Gangkhar Puensum BC trek, 14 days

Gangkhar Puensum, 7570m
Exploratory trek

Tour highlights

  • Off-beaten path trek in central Bhutan
  • Great for second trekking experience in Bhutan
  • Base camp of the highest mountain of Bhutan
  • Also, the highest never climbed mountain in the World
  • Reach till scenic Jakar valley
  • Possible exploratory extensions
# Itinerary Program
1 Arrival to Paro Arrival by plane to Paro or crossing border from India in Phuntsholing/Jaigon and drive to Paro. Visit of National museum of Bhutan and Paro dzong, castle where Bernardo Bertolucci’s Little Buddha film was shot. Sightseeing subject to the arrival time.
2 Paro Hike to Taktsang gomba (Tiger’s Nest) in the elevation of 3150 m is one of the highlights of the tour as well as good acclimatization exercise. While the hike seems to be hard, it’s very rewarding. Trip including the visit of temples takes about 4 to 5 hours. If you are fast, you can also hike further to Zangtopelri lhakhang to get birds-eye view of the monastery. After the hiking, also visit pristine Kyichu lhakhang is one of the two oldest temples built in Bhutan. Evening exploring the hustle and bustle of Paro.
3 Flight to Jakar Flight to Bumthang is extraordinary experience. In clear weather, you might spot many of the seven and six thousand meters high mountains on the border with Tibet, including Gangkhar Punesum, the world's highest peak never conquered by man. Arrive to Jakar. Visit the Jambay lhakhang, another one of the two oldest temples of Bhutan. Also look at the small brewery to taste local Red Panda beer (subject to brewery operation schedule). Explore the rustic small town. Other day's program subject to domestic flight timing.
Trek: Ngang – Tashi sa (Saddukum)
Trek 5h, camping in 3000 m. Start early morning by drive to Ngang and further until you reach the road head just before the military camp of Khothang in 2800 meters. Most of the day you will be trekking through narrow valley covered by virgin forest, with numerous ups and downs, gradually ascending, until you reach Tashi sa (Sadukum) campsite near the confluence with the creek flowing from the east. There is junction here to higher route, which you will take on the way back.
Trek: Tashi sa (Saddukum) – Tsawu
7-8h, camping in 3850 m. Continue trekking through narrow valley along the right bank of Chamkhar chhu river, mostly in the ancient forest with some meadows. In the middle of the day's walk you will see small natural pool formed by slow flowing river. Again there will be numerous up and downs, until you reach another confluence and junction which is called Tsampa. The main trail follows the Chamkhar chu river your way up to Gangkhar Puensum BC, while in direction to north-east, the ancient trail leads to Mon-la Karchung pass and further to Tibet. Continue further up until you reach to the campsite called Tsawu, where you will stay for this day.
Trek: Tsawu – Shingo
4h, camping in 4200 m. Today the valley will start opening up with some views of the snowy peaks. You are getting to the pastures where herders bring their yaks in the summer. You might encounter some herders and their animals on the way. Trekking will be short and you will finish in Shingo, herder's campsite in the middle of the valley. Now you’re in seriously high altitude and you should check yourself for the signs of high altitude sickness. If you feel headache, nausea and you can’t sleep well, you should take it seriously. On the other hand, if you feel very strong and have no issues with altitude, you might consider continuing to Bamurpa, another 3-4 hours away and have an extra time for the exploration next day.
Trek: Shingo – Bamurpa
4h, camping in 4490 m. Start climbing up the valley while watching for herds of blue sheep. Reach to Bamurpa, which is also called Gangkhar Punesum South-East Base Camp. The peak visible to the north is not Gangkhar Puensum but it’s lower second summit called Melunghi Gang (6800 m). You will definitely feel effect of high altitude now, but if you are strong enough, continue hiking up the valley until you reach Buurtsam, the cluster of herder's huts below the glacier head, located about 3 km north of the campsite. If you reached to Bamurpa previous day, you might even have time to continue by eastern edge of the glacier until you reach ice lake with Gangkhar Punesum view in about 4800 m. Anyway be extremely careful since there is no proper trail here and watch for time, so you don't walk back in the dark.
