Dagana and Lawagu Pass

View from Lawagu pass
  • TRIP TYPE: Trekking
  • TRIP GRADE: Demanding
  • TRIP STYLE: Camping
  • TRIP LEADER: Local Leader
  • GROUP SIZE: 2 - 10 people
  • NEXT DEPARTURE: 18 Oct 2020

Details

This is a remote trek to the hidden valley of Dagana crossing over the picturesque Lari Gang (4,267m) and Lawagu (4,427m) passes with magnificent views of Mount Kangchenjunga, Mount Chomolhari and Jitchu Drake.

This is a remote trek into a wilderness region of South Bhutan and is very rarely trekked by other groups. We start this adventure with time for acclimatisation by walking up to Taktsang Monastery (Tiger nest) and also staying in the picturesque Haa Valley at 2,700m. We also have two nights in Thimphu and trek up to Phajoding monastery at 3,600m. By spending this time at altitude before starting the trek it will prepare us for our mountain days.

Dagana and Lawagu pass is a unique trek with both high altitude and wilderness forest experience. On the Thimphu side, as we make our way up the open rolling hills to the Lawagu pass at 4,427m we get Himalayan panoramic views including Mount Kangchenjunga, Mount Chomolhari and Mount Jitchu Drake.

Once we have crossed the pass with its stunning views, we descend into the forest where we experience the trees, flowers and animal life. We continue the trek through the forest to the end point at the rarely visited Dagana village with is impressive Dzong.

After visiting the capital Thimpu to experience the sights, we will leave the land of the thunder dragon on our spectacular flight across the Himalaya. This trip will be of interest to trekkers looking for a remote experience in the Bhutan Himalaya.

In November 2019 we sent one of our international leaders, Adrian (Ade) Summers, on a reconnaissance trek to cross Lawagu pass and to walk to Dagana and this itinerary has been designed based on his feedback and suggestions.

  • Adrian (Ade) Summers went on a reconnaissance trek for us in November 2019 and we have set up Dagana and Lawagu pass trek based on his experience and feedback.
  • We are Himalayan trekking specialists and we have been operating trips in Bhutan for many years. Roland Hunter, owner and founder of The Mountain Company, has modified this itinerary based on his first-hand experience of this region.
  • Our approach to organising trips in the Himalayas has helped The Mountain Company win awards such as 2018 Gold Award as AITO Tour Operator of the Year and 2015 Bronze Award as AITO Tour Operator of the Year.
  • The Mountain Company will receive bespoke weather forecasts for this region from EverestWeather.com and from our in house forecasting throughout the duration of this trek.
  • We send a Thuraya satellite phone on all of our treks in Bhutan. It is essential for your guide to have reliable communications with us for logistics, planning and group safety.
  • We bring a comprehensive first aid kit plus high altitude medicine, antibiotics and other medicines. 
  • Pre trip support will be given by our Operations team with first hand knowledge of Dagana and Lawagu pass trek.

Route Map

Itinerary

Arrival in Paro

Sightseeing in Paro

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Hotel Olathang in Paro

After a spectacular flight to Paro you will be met on arrival at Paro airport and driven back to the hotel. Please provide travel plans on booking and we will arrange the pick-up and transfer.  A full trek briefing will be given in the afternoon. Please get in touch with us if you like a quote for your flight to Paro (flying from Bangkok, Singapore, Kathmandu and Delhi).

Walking for 9km (4 hours)

Drive to Haa Valley (2 1/2 hours)

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Risum Resort in Haa Valley

Paro is Bhutan’s second largest town and the valley also contains some of the most significant religious and historic sites in the country as well as Bhutan’s only international airport.

After breakfast we will organise a walk up to the Taktsang monastery known as the “Tiger’s Nest”. It takes about 2 to 3 hours to walk through pine forest and up to the monastery perched on a cliff overlooking the valley

Day walk in Haa Valley

Drive to Thimphu (2 hours)

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Gyelsa Boutique Inn in Thimphu

After a pleasant 3 to 4 hour drive through the Bhutanese countryside and over Chele La pass we arrive in the Haa Valley. Haa Valley is a beautiful area adorned with pristine alpine forests and remains one of the least visited areas in the country. The valley offers wonderful scenic walk along trails passing walking through the beautiful villages, farmland and magnificent monasteries.

