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UPPER DOLPO TREK – THE CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN TREK

(3 Reviews)
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From$5,610
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35 days, 34 nights
Availability : May through September
Dolpo
Min Age : 15+

THE UPPER DOLPO TREK

The Upper Dolpo trek goes to the legendary Ba-Yul or “Hidden Land”. Dolpo lies at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau in the great Himalayan rain-shadow. Upper Dolpo is geographically cut off from the rest of the world by a barrier of high mountains, deep gorges and thick forests. Hence, this beautiful, wild, and crystalline land had been off-limits to outsiders for many years. We gain access to this unique place trekking for multiple days to Upper Dolpo through true Himalayan wilderness.

Dolpo is home to one of the few enclaves of un-oppressed traditional Tibetan culture. It is not difficult walking, but there is a lot of it. Trekking to Upper Dolpo is no tourist tea-house trek. And you will not find our route outlined in any of the Himalayan trekking guidebooks. Instead, it is rugged, unspoiled, and unforgettable – and arguably the best trek in all of Nepal.

Crystal Mountain is the English name of a mountain near Shey Gompa. It is also the holiest mountain in the Dolpo region. Our founder, Dinesh Gurung, named our company after a trek to the area in the early 80’s. Since then we have run multiple epic treks to Upper Dolpo successfully for several consecutive years. Dolpo trekking is one of the handful signature classic camping treks remaining.

The Trek:

The Upper Dolpo trek begins north of the massive gorge of the Kali Gandaki. Immediately, cross the Toudje La (18,250 feet) just beyond Dhaulagiri to enter a world of rugged people and remote monasteries. This includes Dho, Saldang, Shey (Crystal Mountain), and Ringmo on the shores of Phoksumdo Lake. Steeply descend through thick forests to Juphal. Our trek ends with a flight out of Juphal.

ACCOMMODATION AND MEALS

The Upper Dolpo trek is a CAMPING trek. This means you will sleep in tents and will eat meals prepared by our kitchen crew. We use Mountain Hardwear (Trango) and North Face (VE 25) 4-season tents which are quite spacious and effective against the elements. We also provide sleeping pads. Meals prepared by our trek are also quite varied with many options including rice with locally available vegetables, spaghetti, dumplings, noodles, local breads etc.

BEST SEASON

Unlike other areas of Nepal, the best season for the trekking in the Dolpo region is the Summer/Monsoons (May through early October). This is because the Dolpo region falls in the rain-shadow.

TREK RATING

The Upper Dolpo trek is rated “CHALLENGING”. It is rated 5 on a rating scale from 1 (easy) to 5 (challenging). 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. Furthermore, there can be snow on the passes.

However, this trip is non-technical and suitable for anyone in good physical condition. It is a great trek for anyone who loves to hike and would enjoy camping out for an extended period. You should feel comfortable hiking 10-12 miles per day at these altitudes while carrying a day-pack of approximately 15 pounds. Our maximum altitude gain in one day will be about 4,300 feet. And our maximum altitude loss in one day will be about 3,800 feet. Hence, this trek can be more than what you asked for if you don’t have experience backpacking in remote areas. Because of the altitudes involved and the many days in a remote region, this is a serious trek. This is not a backpacking trip; your gear will be carried by mules. Regardless of the rating, it is important to prepare for any trek in Nepal. Read our advice on training for treks.

ALTITUDE SICKNESS

This trek does involve several consecutive days of sleeping and hiking at high altitude. We will 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. Hence 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).

WHY TREK WITH US?

All our UPPER DOLPO Treks are private treks for a minimum of two participants. We do NOT nickel-and-dime on services – all inclusions and exclusions are clearly listed in cost details. Some companies will advertise trips for very low prices but they have a lot of exclusions that is usually not clear. With over 30 years of experience, most of our trekkers are either repeat clients or referrals. Additionally, we employ the most professional and friendly staff.

