Jamie McGuinness, Project Himalaya owner-guide
Leader Jamie McGuinness
Bali - Bal Bahadur Lopchan, star guide and organizer


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On our special route route to Shey; note the people dots in the mid-upper right corner

Pik and Ornella cruise down to Shey (Shelri Sumdo) Gompa, down to our camp already set up - Jamie

Shimen village in the Panzang valley - Jamie

Saving data; use your phone in landscape to see the detailed itinerary and more photos.


Coolness! Here are some photos from our classic 2008 Dolpo trek and see Jamie's Flickr for more pix.

2008 Upper Dolpo Quick

Click the photo to go to Flickr or use the arrow keys to see them here within this page.

Detailed itinerary

We visit all the main villages of Upper Dolpo and really have time to appreciate the region. Our itinerary is well planned with appropriate time for acclimatization to altitude and the multiple rest days can handle unscheduled delays, and there is a variety in the length of trekking days with some half-days to/from villages, giving time to further wander around locally and enjoy.

Although this is the itinerary we plan, we adapt the itinerary to conditions and to the trekkers along with us.

Prior to your arrival in Kathmandu we send out an email with detailed arrival instructions including the visa procedure, meeting our staff, contact details and changing money etc.

Day 0 - early arrival

We suggest arriving today to recover from long flights and have an additional day to recover from the time zone changes, which are particularly brutal if coming from North America.

Providing you have sent us your arrival details, you will be met at the airport our staff and escorted to the hotel where the leader will meet you. We book the extra nights in our hotel for you and can arrange sightseeing too.

Day 1 - arrive Kathmandu 1350m

If you want to spend the minimum amount if time in Kathmandu then you can arrive today before midday so that we can take your passport to finish the permit process. You’ll be met at the airport by our staff so look out for a sign with your name on it.

You have the rest of the day free to explore Thamel. Thamel is a mass of energy and chaos with a myriad banners, signs, pumping music shops, bakeries, internet cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels and eccentrically clad backpackers. Normally, we meet at the hotel reception area at 6pm for a briefing and perhaps head our local haunt, Sam's bar, for a drink before dinner.

2 - fly Nepalgunj 165m (/permits)

We have the morning in Kathmandu for last minute shopping or some sightseeing while the office finishes the various permits needed. Checking out of the hotel before lunch, we have lunch nearby then head to the new domestic airport for our afternoon flight. Flying along the Himalaya to Nepalgunj, Nepal's western flight hub, the high mountain panoramas are breathtaking in clear weather. Sit on the right hand side of the plane if possible for the best views, which include no less than four of the 14x 8000m peaks, and a dozen other significant and stunning peaks. Coming in to land is an insight to the Tarai, a patchwork of fields and farm houses interspersed with forest as far as the eye can see.

Nepalgunj is always steamy so we stay at the best hotel with very necessary air-conditioning. Wandering around is stepping back in time, cycle rickshaws and horse tongas, the heat-slowed pace of the Tarai plains.

3 - fly Juphal 2490m, trek to narrow camp before Suligad 2280m

We are up smartly for an early morning flight by small plane to Juphal, the airstrip for Dunai, the district headquarters of the Dolpo district. Good visibility is critical for this exciting 45 minute flight, the mountains around are too high to fly over, and it is an exciting landing on the 600m airstrip.

Leaving the airport we take a another step back in time. Although many groups head to Dunai for the first night there is no need to so we avoid the bustle and instead we stay at a peaceful, relatively new campsite that is a couple of hours walk from the airstrip.

Our first three days to Phoksundo are relatively moderate trek days, a balanced introduction for our legs to the rigors of trekking. Additionally, this provides some flexibility and if the flight ot Juphal is delayed by a day, we can trek this section in a little tougher two days, if needed. It is rare for flights to be delayed longer, however if they are, we have plenty more options to cope.

The flight to Juphal is by small twin-engined planes - Jamie

4 - trek to Chepka 2675m

Leaving camp, we turn up the Suli Gad (river), it sparkling turquoise a hint of its origins. It is warm, pleasant walking amid the flowers and forest, and a great introduction to trekking here, before we get alpine.

It is a delight trekking across and beside the Phoksundo River - Jamie

Although the most direct route along the river is the easiest, there is also a high route that sees virtually no trekkers that we have previously trekked as an option. Both routes are delightful trekking, as is our camp which is near the river surrounded by pine forest.

Trekking the high route - Jamie

5 - trek to near Amchi clinic ~3100m near Sumdowa

This is another delightful day along the forested gorge passing through birch, deciduous larches, and fir trees, some with rich autumn colours. From our lunch spot, Rechi which is run by women from Ringmu, it really starts to feel that we are in Tibetan country with flat roofed houses and fields of buckwheat. Our camp is a little before the Amchi clinic and Tapriza school (supported by Marietta, a Swiss friend who spent 6 months researching, living up here years ago). This is the confluence of the Pungmo Chu, which comes from the Kagmara La, and the Suli Gad/Phoksundo Khola.

Collecting fire wood - Jamie

Bali and the crew relax for a moment over tea in a local tea shop - Jamie

6 - trek to Phoksundo Lake 3725m

At last we reach the oh-so-blue lake for lunch. The morning is a mix of forest and a short but stiff climb to view one of Nepal's most impressive waterfalls.

