Mustang Dolpo Wild
Jomsom - Lo Manthang - Upper Dolpo traverse - Shey Gompa - Phoksundo - Juphal
** This itinerary is a work in progress! **
We link what most Nepal hands agree as the two most scenically stunning treks in Nepal with a little trademark alpine exploration and a 6000m mountain scramble. This is a deeply appreciative and photogenic journey from Upper Mustang through Upper Dolpo to Phoksundo.
We start with the full Upper Mustang trek, a medley of strikingly colourful canyons, pink terraced fields of buckwheat, ancient timeless gompas and traditional whitewashed villages, eventually reaching the fabled walled city of Lo Manthang (adding an extra day over our 2018 itinerary) where we explore the unique caves and gompas nearby.
Switching from deeply cultural and multihued desert canyon focus, we acclimatize with nomads and snow-capped mountains around us in preparation for the high Kekyap La on the route that we pioneered in 2011. Over the other side is a huge, virtually unknown area is worthy of exploration and we aim to get 6000m high on Arniko Chuli and explore the Ghami La further before descending to Chharka and into Dolpo proper.
Enchanting Upper Dolpo brings another change, from wilderness back to adobe villages and captivating alpine desert panoramas. We traverse the high country over barren high passes and formidable river valleys picking the best route possible to the remote village of Bhijer then turn south to fabled Shey Gompa and sacred Crystal Mountain and onwards to the surreal turquoise Phoksundo Lake. The trail out, through forest with a bubbly river is yet another highlight, in a trek of highlights.
This is the ultimate trekking adventure that traverses both arid Upper Mustang and the challenging-to-reach Panzang Valley of Upper Dolpo, and yet is only a few days longer than the traditional Upper Dolpo to Jomsom route (which cannot be reversed because of acclimatization issues). Our acclimatization plan is proven sound, and means no compromises in Dolpo either. We avoid the new road to Sangta too (yes; and instead mostly but not entirely avoid the road to Lo Manthang).
Ultimately, this is one of the greatest Nepal trekking adventures possible.
Our Upper Mustang and Upper Dolpo trek is a celebration of these gloriously scenic and culturally unique areas, however is at the tail end of the golden years of innocent trekking. There is a road being bulldozed from Sangta to Chharka, a dirt track now descends from Tibet through Tinje and has almost reached Dho-Tarap (but only a couple of kilometers are part of our trek) and, at last, Dunai (and Tarakot) is connected by jeep track to the south. Eventually, these roads will join up, providing a trade road from Tibet, dramatically changing accessibility to the region, and the style of trekking. I view these developments as positive, and they are the locals' choice anyway, however I sincerely hope that the protection Shey Phoksundo National Park begins functioning again, and indeed that the park and protections are extended. How many more times will we run this sort of ambitious caravan-style trek? The window is closing...