Finally, we are also proud to give back to our community through 3 Summits For Nepal managed by Crystal Mountain Treks staff. Contact us to learn more…

Trip Cost (Upper Dolpo Trek)

Per person price (valid until December 31, 2022)

2 – 3 persons: US$ 6,600 per person

4 – 7 persons: US$ 5,940 per person

8 or more persons: US$ 5,610 per person

Single Supplement: US$300

Please inquire for quote in GB£ or Euros.

US$ 200 per person discount on booking completed in 2022. Offer valid till Dec 2022!!!

Payment policy:

  • A 20% non-refundable deposit is required at the time of booking.
  • Balance is payable a week prior to departure.
  • Contact us for coupon code if you are eligible for a US$150 low season discount or a US$150 alumni discount. Only one discount is applicable.

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 Pokhara and Dunai to Kathmandu
  • Meals as indicated in the itinerary
  • Lodge/tent accommodations on the trek
  • Shey Phoksumdo National Park Fee
  • Annapurna Conservation Area fee
  • Upper Dolpo restricted area fee
  • Gamow Bag (High altitude pressure chamber) and Pulse Oximeter
  • Supplemental oxygen
  • 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)
  • Your travel insurance (Required)
  • And other expenses of a personal nature
Crystal Mountain Trek Icon
Trip Gallery (Upper Dolpo Trek)

Options (Upper Dolpo Trek)

The Upper Dolpo Trek is a long trip requiring a big investment of both time and money. Our signature 35 day trip goes from Jomsom to Dho, Saldang and Shey ending in Juphal (or vice-versa). However, there are many other variations that are possible. The longest we have organized is a 45 day version starting in Jumla (instead of Juphal). Shorter versions range from 18 to 25 days starting either in Juphal or Darbang and ending in Juphal. Also, the Lower Dolpo Trek which goes to Shey Phoksumdo lake does not require the expensive restricted area permit.

Here is a shorter 27 day Juphal to Jomsom trek through Upper Dolpo.

Contact us to learn about the possibilities!

Crystal Mountain Trek Icon
Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ (Upper Dolpo Trek)

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 the latter part of 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 minimal or no 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, vegetables and rice/lentils from the villagers en route. You will be surprised at 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 have stopped serving hot lunch on our camping treks. You will either be given a small packet with food in the morning or the cook will pack some items into a hot case and serve them for lunch. Also, for those with a gluten allergy, we do provide gluten free meals such as items cooked with millet/rice/buckwheat flour.

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

We would recommend the Upper Dolpo trek only 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 for use on the trek.

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 are the toilets like? Will I have a chance to take a shower?

Toilet is, basically, a hole in the ground in a toilet tent. You must be able to squat. You could request a portable toilet chair if you have trouble squatting.

We can provide mild warm water for a bucket shower during the rest days. On other days, the staff will provide a small bowl of water in the evenings for rinsing and a towel bath.

Is there mobile coverage on the Upper Dolpo trek?

There is mobile coverage at the beginning of the trek in the Jomsom area and at the end when you arrive near Dunai. The larger villages do have a VHF telephone. But a majority of the places do NOT have any coverage? We will provide a satellite phone but this is only for emergency purposes.

Can I drink tap water?

Nepali tap water is NOT safe to drink. Even if you see the locals drinking water straight from the tap, never drink water before boiling or sterilizing. Bring water purifying tablets or other water purifiers. At higher elevations during the coldest times of year the water will freeze, so you’ll need to buy boiled water from teahouses. If you plan to use a STERIPEN, bring wide mouth water bottles. You would need at least 2 one-liter water bottles for the trek. Even if you plan to bring a hydration pack, bring 1 one-liter water to sterilize the water before pouring into your hydration pack.

Crystal Mountain Treks will provide you with a Steripen to use on the trek for no charge.

Do you provide mats and tents?

Yes, we will provide good quality Mountain Hardwear Trango or North Face VE 25 tents for this trek. We will also provide a 2 inch foam mattress and an insulation pad. You can bring an additional pad if you wish. We will also provide all the kitchen gear.

We have lately been providing Exped air mats. Check them out here.