One of the joys in the first week are the varied sections through forest, here en route to Phoksundo - Jamie

7 - Phoksundo Lake 3725m

Camping with tent door views of the lake, we have a day here to really appreciated the ever changing colours of this striking lake. As well as washing and relaxing, there are plenty of day trips, to see the waterfall from another better view, to the gompa and back to Ringmu village.

Now that we are well above 3000m, we also take two nights here to aid with acclimatization before going higher.

That colour! - Jamie

8 - trek to Forest Camp 3725m via 4000m passes

I have to say again, the colour of Phoksundo is unreal yet there it is, a view to never tire of.

Starting on the trail around the lake, we enter Upper Dolpo proper, and what a start. The trail is wide and good, but quite exposed in parts, and is utterly spectacular, make sure your camera battery is fully charged!

In the movie Himalaya, it is this section where the yak fell off into the lake and the two stars are left standing on a ledge - hopefully, we won't have to relive this scene!

After climbing over a large ridge, we descend again to the lake level and have a choice of several different camps. We can stay at the end of the lake or trek an hour or so into the forest, and each camp has its features.

Phoksundo Lake and our trail around the right side (west side) - Jamie

9 - trek to Two Rivers Camp ~3800m

This is a "lunch camp"; we reach camp for lunch, so a partial rest day.

No bridge but plenty of helping hands - Jamie

10 - trek to High Camp ~4900m

There are two routes over to Shey and most groups take the more direct route however we prefer a pass slightly to the north that offers wonderful panoramas and partly circles Crystal Mountain. Our camp this evening is at a high camp area for the pass.

Looking back to the Kanjirowa range - Jamie

11 - trek to Shey Gompa 4375m via Shyurik La ~5150m

We have had a week or so of trekking at reasonable altitudes to prepare us for our first high pass which is on straightforward terrain. The views are sensational but from the top of the pass and all the way to Shey Gompa, where we camp.

Our horse team climbing up the ridge to our special Crystal Mountain pass - Jamie

12 - Shey (Shelri Sumdo) Gompa 4375m

Rest, wash clothes, explore to the other gompa, or even do a kora of Crystal Mountain.

These are the Tsakhang gompas on the Crystal Mountain kora - Jamie

13 - trek to Tata 3920m or Shyamling Gompa

This is particularly tough trekking, a rarely trekked route and logistically challenging. If conditions are not perfect or we had delayed flights to Juphal instead we will trek the normal route to Saldang over two days.

I am really looking forward to this section, it will be cultural and scenic.

A yak shepherds a nak (female yak) amid the autumn colours near Namgung - Jamie

14 - trek to Bhijer 3850m

Traditional chuba-clad girls of Dolpo - Jamie

15 - trek to Nengla pass high camp ~4950m

16 - trek to Saldang 3770m via Nengla La 5368m

Don't believe "It never rains in Dolpo" - it might be rain shadow but it can still rain! - Jamie

17 - Saldang 3770m

Relax and explore the gompa, village and culture.

18 - trek Komang (Khoma) 4060m

To reach the remote Upper Dolpo villages we cross a broad ridge, camping in the middle of it tonight.

19 - trek to Mendo ~3900m

20 - trek to Tinje 4110m

21 - trek to Rapka 4535m

Following the wandering paths of the Panzang Valley - Jamie

22 - trek to Mola La high camp

Celesta checks out a trader's Tibetan pony - Jamie

23 - trek to Chharka 4110m via over Chharka La/Mola La 5030m

Chharka blending with the terrain - Jamie

24 - trek to river junctions camp

We spend the morning in Chharka and after lunch walk a couple of hours to our camp.

Paul and Celesta cruising along a good section of trail near Chharka - Jamie

25 - trek to High Camp ~5000m

We turn up a wonderful, wide valley.

Ornella wanders into our high camp for the Junben La - Jamie

26 - trek to Sangta Ghok via 3x passes

This is a tough, satisfying day. From the Niwas La 5120m instead of descending we continue climbing over the ridge beside to the next pass, the Jungben La at 5550m and after crossing a stream, finally cross a third ~5400m pass before a steep descent.

27 - trek to Sangta 3710m

After a tough day yesterday, this is a "lunch camp" trek day.

Sangta village - Jamie

28 - trek to Phalyak 3175m via the Bhima Lojun La 4460m

It is a delightful rising traverse around to the pass on the ridge, and from there arid Upper Mustang beckons. The descent is similar, a descending traverse, unusual for Nepal trekking passes, and after some canyons we pop out to terraced fields and a beautiful village, different in character from Dolpo.

Rounding the Bhima Lojun La with a stunning panorama to Upper Mustang - Jamie

29 - trek to Jomsom 2725m

This is an easy day and perhaps a bit of a shock to the system as Jomsom is filled with lodges and shops.

30 - fly Jomsom-Pokhara-Kathmandu

Machhapuchre from near Pokhara - Jamie

Day 31 - depart

32 - optional departure

We recommend either an evening departure on Day 31 or allowing an extra day post-trek in Kathmandu in case of flight delays out of Jomsom. Alternatively we can arrange an overnight stay in Pokhara and an excursion to Chitwan National Park for a jungle safari to extend your trip.


Tashi Delek and Namaste!