Days twenty two to twenty four of the Luana Snowman Trek, start of the final week of a month long hike in Bhutan. There were still five more high altitude passes to cross though and some of the longest days of walking before returning to civilisation.
It was another cold night camping, at Geche Woma 4,950m above sea level, with frost on the ground and light snow on the surrounding hills.
Thankfully the sun came out but it was still cold as the wind swept down the Sasha Chuu valley. We gradually dropped 650m during a half day walk, with some great views along the way.
Half way down the river pooled, illustrating the beautiful milky blue glacial water running down the valley.
Beyond which these red plants added colour to the rocky landscape.
There were a few yak herder camps along the way, the first sign of any civilisation since leaving Tenchey three days prior, and there wouldn’t be any villages until the end of the Snowman in five days time. This is a very remote area of Bhutan, though walking with a group of a dozen, plus support crew and herd of horses and mules gave a different sense of remoteness to walking solo in the New Zealand backcountry.
Just beyond the yak herders camp was this photogenically placed yak skull.
The views continued, with the return of rhododendron to the landscape, though it started to cloud over.
By the time we reached our campsite at Mischugang for lunch there were a few flakes of snow in the air. Thankfully only after the camp had been set up this turned to heavy snow which started to settle. I filled the cold afternoon with sketching, writing and reading.
It was a cold start to one of the toughest days on the Snowman, with three passes to cross. The rhododendron lined valley was scenically covered in light snow.
It was a steep climb through mostly cloud up to the Phorang La pass at 4,850m. Occasionally the clouds parted to reveal the valley below.
Nearby at Phorang was another yak herders camp, and some stone walls where other camps could be set up. They’re very basic shelters, you need to be hardy to be a yak herder…
Thankfully the clouds started to clear, and the scenery was quite spectacular.
The climb up to the 4,960m Saga La pass was as steep as it looked, but offered great views below of the alpine lake.
When the clouds parted the views from the pass were stunning, with a huge sense of scale looking down to the bottom of the valley below, where we would be heading tomorrow.
Heading back down the sun reflected nicely on this alpine lake.
There was still one more pass to cross, though thankfully Worithang La was by far the smallest and easiest.
It crossed into an atmospheric valley where we camped overnight at Worithang.
It was another cold night camping, but first thing at camp was rather pleasant.
Unfortunately during breakfast freezing cold clouds descended, with the temperature plummeting and views disappearing.
Thankfully crossing the Nephu La pass at 4,560m was much easier than the passes the previous day.
From here it was pretty much straight down over 1,300m with significant changes in climate and scenery, plus the return of thick mud, a regular feature of the Snowman Trek.
There were some lovely autumnal colours in the woods, though also a hornets nest which we stayed well clear of. Crew and horses walking ahead got bitten multiple times, painful….
This bridge was worryingly wobbly but offered some great views.
We ended the day to camp at Dur Tsachu, home to numerous hot springs set up in the woods. They’re free and quite a pilgrimage spot for locals apparently. After a tepid shower using a soup bowl five days ago it was lovely to sit in a tub of hot water.