Do not hesitage to give us a call. We are an expert team and we are happy to talk to you.
This trek through Upper Dolpo is similar to our signature trek – Upper Dolpo: The Crystal Mountain Trek but in reverse. It is also a few days shorter as it bypasses Dho.
At the edge of the Tibetan Plateau lies Dolpo, the legendary “Hidden Land” that for years has been off-limits to outsiders. The Upper Dolpo trek into this beautiful, wild, and crystalline landscape begins as we head East to Ringmo on the shores of Phoksumdo Lake. We gain access to a world of rugged people and remote monasteries including Saldang and Shey (Crystal Mountain). We then head to the massive gorges of the Kali Gandaki.
Our trek through true Himalayan wilderness will gain us access to this unique place, which is home to one of the few enclaves of un-oppressed traditional Tibetan culture. En route we pass many of the highest and most beautiful mountains in the world: Maachapuchhare, the Annapurnas, the Dhaulagiri massif, and the remote Kanjiroba Himal. It is not difficult walking, but there is a lot of it!
The Upper Dolpo trek is no tourist tea-house trek, and you will not find our route outlined in any of the Himalayan trekking guidebooks. It is rugged, unspoiled, and unforgettable – arguably the best trek in all of Nepal.
Crystal Mountain, the holiest mountain in Upper Dolpo, is the English name of a mountain near Shey Gompa, the most important monastery in Dolpa. Dinesh Gurung, Crystal Mountain Treks founder, named the company after a trek to the area in the early 80’s. After successfully running the Upper Dolpo trek for several consecutive years, we have now adopted the “Crystal Mountain Trek” as our signature trek.
This Dolpo trek DOES involve sleeping and hiking at high altitude. We will, as we do for all high-altitude treks, provide a GAMOW bag for this trip. A GAMOW bag is a portable hyperbaric chamber that looks like an inflatable extra-large sleeping bag. The effective altitude inside the inflated GAMOW bag is about 5000 feet lower than the altitude you are at; it has been very effective in the past in relieving headaches and other symptoms of altitude sickness. We also carry supplemental oxygen (1 or 2 depending on group size).
The Upper Dolpo trek is rated challenging and involves trekking at high altitude. Most of the hiking will be above 12,000 feet, with nine major pass crossings (the highest being 18,250 feet). Our highest camp will be at about 16,000 feet. There can be snow on the passes. No technical climbing experience is required.
This trip is non-technical and suitable for anyone in good physical condition who loves to hike and would enjoy camping out for an extended period (30 days). You should feel comfortable hiking about 10-12 miles per day at these altitudes while carrying a daypack of approximately 15 pounds. Our maximum altitude gain in one day will be about 4,300 feet, our maximum altitude loss in one day will be about 3,800 feet. Because of the altitudes involved, this is a serious trek. If you don’t have experience backpacking in remote areas for lengthy period, this trek can be more than what you asked for. This is not a backpacking trip; your gear will be carried by porters.
|Day 1||Arrival in Kathmandu. (D)||Kathmandu||1,340m/4,300ft|
|Day 2||Exploring Kathmandu. (B, L, D)||Kathmandu||1,340m/4,300ft|
|Day 3||Fly to Nepalgunj. (B, L, D)||Nepalgunj||150m/500 ft|
|Day 4||Fly to Juphal. Trek to Suligad. (B, L, D)||Suligad||2,050m/6,725ft|
|Day 5||Trek to Chepka. (B, L, D)||Chepka||2,970m/9,744ft|
|Day 6||Trek to Forest Camp. (B, L, D)||Forest Camp||3,010m/9,875ft|
|Day 7||Trek to Ringmo. (B, L, D)||Ringmo||3,600m/11,811ft|
|Day 8||Acclimatization day. (B, L, D)||Ringmo||3,600m/11,811ft|
|Day 9||Trek to Riverside Camp. (B, L, D)||Riverside||3,700m/12,156ft|
|Day 10||Trek to Nangdala Base Camp. (B, L, D)||Nangdala Base Camp||4,650ft/15,255ft|
|Day 11||Trek to Shey Gompa. (B, L, D)||Shey Gompa||4,370m/14,337ft|
