Upper Dolpo Trekking/ The She Gompa

upper dolpo trekkingBUNA Upper Dolpo Trekking and the Shey Gompa, located in the midway between the Tibetan Plateau and the Dhaulagiri Himal range is one of the highest inhabited land of Dolpo. Geographically a southern extension of Tibet, it lies within the borders of the kingdom of Nepal, since 1984 has been the country’s largest national park and conservation, the park sustains an abundance of wild life including Musk Deer, Himalayan Blue Sheep and the elusive Snow Leopard, as well as being home to a fascinating race of Tibetan speaking people. The hardy highlanders of Dolpo are traders, exchanging barley for Tibetan rock salt and they take their yaks onto the Tibetan plateau during the summer for grazing, and the most remote, least developed district in Nepal.

Upper Dolpo Trekking and the Shey Gompa starts from Jhupal village, begining this wonderful adventure, encountering interesting places, people, villages, valleys and serene forest of pines, oaks and rhododendron, the trek passes many gigantic mountain ranges and over the Numala pass at 5,400m till we reach the Phoksundo lake at Ringmo village in the “Phoksundo National Park”.

At Ringmo, the highlight of our trip  we will have two nights here to enjoy the beauty of the deep blue waters of the Phoksundo lake and the surrounding snow peaks of Kanjibro Himal, with time  to visit the nearby isolated village of Ringmo and its Monastery.
Upper DolpoTrekkng and the Shey Gompa classic journey continues to the amazing country of Crystal Mountain at Shey Gomba, following the ancient Trans Himalayan Trade route and back to Jhuphal for the flight back by an alternative route, giving you more opportunity to explore this fascinating wild west of Nepal.

“on the far wild north western  region of Nepal, in absolute wilderness view of array of peaks in the hidden valleys under the clear crystal blue sky journey into the remote cultural destination”‘

Trip Profile:
Mode of trekking:                On Camping basis.
Trekking Grade:                   Moderate to Adventurous.
Trekking and Camping:     22 – 23days.
Total Trip:                               27- 28 days.

Outline Itinerary:

Day 01: Arrive Kathmandu 1,300m and transfer to Hotel.
Day 02: In Kathmandu with half day tour.
Day 03: Fly from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj & transfer to Hotel.
Day 04: Fly from Nepalgunj to Jhuphal (Dolpo) 2,320m.
Trek to Dunai 2,850m. 2-3 hrs walks.
Day 05: Trek to Ankhe 2,896m, 5-6 hrs.
Day 06: Trek to Sulighat 3,500m, 5-6 hrs.
Day 07: Trek to Phoksumdo Lake 3,500m. 4-5 hours.
Day 08: Rest Day at Phoksumdo Lake.
Day 09: Trek to Phuksumdo Khola 4-5 hrs.
Day 10: Trek to Phoksumdo Bhanjyang  6-7 hrs.
Day 11: Trek to Shey Gompa 4,500m via Kang-La 5,360m, 5-6 hrs.
Day 12: Rest day at Shey Gompa the Crystal Monastery.
Day 13: Trek to Namduna Gaon 4,800m via Saldang La 5,200m.
Day 14: Trek to Saldang. 3,620m. 4-5 hours.
Day 15: Trek to Yangze Gompa 4,960m, 4-5 hrs.
Day 16: Trek to Sibu 4,560m, 6-7 hrs.
Day 17: Trek to Jeng-la Phedi 4,900m, 5-6 hrs.
Day 18: Trek to Tokyu Gaon 4,200m via Jeng la 5,090m, 5-6 hrs.
Day 19: Trek to Dho Tarap 4,040m, 4-5 hrs.
Day 20: Rest Day at Dho Tarap.
Day 21: Trek to Tarap Khola ( Kamakharka) 3,800m, 6-7 hrs.
Day 22: Trek to Kharigaon 3,150m, 5 hours.
Day 23: Trek to Tarakot 2,850m, 5 hrs.
Day 24: Trek to Dunai 2,850m, 16 kms 6 hrs.
Day 25: Trek to Jhuphal 2-3 hrs.
Day 26: Fly Jhuphal-Nepalgunj-Kathmandu.
Day 27: In Kathmandu at leisure.
Day 28: Transfer to Airport for the International departure.

Details Itinerary

Day 01: Arrive at Kathmandu 1,300m and transfer to Hotel.
On arrival at Kathmandu International Airport you will be received by BUNA staff and transfer you to the Hotel, where BUNAguide will give you a brief orientation of the Hotel, Kathmandu, Trekking and Camping, do’s and don’t and other related information that you might require while in Nepal.

