Haa Valley Pilgrims

View of Mount Chomolhari (7,134m), Mount Jitchu Drake (6,900m)
  • TRIP TYPE: Trekking
  • TRIP GRADE: Demanding
  • TRIP STYLE: Camping
  • TRIP LEADER: Local Leader
  • GROUP SIZE: 2 - 10 people
  • NEXT DEPARTURE: 07 Oct 2020

Details

With our Haa Valley Pilgrims itinerary you will get a real insight to this fascinating country by joining a remote six day Himalayan trek in Haa Valley.

Haa Valley Pilgrim trek follows a remote trail in the Haa Valley used by pilgrims up to Lake Nub Tshona Pata lake. On this trek you cross several high passes with spectacular views of Mount Chomolhari (7,134m), Mount Jitchu Drake (6,900m) and the third highest peak in the world, Mount Kanchenjunga (8,586m).

You will see the rarely visited Jana Diankha Monastery in Haa Valley and the main cultural centres of Paro and Thimphu.

In November 2019 we sent one of our international leaders, Adrian (Ade) Summers, on a reconnaissance trek to Haa Valley 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 Haa Valley Pilgrim 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 Haa Valley Pilgrims trek.

Route Map

Itinerary

Arrive in Paro

Sightseeing in Paro

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)

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Hotel Olathang in Paro

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.

Drive to Haa Valley (2 1/2 hours)

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Risum Resort in Haa Valley

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.

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Risum Resort in Haa Valley

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.

It is important to have two nights in Haa valley and a day walk today in order to help the acclimatisation to high altitude before starting the trek.

Walking 4km (3 hours)

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Camping

After lunch we drive for ½ hour along a track to reach the Jana Diankha Monastery monastery. We can take our time to visit the monastery and walk around their beautiful garden.

We meet the trek crew and we start the trek to Nub Tshona Pata lake. For our first trekking day we have an easy start with only 3 hours walking so please take your time and enjoy the views along the way.

From the monastery we follow a yak herders’ trail through the larch and conifer forest. Along the way we can also see rhododendron trees and at the Morning Glory flowers. There is steady ascent to reach our first campsite at Tso Kam. This is a dry lake and it is believed to have been drained of water as the Protector Spirit of the lake has moved to another place.

This is a beautiful campsite in a meadow of flowers surrounded by trees. Look out for the Himalayan Monal pheasant, this is a brightly coloured and rare bird. We saw two of these during our reconnaissance trek for this trip

Walking 7.5km (5 to 6 hours walking)

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Camping

After our first night in a tent, we raise early to meet the early sun rising over the ridge. After breakfast, we set off and soon meet the trail from yesterday then continue our ascent through the forest of larch, pine and silver birch.

After approximately 1 to 1 ½ hours we come out of the forest onto a ridge covered with prayer flags and spectacular views of the Himalaya mountains. Looking behind we can see the snow-capped peaks of Mount Chomolhari, Mount Tshering Gang and Mount Jitchu Drake. It is well worth taking a rest at this beautiful view point on the Choza La at 3,907m.

From the pass we continue along the trail as we traverse the ridge for a short while and then continue to ascend through juniper bushes to cross the 4,000m mark. The trail on the right is an old trade route with Tibet however is no longer used these days.

A short distance further up the ridge is our lunch spot at on the Tsabjo La pass at 4,107m. Again we are rewarded with spectacular views of Mount Chomolhari and adjacent peaks. During our reconnaissance trek in November 2019 there were many blue sheep grazing on the upper slopes of this pass.

It is a further 2 hours down through the forest and crossing a few small rivers to our campsite at Wangithang (3,632m). On the way we will pass herds of yaks grazing in the upper pastures.

Walking 9.5km (6 to 7 hours)

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Camping

Today is a tough but very rewarding day, we gain height but are rewarded with spectacular views, as we cross three Himalayan passes.

We start off by ascending through the forest of pine and rhododendron trees for about 1 ½ to 2 hours before gaining a ridge with the glorious valleys intertwined below. After another ¾ hour or so we get to our first pass of the day Wangchela Pass at 4,192m where again we are reunited with views of Mount Chomolhari.

