Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My Latest Trek

My most recent trek was an extended version of what is popularly known as the “Druk Path I” among the tourism circle. The trek started from Motithang over the Dupchu-La Pass above Phajoding at 4,083 Mtrs. I followed the route: Motithang-Phajoding-Simkota-Jangchulakha-Langripang-Jele Dzong-Boemri-Dongkala-Drakarpo-Shaba. The trek was covered in 6 days with a halt at Langripang which was needed to visit Jemilang-Tso. I had to camp and halt at Langripang because at this time of the year, Jemilang-Tso was out of bounds for ponies - due to ice. It is a 2 hours trek uphill to the lake.

The highest altitude on the entire route was recorded at Lava-La: 4,296 Mtrs. But the most treacherous route was the descend from Simkota to Jagne-Tso where the path was covered in ice.
One of the things I learnt on this trek is that if you expect to be treading in snow and ice all day long, you need to carry along 2 pairs of trekking boots. Even if the boot is waterproof, the leather uppers outside gets wet during the day which in turn turns into ice during the night. Try pulling on a boot that has turned as hard and as cold as the blacksmith’s anvil! The stiffness of the boot not only hurts your feet, it also freezes your feet thereby making walking a near impossiblility the next day - unless you wait for the sun to thaw the boots. That will loose you precious hours and, as a photographer who is perpetually chasing the first rays of the sun at wee hours of the morning, that is a NO NO NO!
The other thing I learned is that if you have the habit of waking up in the middle of the night to drink water, you had better learn to take the water bottle to bed with you! The night temperature freezes the water bottle into a chunk of ice and you will not be able to squeeze a drop of water out of the frozen bottle. In fact the standard instruction I give my camp assistants is that they bring two large pots of water to a boil and leave them on the gas stove before they go to bed. This way, we have two pots full of water in the morning - to make tea and cook breakfast. The water stored in the jerrican would have been frozen stiff.
I am glad that I have discovered the joy and beauty of trekking in the winter months. I have never before seen the alpine region with such clarity and starkness. As I climb higher and higher into the alpine regions, the frozen lakes and dripping icicles and the mighty mountains paint such a breathtaking picture that I wonder if the smog laden, mobile-crazed Thimphu is the right place to be in.
Some pictures below will show you what you are missing.

Jambeyang Lhakhang in the morning sun:

Prayer Flags at the Dupchu-La, Phajoding:

Sunrise at Phajoding:

View of Thimphu City as seen in morning from Phajoding:


  1. if ever i do get a chance to do a similar sort of trek, i will surely remember your pointers. quite hilarious to imagine the ice trek shoes.

  2. what lens and camera do you use???

  3. Hi Anonymous,
    The camera body used was Canon 1Ds Mark III. For the first three images from the top, the lens used was Carl Zeiss Distagon 2.8/21ZE. The last image of Thimphu valley was shot using Canon EF 70-200mm 2.8L IS USM mounted on RSS Ballhead over Gitzo Tripod.

  4. sir, your trek surely reminded me of my good old days with father's heard of yaks.

  5. Yeshey sir,

    As always your photographs never fail to impress me.and thank you for bringing up those wonderful works of yours on the blog

    i would like to offer one suggestion to you sir.

    why not you go to my village, Shingkhar, Bumthang in the month of May-June. you will get a very good pictures there.
    we have road till village, and from there you can simply walk. it will not be difficult. you will have a good camping area and it will just take a day or two.

    if you are interested, just let me know sir

  6. Hi Kuenzang,

    Actually I have been to Shingkhar, your village - 3 times. I walked all the way up to the Lhakhang above your village - past Ugyen's Guest House. I had lunch at the Lhakhang :)

    It is a beautiful village with beautiful stone and mud houses - still very traditional. Infact I still remember that one of the houses close to the road had a cow hide strung up to dry. I couldnt take a picture becuase it was too darn misty at that time.

    I would love to go there again one of these days - during monsoon - I think the mood then will be breathtaking!

  7. I also recall that your village had amazing pile of Doleps all around. I do not recall seeing such beautiful flat stones any where else.

  8. yeshey sir,

    that's wonderful thing to know that you have been three times already.

    but i tell you that monsoon in my place may not be a good and favorable season for photographers Because by then everything becomes misty, foggy, muddy, and worse of all it rains without any indication or warning. anyways anything is worth trying.

    have a nice time and hoping to see pictures of my nativity form you

    good luck

  9. invaluable comments for new trekkers; and lovely pictures as always. Very informative on Thimphu. No wonder every morning, early morning, looks like a fire going on somewhere and that just early morning bukharis couldn't produce so much smog.