of the Kathmandu Valley. Bhaktapur is one of three ancient capitals of the Kathmandu valley, the capital of the Newar Kingdom and a city of artisans and craftspeople famous for its art and architecture: intricate carvings, sculptures, paintings, thankas, pottery, statues and temples, or pagodas. Bhaktapur has a well-preserved ‘durbar square’, or palace square, and has been named a World Heritage site by UNESCO because of its incredible temples, pagodas, wood carvings, stone carvings and metalwork. Bhaktapur is also famous for its yogurt, called curd in Asia, a taste which hasn’t been duplicated anywhere.

Spend a full day exploring Bhaktapur and its rich cultural heritage, where a majority of enthnic Newaris live in traditional ways, and life seems to stand still. There are many great restaurants and cafes to rejuvenate, and it's possibly the best spot in Kathmandu for purchasing a thanka after watching the technique, as well as shopping for endless other locally produced crafts. Bhaktapur is home to countless local festivals, so if you are lucky and arrive on a festival day, enjoy the timeless and colorful events unfold.

+ Kathmandu World Heritage Sightseeing Tour | Bhaktapur (+$100)
+ Entrance Fees not Included for Single Person

Kathmandu | Optional Sightseeing Tour Patan
Visit the third of Kathmandu's ancient capitals, known as 'The City of Fine Arts', best if you have an extra day in hand as Patan is also rich in cultural heritage, has many lovely roof-top cafes for lunch and world-class museums. Some of the highlights of Patan are its Durbar Square, the Krishna Temple within the palace complex of Patan (entirely made of stone, with 21 distinctive spires), and Hiranya Varna Mahavir, or the Golden Buddha Temple.

+ Kathmandu World Heritage Sightseeing Tour | Patan (+$50)
+ Entrance Fees not Included for Single Person

Kathmandu | Optional Everest Sightseeing Flight
An hour long extravaganza of the world's 8000 meter peaks, including airport transfers. (+$270)

Kathmandu | Optional Extra Days at Shivapuri Heights Cottages
A wonderful get away 20 km north of Kathmandu, Shivapuri Heights Cottages are stylishly designed and personal cottages built around a 'common house', where you can breakfast overlooking the stunningly beautiful Kathmandu valley. Massages available on request. (+Inquire for Price)

Kathmandu | Optional Cycling Trip in Kathmandu Valley
Many options for day trips, or extended trips, in the Kathmandu Valley. We can customize a cycling trip for you in partnership with one of our knowledgeable partners in Kathmandu. (+Inquire for Price)

Extra Days in Kathmandu | Customize your Journey!
We have plenty of great suggestions for extra days, or weeks, in Nepal! See our Nepal & Kathmandu Modules | Customize Your Trip! to put together the perfect journey.

Mountain biking, rafting, vespa tours or yoga retreats around the Kathmandu valley or Pokhara, trips to Bhaktapur or Patan (Kathmandu Valley's other historic capital cities), a visit to the Newari temple of Changu Narayan and a night at the Fort Hotel in Nagarkot for sublime Himalayan panoramas, an Everest sightseeing flight, a luxurious stay at Temple Tree Resort & Spa, paragliding, hiking or zip-lining in Pokhara, a spa & wellness getaway at Dwarikas Resort in Dhulikhel, a relaxing excursion to Chitwan National Park Wildlife Safari & Tharu Villages (staying at Maruni Sanctuary Lodge) or Bardia National Park, a weekend of adventure, sauna and pampering at The Last Resort or five-star treatment in historic Dwarika's in Kathmandu.

Kamzang Journeys can customize any of these excursions for you, just inquire!


Namaste & Tashi Delek!

© Kim Bannister

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