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 GTX renegade) to the staff. Also, the staff and porters will be provided all meals on the trek. We’d be glad to provide references who can allude to our claims. All our staff are insured. And we will bear the cost of a helicopter evacuation in case of an emergency.

3 Reviews
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Sue DeArman., Indianola, WA

Group Traveller

The trek into the Dolpo region of Nepal is one of the highlights of my life up to this point. The beauty of the landscape, the people, the flora and fauna have me dreaming of a return visit. Each trek that I’ve taken in Nepal has been wonderful but the Dolpo area stands out as unique, remote, vast and ruggedly beautiful. I liked the fact that there were very few other tourists. In fact, once we passed Phoksundo Tal we were the only tourists. I was tired at the end of each day but it was a satisfying tiredness that had me looking forward to what was coming next. I looked forward to what was coming around each bend…the ups and downs and even the excitement of the river crossings! I cannot heap enough praise on your hard working staff!!! They made the trek possible. Buddhi was there with his big smile, patience, and extended hand. He is a wealth of knowledge and experience and is always ready to help. It was clear that the staff respects him and looks up to him! Dev Rai and Sun Gurung were amazing. They seemed to know the exact pace that was needed throughout the long day of walking. We were confident in them as they led us through the mountains. And, they smiled and sang beautiful Nepali folk songs as they walked which sure brightened our days on the trail! I will gladly recommend your company!

– Upper Dolpo Trek 2011

December 1, 2011

Judy Scavone., Ashford, WA

Group Traveller

Dear Jwalant, Thank you for facilitating our trip to the remote Upper Dolpo region. Your skilled, professional and caring crew kept us safe, well-fed and comfortable. I often marveled at how they had camp all set up for us by the time we arrived, dog-tired after a long day on the trail. The hiking was strenuous and exhilarating, the terrain was spectacular, and the villages and the people that live there were absolutely enchanting. Your initiative to sustain the local economy and preserve the culture of these remote areas is greatly appreciated, and it is my hope that places like Shey, Saldang and Ringmo will remain as timeless and culturally intact as we found them. The combination of flora, fauna, architecture and culture was phenomenal, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to experience it.”
– Upper Dolpo Trek, 2011

November 23, 2011

Alfred and Alexandra Ressenig

Group Traveller

We had a very special request and challenge for Jwalant earlier this year as we managed to get a 2 months\’ vacation and wanted to spend the major part of it on an extended trekking route through Upper and Lower Dolpo. Jwalant responded with a tailor made end to end proposal including a trekking itinerary which exactly met our expectations. Having made already best experiences with Crystal Mountains on the Manaslu circuit two years back it was an easy task also this time to close the deal with Jwalant for our Dolpo adventure. On September 4th our trek set off in Jomsom in company of the guide Rajbir, assistant guide Devraj, cook Chitra, three kitchen boys, a horseman and five horses. Soon we realized that Dolpo is very special indeed in particular in terms of the remoteness of the area, the many magic places, specific flora and fauna, number of high passes, lack of infrastructure and the splendid feeling of being far away from home and quickly leaving all the odd home problems behind. Our whole team was fantastic. Everybody knew what has to be done at any time. Everything worked smoothly with no tensions even after sticking together for several weeks. The equipment was excellent as well and the two of us could enjoy every single day. After 40 days of trekking at its best we arrived in Darbang with a rough road connection to Beni and further on to Pokhara. When we started our farewell party on the same evening it also started heavily to rain which didn\’t stop for the next 30 or so hours. It turned out that this became the famous blizzard which killed so many local and foreign trekkers in higher locations up in Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Mustang and Dolpo area. We were very lucky also in this respect. Our timing for the whole trip couldn\’t have been any better and the decision to walk from Jomsom to Darbang rather than vice versa was the right one. We\’ll keep this trip in our minds as probably the best trek which we ever did in our life. With kind thanks to Jwalant and Jordan for arranging this trip as well as to Rajbir and the whole team for making the trek to such an outstanding experience –

Alfred and Alexandra Ressenig, Munich, Germany.

November 17, 2011