Discover The World's Highest Virgin Peak: Bhutan
November 3 to 20, 2023 | USD 8800 pp
* Please note after Bhutan re-opened on September 23, 2022, a substantially higher 'tourist tax' came into effect. As such the pricing for this trip has been revised upwards to accommodate this increase. *
While cooped up in the eye of the Covid-19 storm, some of our most treasured expedition plans were dusted off, in preparation for that time when we would all yearn, once again, to discover truly wild places; precious, largely unexplored lands, that lay far beyond the reach of the goretex-clad crowds. Thankfully, even in an increasingly filled in map of our planet, there are still countless places of mystery, and here at Whistling Arrow, the remote, spiritually-charged 'White Peak of the Three Bodhisattvas', and it's surrounding striated valleys, have always been uniquely enchanting. Remarkably for one of the greatest explorers of his time (and last protagonists of the "Great Game'), not even the ubiquitous Colonel Bailey, (who ventured nearby in 1922, to invest the Bhutanese King with the rather grandiose title of Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire), managed to set eyes on this particular Himalayan wonderland.
And so, on this epic high-altitude adventure, we will journey up through forested-valleys, and past the ruins of age-old dzong, to emerge into the remote southern and eastern flanks of Gangkhar Puensum; the highest unclimbed peak (7541m) on earth, which straddles the remote borderlands of northern Bhutan and southern Tibet. And there, we will discover hidden mountain sanctuaries framed by towering 7000m peaks, and extraordinary ridge-lines with awe-inspiring panoramas over glaciated valleys, dotted with impossibly azure lakes. In short, if you dream of escaping into one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in Asia, then look no further than joining our small, like-minded team of intrepid trekkers.
Life is short, and with the Land Of the Thunder Dragon open once again, what better way to mark 2023 than with this once-in-a-lifetime adventure!
Why Join Our Team?
Participate in an exploratory expedition to explore one of the last hidden corners of the mighty Himalayan range.
Discover the therapeutic nature of remote wilderness trekking, as we all emerge from such unprecedented times.
Forge a seldom-trekked route to unearth a spritually charged mountain sanctuary, shrouded in time-honoured mystery.
This is an exploratory route through a remote region of the Himalayas that will require a considerable amount of flexibility and self-reliance from all members of the team. The following is only the outline daily plan. The average time hiking on the trail will be between 6 and 7 hours per day.
November 3, 2023
Fly to Paro (IATA: PBH). You will be met at the airport and transferred (3 hours drive) to our lodge in the Punakha Valley. Visit the local dzong, before an introductory team dinner and drinks.
November 4, 2023
Drive to the beautiful district of Bumthang (via Trongsa), home to several ancient temples and dzong. Overnight in a local lodge.
November 5, 2023
A short drive to the trailhead to meet our expedition team, before setting of on the trek up through a valley, scattered with old temples. Set up camp (2865m) near a small chorten.
November 6, 2023
Follow the raging river up through a densely forested (and narrowing) valley of rhododendron, pine and fir. Set up camp (3240m) by the river, surrounded by small cliffs.
November 7, 2023
Trek up through the tree line, before breaking out into the junction of two open valleys. Head up the left-sided valley and set up camp (3710m) overlooking the confluence of two rivers.
November 8, 2023
Gradually ascend through the beautiful valley, past a number of yak herder huts (yak butter tea anyone?), before setting up camp (4200m) by the river.
November 9, 2023
Trek along the valley, with our first breathtaking views of the high mountains, before setting up our camp (4550m) for the next two nights at the base of Mt Melunghi Kang (6902m).
November 10, 2023
Today we will explore this spectacular mountain sanctuary, by climbing up to a panoramic ridge line with epic views of Gangkhar Puensum, and the adjacent hidden valley. Return to camp (4550m).
November 11, 2023
Cross the river and trek up to the gateway (marked by prayer flags) of a spectacular glacial valley that leads to the base of Gangkhar Puensum. Set up camp (4980m) with spectacular views of the sacred peak.