|Day 12||Rest and explore. (B, L, D)||Shey Gompa||4,370m/14,337ft|
|Day 13||Trek to Namgung. (B, L, D)||Namgung||4,415m/14,484ft|
|Day 14||Trek to Saldang. (B, L, D)||Saldang||4,070m/13,353ft|
|Day 15||Trek to Nisal Gaun. (B, L, D)||Nisal Gaun||3,871m/12,700ft|
|Day 16||Trek to Shimen Gaun. (B, L, D)||Shimen Gaun||3,850m/12,628ft|
|Day 17||Rest day. (B, L, D)||Shimen Gaun||3,850m/12,628ft|
|Day 18||Trek to Tinje Gaun. (B, L, D)||Tinje Gaun||4,100m/13,480ft|
|Day 19||Trek to Kharka. (B, L, D)||Kharka||4,100m/13,480ft|
|Day 20||Trek to Chharka Bot. (B, L, D)||Charkabot||4,300m/14,100ft|
|Day 21||Trek to Nulungsumde Kharka. (B, L, D)||NulungSumde Kharka||4,100m/13,480ft|
|Day 22||Cross Niwar Pass. Camp at Kharka. (B, L, D)||Kharka||3,140m/10,300ft|
|Day 23||Trek to Sangdak. (B, L, D)||Sangdak||3,780m/12,400ft|
|Day 24||Trek to Phalyak. (B, L, D)||Phalyak||3,140m/10,300ft|
|Day 25||Trek end at Jomsom. (B, L, D)||Jomsom||2,743m/8,400ft|
|Day 26||Fly to Pokhara. (B, L, D)||Pokhara||1,400m/4,500ft|
|Day 27||Fly to Kathmandu. (B, D)||Kathmandu||1,340m/4,300ft|
|Day 28||Final departure|
Arrive at Kathmandu. Transfer to your hotel. Overnight Hotel.
After breakfast, drive to Pashupatinath, Nepal’s most sacred Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, with its two-tiered golden roof and silver door. Shiva, meaning “The Auspicious One”, also known as Mahadeva (“Great God”), is a popular Hindu deity and is considered to be the Supreme God within Shaivism, one of the three most influential denominations in Hinduism. Here, you’ll probably witness a Hindu cremation along the banks of the Bagmati River and many ascetics and Sadhus.
Then on to Bhaktapur, which is located about 20 km east of Kathmandu in the Kathmandu Valley, Bhaktapur is known as the ‘City of Devotees’, the ‘City of Culture’, the ‘Living Heritage’, and ‘Nepal’s Cultural Gem’. It is one of the 3 royal cities in the Kathmandu Valley. The others are Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, and Patan. Bhaktapur is filled with monuments, most terra-cotta with carved wood columns, palaces and temples with elaborate carvings, gilded roofs and open courtyards. As a World Heritage site listed by the UNESCO, Bhaktapur has been heavily restored since a 1934 earthquake severely damaged the city.
In the early afternoon, fly about an hour to Nepalgunj in the Western plains of Nepal. Nepalgunj is a bustling border town near the Nepal-India border. Expect hot and humid weather. Overnight Hotel Batika or similar.
Early flight to the STOL airport of Juphal in the Dolpo district. After arrival at Juphal, our staff will start loading the trek gear on the mules. Shortly, we begin our trek and descend to our camp at Suligaun. Overnight in tents.
For the next two days we follow the Suligad River which flows down from Phoksumdo Lake through a steep and green valley. The trail undulates, sometimes beside and sometimes high above the tumbling white-water river. There are scattered villages along the route. Many of these villages are only occupied during the winter months when the communities of Upper Dolpo bring their animals down from the high pastures and at the time of our trek they can be almost hidden in an overgrowth of tall grasses.
Overnight in tents.
Leaving Chepka, we cross the Suli Gad river four times, mostly staying close to the river as we hike through flowering, thick woods of bamboo and other indigenous trees including firs, birches and larches (deciduous conifers) turning their autumn hues, and a dramatic, deep-sided gorge, often hiking right by the riverside on flat, stone steps. Eventually the valley opens up a little and the going becomes easier until we reach a bridge leading to several houses which make up the village of Renje (3010m).
Beyond here the valley narrows once more and the trail continues to climb and descend. At the confluence of the Suli Gad and Pungmo Khola we cross to the west bank and make camp at the village. Overnight in tents.
