World’s top treks: Bhutan’s Snowman trail

By Justin Walker and Lauren Smith 26 February 2015
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High-altitude trekking, alpine scenery, glacial lakes, Mount Homolhari and wildlife.

THIS IS RENOWNED as one of the most challenging treks in the world. The Snowman trek begins in the Paro Valley in Western Bhutan, and follows yak herders’ trails through remote wildernesses, crossing 11 high mountain passes (all over 4500m) and topping out on 5299m Rinnchen Zoe La Pass. The trek winds its way mostly through the Jigme Dorji National Park, with a continual backdrop of mountains and glaciers.

This is the Himalaya at their finest, and most pristine – only open to international travellers for the past 10 years. Bhutan is unique in myriad ways, and littered with trekking options.

The Snowman Trek passes through pine and rhododendron forest, rolling green meadows, remote valleys and shining lakes. The trail passes close to the border with Tibet before veering inwards to central Bhutan, taking you through the valleys of Lunana, the most remote settled region of Bhutan.

Lunana, littered with tiny villages and Buddhist temples, sits beneath the world’s tallest unclimbed mountain, Gangkar Puensum, and snow shuts it off from the world for half the year.

By Bhutanese law, you must travel with a guided tour company but that doesn’t mean that this is easy. There are organised expeditions of varying levels that you can go on so that you can ratchet up the difficulty.

The actual underfoot conditions aren’t the most difficult, and you don’t have to cross any glaciers, so the level of technical skill required is low.

The difficulty in this walk comes from the altitude, the length of the hike and the number of passes to cross. It demands a high level of fitness and is definitely not suited to beginners. But it should be on your bucket list.