Day 3 Jomolhari Trek

This was a “halt”, a “rest day”.  We were not going anywhere — except for an 8 km, 6+ hour excursion uphill well over 1000 ft to the base of Jomolhari!

My notebook reports I had 12 hours of “sleep”, from 6:40 PM to 6:40 AM, with weird dreams, perhaps due to the Dimox. The morning was cold. Phub thinks it will snow in a few days.  He is concerned about our second high pass, but he says there are options.  I later realized the options involve a shortcut back missing some beautiful, though challenging, scenery.  I’m glad we were able to take our originally planned route. In my notebook I comment that Phub knows these mountains like Roger knows the river.  Roger Dale was our boatman when we travelled the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.  That was his 180th trip.

Phub has served as a forester in these mountains for years. Part of his job is to help the nomads and encourage them to raise and graze their yaks in a sustainable manner. Some yak herds are larger than optimum, but there is a tendency to have a “more is better” attitude.

It was cloudy overnight and in the morning, but Jomolhari was clear at 6 AM.

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Before breakfast I hiked uphill a bit to photograph a mani wall. This is a 3-shot panorama showing the Paro Valley we hiked on the left and the valley we would hike toward Jomolhari on the right.

BHU-9237--Mani-Walls-and-Jomolhari---Pan-(3)

From around the same spot as the photo above, I took the photo below showing our campsite with toilet tent. It had a sit-down toilet over a pit.

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A flock of snow pigeons flew in front of Jomolhari.

BHU-9249-52--Snow-Pigeons-and-Jomolhari

Breakfast was eggs with cilantro, sausage, pancakes, mango juice, and coffee. I was starting to realize the food on the trek was better and more varied than what we would get in a typical restaurant in Bhutan. However, the coffee was still the instant variety.

BHU-9259--Roughing-it-in-the-tent---Pan-(2)

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By 8 AM when we started uphill, Jomolhari was getting fogged it. Fortunately the fog would not last, but we would barely see the sun all day.

BHU-9280--Old-Fortress-at-Jangothang---Pan-(2)

Phub informed us the trees on the hillside were birch. And the bare whitish shrubs near the bottom of the photo are silex, a willow-like shrub that is cut for fuel and quickly grows back.

BHU-9289--Birch-at-Jangothang---Pan-(2)

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Nearby were the remains of an old structure.

BHU-9288--Old-Structure-at-Jangothang---Pan-(2)

We started climbing the side of the valley above the Paro Chhu. This photo shows the extent of the sun for the day. You can see our camp in the valley in the distance.

BHU-9294--Sun-above-Jangothang---Pan-(3)

From just a bit above the spot of the previous photo, I took this one looking in the other direction at Jomolhari.

BHU-9298--Paro-Chhu-and-Jomolhari----Pan-(9)

We were looking down at some neat waterfalls along the Paro Chhu. I was wishing we had another day to stay at Jangothang so I could hike to the base of them and photograph them up close. But I had to settle for photos from above. I was fortunate it was an overcast day or the contrast would have hurt the photos.

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The lichen-covered rocks got some attention from me and my camera. It was about at this point that one camera battery died and a second looked weak. I started to really worry about having enough battery power for the rest of the trek. To conserve I decided to use my LX7 (high end Point-and-Shoot) whenever I didn’t need the power, range, or higher ISO capability of my DSLRs.

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I zoomed into our camp for a shot. A few minutes later I noticed a yak in the distance against the far mountains.

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Here is the yak at a focal length of 150mm, not the longest I had available.

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Phub observed raptors circling the cliffs above us. He suspected there were blue sheep up there and perhaps the raptors had spotted a snow leopard and hoped it would take down a sheep and leave some for them. No luck. No snow leopard sightings this trip. Behind Phub and Stephen in the valley is our campsite.

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Forty minutes later we spotted some blue sheep above us. Here they are. See them?

BHU-9334--Blue-Sheep-above-Jangothang---Pan-(4)

Here is the previous view at 200mm.

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We reached a beautiful flat plain along the headwaters Paro Chhu. Phub is walking ahead toward yaks grazing here.

BHU-9350--Phub-before-Jomolhari---crop

Above the plain now, Stephen pauses briefly to survey the beautiful scene.

BHU-9360--Stephen-hiking-along-the-Paro-Chhu---Pan-(5)

Below is a 6-shot panorama that presents a very distorted view of this scene 5 minutes later. You can see Stephen on the left and Phub on the right. I am, of course in the middle.

BHU-9361--Stephen-and-Phup-hiking-along-the-Paro-Chhu---Pan-(6)

Looking down at the river and plain we see beautiful colors and dark yaks.