Today we enter the National Park. Nearby is a school at Tapriza for students who subscribe to the Bon Po faith – the pre-Buddhist faith of ancient Tibet. The trail climbs to a ridge which separates the open fields of Ringmo from the narrow valley below. There will be a roar in the distance, and then it appears — a massive 900-foot waterfall, the biggest in Nepal. A steep zigzag path ascends alongside the falls. We camp on the Southern shore of the Phoksumdo Lake, under the birches, near the settlement of Ringmo. Overnight in tents.
The importance of proper acclimatization cannot be stressed enough. Today we will rest and let our bodies get used to the altitude. Overnight in tents.
We leave our campsite, heading north along a dramatic and slightly exposed trail high on the western side of the lake. The trail around the large Lake No longer bears resemblance to the treacherous one described by Matthiessen and Schaller (or as seen in the film “Himalaya”!); it simply undulates along and descends about 1,000 feet above the water, but it is not dangerous. From this vantage point, the view of the lake is unsurpassed. Near the northern end of the lake we make a long, gradual descent through a lovely forest of craggy Himalayan birches to reach our scenic lake-side campsite at Chabluk Phu, a local grazing area, just where the trail hits level ground. We will make camp on the Northern shore.
Overnight in tents.
We have a long climb, often with no trace of any trail as we progress up the steep sided valley, passing occasional grazing areas and crossing several side streams. Soon after the valley fills with an open forest of birches and rose-buds, and then narrows. We turn right up the first small intersecting valley (it’s easy to miss the trail, so stay with the group) which follows a rocky river to our campsite. As we climb, the landscape slowly becomes barren and the beautiful Himalayan birches appear in the distance. Finally, a few tough hours later, we reach our ‘high’ camp, which Mattheissen named Snowfields Camp. Our camp is at the foot of the pass that will lead us to Inner Dolpo. Overnight in tents.
It should take around three hours to reach the summit of the Kangla Pass (17,600 feet). From the pass, admire the views of the snow-peaks Shey Shikhar and Kang Chunne, both just over 6000 meters. It is highly likely there will be snow and part of the trail is on loose scree. Descend steeply to the valley floor and continue to Shey village. Overnight in tents.
Layover at Shey.
The ‘Crystal Mountain’, also known as the Kailash of Dolpo, takes its name from the veins of quartz that traverse its base and is the most sacred peak in Dolpo. Dolpo pilgrims circumambulate each July or August, during the full moon, before the yearly grain harvest. Today we’ll hike a few hours to visit the remote hermitage Tsakang, made famous by Matthiessen in his book ‘The Snow Leopard. It is beautifully built into the cliff face. It is like no other place on earth; makes sense that it is revered by both Bon Po and Buddhists.
Overnight in Tents.
Shey Gompa marks the junction of several trails once used by the old salt trading caravans and today by trekkers. Continue hiking to Sela (or Gela) — another pass found at 16,700 feet which presents a fine panorama of the Dolpo landscape.
From Gela, descend steeply to Namgung (15,088 feet). Namgung is a magical village with a continuous structure of buildings in a triangle of land at the junction of a deep cut canyon with the wider stream valley, but with a spectacular east-west aligned valley setting. Namgung is an especially important settlement as the home to the historic Namgung Monastery — one of upper Dolpo’s oldest Buddhist monasteries. Overnight in tents.
Today is a short but spectacular day along the high trail leading to Saldang. We leave Namgung on an easy trail with a gradual climb to a hilltop and then continue a gentle downhill slope to arrive at Saldang at 12,365 feet. We camp just above ochre Saldang Gompa, gold-gilded and sparkling in the mid-day sun. Overnight in tents.
Heading down past Saldang Gompa along the route to Dho we continue along the Nagon Khola through Sugugaon, a bustling, white-washed village and past long mani walls, painted chortens and old gompas perched high up along the mountainsides. Cross Khoma La (4565 meters), from where we contour gradually down to reach the beautiful village of Khomagaon (Khoma) where we camp in the middle of town on a large, and flat plateau. Just before we reach camp we pass directly through Khoma Gompa and school. Overnight in tents.
