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Bhutan Snowman Trek — Beyond the End Of the Road

Our sec­ond Snow­man Trek post is here! Join Expe­di­tion Leader Deana Zal­ba­do as we con­tin­ue on this buck­et list adven­ture. Pho­tos by Deana Zalbado. 

Blessed, packed up, and ready for adven­ture, we drove off into the moun­tains on a road that wound up over a high pass, strewn with prayer flags and chort­ens. Bhutanese hos­pi­tal­i­ty is every­where, even on the road­side, where we met 2 truck­loads of monks at the pass. They spoke some Eng­lish and offered all of us tra­di­tion­al but­ter tea while they told us about the 5‑foot-tall stat­ues strapped in the back of their trucks for trans­port to a far temple.

For­ti­fied with tea, we descend­ed through a hot, flat, flow­er­ing val­ley to Bhutan’s most ornate and majes­tic dzong before ris­ing again on a twist­ing road that tight­ly hugged the moun­tains. The road turned to dirt, nar­rowed, and final­ly we stopped for the night in a small village.

Camped on the edge of town, we shift­ed to 4WD jeeps in the morn­ing as the road turned rougher. The pre­car­i­ous road has been new­ly carved between a sheer moun­tain wall on one side and a sheer drop down to the riv­er on the oth­er. The jeeps drove until we lit­er­al­ly reached the end of the road. From there, our team of 18 peo­ple and 30+ pack hors­es cut down over loose and uneven ter­rain to meet the main trail which comes from Tibet and was fol­lowed by Bhutan’s uni­fi­er and vision­ary monk, the Zhab­drung Ngawang Nam­gyal in the 16th cen­tu­ry. This land abounds with sto­ries and history.

Pine, larch, and orchids grow­ing in the trees formed a gen­tle for­est where we climbed light­ly and steadi­ly up the val­ley, while the riv­er rose to meet us. Our camp­site was on the edge of a glacial­ly cold riv­er, at the bot­tom of a gorge. It was the first of many beau­ti­ful camp­sites we would enjoy along cold rivers. It was also the first of many days where the clear morn­ing cloud­ed over by ear­ly after­noon, then turned into pre­cip­i­ta­tion. The after­noons var­ied from a light driz­zle, to rain, to hail, and a few days even to snow. We quick­ly fell into a rhythm of enjoy­ing ear­ly morn­ings out­doors, eat­ing lunch before the rain, and at some point paus­ing on the trail for the whole group to suit up in col­or­ful rain jack­ets. Although hik­ing in the rain is nev­er ide­al, it has its own beau­ty — clouds and mist shift­ing around rocky peaks, bright flow­ers abun­dant­ly bloom­ing in a mono­chrome land­scape, a heavy blan­ket of mois­ture damp­en­ing sounds and tun­ing one’s atten­tion inward. Weath­er is one of the things beyond our con­trol, so all we can do is let go, stay dry, and enjoy the earth in its many incarnations.

2020 Dates: Sep­tem­ber 30-Octo­ber 28

2020 Dates: Sep­tem­ber 30-Octo­ber 28