Walking 5km (5 hours)

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Gyelsa Boutique Inn in Thimphu

Today there are a number of options for day walks in Haa valley. Most likely we will walk through the lower village of Lechuna and continue down to the Haa Chhu (river) before crossing a wooden bridge. From here we walk up through forest up to the Jamte Gompa. After visiting the 300 year old monastery currently undergoing renovation after suffering earthquake damage we descend to Chumpa bridge and to Chuma village.

Drive to Geneka (1 1/2 hour)

Walking 3km (3 hours)

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Camping

We leave Thimphu and after about 45 minutes leave the main road heading to Dochu La then turn off on the right onto a dirt road passing through traditional farms in the Bhutan countryside. After a further 30 minutes we arrive at Geneka and the start of the Dagana trek. This place is in a small clearing with a water powered prayer wheel. The crew should be there waiting for you. After loading the horse with kit bags and camp gear we head off.

The trek starts by crossing the suspension bridge and ascends a trail in the forest of pine mixed with silver fir and rhododendron. The trail is eroded and sandy in places and after 20 minutes we come to some pray flags at a good view point.

The trail continues to ascend then flattens after a while through a lovely forest of pine covered by old man’s beard moss gently blowing in the breeze. After another 1 ½ hours waking uphill we arrive at a small clearing with pray flags and views of Geneka village. A further 45 minutes after this viewpoint is the Lower Gur campsite. The trail traverses around and is quite flat then steepens to gain the ridge, and then descends to Lower Gur camp. We are now at 3,350m, so it is a good place to stop after gain of 500m from the start of the trek.

Walking 8km (6 hours)

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Camping

We leave camp on a minor path but quite soon re-join the main trail that we turned off yesterday just before camp. There are often eagles soaring high above the pines and rhododendron forest. After 30 minutes you come out of the forest and onto open moor land scattered with juniper bushes. We climb steadily up the trail and soon get the views of Mount Kangchenjunga and Mount Chomolhari.

After 1 ½ to 2 hours from Lower Gur camp you arrive at Kaepchen Camp or often known as Upper Gur at 3,710m. There are good views and you will see a hut has been built by Tourism council of Bhutan. We come back onto the main trail and continues gradually ascending and traversing through gullies and ridges as we gain height enjoying fine views of Mount Kangchenjunga and Mount Chomolhari.

After 2 ½ hours from Upper Gur you reach the first pass with the prominent stone cairns at 4,189m. After a further 20 minutes we reach the second pass on a sandy trail with more stone cairns and pray flags at 4,260m. We descend from the pass from the trail to your left and after 30 minutes we come to Wa Tsho Chen where there are two Yak herders’ houses and nearby is a hut built by the Tourism Council of Bhutan.

It is only another 30 minutes contouring around before descending into the Labatama valley where we camp next to the river at 4,050m.

Walking 9.5km (5 to 6 hours walking)

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Camping

Last night will be cold and the streams will be frozen in the morning. After leaving camp we descend to the river and cross the bridge then follow the trail up an eroded gully to the first pass called Lari Gang at 4,267m. After 10 minutes you will see a stone cairn and it takes an hour to reach the pass from camp where there impressive views of Mount Kangchenjunga and Mount Chomolhari.

From the pass follow the trail on the left which traverses around into another valley, you stay high and after 30 minutes you come to a the river. After crossing you continue up around heading due south to meet a saddle in about 20 minutes. Behind you and to the north is more impressive views of Mount Kangchenjunga and Mount Chomolhari.

Looking south you can just make out the cairn and prayer flags on the next pass. You traverse along the valley staying high around 4,300m on your left and after 30 minutes follow a grassy trail through moorland. Next there is a rocky steeper trail following switch backs for a further 30 minutes before heading up towards the next pass called Lawagu at 4,327m. This pass is about 3 to 3 ½ hours from camp and it is well worth a rest to take in the mountain views.

From the pass we descend for around the corner to the left where there are good views of Lan Tsho Lake (Ox Lake) and the trail winding down the hill. After 15 minutes on loose rocky trail brings you to near the lake and this is a good place for lunch.