Day 02: In Kathmandu.
After your first night in Kathmandu, you will be well informed on arrival about the time for your half day guided sightseeing tour in Kathmandu at places of interest. Sometimes, depending upon your flight arrival if it’s late in the night we will do this tour in the afternoon instead of morning to give you a good rest before you set out of the Hotel in our interesting tour.

Day 03: Fly from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj & transfer to Hotel.
As per the flight schedule for Nepalgunj, transfer to the domestic airport for an hour scenic flight to Nepalgunj. At Nepalgunj, time in the late afternoon or evening to have a look around the town which is situated on the southern Nepal border close to India.

Day 04: Fly from Nepalgunj to Jhuphal (Dolpo) 2,320m. Trek to Dunai 2,850m. From Nepalgunj, early morning transfer to airport for the 40 minute flight to Jhuphal over the Himalayan foothills, with views of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri peaks to the north. On arriving at Jhuphal BUNA trekking crews will receive you, who have walked all the way from Nepalgunj with the camping gear and food supply taking 5-6 days. Here at Jhuphal a short walk from the airstrip leads to the overnight camp towards the main village of Dolpo at Dunai.

First day walk begins with an hour downhill walk through the village below the airstrip, then leading through the terraced fields to the Bheri River and the narrow gorge taking 2-3 hours to camp at Dunai. This is a much larger village or a small township, with a new hospital and administrate headquarter of the Dolpo region.

Day 05: Trek to Ankhe 2,896m, 5-6 hrs.
From the camp at Dunai, route diverts to cross the new suspension bridge and turning west, following the trail past the hospital. The path soon begins to climb up the side of the treeless Thulo Bheri Valley, where it leads to a ridge and then entering the Phoksumdo river valley, finally reaching another ridge which is marked by cairns at 2,499m which offers grand view of the Kagmara Peak up the valley. Walk leads to a large side canyon, then descending gently on the long downhill slope through the scattered houses and walnut groves to a stream at 2,810m.

The trail below the stream leads to Dhera, a winter settlement where people from higher villages keep herds of cows and goats, however we take the upper trail climbing to Rahagaon, a Thakuri village at 2,900m. Where there is a Gompa dedicated to the local god, Mastha, guardians of this village. Journey from here passes through the lower part of Rahagaon and then descending to the village water supply at the Phuksumdo khola. Passing through another canyon and then heading downhill through deep dark forests to a large stream, finally emerging at the entrance to the Shey Phoksumdo National Park at Ankhe.

Day 06: Trek to Sulighat 3,500m, 5-6 hrs.
The path from this camp leads to small ups and downs along the forested riverbed, then ascending steeply to about 2,900m. The ups and downs can begin to get a bit monotonous, but there are several streams along the way that offer a chance to cool off. The trail eventually leaves the forests and traverses a grassy slope high above the river. After a while the path once begin to descend steeply into forest until it reaches a cliff, whereby a dizzying drop on a wobbly stone staircase to the river bank has to be undertaken. You can almost look down between your toes to see the fast-flowing river below. After reaching the river at 2,950m, the trail becomes a collection of rocks and sticks that form a dyke along the river bank. It’s hard to imagine how the local people bring yaks and cows along this trail, but they do.
Journey continues upstream to a bridge near Ryajik village for the overnight camp after a good day’s walk.

Day 07: Trek to Phoksumdo Lake 3,500m, 4-5 hours.
The trail continues along the valley floor to the confluence of the Phoksumdo and Pungmo  Kholas.
After crossing to the western side of the Phuksumdo Khola on a wooden bridge following the west bank of the Pungmo Khola which takes us all the way to Phuksumdo Lake near Ringmo village. The path passes through a cedar forest and finally to Palam, a winter settlement used by the people of Ringmo village. The houses here are almost buried in the sandy soil. Then head up to open country, at an altitude of around 3,350m. From the ridge we can see the distant views of Phuksumdo Lake and a spectacular 300m high waterfall, one of the highest in Nepal.
After a brief stop here with the great views we finally descent through birch forests to the upper reaches of the Phuksumdo Khola, and then to the picturesque settlement of Ringmo with its mud plastered chorten and mani walls. From here it is a short walk to the shores of Phoksumdo Lake for our overnight camp.

Day 08: Rest Day at Phoksumdo Lake.
A rest day free from packing, at Phuksumdo one can go for a short hike to the village of Ringmo and its Tibetan Buddhist Monastery is well worth a visit.

