Upper & Lower Dolpo, Exploration of passes into Tibet, Upper Dolpo to Upper Mustang

You can find below trip report of the Trek covering
Upper & Lower Dolpo, Exploration of Passes from Dolpo to Tibet, Upper Dolpo to Upper Mustang Trek in Western Nepal : April/May 2017
outlining the itinerary, link to photos and highlights.

Summary of Phase 2
– 21 days of trek (following the 9 days of Dhorpatan Trek in Phase 1) exploring a remote route of Upper & Lower Dolpo, exploring 3 passes leading from Dolpo into Tibet, and crossing over from Upper Dolpo into Upper Mustang.
– An incredible journey across 10 high altitude passes (3 over 55500 M+, 4 5000M+, 3 4500M+).
The lower Dolpo journey from Laisicap to Dho, through the Barbung Valley following the Barbung Khola, covering Tibetan villages of Kakkot, Seri, Dhadgaun and across Chan La is pretty remote and does not see many trekkers, as compared to the traditional Lower Dolpo Circuit route from Laisicap to Dho through Laini Odar.
– The views of the back side of the Dhaulagiri massif (Dhaulagiri 2 to Dhaulagiri 6) & Churen Himal from Seri gaun are out of this world
– This was probably the first crossing of the Chan La (5382 M) this season. There was snow enroute to the pass, so route finding was not easy, and the snow covered ascent and descent to the pass was tough. Especially, the descent along the melting snow at lower altitudes was very slippery. Hence, this crossing was satisfying.
– Though the ascent to Jyan La (5131M) was relatively easy, the descent from the pass towards Dachun Khola was a very tricky route (almost non-existent at times), through thorny shrubs and involved crossing the stream several times. As the Dachun Khola had really muddy water, there was no water point till I reached a campsite close to the village of Rakyo, by which time it was almost dark. On the day of Jyanla crossing, I really had to walk at a frenetic pace after descent, during the late evening hours, to ensure I reached a safe campsite with water before night set in – and I just about made it.
– The views of the Magon Khola, the terraced farms dotting the villages lining the trail from Chagaun to Saldan, in the dry barren landscape, during the ascent to Khoma La from Chagaun is really majestic.
– The stay in the Tibetan households of Kakkotgaun, Dhadgaun, Takshi, Khoma, Simen, Phal and Poltegaun was truly memorable – with the endless supply of “Bhotiya Chia”.
– The following are the main Dolpo passes leading into Tibet from West to East – Jhyanlun Bhnajynag, Lurchun Khamo Bhanjyang, Khun Bhanjyang (5421 M) , Laru Bhnajyang, Mengala Bhanjyang (5360 M) , ChaLa Bhanjyan(5475 M), Yanan Bhanjyang, Marim La (5506 M), Pindu La pass (5593 M), Kankun Bhanjyang, Jyanche Bhanjyang, Dhanak Bhanjyang & Chanagor Bhanjyang. Of these 13 passes had explored 2 in Oct-Nov 2016 and was able to explore 3 passes Apr-May 2017. Exploring the Western most passes of Dolpo (access from Charkha) into Tibet might be an interesting project for the future.
– The Menang La and the Chala Passes drain into the Yanang Kholsa and into the Yanang Tso, a lake which further drains into Raka Zangpo a major left bank tributary of Yarlung Zangpo, the longest river of Tibet and the upper stream of Brahmaputra. Similarly, Maryung Tso, the lake seen from Mariam la also drains into Raka Zangpo.
– From the Chala and Marim La passes I could see the azure lakes of Yanang Tso and Maryung Tso in the distance. From the Marim La I could also see a settlement beyond Maryung Tso. There is a fairly motorable road to Marim La from Tibetan side and a road suitable for the adventurous bike riders connecting Marim La to Phal in the Nepal side, making Marim La, a pass marked by prayer flags, a frequented trading hub between Dolpo and Tibet.
– The path from Shimen to Marim Bhanjyang, branches from Mendo, along the Panjyang Khola & follows the Mait Khola, passing Maitgau, and continues another 7-8 km after Maitgau along Mait Khola. Then the path bifurcates with the path heading along the north leading to Yanan Bhanjyang while the path along the khola in the south-easterly direction leads to Marim Bhanjyang. The path to Marim Bhanjyag from Mait Khola is not marked on the maps.
– Similar to Marim and Chala, there were 2 lakes visible on the Tibetan side of the Pindu La – but both lakes were frozen. During the 12 hour, day long excursion from Poltegau to Pindu La, there was no water available – in this season, as the Pindu Khola was either frozen or water flowing beneath such huge boulders that it was inaccessible.
– The views from Poltegaun, the panorama from the Unnamed Pass (4660 M) connecting Poltegaun to main trail from Tinje, along Panjyan Khola, the peaks around Ghajyan Sumna in the Kehein Khola valley, enroute Polte to Charka were all spectacular.
– The ascent to Mu La/Charka La & most of the descent to Charka was marked with heavy snowfall, whiteouts, low visibility and I managed to reach Charka following the footmarks.