From the lake follow the path traversing along the valley and heading into the forest. After about 1 hour you will pass a yak herder’s house on your right and then soon after you head into the forest of pine and rhododendrons. After 30 minutes gently descending through the forest you come to a fence with an open gate. After 15 minutes past the fence you descend to a clearing where you turn sharp right. Follow this trail for 15 minutes and you see a derelict house apparently this is the old governor’s ‘Data Penlops’ guest house.

Continue on the high trail to come around to camp in about a further 10 minutes. The area is known as Dompa at 3,621m and is a yak herder’s pasture.

Walking 8km (4 to 5 hours)

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Camping

After another cold night it will be a frosty morning however warms up once the sun reaches the camp. After leaving camp we get back onto the main trail and pass forest of pine trees, and juniper. This is a good trail as we are following the old trade route where yaks were taken from Thimpu to Dagana. In some places there are a stone staircases and other places are sandy and muddy with tree roots and mossy rocks. After 1 ½ hours we arrive at an open meadow and possible camp site with water called Nortoang at 3,343m.

After another hour walking in the forest passing some meadows we arrive at a large sloping meadow with pray flags. A further 20 minutes through the forest you arrive at a place called Wangrapang. We continue through the forest and after 30 minutes we cross a small stream on rocks or a moss covered tree trunk. Then after a further 20 minutes descending along a trail with slippery tree roots we arrive to Shatikha camp at 2,579m. This is a Yak herder’s camp with a building.

Walking 8.5km (6 to 7 hours)

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Camping

We leave camp and enter the forest following a poor trail in places however good stone trails and staircase in other places. After 1 to 1 ½ hours descent we reach the river at 2,039m and we cross with river level in Autumn usually just below the knee therefore pack your sandals and two trekking poles in your day pack for today’s walk. This river is quite narrow being only about 5m wide and as long as the river levels are low enough it is relatively straightforward to cross.

We walk for 1 ½ to 2 hours into and out of side valleys. The trail is muddy in the gulley where you cross the river, otherwise it is a decent trail in the forest. It is a lovely walk through the trees with flowers and old man’s beard. After a further 1 ½ to 2 hours you get to the turn off for Kunga camp that is no longer used. From this junction it is another 30 minutes ascent up trail that is muddy and boggy in places. After 30 minutes we come to a small clearing in the forest then another hour of ascent to gain the ridgeline. We follow the ridge for about 45 minutes when you arrive at a small clearing at 2,826m. After a further 15 minutes we reach the top where the altitude is 2,888m.

From here we descend to the right and soon you will see two pray flags and Taktsekha camp is just below, however you have to drop down to your right and then traverse to the left. Taktsekha camp is a high yak herder camp at 2,810m. This is tough afternoon as ascend 800m from the river crossing to camp.

Walking 6km (3 1/2 hours)

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Camping

We head out of camp along the main trail going downhill and after 15 minutes there is a grassy clearing. From here you enter the forest descending and heading generally to your left following the valley down and along. The trail is muddy and wet in places with slippery tree roots and there are tricky sections where it is quite steep and rocky.

After about 1 ½ hours you arrive at a beautiful meadow with prayer flags on your right and good views to the valley below. You follow a water pipe which appears from the earth at times and a further 10 minutes there are more pray flags. After a further 30 minutes the forest of pine, larch and silver fir gives way to bamboo. After another 30 minutes you exit the forest at Chu Chu Pang Kha monastery on the edge of Dagana.

It is easy walk for 20 minutes down into the village and we camp near the local government offices. It is about an hours walk from camp to the Dzong that we will explore tomorrow. We will visit the monastery and the monks here are friendly, they are likely to be interested and curious about your journey from Genekha village.

Drive to Thimphu (5 to 6 hours)

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Gyelsa Boutique Inn in Thimphu

After breakfast we will visit Dagana Dzong and then we start the drive to Thimphu. The road passes through rural countryside that is rarely visited by tourists.

Sightseeing in Thimphu

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Gyelsa Boutique Inn in Thimphu

Today we have a full day of sightseeing in Thimphu where there are numerous options. We can visit the Takin sanctuary, Takin is the national animal of Bhutan with the head of a goat and body of a bull. Legend has it that Lama Drukpa Kunley the Divine Mad Monk Saint, created this animal. Later we can visit the Zilukha nunnery, folk heritage muesuem, the textile weaving center, Institute of Arts and Crafts called the Zorig Choesuem. Visit the handicraft emporium then the post office with its vast collection of stamps and other items.