Day 09: Trek to Phuksumdo Khola 4-5 hrs.
From Phuksumdo, adventure continues skirting the shore of the lake as it contours on a rocky ledge along the western bank. This unsteady trail suspended on a gangway of wood supported on pegs driven into crevices in the rocks, signals the remoteness of the area we are about to enter. At the westernmost edge of the lake the path leads through a lush meadow that opens up into the flood plain of the Phoksumdo Khola.
Walk leads through the valley, criss-crossing the river and avoiding the occasional boggy marsh underfoot and then coming on the bank of the river to the
overnight camping.

Day 10: Trek to Phoksumdo Bhanjyang  6-7 hrs.
Today’s first hour walk leads along the level path through a glacial valley that now heads due north. At the confluence of the Phoksumdo Khola and another mountain stream, there is an old wooden bridge. Here we take the barely discernible path to the north-east of the valley. There is no trail as such, so it is necessary to clamber over the rocks and boulders and to ford a stream that rushes down the steep valley. A long climb brings us to a sheep meadow where the trail veers up a steep ravine. A hard climb to the top brings us to yet another valley where you can see the Kang-La, the pass which will lead us to Shey Gompa. We make our camp just before the pass in a place that Peter Matthiessen christened ‘Snowfields Camp’.

Day 11: Trek to Shey Gompa 4,500m via Kang-La 5,360m. 5-6 hrs.
Morning walk leads up to a steep climb littered with slate towards the pass.
The climb is quite strenuous, especially on the slate scree. From the top of Kang-la there are excellent views down upon a large valley which is bisected by a gushing river. On descending steeply to the valley floor, we make a long meandering trek along the banks of the river, crossing and re-crossing it several times. There are mud caves lining the hills overlooking the river and we pass through meadows where hairy yaks, hundreds of sheep and domestic mountain goat (Chengra) can be found grazing as well near the odd nomadic hut of the herders. A red chorten heralds our arrival at Shey Gompa where a quaint wooden, log bridge leads up to our destination at Shey Gompa compound for our overnight camp.

Day 12: Rest day at Shey Gompa the Crystal Monastery.
Another rest day for local hike around Shey meaning crystal, this monastery is also known as the Crystal Monastery (well described in Peter Matthissen
classic novel The Snow Leopard) The lama of Shey resides at a red hermitage known as Tsakang gompa which is north of Shey. It is rather a retreat than a monastery.
Tsakang had been a meditation centre of many famous lamas from Tibet.
Shey Gompa belong to the Chaiba community, followers of great saint Padmasambhava, known as Guru Ringpcohe and Kagyu sects. It was the first Kagyupa monastery and its founder was the lama Tenzing Ra-Pa, built during 11th century. Shey is famous for its ancient pre-Buddhist culture the Bon Po. In Dolpo
the ancient Tibetan way of life combines animism with the teaching of Buddha.
Drutup Yeshe first introduced Buddhism in the Dolpo Valley. Hundreds of years ago he came to Dolpo encountering a wild people whose supreme God was a ‘fierce mountain and nature spirit’. Crystal Mountain is to the east of Shey gompa it is one of the strangest mountain, as its contorted cliffs are laced with quartz and embedded with a rich variety of marine fossils. Shey Gompa stands above the confluence of Kangjunala and Yeju Nala River. Near the confluence there is a group of prayer mills turned by water wheels.

Day 13: Trek to Namduna Gaon 4,800m via Saldang La 5,200m.
Starting the day following a pleasant trail amidst juniper which descends into a grey, stony canyon, then the path begins to zig zag over bare rocks and coarse eroded soil until it eventually brings us to the top of Saldang-la. The subsequent  descent towards the north which is long and tiring but we finally come upon the welcome sight of pastures of grazing yaks and sheep, and nomadic tents made from yak hair. This signals our approach to Namduna Gaon. Like Shey, the Namgung monastery is of the Karma-pa sect. The monastery, a red stone structure, is built against the backdrop of a cliff on the north wall of a gorge. The red and white colors of the Gompa and its stupas are the only colour in this stark landscape. The village itself consists of only six stone houses and has terraced fields on both sides of the tributary, which flow down to the Nam Khong valley. The economy of the region is based on agriculture, animal husbandry and trading. In Dolpo only one crop a year can be grown and this is mainly barley. In some village’s buckwheat, oil seed, potato and radish are also cultivated. Recently the main cliff temple collapsed and the villagers have now built a beautiful new monastery in the village itself.