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BHU-9375--Waterfall---Pan-(9)

BHU-9370--Yaks-in-Paro-Chhu-below-cliff----Pan-(7)

I made several vertical panoramas. The left is 7 shots and the right 9 individual photos.

Below is a closer view of the waterfall in the right pan above.

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Below is a large panorama composed of 21 individual images. There are blue sheep in the image, but you will not be able to find them unless you zoom in. You can double click on the image to zoom way in and use the left mouse to pan around. You can also use the + and – keys to zoom and the arrow keys to scroll. Please wait for the resolution to download.

For those with a slow internet or lack of desire to zoom into the pan above, here is part of the image showing the sheep.

BHU-9374--Blue-Sheep-and-Mount-Jomolhari----crop

We slowly worked our way up toward the blue sheep, trying to keep low. We had seen an earlier group in the far distance, and they clearly moved up hill away from us when they saw us.

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Below is another large panorama composed of 10 individual images. You can double click on the image to zoom way in and use the left mouse to pan around. You can also use the + and – keys to zoom and the arrow keys to scroll. Please wait for the resolution to download.

Our camp is at the end of the valley to the far left. Stephen is on the left and Phub on the right. Behind them the high Paro plain spreads out. Jomolhari is the peak to the far right.

In the image above you can see a dammed-up lake bed below and to the left of Jomolhari, above the huge Paro plain. The photo below shows this lake bed.

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It is hard to spot the blue sheep in the panorama below, but there are at least 10 of them. BHU-9435---Blue-Sheep-departing----Pan-(7)

You can see several of the sheep below. They are amazing climbers.

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Phub borrowed my camera to take a photo of Stephen and me in front of Jomolhari. On the left is another view of the dammed-up lake bed.

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BHU-9444-Cliffs-above-Paro-Chhu--Pan-(3)

Phub and Stephen pressed on ahead while I was busy taking photos. They are heading to the small hill between Phub and Jomolhari with the rocks sticking up.

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Here are closer views of the rocks and hill where we would rest, get acclimated, and have a snack. Amazingly one of our crew was waiting there with cookies and tea.

BHU-9453--Stephen-and-Mount-Jomolhari---Pan-(3)

BHU-9455--Near-Jomolhari----Pan-(4)

We rested for 30 minutes. This was actually a noontime snack — it was just past noon, about 4 hours and over 1,000 ft up since we left camp.

BHU-9459--Resting-near-Jomolhari--Pan--(2)

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I got restless and scrambled down from our rest area on the small rocky hill. I was surprised to find a yak skull. It looked more realistic to me from the bottom as in this photo.

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We saw a number of yaks on the way back to camp, including a very old one and a young one nursing.

Not having enough exercise, we decided to take a high route back rather than retrace our earlier path along the Paro Chhu. This gave me a chance to take the photo below showing where we would walk tomorrow. Our camp is in the valley far below the near hill and somewhat to the right. Across the valley you can perhaps make out the trail to the left of the stream that leads to the high valley and then on to a pair of beautiful lakes.

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We got to a nice view of Jangothang with the Paro River entering from the right past the fortress with our tents near the tributary entering from the left. Our tents are well beyond the organized line of tents.

BHU-9495---Jangothang-Campground---crop

Here Phub looks down at the Jangothang camp followed by close-up photos of the fortress and our tents. You might to able to make out horses grazing near the fortress.

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It was after 2 PM when we arrived back. Lunch at 2:30 PM consisted of tuna fish sandwiches with cilantro, spaghetti, baked beans, and an unidentifiedd vegetable, I believe in the bean or pea family.

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At 3 PM our cook was busy preparing dinner, chopping meat for Momos. Mid-afternoon we had another wonderful treat of french fries, which we both ate with much enthusiasm.

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I made a panorama of my gear in my bedroom of our tent. You can see how roomy this tent was.

BHU-9516--Spread-out-in-the-tent---Pan-(3)-WITH-LABELS

Dinner this evening consisted of Momos (my favorite), broccoli, apple salad, soup, dahl, and cake!

The image below from Google Earth shows our approximate route for the day in blue. Also shown is the last part of the trail to Jangothang we took Day 2 and the beginning of trail we will take tomorrow past two beautiful lakes at 14,270 ft (about 1,000 ft above our campsite) and then over the 16,007 ft Bhonte La pass. (Here the word “pass” is redundant since La means pass.)

To give a sense of scale, our camp is about 5 miles from Tibet as the crow flies to the closest border crossing.

Jangothang-overview-Google-Earth

Here are more photos I took during our Day 3 “rest” day at the spectacular Jongothang camp which is also known as Jomolhari Base Camp.