Flight home

Breakfast

Transfer to Paro airport for flight home.

Dates & Prices

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2020

Dates Trip Leader Price Single Supplement: Room/Tent Availability
Dates 18 Oct 2020 to 30 Oct 2020 Trip Leader Local Leader Price US$3,195pp Single Supplement:
Room/Tent
NA / US$125pp
Availability 2 Left to Guarantee Book Now

2021

Dates Trip Leader Price Single Supplement: Room/Tent Availability
Dates 17 Oct 2021 to 29 Oct 2021 Trip Leader Local Leader Price US$3,195pp Single Supplement:
Room/Tent
NA / US$125pp
Availability 2 Left to Guarantee Book Now

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What's Included

  • All transfers including airport collections at Paro.
  • Twin share hotels while in Bhutan.
  • All meals included while in Bhutan.
  • Twin share tents while on trek.
  • All trekking arrangements including permits and fees, tents, Bhutanese guide, pack animals and cook.
  • Bespoke weather forecasts from EverestWeather.com throughout the duration of this trek.
  • Thuraya satellite phone to ensure our guides have reliable communications with us for logistics, planning and group safety.
  • Full financial protection for all monies paid to us through our membership of Association of Bonded Travel Operators Trust (our ABTOT membership number is 5365) and having an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (our ATOL number is 10921).
  • Pre departure support and advice from The Mountain Company by email, phone or face to face meetings in London. After booking with us we will send our comprehensive “Bhutan Pre Trip Information” notes.

What's Not Included

  • International flight to/from Paro (flying from Bangkok, Singapore, Kathmandu and Delhi).
  • Travel & trekking insurance.
  • Personal clothing & equipment please see Appendix for suggested kit list.
  • Tips. 
  • Other items not listed in “What is included”.

Accommodation

Hotel Olathang in Paro

Hotel Olathang is located amidst 28 acres of blue pine forest on a hill overlooking Paro valley. This hotel is designed in traditional Bhutanese style and was established in 1974 for the guests invited to the coronation of the Fourth King of Bhutan.

There are 28 rooms with attached bathroom and the cottages have an outdoor deck with chairs. There is a restaurant and bar in the main building and other facilities include a spa and a traditional hot stone bath.


Gyelsa Boutique Inn in Thimphu

Gyelsa Boutique Inn is a family-run hotel located in the centre of Thimphu city and within walking distance of the restaurants, cafes and shops of the largest city in Bhutan.

The hotel has 6 suites and 12 twin rooms where the furniture is carved out of Himalayan wood and made in Bhutan. Every room has access to high speed wireless internet connectivity. Other facilities include a restaurant, bar and café.


Camping in Bhutan

We use A frame tents in Bhutan, these sturdy tents work well with the conditions often experienced in Bhutan and are waterproof plus have ample head room inside.

Practical Information

A Typical Day On Camping Trek

The day starts with an early morning mug of tea brought to your tent by one of the assistant guides. Before heading over to the mess tent for breakfast you will pack your overnight gear into your duffel bag. During breakfast the tents will be packed away and, after the porters have arranged their loads, they will set off on the trail in the cool of the morning. After breakfast, probably between 7am and 8am, we start walking. The pace of the trek is leisurely with plenty of time to enjoy the scenery, take photos and explore the local villages. Lunch will be around 11am at a spot by the side of the trail and is prepared for us by the cooks.


There is more walking after lunch and normally you will get into camp by mid afternoon with the tents already put up by the local staff. In the evening a three course meal is served in the mess tent around 6-7pm. After supper the international leader will discuss the plan for the next day with the group. People might stay in the mess tent chatting about the day’s events for a while before retiring to their tent for the night.

While on the trek, the cook will provide good quality food in sufficient quantities.  For breakfast you are likely to get porridge or cereal, toast or chapatis, omelettes and a range of hot drinks. For our camping treks in Nepal we provide fresh coffee from our Bialetti Moka coffee machine. On arrival to camp in the afternoon you will be given tea and biscuits and a three course meal will follow later in the evening.

Communications

We bring a Thuraya satellite phone for logistical, safety and personal use. Personal calls charged at £4 (US$5 or €4.50) per minute and £2 (US$3 €4.50) to send and receive SMS text.