Day 14: Trek to Saldang 3,620m. 4-5 hours.
On leaving the Namduna gaon, the route climbs up a scree slope. Further on it begins a long traverse along some dusty barren mountains. After 3-4 hours of hard climb, Saldang appears below on a plateau high above the Nam Khong nala. It has a picturesque appearance. Saldang is the largest village of the inner Dolpo area. Though the village lies at about the same altitude as Ringmo it is totally different. Ringmo, a Himalayan village is situated below the tree line while Saldang belongs to the arid zone of the Trans-Himalayan Tibetan plateau. The village stretches for nearly two kilometers on an open slope. Saldang consists of five villages having about 80 well built houses with nearly six hundred people. Saldang is a prosperous village not only agriculturally but also for its strategic location on a trade route to Tibet. After the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, trade with Tibet was virtually stopped. It has been restored to some extent through the barter system by which Tibetan salt reaches mid-Nepal. The Drokpa people from the western plains of Tibet collect salt from the dried lakes north of Tsangpo.

Day 15: Trek to Yangze Gompa 4,960m, 4-5 hrs.
This great adventure diverts further far north to the least unexplored area by westerners or by any other commercial adventure trekking companies. The trail follows the Nang chu river most of the way on this wild barren windswept terrain.
Walk begins along the fairly gradual path with few ups and downs slope and then passing through the small settlement of Tiling  and Lurigaon till we reach to our overnight camp at Yangze also known as Yangtsher, just before Yangze near Lurigaon. Here we cross the tributary Panzang river, a short walk from here brings us to an unexplored region of Yangze and its very old Bon-Po Monastery for the overnight halt with time for exploration around the villages and the Monastery.

Day 16: Trek to Sibu 4,560m, 6-7 hrs.
From Yangze there are two trails that connect Sibu, the long way trail heads due west
passing through the very remote villages of Nishalgaon and further past Shimengaon.
To save time and energy we will retrace the path back towards Saldang village which will be much easier and shorter than the other north western route.
From Saldang the trail following the river bed we pass through terraced fields, stupas, chortens, heaps of mani stones and a Chaiba monastery, then passing through the Namdo village which is also prosperous with about sixty houses having nearly 400 inhabitants. It stretches for more than 5 km on the high slopes to the left of Nam Khong Khola. The Namdo monastery is located near the river bed. Our journey continues further down the river for another two hours to camp near the small settlement of Sibu.

Day 17: Trek to Jeng-la Phedi 4,900m, 5-6 hrs.
The trail follows the Nam Khong Khola for a while on the morning walk coming across caravan of laden yaks that are on their way towards Tibet border. After days of following the same river, finally we part turning east till we arrive at the confluence of two small tributaries, from here our walk leads to a steep climb to the bottom of Jeng la, where we stay for the overnight on a nice meadow.

Day 18: Trek to Tokyu Gaon 4,200m via Jeng la 5,090m, 5-6 hrs.
Morning trek leads to two hours climb towards the top of the Jeng La. An excellent view of snow ranges emerges to the south. The north face of the Dhaulagiri massif shines in the morning light. After a wonderful moment here at the pass walk leads downhill on the rough path towards Tarap valley, on the afternoon reaching at the green valley which leads us on the pleasant track down towards Tarap Chu.
Tarap is a fascinating valley with vast plains in high mountains. It extends twenty
kilo meters along the river, The Tarap Chu having ten villages with cultivated fields, many gompas and chortens of both sects, stoping here for the night at Tokyu monastery also belongs to the Chaiba sect.

Day 19: Trek to Dho Tarap 4,040m, 4-5 hrs.
Today the walk leads eastwards along the downhill course of Tarap Chu in a plain valley with patches of lush verdant grass on both sides of the river which is completely different from other parts of inner Dolpo. There is also a marsh which is a common feature in the Desert Mountains of Tibet and the Ladakh Himalaya. In this valley both Bon Po and Chaiba sects reside together in harmony. After a short trek on this beautiful valley we come to Dho Tarap for the overnight camp with ample time to visit around the villages. This village is surrounded by an irregular stone wall. At Dho, about 34 houses are divided into three clusters and built in a haphazard way inhabited by few Tibetans and mostly Magars hill tribe of Nepal who have lived here for many generations.

Day 20: Rest Day at Dho Tarap.
Here we will have an opportunity again to make friends with the people from Dolpo.
They wear home spun clothing that is sometimes dyed maroon and they prefer Tibetan style somba (boots with upturned toes) for footwear. Men and women often wear both religious amultes and strings of coral and turquoise. The villagers are both Bon Po and Buddhist of Nyingmapa sect. The Buddhist gompa is the nearest one to the campsite, the Bon Gompa is further 40 minutes walk.

