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Upper Dolpo Trek: Dunai to Jomsom

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Duration: 27 days, 26 nights
Minimum Age: Min Age : 15+
Max People : 12
Grade: 5
Accomodation: Tents

This trek through Upper Dolpo is similar to our Upper Dolpo: The Crystal Mountain Trek but in reverse. It is also slightly shorter as it bypasses Dho. 

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Trip at a glance

Brief Itinerary

Day Description Overnight Altitude
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
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)
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
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
Day 27 Fly to Kathmandu. (B, D) Kathmandu 1,340m/4,300ft
Day 28 Final departure
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Detailed Itinerary

Day 1Arrival in Kathmandu

Arrive at Kathmandu. Transfer to your hotel. Overnight Hotel.

Day 2Exploring Kathmandu

A full day of sightseeing is planned while your trekking permits are processed. Visit some of the temples and palaces of Kathmandu. Overnight Hotel.

Day 3Kathmandu - Nepalgunj

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.

Day 4Nepalgunj to Juphal. Trek begin.

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.

Day 5Suligad to Chepka

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.

Day 6Chepka to Forest Camp

eaving 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.

Day 7Forest Camp to Ringmo

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.

Day 8Rest day

he importance of proper acclimatization cannot be stressed enough. Today we will rest and let our bodies get used to the altitude. Overnight in tents.

Day 9Northern shore of the Lake

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.

DAY 10 Shey La Base Camp

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.

DAY 11 Cross Kangla to Shey Gompa

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.

Day 12Shey Gompa

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.

DAY 13 Namgung

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.

DAY 14Saldang

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.

Day 15Nisal Gaun

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.

DAY 16Shimen Gaun

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.

DAY 17Rest day

Optional rest day. Overnight in Tents.

Day 18Tinje Gaun

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.

Day 19Trek to Rapka

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.

Day 20CharkaBot

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.

Day 21Nulungsumde Kharka

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.

Day 22Cross Niwar Pass

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.

Day 23Sangdak

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.

Day 24Phalyak

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.

Day 25Trek end at Jomsom

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.

Day 26Fly to Pokhara

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.

Day 27Fly to Kathmandu

Morning flight to Kathmandu. Free until farewell dinner. Overnight Hotel Tibet or similar.

Day 28Final departure

Transfer to airport for final departure.

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Detailed Cost Information

Per person price (valid until December 31, 2019)

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.

Payment policy:

  • A 20% non-refundable deposit is required at the time of booking.
  • Balance is payable a week prior to departure.

Cancellation policy:

  • Deposit is non-refundable.
  • No refunds for unused services once trek begins.

 

 

Price Includes

Expert pre-trip advice and detailed information, All airport transfers; two full days sightseeing in Kathmandu as indicated in the itinerary and entrance fees to monuments, 4 nights twin sharing hotel accommodation at Hotel Tibet in Kathmandu, Airfare: Kathmandu to Nepalgunj to Dunai and Jomsom to Pokhara to Kathmandu, Meals as indicated in the itinerary; Lodge/tent accommodations on the trek, Shey Phoksumdo National Park Fee and Annapurna Conservation Area fee, Upper Dolpo restricted area fee , Gamow Bag (High altitude pressure chamber) and Pulse Oximeter , Satellite Phone

Price Excludes

Your international airfare, Nepal Visa, Meals not indicated in the itinerary, Tips and gratuities, Personal equipment (a suggested list will be mailed to you), Travel insurance (Required), Other expenses of a personal nature

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Trip Gallery
Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ

When is the best time to do the Upper Dolpo Trek?

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.

What kind of food should I expect on the trek?

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.

How fit do I need to be to participate in this trek?

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).

How would I prepare for the Upper Dolpo trek?

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.

What are the toilet facilities like? Will I have a chance to take a shower?

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.

What gear do I need for the trek? Can I buy/rent in Kathmandu?

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.

What kind of gear do you provide for the staff?

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.

Is there mobile signal on this trek? Wi-fi?

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.

What are the toilets like on this trek? Will I be able to take a shower?

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.