Saturday, 5 November 2016

Trip report for Lunana Snowman led by Almas Khan in September/ October 2016

Photo: Gophu La known as exit pass of Lunana
This is the eighth time The Mountain Company has organised the Complete Lunana Snowman trek in Bhutan starting in Paro and finishing in Bumthang. After another successful Snowman in September/ October 2016, The Mountain Company has 100% track record of organising this challenging and long trek through the remote Bhutanese Himalaya.

This year we had ten trekkers signed up for the full Snowman and like in previous years this group was an international mix with people coming from Australia, Finland, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and UK. Our 2016 Snowman group was led by our regular guide, Almas Khan. Almas has now completed Snowman trek eight times including both Bumthang and Nikka Chu exit trails from Lunana.

For our 2016 Snowman we had several new crew members including the cook, Sonam, and his kitchen helpers. We have made some changes to our logistics and organisation for Snowman 2016 as the food on Snowman 2015 was disappointing. We have worked with our partners in Bhutan and Almas’s wife, Jayne Khan, flew out to Bhutan in August to help train Sonam and work on the supplies and provisioning for this long trek. This effort has paid off and we received positive feedback on the food from the group.

We were happy to have our regular Bhutanese guide, Tashi, on board and Tsering Dorje joined our group again this year. Tsering guided on two of our previous Snowman treks however had a break for a few years as he was busy in Autumn season as a cultural tour guide. Our third Bhutanese guide was called Tsering too.

The big news in Himalaya this Autumn season was the late monsoon as this year finished raining much later than usual by mid-October. Normally the heavy rains are decreasing by end of September however the timing and intensity of monsoon varies year to year. Our Snowman 2016 was unlucky as when monsoon was winding down a low pressure system came off Bay of Bengal bringing in more heavy rain on October 12th and 13th.

Throughout the course of Snowman trek we received bespoke weather forecasts from Michael Fagin at everestweather.com and this information is sent through to Almas on his satellite phone. Having professional weather forecasts is essential for safety in crossing high passes and for decision making in the field. Michael sent us advanced warning of this low pressure system and tracked its path so we could provide Almas with information a few days before its arrival to Bhutan.


Normally by the time group arrives to Chomolhari BC the weather improves however it is important to start this trek in September as a week or two later precipitation will fall as snow on the exit passes of Gophu La and Saga La. As mentioned in previous Snowman trip reports the number of days on Snowman is longer than the typical weather window available. The compromise is to start earlier in Autumn season when there is still a chance of precipitation however it means it is less likely for the exit passes of Lunana to be blocked by snow as the snowline is higher at this time of year. This strategy worked for Snowman 2016 as after the low pressure system discussed above passed through the snow was not too deep on the high passes and melted off quite fast. Therefore we had no issues with our pack animals and group crossing these passes.

For this year’s Snowman we modified our itinerary from Snowman 2015 as the group spent two nights in the less visited Haa valley before starting the trek. After the group's arrival to Paro they had one night at Olathang hotel and then next day the group walked up Tiger's Nest and then in afternoon drive over Chele La (3,780m) to Haa Valley. After two nights at Haa valley they drove back over Chele La and then drive on through Paro to Shana for the first night's camp of the trek. We believe our modified 2016 Snowman trek should add in terms of interest and also increase our groups chances of safely completing the Snowman trek.

Photo: view from Karchung la known as entry pass into Lunana
Our Snowman 2016 group made good progress and did not lose any days due to bad weather or other delays along the way. As usual Almas decided to have only one night at Thanza and to keep moving in case a spare buffer day was required later on. In the end they arrived to the hot springs at Dur Tsachu one day early like previous year so they had two nights to relax in the hot tubs.