From the pass we descend 100m before climbing back up to our second pass Tsho Jung La at 4,287m with distant views of the India / Tibet border. There is another climb up to 4,443m to cross Tsho La Pass, this is our third and final pass that we cross today. It is just a further ½ hour to our campsite near the Holy lake of Nub Tshona Patta. It is likely that we will share or campsite with some pilgrims on our route. After arriving at camp it is well worth joining the pilgrims at the lake who have walked here to pay homage to the deities.

Walking 8.5km (6 to 7 hours)

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Camping

Today we cross two valleys to reach our campsite beside Ringona Lake. After an initial ascent up to the Dong Kacheydo pass at 4,156m where we get spectacular views of Mount Kanchenjunga (third highest mountain in the world). This is the border peak of Eastern Nepal and India but we are blessed with a fine view from Bhutan too.

Descending into the valley we can see the second pass from yesterday walk and quite often pilgrims on the route like us yesterday. Climbing back out of this valley we have a high-altitude lunch with a view of the yaks are grazing in

the pastures below. From this morning’s campsite to our lunch spot takes about 3 to 3 ½ hours.

After lunch we descend back down and cross the valley to a significant ridgeline and trek through a beautiful pine and fir forest before emerging on the shore of Ringona Thso (Lake). Our campsite is a further 15 minutes on the other side.

Walking 8.5km (6 hours)

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Camping

We leave the campsite on a trail with the lake on our right then ascending uphill heading for saddle with a big rock covered with prayer flags. From here we head up the valley staying to the left and climb up to what looks like another saddle or pass that leads into a hanging valley which we follow to another pass with a rock cairn.

This place is called Ringona Tsho La pass at 4,274m and takes about 2 ½ hours from our campsite at Ringona Lake. From the pass to your right the black rotten peak is called Nakula (Black Mountain). If you look up the far ridge on the right you will see three stone cairns with prayer flags and that is the next pass for this morning.

We traverse a bit to the right and by gaining height steadily it takes about 1 hour to get to this pass, called Yockta La pass at 4,426m. There are more amazing views from a different perspective of Mount Chomolhari and Mount Jitchu Drake

A good place to have lunch is just after the pass where it is more protected from the wind. It takes about 3 hours from our campsite at Ringona Lake to this pass. From the pass follow the trail down and around a cliff face, there is tricky trail in places but after about 30-40 mins you pick up a good trail. Looking across the valley you can see tonight’s camp on the other side just about the ridge with the landslide scar.

There is then a series of large ridges and gullies to traverse. This is a really enjoyable high and open trail. After another 2 hours you come around the last ridge and then you see the campsite at Tsho Tsho Kha at 4,157m. This place is set in a wonderful location with spectacular views.

Walking 9km (5 hours walking)

Drive to Thimphu (2 1/2 hours)

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Gyelsa Boutique Inn in Thimphu

Today is our final days walk on the trek. After leaving camp we follow the trail from yesterday heading for the large stone cairn with flags. During our reconnaissance trek in November 2019 we saw a large herd of Blue sheep that walked past and above us.

After the ridge with the cairn and prayer flay head for the obvious saddle on your left which you will probably get to in 45 minutes or so. Stay high on your left for great views of Mount Chomolhari. You will notice that the valley and pass to your right is the route from Day 3 of the trek. Keep traversing left for better views of the mountains and Tatung village below.

The trail descends into the trees on your left and then on a rocky zigzag trail. After 20/30 minutes you drop to a saddle with pray flags and you are below 4,000m just. Again this is the first pass from Tso Kam camp on Day 3. We follow the trail in the forest to have lunch at campsite from the second night of the trek.

From Tso Kam camp lunch spot we pick up the trail back to the monastery and after about 10 minutes take a smaller less defined trail to the left (look for an arrow and circle sign carved in a tree). This trail descends for 1 to 1 ½ hours through the forest and is muddy and boggy at times. You then pick up an old farmers’ road, which you follow for 30mins to arrive at a beautiful meadow and campsite called Chana Phu at approx. 3,000m.