Visit Yangjer Gompa, one of the most important religious sites of the area. Ascend and contour for another hour to a small pass, the Shimen La (4270 meters). From here it’s a short but steep and sandy hike down to the intersection of the northern trail from Saldang. Snellgrove, who visited Dolpo in the 1960s, wrote ‘Shimen is the most pleasant of Dolpo’s villages just because of its many trees’ and you’ll notice the difference between Shimen and Khoma! Overnight in tents.
Optional rest day. Overnight in Tents.
Heading south along the Panjyan (Panzang) Khola, staying on the eastern bank, we pass two trails other side of the river. On our trail today, pass several ancient meditation caves, chortens and manis adorned with fluttering Tibetan prayer flags to Tinje Gaon (13,480 feet). Overnight in tents.
On the trek today, we will likely pass villagers from Chharka heading to or from Tibet with their yak caravans. We reach the intersection where the Panzang Khola becomes the Sulun Khola after about three scenic hours, and continue along the smaller, intersecting river from here. Soon we pass through narrowing, windy canyons, but after another few hours the valley widens and after crossing a small stream feeding from a large glacial valley we climb and descend to the wide plateau of Rapka. The camp has expansive views and makes a good stopping points for the night. Overnight in tents.
Today is a LONG day so start early. After an easy hour-long amble along the wide valley, wade the wide, icy but shallow river to get to the valley before crossing the Chharka La (Mola Bhanjyang). Crocs or Teva’s are useful for the river crossings. Climb a bit on the right side of the river, drop back down and then at the chortens start climbing again. The pass has two summits. We have another hour or so to go before reaching the Chharka La (5030m). At the pass, look to the right for a breath-taking view of Dhaulagiri, which we’ll have views of for a few days.
We have another two or three hours of contouring, sometimes steeply up or down, to reach Chharka and will probably pass villager en route collecting the evening’s firewood.
Overnight in Tents.
Once we depart on the trail from Chharka, we pass through no villages for another two days crossing several passes and kharkas (pastures). The first night’s camp is at Nulungsumde Kharka (16,400 feet), before ascending the twin passes of Niewar and Juben (the goal for tomorrow). Overnight in tent.
Double pass day! Ascend to the Niwar Pass (5130 meters). The second pass, the Sangda (Bhanjyang) La is perhaps half an hour away, and a 150-meter climb. Don’t underestimate this double pass; it can be extremely windy and cold. It’s a long, tough pass crossing but affording fantastic views from the top. The Sangda La marks the border of Dolpo and the Annapurna’s, so we’ve now entered the Annapurna region.
We descend along a steep, gravel trail, quite difficult, and follow the Bheri Khola to the intersection with the Kyalunpa Khola, Sangda Phedi (Sangda Gunsa), and the winter grazing settlement of the Sangda villagers. Camp above the village. Overnight in tents.
Soon after leaving camp, at the chorten to our left, we’ll have to cross the Bheri Khola on a small bridge and then hike along the right-hand bank for a bit. We leave the river and descend slowly to Jhyanse where we must ford the chilly river. Soon we reach the village of Sangda, a remote outpost of Gurung Tibetans. Overnight in tents.
From Sangda, start climbing and spend most of the morning making a high traverse, crossing many ridges until we finally reach the ‘pass’ at about 4500 meters. From the crest, we have a magnificent vista, looking out to snow-capped peaks and down to Mustang’s patch-work of trails and villages far below. Kagbeni, Jharkot, Muktinath, Thorung Peak, the Thorung La, Niligiri, Dhaulagiri and the Kali Gandaki are all visible, an awe-inspiring site! From here, we descend quite steeply into the Kali Gandaki valley. Descend steeply from the small Tiri Pass (3710m) eventually reaching the fortress-like entrances to the small villages of Phalyak. Phalyak is an interesting Mustangi village which holds an annual archery festival as most of the Mustangi and Managi villages do. Overnight in tents.
Niligiri and Dhaulagiri loom in the distance. Climb to a ridge 400 meters above Phalyak, and then head directly south down a steep, sandy trail towards Jomsom, the district headquarters of Mustang, on the Annapurna Circuit. We reach the long, cobbled path that connects upper and lower Jomsom. At the Trekker’s Lodge in the lower section of Jomsom, near the airport, cold beers and hot showers wait. Stay overnight in a lodge.
