This Bhutan expedition is a rare chance to trek the remote Himalaya and summit a rarely climbed and unnamed 5,400m peak
Despite the speed of our hyper-connected world, Bhutan is still remote and mystical. This Bhutan expedition is an ambitious 16-day journey into this mountainous haven of the eastern Himalayas and includes 10 days of trekking. You’ll also have the rare chance to summit a 5,400 mountain climbed only once before.
The main goal of this adventure is to summit an unnamed 5,400m peak in the heart of Bhutan. Over the course of ten days, as you make your way, acclimatising slowly, to the peak, you’ll have an unobstructed view of the wondrous Gangkhar Puensum. This 7,570m mountain is the highest unclimbed peak on earth. Basecamp will be in the same valley that climber and adventurer Levison Wood camped during his Walking the Himalayas TV series.
- Attempt to summit a 5,400m unnamed mountain, climbed only once before
- View the summit of Gangkhar Puensum, the world’s highest unclimbed peak
- Spend ten days trekking through the remote and rugged valleys of Bhutan, places that very few outsiders have seen
The terrain varies throughout the country. Bordered by India, China, Sikkim, West Bengal, and Assam, Bhutan is completely landlocked. On one extreme you have subtropical plains, and on the other, sub-Alpine Himalayan coolness.
Outside of the trek, you’ll have the opportunity to discover a few of the many monasteries and temples that Bhutan is famous for. Perhaps the most famous is Paro Taktsang, or Tiger’s Nest. Built in the late 17th century, legend tells that Guru Padmasambhava meditated on this spot for three years, three months, and three days. He is also credited with bringing Buddhism to the Bhutanese.
The Bhutanese pride themselves on their gross national happiness. Predominantly Buddhist with a large minority of Hindu’s, it has been voted the happiest country in all of Asia. They were the first country to drop gross domestic product as the main development indicator and instead adopt happiness.
Why We Love This Adventure
- Fly past Mount Everest, Jomolhari, and Kanchenjunga during your internal flight
- Follow in the footsteps of adventurer Levison Wood
- Explore ancient fortresses including the stunning Tiger’s Nest monastery, built into the side of a cliff
Landlocked Bhutan is surrounded by China and India, touching borders with Sikkim, Assam, and West Bengal. Its terrain is hugely varied. Depending on altitude you might encounter subtropical plains and sub-Alpine Himalayan heights.
A 5,400m peak – The Bhutanese people believe that mountains over 6,000 m in height are sacred.
In 1994, the Bhutanese government prohibited climbing on all 6,000m+ peaks. This means there are hundreds of unclimbed mountains in Bhutan including the world’s highest, Gangkhar Puensum.
The highest point you’ll aim to achieve on this expedition is 5,400m. Several days of acclimatisation are planned and as teammates you’ll be briefed on the symptoms and treatment of altitude sickness by your experienced expedition leader.
The trek to basecamp at 4,500m is a gradual ascent giving plenty of time to acclimatise to the altitude. On arrival day at basecamp, a further acclimatisation trek up to 5,000m will take place to further reduce the risk of Acute Mountain Sickness being felt on summit day.
Rather than guided tours with set daily plan this expedition is run with a framework itinerary. The following is the outline plan for this Bhutan Expedition – the ‘substance’ rather than the specifics. A fuller itinerary is provided in the Bhutan Expedition Handbook which is available when you make an enquiry.
You will assemble and meet your expedition leader in Kathmandu, Nepal by 1130 on 21 October, before flying on to Paro in Bhutan (this flight – with its incredible views of Everest – is included in the expedition cost). Day one in Bhutan is a 3000m acclimatisation trek whose goal is to see the iconic Tiger’s Nest monastery. An internal flight then takes you to Jakar, Bhutan’s cultural heart and the city nearest to the trailhead. You’ll receive a blessing from a monk wishing you safe passage (at one of Bhutan’s oldest monasteries) before the expedition proper begins, accompanied by a local cook, support crew and pack animals.
The expedition proper now begins. You’ll trek up steep-sided valleys and past turquoise blue rivers, Buddhist stupas, prayer flags and tiny yak herding settlements. Altitude will increase gradually to help with acclimatisation, until you get your first glimpse of the foreboding Gangkhar Puensum, weather permitting.
With the mountain’s peak looming in the distance, basecamp will be pitched ready for a very early morning start to your 5400m summit attempt. If successful you’ll receive impressive views of the highest unclimbed mountain in the world and the eastern end of the Himalayan ranges. On the return trek, you’ll explore valleys it’s believed no westerners have ever trekked in.
After the trek, you’ll celebrate with Swiss cheese and locally brewed, wheat beer! You’ll then drive back to Paro via further cultural highlights such as imposing fortresses and a village adorned with phalluses (see final episode of Wood’s Walking the Himalayas for a spoiler or just wait to see it for yourself…).
After the return to Paro and an opportunity to relax or visit the local market for souvenirs, the expedition will end following the flight back to Kathmandu on the 5 November.
At this point you and your fellow teammates will be free to return home or to organise onward travel. Flight times between Paro and Kathmandu will be confirmed later in 2018 and meanwhile we do not recommend booking international flights home until after 1500 on this day.
- Professional expedition leader carrying full communications and medical kits.
- All local guides, pack animals and drivers.
- All meals and accommodation (tents).
- All transport as outlined in the itinerary.