We used SPOT gps tracker for this group and each night Almas checked in sending a gps signal to us so we could track this group's progress. Click here to see the way points overlaid onto a map for Lunana Snowman

The feedback for Snowman 2016 has been positive and I have copied one below:

“The Mountain Company organised an excellent Snowman trek in Bhutan. The pre-trek information and advice was very helpful and the trek was expertly led in country by Almas Khan, a very experienced trek leader who has now completed numerous Snowman treks.

The 27 day Snowman Trek was a tough challenge, both physically and mentally. The terrain was remote and often spectacular. Sandwiched between the monsoon and the start of the winter snows it pays to be well equipped for all weather. The many ascents are not technical but are often long. The steep descents often require a lot of concentration. Paths vary from smooth and dry to mud and rocks.
The 3 day pre-trek acclimatisation process was well thought out and none of the group suffered any significant altitude sickness. The three day cross-country return to Paro gave a good insight to Bhutan life.”
JH

For more testimonials on Snowman and our other trips please take a look at AITO review section of their website

Many thanks to Almas, Tsering Dorje, Tashi, Tsering, Sonam and rest of the crew for all of their hard work, great job again! Thanks to Jayne Khan for all of her help with training the cooks and her work on provisioning. Thanks also to Kinley and Dawa in the office in Thimphu who worked hard to improve their level of service and have responded well to our feedback from Snowman 2015.

We have now launched the dates and prices for Lunana Snowman 2017 on TMC website so please get in touch soon if you would like to join this group. Almas Khan has confirmed his leadership for next year’s Snowman and we have already received confirmation from five people so I am confident our Snowman 2017 will be guaranteed soon. As soon as Druk Air starts to taking bookings for flights for dates of Snowman 2017 we will ask people to pay deposits if they like to go ahead to sign up.

If you have already done Lunana Snowman then you may be interested to hear Almas will also be heading back to Bhutan in April 2017 to lead our Rodung La with Sakten and Merak. This trek is an extension of the Lunana Snowman trek by starting in Bumthang and continuing east to Trashi Yangtse along The Great Himalaya Trail ("GHT").

Trek on!

Roland Hunter
www.themountaincompany.co.uk

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Our Lunana Snowman trek in September/ October 2016 is now guaranteed to run

Photo: Gophu La pass on Lunana Snowman trek
The Mountain Company's Lunana Snowman trek in Bhutan during September/ October 2016 led by Almas Khan is now guaranteed to run and there is currently availability.

The Mountain Company has a long track record of organising treks in Bhutan, our groups have successfully completed the Lunana Snowman trek on seven previous occasions please click here to read the Trip Reports from our Snowman treks

Please get in contact with us soon if you would like to join our Lunana Snowman group in 2015.

Roland Hunter
www.themountaincompany.co.uk

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Trip report for Lunana Snowman led by Almas Khan in September/ October 2015

Photo: view from Karchung la
This is the seventh time The Mountain Company has organised the Complete Lunana Snowman trek in Bhutan starting in Paro and finishing in Bumthang. After another successful Snowman in September/ October 2015, The Mountain Company has 100% track record of organising this challenging trek.

This year we had eleven trekkers signed up for the full Snowman and like in previous years this group was an international mix with people coming from New Zealand, USA, Australia, South Africa, Canada and UK. Our 2015 Snowman group was led by TMC regular guide, Almas Khan. Almas has completed Snowman trek six times including both Bumthang and Nikka Chu exit trails from Lunana. For our 2015 Snowman we had our regular Bhutanese trek crew on board again with Dawa as the Sirdar; Tashi & Pema as guides and Tenzing as the cook. Also Airya was a new guide that joined our Snowman group for the first time this year.

For the first five days of Snowman it rained at night with heavy rains below 3,000m but luckily it did not rain during the day while walking. Once over Nyele La, the weather conditions stayed stable until they reached Thanza in Lunana then after that it snowed in the afternoon for next four days. The group pitched tents on snow at Danje, Tshorim lake and Tarina three days in a row and there was about 10 cms of snow at Tshorim lake at our highest camp. Luckily this Autumn there were no cyclones from Bay of Bengal impacting the Himalaya unlike 2014 with Cyclone Hudhud and in 2013 with Cyclone Phailin.