A short 15-minute flight through the Kali Gandaki valley (the deepest gorge in the world) and over the Ghorepani ridge into Pokhara. Today is a free day in Pokhara. Overnight Big Pillow Inn or similar.
Morning flight to Kathmandu. Free until farewell dinner. Overnight Hotel Tibet or similar.
Transfer to airport for final departure.
Per person price (valid until December 31, 2020)
2 persons: US$ 6,000 per person
3 – 4 persons: US$ 5,400 per person
5 or more persons: US$ 5,100 per person
Single Supplement: US$300
US$ 150 per person discount available for alumni.
Upper Dolpo lies in a rain shadow in the high Tibetan plateau. The best months to visit Upper Dolpo are May, June, July, August and September. Hence, unlike other parts of Nepal which are good to visit during the Spring and Autumn seasons, the monsoon (Summer) months are the best time to visit Upper Dolpo. This is because these are the warmest months and the high passes have no or minimal snow.
All cooking gear and food have to be carried in from Kathmandu. The cook will purchase fresh fruit and vegetables and rice/lentils from the villagers en route. You will be surprised as to what the cook can make on a small gas stove. In general, expect porridge (Oatmeal), toast, eggs (various style), muesli, hash browns, sausages etc for breakfast. And sandwich, pizzas, momos, noodles (dry and with soup), rolls, fried rice, Indian bread with vegetables or Daal Bhaat (Rice with lentils) etc for lunch and dinner.
We would recommend the Upper Dolpo trek to seasoned hikers/backpackers only. You must be able to hike up to 12 miles a day (mostly at high altitude). While this trek does not involve and require any technical climbing, you must have the mental and physical toughness. You will be in the wilderness with little or no modern amenities (no shower, fast food, wi-fi) for over 25 days.
It is advised that anyone with a pre-existing condition consult their doctor before signing up for a trek. We rate the Upper Dolpo Trek a 5 on a scale of 1 (easy) to 5 (challenging).
The more physically fit you are, the more you will enjoy the trip. There are three aspects to training for any trek. 1) Cardiovascular Training will make your body more efficient in using oxygen. Running, walking, swimming or biking, or any combination of these are great for cardiovascular conditioning. 2) Strength Training by either using free weights or machines at the gym will build hiking strength. Walking stairs, especially with a pack will simulate the hiking environment. We also recommend practicing squats. Trekkers will encounter low hanging obstacles to duck under, and many toilets are at ground level, which requires a low squat.
3) Endurance Training is where you build endurance in the months leading up to your trek, slowly increase your length of training sessions. By the time you are 2 weeks from the scheduled trek date you should be able to ascend 3,000 ft. in a 3-4 hour period.
In the end, the more your training simulates a trek, the better off you will be. So hiking 4-5 hours outdoors, uphill and downhill, about once or twice a week in addition to other cardio vascular training at the gym or at home will greatly benefit and prepare you for the trek.
On camping treks, toilets are a hole in the ground in a small tent to allow for privacy. “Showers” are available during rest days and involve a bucket of hot water. On most days you can clean yourself with wet wipes. We will provide a small bowl of warm water with which you can wipe yourself with a towel.
Layering is key. And it’s always recommended to trek with good branded gear. A good pair of hiking boots that’s been broken in is very important. Good top and bottom base layers, a mid layer (fleece or capilene), and an outer layer (Gore-tex or other material). If you tend to get cold quickly, bring a down parka especially for the evening at the lodge. On most days, you’d be hiking in a convertible hiking pant that can be converted into shorts and one or two top layers.
if you’re trekking with Crystal Mountain Treks, we provide a sleeping bag (rated to 0 degree F or -17 degree C), duffel bags, down jacket and Steripen for water purification to our clients for no charge.
It is possible to buy cheap and relatively functional gear in Kathmandu – convertible pants, down jackets, fleece, Gore-tex jackets. But remember, you get what you pay for. Wool gloves, hats, socks are available too.
There are quite a few branded stores too. North Face, Moutain Hardwear, Marmot and Sherpa. If you’re coming from Australia or Europe, items in these shops are probably cheaper than back home. But if you’re coming from the US, it’s better to buy branded gear at home.
