Day 27:  Bumtra Trek, Day 1 – the ascent!

We started our day with a delightful breakfast in the hotel. Very hearty with a cheese omelet, chicken sausages, baked beans and toast. This would be a little heavy, but today we had a big climb ahead, and would need the energy!

Just as we were getting ready to head out, Annika and Alaina shared their photo from the top of Chelela Pass. I had given them a little taste from home the night before, and they chose a special spot for their treat!

Penjor and Kenchu met us at the hotel at 8:30. We left most of our luggage there as we would be coming back tomorrow for our last night in Bhutan! Penjor drove us to Sang Choekor Lhakhang, a Bhuddist monastic learning centre and temple, high above the valley at around 3200M. It was here that we were to begin our hike. Our climb today is an additional 750M, over a distance of about 8 km.

A Super Hero pose is always in order before a big ( for us) trek!

We started out at a relatively decent clip ( our altitude medication helping dramatically!). Kencho’s training over the past 15 days has acclimated and strengthened us both for the challenge ahead! Our objective was to take it slow and steady with lots of stops. Temperature at the start was about 12-15C…not bad for the elevation!

Our first hill took us through an area that had been devastated with a forest fire about a year ago. While the fire raged for over 2 weeks, no temple or monastery was touched! Considering the proximity to tiger’s nest, and the fact the this monastery had been destroyed by fire about 10 years ago, this was nothing short of a miracle!

Charred remains of a pine forest.
A sad framing to a beautiful valley! You can just make out the monastic centre where we started – centre right!

While we walked through the charred remains, it was amazing to see the new growth coming through showing signs of hope for the area.

Dan surveying the new growth!
A poor soul in the background was single handed lay carrying a 1,000 litre plastic tank on his back up to the Bumdra campsite. I didn’t complain was during my walk after that!

We soon climbed out of the charred forest and on up to a beautiful green forest filled with Rhododendrons and brown oak. The first time I saw this tree, it was little more that a bush and reminding me much of holly. Here, I could see the extraordinary height that this forest canopy had created!

A canopy of Brown Oak
Dan and Kenchu stand in front of the trees for scale. Notice, the tree bases are 10 or 20 ft below them.

All in all the climb was a mix of gentle rises, steep switchback climbs and the odd forest meadow thrown in for good luck! We got some great shots of Paro Valley, in particular, the airport runway. From our angle you could see just how difficult a manoeuvre landing an aircraft here truly is. I’ve been told that there are only 14 pilots trained to land here! When the Prime Minister of India came for a visit the pilots of the private jet spent 2-3 weeks here learning how to land and take off from this airport!

Look at the runway in the valley, then look at the toe of the hill in the foreground. The pilots get to swing around that on their final approach!!

After about 3 hours, we came to our lunch break location. Kenchu had requested the hotel to send a packed lunch, and the guiding company running the camp here and at Bumdra also provided a hot lunch! Needless to say, we did not go hungry!

Who would think that you’d get hot tea or coffee with a hot lunch up here?

After lunch we started another steep ascent, and then it finally broke into gentle rolling path, with even a little downhill . The forest was thick and filled with Spanish moss!

“Ents” have been guarding this trail for a very very long time!

More up and down and we finally came to a meadow where we could see the tents of the camp for the night. Another 10 minutes and we were there. We were shown to some lovely deck chairs under an umbrella. A table appeared and then hot ginger tea and biscuits were served! A little different camping experience from our normal practice!

Such a welcoming flat section! I love mountain meadows!!
Early signs of the campsite were even more inviting!
Hot ginger tea served on a table with a view!! Beautiful in the sunshine!

Once we had a good rest and felt refreshed, we headed off to see our tent! A huge tent with standing room and full vestibule, a double bed on a full bed frame with a night stand and a beautiful wool carpet beside the bed. More like a hotel than a camping experience, but we’ll take it!!!

Sorry for the shadows, but the sun was BRIGHT!!! Our cosy nest for the night!!

Dan promptly removed his boots and laid down for a nap. My mission was to find the camp toilet facilities! Who would have expected a western style toilet up here, with sinks and taps with running water!!! Ok, so the sinks are outside, but they’re there!!!

Dan having a wee snooze!
Western toilets, ladies, gents and staff and outdoor sinks. Ok for when the sun is shining, but a little chilly in the early morning! They actually put a warm container of water in the middle of the campsite for people to wash up then!

With my mission accomplished I decided to head up the meadow and hill to see if I could see the mountains on the other side of us. While I didn’t do the proper trek to the top of the pass ( another 150M vertical), I did see some great vistas!

The view I discovered near the top!
The view of the entire campsite from atop the meadow. Our tent is the first in the row of green tents on the far right!

Back at the tent, I gave in to a wee rest as well before dinner. As it turns out, Kencho, Dan and I had our own tent. We had a delicious hot supper, and in the privacy of our own dining tent, the guys had a little after dinner whiskey as well. Bhutan Highland!! As they were having their drinks, the waiter came in with hot water bottles for each of us!

Sun was setting and it was getting cold!
The three of us cozy in our dining tent!

When the guys had had their fill of antifreeze, we took the bottle over to the kitchen tent to see if any of the cooks or helpers would like a drink. They whooped in line pretty fast I must say! They even invited us into the cook tent where great cauldrons of water were being boiled for washing up!

We soon headed off to bed. It was getting pretty cold and we wanted to get the hot water bottles in bed to warm it up. We put many layers on, then got under the nice think covers! I must say, it was one of the most comfortable beds we’ve had in Bhutan! Well, it’s going down to at least -5C, so I’ll sign off for now! Until tomorrow!

Categories: Himalayas: India, Nepal and Bhutan 2019


  1. At least that 1,000 litre container wasn’t full – was it! And wow, your weather continues to hold.


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