November 12, 2023
An epic day for exploration with a trek up to another ridge line, with jaw-dropping views over Gangkhar Puensum, and it's extensive glacial system. Return to camp (4980m).
November 13, 2023
This is a spare day to keep in our back pocket, which allows us plenty of flexibility (and additional acclimatization time if needed earlier) along this exploratory route.
November 14, 2023
A lengthy trek back down the valley, following the river, and a trail past several more yak herders huts, before crossing a wooden bridge and setting up our next camp (3710m).
November 15, 2023
Trek up from the campsite, through a lightly forested area of rocky crags and cliffs, before topping out with stunning views over Tibet. Head into the next valley and camp (4470m) by a small lake.
November 16, 2023
Today we will explore the beautiful area around and above the lake by climbing up to another ridge line with amazing views over the peaks of southern Tibet. Return to camp (4470m).
November 17, 2023
Trek gradually up to the next pass with more awe-inspiring views, before embarking on a lengthy descent down to the floor of the next deep valley. Set up camp (4090m).
November 18, 2023
Descend through rhododendron forest before following the bank of a river to arrive at a small dirt track that leads to a local village. Meet our transport, and drive back to Bumthang. Overnight in lodge.
November 19, 2023
Drive back to Paro, to arrive at our local lodge. Relax in a hot stone bath, drink a few cold beers, and enjoy our farewell dinner together.
November 20, 2023
Drive to Paro airport, to catch our outgoing flights. Big hugs all around - and see you next time!
Rest assured we will be here to advise you on all aspects of preparing for, and participating in, this trip. Here are a few obvious places to start.
Will be in boutique lodges and/or farmhouses in Punakha, Bumthang and Paro. On the trek itself we will obviously be camping in tents.
The maximum altitude en route will be approximately 5490m atop one of the spectacular ridge lines. We have included one extra day that can be used as as a spare acclimatization day as needed.
On the trek there will be no phone coverage but we will carry a two-way satellite email and texting device for emergency communication.
The trek will be fairly challenging so everyone will need to be properly prepared both mentally and physically.
We will supply all (rigourously cleaned) camping equipment, although we recommend that you bring your own sleeping bag. Please refer to our typical kit list for a guide to what else to bring.
We carry a comprehensive medical kit, including Diamox and Dexamethazone to treat any signs of altitude sickness. As standard we also have a group search & rescue membership with GEOS.
Mainly local and Western food prepared by our expedition cook. We also will include plenty of snacks, and try our best to accommodate all dietary requests.
The trip begins and ends in Paro (IATA: PBH). All guests must arrive in Paro by the evening of November 3. Please note that we can help to book flights to/from Paro (typically via Delhi), but these are not included in the price.
All guests must have a comprehensive travel insurance policy that includes emergency medical evacuation, and covers trekking up to 5500m (World Nomads is a good option). As standard we also have a group search & rescue membership with GEOS.
Your large rucksacks, or expedition duffell bags, will be transported by mules, so you will only need to carry your day pack while hiking.
Typically will range between 5 to 20 degrees Celsius during the day but may fall to as low as minus 5 to 10 degrees at night.
Toilets & Washing
On the trek itself we will be camping, so washing and toilet facilities will be wild and fairly basic, although we will carry a toilet tent, and a small portable shower.
Bhutanese visas will be required for this trip and will be arranged by Whistling Arrow. The cost of the visa is included in the trip.
One of several spectacular glaciated valleys; largely unexplored, and dotted with extraordinarily turquoise-hued lakes.
A Final Word On This Expedition
We have learnt never to judge a book by its cover; to make assumptions about any of our clients on the basis of age, or previous outdoor experience, has always been a fools game. We know, from many years of experience, that what really counts, is a determined and flexible mental approach to any adventure, and so, as usual, this expedition is open to all-comers. Please do bear in mind though, that it will be remote, challenging, and relatively high-altitude.