This is a challenging trek. Even for the hardy Nepali staff. Make sure your staff and porters have good gear and enough food to complete this trek. Ask your operator what they provide for the staff. Are they provided meals or are they responsible for their own meals?
We provide snow goggles, mittens, gore-tex parka, water-proof pants and good water-proof hiking boots (mostly Lowa’s) for the staff. Also, the staff and porters will be provided all meals on the trek. They do not have to cook for themselves in wood fire. We’d be glad to provide references who can allude to our claims.
There is mobile signal only at some of the villages at the beginning of the trek. Wi-fi is only available at some places. We will provide a satellite phone for this trek.
On camping treks, toilets are a hole in the ground in a small tent to allow for privacy. Showers are available during rest days and involve scooping out water with a mug from a bucket of hot water. On most days you can clean yourself with wet wipes. We will provide a small bowl of warm water with which you can wipe yourself with a towel.
Wir waren drei mal mit Crystal in Nepal unterwegs, darunter eine 40-tägige private Durchquerung des Dolpo. Jwalant war stets unser Kontaktpartner und hat für uns alles organisiert, vom Abholen nach der Ankunft in Kathmandu, Hotels, lokaler Transport, Begleitmannschaft, Ausrüstung, Essen, bis zum abschließenden Flughafentransfer. Die Leistung von Jwalant und Crystal war ausgezeichnet und wird von uns wärmstens empfohlen.
22 days trekking through Dolpo, slept in tent each night, averaged about 10 miles a day. Fantastic support from Crystal Mountain Trek – guide, assistant guide, cook, 3 kitchen staff, mule herder with 5 mules for 2 clients (white women in our 50s). Trip of a lifetime! amazing scenery, high mountain passes (over 17k ft), rivers, glaciers, waterfalls, rocks, trees, wild flowers, Nepali people, monasteries. Quite remote, stayed healthy, life changing. Very highly recommend this trekking company and hope to trek with them again soon.
I made two treks with Crystal Mountain Treks awhile back, and had exceptional trips both times. The Upper Dolpo Trek was my favorite excursion to Nepal, and it was a memorable one. It is a trek into a land of immense beauty, rugged terrain, and friendly people. Of more than forty-five years of hiking, backpacking, climbing and backcountry skiing, the Upper Dolpo Trek is the highlight. I thought I had been to the wilderness before, but nothing I had ever been to, came close to the remoteness, or the difficulty of access. We crossed swift rivers, and hiked over high passes, at an altitude that took your breath away. Literally. This is not the impossible journey, but you work for your views.
The villages and gompas we visited are much as they have been for hundreds of years. The local people were pleasant and friendly, and as interested in us, as we were of them. During our entire time in Upper Dolpo, we saw one other foreigner. This area is definitely not overrun with tourist.
The reason this was not the “impossible journey”, was because of our guide and crew from CMT. Our trekking crew was absolutely outstanding. All in our group agreed that the staff made an all-out effort to please us, and they did. From morning tea, to evening dinner, to crossing rivers in between, they did a fabulous job, with a smile on their face. They also did a great job with meals, which were delicious. The CMT crew was well equipped, carried a well equipped first-aid kit and a GAMOW bag. They checked our oxygen level every evening as a safety precaution. We felt very safe and secure.
If you want an outstanding trekking company to lead you into the wild, remote places of Nepal, make sure you sign up with Crystal Mountain Treks! In 2011 My friends and I spent 28 days hiking and camping in the Uppper Dolpo area following the footsteps of Peter Matthiessen, of the famed “Snow Leopard”. The staff lead us across numerous rivers and high passes, into vast valleys full of wildflowers, and pointed out Himalayan Blue Sheep on the high mountain ridges. We were invited into the ancient Shey Monastery and visited the Red Chalk Gompa that is carved into the mountain cliffs. If you want the trip of a lifetime with knowledgeable and friendly guides, choose Crystal Mountain Treks!
I did lot of scouting and test before choosing Crystal Mountain Treks.
We used them three times for different treks in different regions of Nepal. Each time we had wonderful experiences and everything went perfectly. One of the trip was crossing the whole Upper Dolpo from West to East, a 35 days tented trekking, involving 9 passes over 5000 meters (16000 ft), with no lodges and very little food supply on the way. Logistics was very complex, however, they managed it perfectly.