Day 21: Trek to Tarap Khola( Kamekharka) 3,800m,  6-7 hrs.
Today can be quite a long day’s or moderate walk depending upon the choice of several different campsites so the itinerary can be as flexible as you like. From the quite bare country around Tarap, we descend towards a wide valley which eventually
narrows into a gorge. We walk along the juniper bush and wild rose, typical of dry inner Himalayan valleys, to just above the tree line. On this route we might see herds of blue sheep. By the afternoon time we reach at the confluence of the Tarap Chu and the Lang Khola, a stream that joins with Tarap River from further east. We will make our camp on a nice meadow, this place is also known as Kamakharka, while our porters will perhaps take shelter in a nearby spacious cave.

Day 22: Trek to Kharigaon 3,150m, 5 hours.
ourney continues down the gorge of the Tarap river, at times alongside it, at others rising high above on a trail built from the steep slopes, might come across people from Dolpo taking their herds to lower pastures for the winter.
Here there are many possible campsites by the river. In fact if we get delayed as per our itinerary days by some unforeseen reason days 22-24 can be done in 2 days rather than three. This will be one of the exciting days of this trip, as the valley becomes so narrow in a deep gorge that in some places we can jump from one side to another. Sometimes there is no trace of any path and we have to walk across stone slabs fitted on logs in between the walls which act as a bridge. The gorge also provides unexpected adventure and thrills. At some places, the bridges are either damaged or washed away and we may be forced to cross the icy torrent on foot, eventually coming to our overnight camping spot beside the Tarapkhola at Kharigaon.

Day 23: Trek to Tarakot 2,850m, 5 hrs.
From this camp, following an indistinct trail to the village of Lalberi, and then passing through an area of impressive forest before descending into another gorge. Following the river again downstream to reach Tarakot where colorful terraced fields greet. Tarakot is an old fortress town known by the local people as Dzong, meaning ‘fort’. Before the Gorkha dynasty Tarakot was the capital and had a Dzong. The famous Sandul gompa lies about 8 km east of Tarakot and at the junction of Barbung Khola and Tarap Chu. It stands on a knoll to the south of Bheri River and at one time supervised collections of tolls for the trading caravans traversing an area called Tichu Rong. It is possible to camp by the river about 150m below Tarakot, near the police post or we climb a steep hill for over an hour to the small village on a spur on the other side of a valley opposite Tarakot. There are chorten and a Gompa here on the edge of a grassy plateau, with an interesting solitary tree.

Day 24: Trek to Dunai 2,850m, 16 kms 6 hrs.
Continue the walk beside the Bheri River in a tremendous gorge with pine trees and an ingenious path built about seven meters above the river. On reaching Dunai
we have completed the circuit and time for celebration.

Day 25: Trek to Jhuphal 2-3 hrs.
Retrace the journey back to Jhuphal, which is a short distance walk along the Bheri River to the small airstrip for the last camp of this memorable adventure.

Day 26: Fly Jhuphal-Nepalgunj-Kathmandu.
Early morning 30 minutes of scenic sweeping flight to Nepalgunj over the Himalayan foothills, overlooking stunning views of the main peaks including Annapurna and Dhaulagiri to the north, on arrival at Nepalgunj depending upon the connecting flight schedule to Kathmandu, if it’s in the afternoon will have time, few hours for refreshment in the comfort of the Hotel at Nepalgunj. Then connect with the flight back to Kathmandu.

Day 27: In Kathmandu.
A free day in Kathmandu, please let our staff or tour officer know if you would like to go on another short tour in and around Kathmandu Valley or for scenic mountain flight or hot air ballooning.

Day 28: Transfer to Airport for the International departure.
Today as per your international flight time, keep your confirmed air ticket and your passport handy. BUNA staff will take you to the airport for your final departure from this amazing country, Nepal.


AREA (3,555 SQ.KMS)

LOCATION:  Shey-Phuksundo National Park is situated in the mountain region of western Nepal, covering parts of Dolpo and Mugu Districts. It is the largest national park in the country.

FEATURES: The Park contains luxuriant forests, mainly comprised of blue pine, spruce, cypress, poplar, deodar, fir and birch. The Jugdula River valley consists mostly of Quercus species. The trans-Himalayan area has a near-desert type vegetation of mainly dwarf juniper and caragana shrubs.

The park provides prime habitat for the snow leopard and the blue sheep. Other common animals found in the park are ghoral, Himalayan thar, serow, leopard, wolf, and jackal. Himalayan black bear, Himalayan weasel, Himalayan mouse hare, yellow-throated marten, languor and rhesus monkeys.

The park is equally rich in many species of birds, such as Impeyan pheasants (danphe), blood pheasant, cheer pheasants, red and yellow billed cough, raven, jungle crow, snow partridge and many others.

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