Crossing the Ghami La
– 6th May : Enroute Charka to Ghami La base camp I had to cross a landslide area above the Nakhnem Khola. Instead of either ascending & crossing above the lanslide area or descending & crossing it along the Khola, I made a foolhardy decision of cutting across the landslide. A few steps into the landslide zone I realized that I was not able to get any proper foothold, especially with my heavy backpack. I felt I would slip and if I did it would have been a straight 150ft odd fall to the khola with no chance of arresting my fall. So, I somehow removed my backpack, proceeded step by step – now a bit less risk with the load off my back -, pulling the backpack behind me, slipping a little, balancing the weight of the backpack on my head as I tried to pull it behind me and somehow managed to reach saftey. I thanked my stars. In the process of dragging my backpack, the fuel bottle, containing 1.5 litres of fuel, tied to the side of my backpack, came undone & fell into the Khola. After reaching saftey, I descended to the Khola and retraced the path a bit to check if the fuel bottle had miraculously survived. However, that was not to be and that meant I had about 600ml of fuel left. That would last me about 2 days and it would take about 4 days to reach Ghami is what I had been told – with no person (not even shepherds/yak herders) enroute. However, I decided to continue with a resolve to take a decision in the evening regarding my progress. Late evening I reached a spot from where I would have take a right and ascend to Ghami Bhanjyang. But there was no water. After scouring the place I found a deep cavity amidst the boulders, where water had accumulated and the top of this water was frozen. Once I broke the ice on top I got water. So, I camped here.
– 7th May : The ascent to the Ghami La, once one finds the right Khola to ascend along, is well marked with cairns. The descent is also fairly obvious along the gorges of Ghami Khola and then the Dhuya Khola, after its confluence with the Dhuya Khola, along its true left bank. It is a very long and tiring walk and it was late evening by the time I reached a spot along the Dhuya Khola where the route, indicated by cairns, starts ascending on the ridge along the true right. By this time it had started snowing and I was thinking whether it was a good idea to camp. However, I decided to go ahead and hence started climbing. After an hour or so the trail, along the dried grass on the hillsides, was no longer visible as there were numerous landslides. By this time it had also started snowing heavily so I decided to retrace my path – and with the fresh snow even the trail was difficult to identify, albeit retracing., and it was very slippery. Somehow, just before darkness set in, I managed to get back near the Khola and pitched my tent & make dinner and studied the maps once more. The maps indicate a route on the true left bank but that has been washed out due to landslides. So I decided that next morning, I will go along the route that I went today, i.e along the true right bank. Distance wise the map indicated I was around 8-10 km from Ghami.
– 8th May : Thinking this would be a short day & because I had very little fuel left, I decided to just have tea (no breakfast) and make an early start. Like the previous day, I reached the point from where I could not make out the trail. So, I descended about 100M or so, along the landslide zone, to the Khola to see if it was possible to walk alongside the Khola. However, that was not to be, as the Khola was flowing through a gorge, causing rapids and cascades and the sides of the gorges were ice laden. So, I clambered back up 200M or so along the very steep ridge on the true right bank – over the next hour or so. I found some cairns and a prayer flag (that had fallen down) indicating that it was the right route. Right after the pass, is another very steep, rocky and tricky descent leading to a bridge over the Khola around noon. This descent took another hour or so. So, in the last 3 hours I would have progressed less than 500M distance wise but I was already tired. If one thought that now the track would be easier one was sadly mistaken as the path now climbed high on the true left bank of Dhuya Khola and then descended steeply, after nearly 2 hours, to the confluence of Dhuya Khola and Natkhan Khola, which is marked by prayer flags. I crossed the Natkhan Khola onto its true left bank and continued alongside the Ghami Khola (formed after the confluence of Dhuya & Natkhan khola) for nearly 2 hours, before I reached a hotel at Ghami, exhausted, famished but a satisfied being.

– There is a local belief that if Ghami La is crossed in months other than October-November it brings misfortune to the people of Mustang, like strong winds, destruction of crops. In fact if it was known to the local lamas that I had crossed in May I might have been imposed a fine. Unfortunately, I was not aware of this tradition else I would not have crossed.


Recommended Gear

  • Backpack, Headlamp, Hiking Boots, Hiking Poles, Sleeping Bag, Stove and Fuel, Sunglasses


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