Photo: view from Gophu La
Overall the trail conditions were good for Snowman 2015 and not as muddy as previous years. For the last 50m on the climb to Saga La pass the trail was abit slippery but there was no snow on other side of the pass while descending. For our Snowman trek we include micro crampons on the kit list (Yak Tracks or Kahtoolas) and some of the group used these for the ascent of Saga La. Almas reported that the lowest temperature of the trek was -5.2 Celsius inside his tent in early hours before sunrise at the Tshorim lake.

Our Snowman 2015 group made good progress and did not lose any days due to bad weather or other delays along the way. As usual Almas decided to have only one night at Thanza and to keep moving in case a spare buffer day was required later on. In the end they arrived to the hot springs at Dur Tsachu one day early so they had two nights to relax in the wonderful hot tubs.

Photo: Mount Jitchu Drake

Modified Snowman itinerary for 2016
We had a further think about how to improve our Snowman itinerary to help acclimatisation before the ascent to Chomolhari Base Camp at 4.080m. I think it is such a shame to see other Snowman groups where members get altitude sickness at Chomolhari BC and have to turn back especially considering the cost of Snowman trek. Most other trekking operators ascend to Chomolhari Base Camp too rapidly. The “standard” ascent profile of two nights in Paro then one night in Shana followed by Soi Tangtanka then up to Chomolhari Base Camp at 4,080m is unsafe and breaks guidelines for gradual acclimatisation. In the past our groups had two nights at Soi Tangtanka at 3,510m whereas this was frankly a little boring as there were not many options for day walks from this camp.

For our Snowman 2016 we have come up with a modified itinerary heading to the less visited Haa valley before the trek. After the group's arrival to Paro we have one night at Olathang hotel (given
availability) and then next day the group will walk up Tiger's Nest and then in afternoon drive over Chele La (3,780m) to Haa Valley. After two nights at Haa valley we drive back over Chele La and then drive on through Paro to Shana for the first night's camp of the trek.

In Haa valley there are some beautiful day walks and as this valley is at 2,712m this is 500m higher than Paro so is very effective for acclimatisation. On the way back over Chele La the group will go for a walk up the ridge to nearly 4,000m and again great for helping your body adapt to the high altitude. In Haa valley we plan to stay at the wonderful Lechuna Heritage Lodge (given availability) for more information please take a look at their website

We believe our modified 2016 Snowman trek should add alot in terms of interest and also increase our groups chances of safely completing the Snowman trek. We have now launched the dates and prices for Lunana Snowman 2016 on TMC website so please get in touch soon if you would like to join this group. Almas Khan has confirmed his leadership for next year’s Snowman and this will be his seventh time on Snowman! We have already received several deposits for Snowman 2016 so I am confident this trek will be guaranteed soon.

For testimonials from past clients on our Snowman and other treks please take a look at AITO review section of their website

Please get in touch soon if you like to join our 2016 Lunana Snowman trek in Bhutan.

Roland Hunter

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Our Lunana Snowman trek in September/ October 2015 is now guaranteed to run

Photo: view from Karchung La
The Mountain Company's Lunana Snowman trek in Bhutan during September/ October 2015 led by Almas Khan is now guaranteed to run and there is currently availability.

The Mountain Company has a long track record of organising treks in Bhutan, our groups have successfully completed the Lunana Snowman trek on six previous occasions please click here to read the Trip Reports from our Snowman treks

Please get in contact with us soon if you would like to join our Lunana Snowman group in 2015.

Roland Hunter
www.themountaincompany.co.uk

Friday, 16 January 2015

Trip report for Lunana Snowman led by Almas Khan in September/ October 2014

Photo: view from Limithang camp
This is the sixth time The Mountain Company has successfully organised the Complete Lunana Snowman trek in Bhutan starting in Paro and finishing in Bumthang. Our 2014 Snowman group was led by Almas Khan and we had our regular Bhutanese trek crew on board again with Dawa as the Sirdar; Tashi & Tashi as guides and Tenzing working as the cook.