- All specialist and safety equipment.
- All local permits including Bhutan minimum daily package fee.
- Bhutan visa.
- Internal flight Bhumtang to Paro.
- International flights Kathmandu to Paro return.
What's Not included
- International travel from home country to and from Kathmandu.
- Nepal visas if required.
- Excess baggage costs on flights provided by the organiser.
- Tips to local guides (discretionary but always appreciated).
- Beverages and any costs of a personal nature.
- Any travel etc outside of the itinerary.
- Personal equipment (your Handbook will contain a kit list).
Trip Duration16 days
Start LocationKathmandu, Nepal
End LocationKathmandu, Nepal
Average Group Size12
Your accommodation during this trek will be in comfortable three-star hotels when in more urban areas. Throughout the trek itself, the organisers will provide tents. All accommodation is on a twin-share basis and there will the opportunity to leave a small bag of non-essential items in the hotel in Paro.
When not on the trek, meals will often be buffet style. The food will be hearty and healthy although watch out for the chilli and cheese, a local speciality. On the trek you’ll be accompanied by local cooks who will prepare hot meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner times.
The food is delicious and will help to fortify you for the day’s trek, or indeed reward you at the end of each day once you’ve reached camp. The organiser always recommends that you bring a favourite snack or trail bar for each day as a morale boost.
This expedition involves a short international flight between Kathmandu and Paro (included) before a drive to Naspe to start the trek. At the end of the trekking phase there will be an internal flight between Bhumtang and Paro the day before the flight back to Kathmandu. These flights, with a 20kg luggage allowance, are all included in the expedition price. Transport to and from Kathmandu is each team member’s responsibility.
This Trip is Suitable For
This expedition is achievable by anyone with a healthy lifestyle and a good level of general fitness.
The biggest challenge of this expedition is likely to be the altitude and the rough terrain.
Applicants will receive a Handbook with further expedition information.
Teammates who arrive without meeting the agreed minimum fitness requirements can jeopardise themselves and the expedition’s goal so do take training seriously, prepare as appropriate and arrive fit and ready to go! Teammates must be comfortable with the following.
Minimum fitness requirements
- Trek: up to 20km per day for 11 days with a max. daily ascent of 1000m.
- Daily activity: varies but up to approx. 8 hours per day and up to 11 hours.
- Carry: up to 10kg in a daysack (pack animals will take the rest).
- Terrain: on small footpaths over often rough, uneven and mountainous terrain with the possibility of snow underfoot at altitudes up to 5,400m.
- Climate: Daytime temperature averages 15°C which can drop to -10°C at night/ at altitude.
- Swim: not required.
- Age: 21+
Gross National Happiness (GNH)
Bhutan is predominantly Buddhist, with Hinduism also practiced. It was voted the happiest country in Asia and is the world’s first country to adopt ‘gross national happiness’ instead of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as its main development indicator (though curiously, on the UN’s 2016 World Happiness Report, Bhutan remains at number 84).
For a glimpse into this enigmatic nation, look out for a local screening of Crossing Bhutan, an adventure film premiered in spring 2016.
Frequently Asked QuestionsWhere should I stay in Kathmandu?
There are plenty of hotels to choose from in Kathmandu if you wish to make arrangements for the night before the team meets or to extend your stay outside of the expedition dates. The organiser does not yet know the team hotel as this will be decided closer to departure. A WhatsApp group will be set up so teammates can make plans together if desired.Can I charge my electricals?
There will be charging points in hotels (using a combination of type C, D and G plugs; a universal adapter could be a wise investment). Once the trek begins you will be unable to charge electronics. Please ensure that you are self-sufficient in terms of charging your appliances by bringing things like spare batteries, lightweight solar panels or power packs to avoid frustration.Can I charge all my electricals?
This will be very challenging with limited access to power once the trekking section begins. Please ensure that you are self-sufficient in terms of charging your appliances by bringing things like spare batteries, lightweight solar panels or power packs to avoid frustration and remember to keep weight down.I’m a vegetarian. Can I join?
Teammates with dietary requirements are welcome to apply for this expedition and should state their specific requirements when applying, the organiser may request further details. The food situation is outlined in the Practicalities tab and the local cooks are very used to catering for dietary requirements.Can I arrive a day late?
There is a chain of transport to get teammates out to and back from Paro and so start and end dates are not flexible.How can I find out more?
Send an enquiry and we’ll get in touch with full details for you.
Dates & Availability
- 21 Oct 2018 – 05 Oct 2018
When it comes to getting off the beaten track these guys can’t be beaten. They lead pioneering expeditions to some of the most remote regions on earth. The organisers are dedicated to creating imaginative experiences for adventurers around the world and their team of expert military guides are some of the most experienced in the industry. Nowhere is off limits and no idea is too crazy. They have achieved ground breaking world firsts such as mountain biking in Afghanistan and mountaineering in Iraq and their first ever expeditions to walk across Madagascar and pioneer white water rafting in South Sudan both made the headlines…. and a bit of history.
Being wild and wacky is one thing but with their background as commanders in the British Army and experienced team of specialists in every kind of terrain and environment means that all of their adventures are thoroughly planned and the safety and security of teams is always their highest priority. Expeditions can be inherently risky, but they do everything possible to minimise potential hazards and for that, and the utterly extraordinary trips they put on, we salute them.
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