Halt: Bamurpa, explore Zhigyephu valley
Today, you will hike up to Zhigyephu valley towards the west. First you need to wade through the river and then start steep zig-zag climb. After crossing pass with prayer flags in about 4900 m you will suddenly see remarkably wide hidden valley called Zhigyephu and dubbed "Jumbo Jet" valley by trekking guide author Bart Jordans. Valley offers nice views of the Gangkhar Punesum and other surrounding mountains and you can explore various directions and number of large glacial lakes. Towards the north-west, there is a ridge with stunning views of Gangkhar Punesum, while the directly to the west, there is the pass, sometimes referred as Thole-la, leading to southern Gangkhar Puensum Base Camp. Few expeditions tried to establish trekking trail between both base camps, but so far, only trail up to the pass from the Zhigyephu is certainly established. Discovering the reliable trail descending to the sources of Mangde chhu river and southern base camp is still the challenge! If you are explorer in heart, we can include few extra days here to finish the job! Whatever direction you take, make sure to descend back to Bamurpa before dark!
9 Trek: Bamurpa – Tsampa 6-7h, camping in 3750 m. Today you will have to retrace your way back, leaving Bamurpa and crossing through Shingo and Tsawu campsite of previous days. You will spend night just below Tsawu in Tsampa. There is small temple here to visit, if you are interested and caretaker is around.
10 Trek: Tsampa – Chunge 5-6h, camping in 4300 m. We are not leaving high altitudes yet. From Tsampa you will again climb to higher trail offering some stunning mountain views. You need to start with steep hike up for about 500 meters partly through the forest. Then the trail will start traversing and crossing numerous ridges with gentle ups and downs. There are a number of hermitages up in this are. Short before reaching the camp, there is a large glacial lake here. Please mind that entry to this area is subject to special permit, which might or might not to be granted. In case permission can't be arranged, you will need to go the same way, you came up.
11 Trek: Chunge – Jakar 7-8h. This is the last day of the trek. Make sure to wake up for sunrise, to see beautiful scenery. After that, you will continue traversing trail until it will steeply drop towards Tashi sa, the first campsite of the trek. From here, you will continue already known trail to military camp and finally road head, where the vehicle will be waiting. Say goodbye to your trekking team and enjoy the facilities of the hotel after the trekking!
12 Jakar – Wangdue / Punakha You better start drive towards the west early, since the drive is long with several passes. First you will drive through Chummey vallery and Yotung-la pass to Trongsa. Visit the historical interesting castle here. Then continue drive with stunning views towards the Pele-la pass with stop at Chendebji stupa. This stupa is built as a copy of Boudhanath in Kathmandu. After crossing Pele-la, you will start descending to warm Wangdue and Punakha valley, reaching in late afternoon or evening.
13 Punakha / Wangdue – Thimphu Morning climb to Khamsum monastery with wonderful views of the valley and it‘s terraced paddy fields. Visit of Punakha dzong, which counts as the most intricately decorated castle in the kingdom. Short walk to Chhimmy lhakhang temple, devoted to 15th century saint Drukpa Kunley, known as “Divine madman”, who taught Buddhism by singing, drinking and scandalous sexual exploits. Afternoon drive to Thimphu. Walk in town and perhaps celebrate the trek's success in famous Mojo Park music club.
14 Departure Morning drive to Paro and drop to the airport, according to flight schedule.
Tour variants, extensions and combinations: 
  • Extend exploration to Zhigyephu valley above Bamurpa (+1 and more days): You can continue exploration by going up to Zhigyephu valley for further views and possible exploration of passage to southern Gangkhar Puensum base camp.
  • Sightseeing in Thimphu (+1): If you want to see the capital of Bhutan, you  might like to consider to extending the tour by one more day, there.
  • Extra cultural sightseeing (+1 and more days): Since you reach till central Bhutan on this tour, you can visit a lot of cultural sights located around in Bumthang, Trongsa, Phobjikha etc.
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