This year we had twelve trekkers signed up for the full Snowman and we also had five trekkers for the half Snowman (i.e leaving the main group at Laya village). Like in previous years this group was an international mix with people coming from UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Belgium, India and Holland.

This group successfully completed the traverse to Bumthang and luckily in the end Cyclone Hudhud did not cause much impact in Bhutan and the group successfully crossed Gophu La out of Lunana. To read The Mountain Company statement on Cyclone Hudhud and itsimpact on trekking in the Himalaya

I have copied one of the testimonials below from one member of the group with his feedback on how the trek went:

“It's difficult to think of anything which would have improved the trip. In my view it was a great success and very well organised. That said we were very lucky with the weather. But if things had not worked out on that front I'm confident Almas and his excellent team would have steered the right course through it. The best part of the trip was simply the spellbinding environment. I would just like to add how much I enjoyed the whole trip. I’m not blind to the amount of organisation that needs to happen behind the scene to make a trek of this type work- but yet it has to be flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances, such as weather and the health of the participants. Almas and his team were a credit to your company.” Charles Whiteaway (UK)

“Thank you for offering this trip and providing such great service. I am also glad I did this route. The hot springs and first night at Swiss Guest House made it extra special. This was definitely the trip of a lifetime for me and it delivered on everything I expected.” Sharon Folkes (Canada)

The Mountain Company is organising our Lunana Snowmantrek in September/ October 2015 (dates: September 20th to October 24th 2015), this trip is now guaranteed to run and there is currently availability. Please get in touch soon if you are interested in joining this group.


Roland Hunter

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Trip report for Lunana Snowman led by Paul Burditt in September/ October 2013

Photo: view from Karchung La (Paul Burditt)
This is the fifth time The Mountain Company has successfully organised the Complete Lunana Snowman trek in Bhutan starting in Paro and finishing in Bumthang. This year we had eleven trekkers signed up and like last year this group was made up with an international mix of people.

Our 2013 Snowman group was led by Paul Burditt and we had our regular Bhutanese trek crew on board again with Dawa as the Sirdar; Tashi & Tashi as guides and Tenzing working as the cook. In the end this group successfully made the full traverse from Paro to Bumthang in spite of poor weather as a result of Cyclone Phalin. 

Please click here for the detailed Trip Report on 2013 Lunana Snowman trek in Bhutan published on The Mountain Company's blog

I have copied one of the testimonials below from one member of the group with his feedback on how the trek went:

“I really enjoyed the Snowman, despite the awful weather. It must be a very difficult logistical exercise to organise it but everything seemed to go really well. Paul made an excellent job of leading it and I was delighted to have been able to complete it, a real accomplishment. Dawa's organisation was excellent. Tulsi's personal collection and return to the airport in Kathmandu was first class. This is the type of trek which I revel in and I will be looking for something similar in future” Chris (UK)


The Mountain Company is planning to organise our Lunana Snowman trek in September/ October 2014 (dates: September 21st to October 26th 2014), please get in touch soon if you are interested in joining this group.

Roland Hunter

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Our Lunana Snowman trek in September/ October 2013 is now guaranteed to run

Photo: Jitchu Drake
The Mountain Company's Lunana Snowman trek in Bhutan during September/ October 2013 led by Paul Burditt is now guaranteed to run and there is currently availability.

The Mountain Company has a long track record of organising treks in Bhutan, our groups have successfully completed the Lunana Snowman trek in 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2012, please click here to read the Trip Reports from our previous Snowman treks

Please get in contact with us soon if you would like to join our Lunana Snowman group in 2013.

Roland Hunter
www.themountaincompany.co.uk