From Chana Phu we continue down for an hour to the road and continue to the village of Damdhang village where we meet our transport. After exploring the village and saying farewells to our horsemen and trek crew, you will be driven to Thimphu taking about 2 ½ hours.

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 07 Oct 2020 to 18 Oct 2020 Trip Leader Local Leader Price US$2,995pp Single Supplement:
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Dates 28 Oct 2020 to 08 Nov 2020 Trip Leader Local Leader Price US$2,995pp Single Supplement:
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Dates 11 Nov 2020 to 22 Nov 2020 Trip Leader Local Leader Price US$2,995pp Single Supplement:
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2021

Dates Trip Leader Price Single Supplement: Room/Tent Availability
Dates 07 Apr 2021 to 18 Apr 2021 Trip Leader Local Leader Price US$2,995pp Single Supplement:
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Dates 23 Apr 2021 to 09 May 2021 Trip Leader Local Leader Price US$2,995pp Single Supplement:
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Dates 06 Oct 2021 to 17 Oct 2021 Trip Leader Local Leader Price US$2,995pp Single Supplement:
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Dates 27 Oct 2021 to 07 Nov 2021 Trip Leader Local Leader Price US$2,995pp Single Supplement:
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Dates 10 Nov 2021 to 21 Nov 2021 Trip Leader Local Leader Price US$2,995pp Single Supplement:
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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 Haa valley

 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 Haa Valley 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 at Nappata Lake at an altitude of 4,189m where overnight lows can get down to around -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.

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 porter). 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 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.
  • Diamox (helps with acclimatisation).

Threat and risk assessment for Haa Valley

Participants should be aware trekking, mountaineering and travelling in a developing country are activities that involve a risk of personal injury or death. As a condition of booking you must accept these risks and be responsible for your own actions and involvement.

Adventure travel requires an open and flexible attitude. You may experience extreme conditions, unpredictable weather and last minute changes to the itinerary beyond our control. The ability to work in team is an important aspect of all of our trips.

As a part of our planning process we have performed a detailed threat and risk assessment for our Haa Valley Pilgrim trek. It is worth pointing out all of our trips have a certain degree of risk, this is of course part of the attraction of adventure travel and why so many people choose to join this type of holiday. However by identifying the potential hazards on Haa Valley Pilgrim trek we can assess the level of risk and implement control measures to reduce this happening.

Our full threat and risk assessment for Haa Valley Pilgrim trek is available to clients on request. For your information we have listed below a summary of the significant risks and hazards identified by us:

  • Falls and trips resulting in physical injury eg. slipping on ice, falling off the path or trips on roots/branches.
  • Altitude illness including but not limited to AMS, HACE and HAPE.
  • Severe bad weather and conditions when camping.
  • Climatic injuries (dehydration, sun burn, heat exhaustion, hypothermia or heat stroke).
  • Crossing a river with no bridge resulting in drowning and/ or a fall.
  • Rock fall and landslides.
  • Lightning strike.
  • Wildlife, pack animals (eg. donkeys or horses) or stray dogs. Pack animals have been known to knock people off the path. Dogs can attack and bite, we advise you discuss rabies vaccination with your doctor.
  • Earthquake.
  • Risk of fire in the hotel or lodge.
  • Endemic local diseases. We advise you discuss vaccinations with your doctor before departure.
  • Physiological injury such as heart attack, appendicitis, hernia, toothache etc. in a remote area.
  • Road traffic or flight accident.
  • Contaminated food and/ or water.

This trip visits a remote area where you are away from normal emergency services and medical facilities. In case of a serious injury requiring hospitalisation evacuation could take up to several days and may impede your ensuing recovery. Helicopters are the most usual means of evacuation, however they are not always available or they may be hindered by poor weather and flying conditions.

Weather and climate for Haa Valley

Haa Valley Pilgrims 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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