Highlights of the Snowman Trek

Regarded as one of the longest and hardest hikes in the Himalayas, the Snowman Trek runs for ~350km through some of the highest and most remote parts of Bhutan. Here were the highlights, and lowlights, of spending nearly a month walking it in September / October 2019.

As hoped there were some quite spectacular views, particularly around Tshorim Lake and through the Luana region.

Once the weather improved half way through some pretty epic mountains could be seen, including the unusually flat 7,000m high Ghachen Singye / Table Mountain on the border between Bhutan and Tibet, the 7,541m high Gangkar Punsum, the tallest mountain in Bhutan, and the 6,395m high Gangla Karchung.

Unfortunately as can often be the case in the mountains, and particularly it seems on this trek compared to those in Nepal, Ladakh or Pakistan, low cloud can obscure many of the views. For example in two and half days at Jhomolhari Base Camp we saw pretty much nothing, the gloom was atmospheric at the start but a bit miserable by the end.

The Snowman passes through some of the most remote parts of Bhutan, with days of walking between even the smallest of villages. Visiting these isolated communities which had no road access (though many have mobile reception and either mains or solar electricity) was a highlight, gaining a brief taster of rural life.

The Snowman cross eleven passes over ~4,500m, the most spectacular views (aided by clear weather) were from the 5,240m Karchung La pass surrounded by snow covered mountains, the 4,435m Keshe La pass with small lakes either side, and the 5,345m Gophu La pass with two gorgeous glacial lakes.

There was less to see crossing others such as the 4,905m Tsema La pass.

There were some wonderful autumnal colours along the way.

There was far more mud than snow along the track, most of which could be avoided by stepping carefully from stone to stone, other than final two days on the Snowman when it was unavoidable.

There was a fair bit of downtime on the trek during the afternoons, evenings, and a couple of rest days. This I filled with writing, reading, and sketching things seen along the way.

Finally there was a sense of achievement from completing an experience shared by only about 50 people a year. Over eight times more people summit Mt Everest annually than complete the full Luana Snowman. Physically I found it mostly straightforward, other than when I was quite ill hard way through, which unfortunately coincided with one of the toughest of the 26 days spent walking the track.

The challenge was more mental, sleeping in a tent for 28 nights, and doing basically the same thing everyday. The typically average weather obscuring many views was the biggest struggle, particularly during the first half of the hike, but thankfully the second half was better. Overall it was a good and memorable experience, but not one that I’d want to repeat, unlike some of the other longer walks I’ve done such as the Larapinta Trail.

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