Clothing and Equipment List for Dagana

For the safety of everyone in the group and to help ensure a successful trek, you are required to have the following items in our clothing and equipment list tailored for Dagana and Lawagu trek. Your gear will be checked by the group leader in Paro prior to departure for the trek.

As a reminder, the weather on this trek will vary season to season and day to day as you ascend to higher elevations. You will experience the coldest temperatures in Labatama at an altitude of 4,050m where overnight lows might be down to around -5˚C to -10˚C.

Each trekker should bring one backpack for gear required during the day. Your day backpack will contain items such as warm clothes, jacket, camera, water bottles, personal first aid kit and snacks. The maximum weight allowance for back pack is 5kg. The rest of your personal equipment packed in a duffel or kit bag will be carried by a pony. The maximum weight allowance for your duffel bag  is 15kg. Please ensure that your bag is marked clearly on the outside for easy identification.

We suggest you print the kit list and tick items off as you pack them then weigh your kit bag before you come on trek.

Footwear:

  • Walking boots. A pair of water repellent boots with ankle support. These should be broken in and used before the trek.
  • Wool and liner socks.
  • Trainers/sneakers or sandals. Can be used in camp during the evenings and for river crossings.

Clothing:

  • Waterproof jacket and trousers (goretex or similar).
  • Trekking trousers.
  • Long sleeve shirts (not cotton).
  • Micro fleece.
  • Mid to heavyweight fleece.
  • Sleeveless or body warmer type fleece.
  • Thermals or base layer for top & bottom (merino wool or synthetic).
  • Fleece pants.
  • Medium weight down jacket (for treks in late November and December).

Handwear:

  • Fleece gloves.

Headwear:

  • Wool or fleece hat.
  • Sun hat.
  • Bandana or scarf.
  • Bring extra batteries.
  • The lenses need to be Category 4 rated and should have side protection or wraparound design to prevent light getting through to your eyes that could cause sun blindness.

Personal Equipment:

  • Sleeping bag.
  • Sleeping mat (eg. Thermarest). Please note we do not provide a mat for our Bhutan treks.
  • Recommended size is 30 to 40 litres as you need to have enough space to carry water bottles, camera, snacks and extra clothing such as down jacket etc. It is also a good idea to bring a rain cover to keep the contents dry.
  • Stuff sacks for keeping your gear dry and organised. Or even better are fold- drybags such as from Exped.
  • Two water bottles (Nalgene wide mouth bottles are the best).
  • Pee bottle. Highly recommended as means you do not have to get up to find toilet tent at night! For men you can use an old water bottle for women take a look at SheWee at http://www.shewee.com/
  • Sunscreen and lipsalve with a high SPF.
  • Insect repellent.
  • Water purification tablets (Pristine, Biox Acqua or Acqa Mira).
  • Favourite snack food.
  • Books, ipod and cards etc.
  • Trekking poles (Black Diamond with “Flick Lock” are best).
  • Camera with spare batteries and memory cards.
  • Insurance certificate.
  • Earplugs (optional).
  • Baby wipes (optional).
  • Hand sanitizer (optional)
  • Travelling:
  • Duffle bag or large backpack for your personal gear on the trek (carried by a horse). Bring a small combination padlock to secure the bag.
  • Travel clothes. You will need casual clothing for air travel days and time spent in Paro, Punakha and Thimphu.
  • Toiletry bag include toilet paper, soap, towel, toothbrush, etc.

Personal first aid kit:

Note: we provide a comprehensive group first aid kit but please bring personal medications and other items you might use regularly such as:

  • Any personal medications.
  • Blister treatment (Compeed patches are the best).
  • Rehydration powder eg Dioralyte.
  • Analgesics (paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin).
  • Plasters and zinc oxide tape.
  • Throat lozenges.

Weather and climate for Dagana

Dagana and Lawagu Pass trek will have a wide range of temperatures depending on the altitude and the time of day. In the mountains between 1,000m and 3,000m the nights will be cool, normally around 5˚C, and during the day temperatures sometimes rise to 20˚C.  At higher altitudes temperatures range from about 15˚C to -10˚C.

The traditional trekking seasons in Bhutan are late September to December and March to May with October and November generally recognised as having the best weather. Spring is also a popular time of year with warmer weather and the advantage of seeing spring flowers and rhododendrons in bloom.

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