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Thursday, 31 October 2019

Trip report for Lunana Snowman in Bhutan led by Jo Clark and Tsering Dorje in September/ October 2019

Photo: Snowman '19 celebrating on last pass Credit: Jo Clark

This is the eleventh time The Mountain Company has organised the Complete Lunana Snowman trek in Bhutan. Our Snowman 2019 group successfully made the full traverse from Paro through Lunana out to Bumthang. The Mountain Company has 100% track record of organising this challenging 28 day trek through the remote Bhutanese Himalaya.

This year we had fourteen trekkers signed up for Lunana Snowman and like in previous years this group was an international mix with people coming from UK, Australia, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Hong Kong. For 2019 Snowman our international leader, Jo Clark, worked with our regular Bhutanese guide for Lunana Snowman, Tsering Dorje, and the assistant guides were Tsering Tashi and Pema Wangchuk.

Photo: On the way to Woche Credit: Jo Clark

Photo: Autumn colours in display through the clouds Credit: Jo Clark

The cook, Tandim Sonam, and his kitchen helpers as usual did a superb job and we have received positive feedback from the group on the quality of food. As discussed in previous Trip Reports for Lunana Snowman we imported a vegetable dehydrator machine from USA into Bhutan a few years ago to ensure supply of vegetables throughout the trip. For each Snowman trek we also bring over from UK freezed dried meat (both chicken and minced beef) with each tin catering for 24 people, this ensures a supply of protein throughout that is required for most people on a long trek like Lunana Snowman.

Photo: breakfast at Tshorim Lake Credit: Jo Clark

Jo summarises how Snowman 2019 went from her perspective as the leader of the group:

"We started our Snowman hike with the end of the monsoon season. The clouds swirled around us offering up occasional brief glimpses of the impressive mountains hiding behind them. We were lucky for most days the rain held off until we reached camp and we were able to shelter in the tents.

As we left Laya behind, the monsoon also disappeared but before we were able to benefit from the clear skies and magnificent views, a low pressure system came in bringing low mists, snow flurries and some exciting navigation towards high camp. Finally as we reached the most spectacular part of the trek around Tshorim Lake, the clouds cleared and we had magnificent views and perfect weather for a week."

As Jo comments above the weather was unstable this Autumn for Lunana Snowman with cloudy conditions for large sections of trek. In fact this weather impacted the entire Himalayan region including Nepal as the monsoon was late in withdrawing from the Himalayas then a low pressure system came in bringing further cloud and rain. Some years on our Lunana Snowman the weather is clear from the start however other years it might be cloudy & rainy up to Chomolhari BC however once the post monsoon high pressure comes in then it usually stays sunny for the rest of the trip.

As discussed in previous Trip Reports for Lunana Snowman we start this trek quite early in the Autumn season and several weeks before our treks in Nepal. This timing has been carefully thought out and tested over the years in order to put the team in a good position to cross the exit passes of Lunana before the winter snows block the way. These days it seems like the weather is less predictable in the Himalaya (and probably everywhere) however we are certain these are the optimal dates based on eleven successful Snowman treks.

Please take a look at our video of Lunana Snowman October 2019 hosted on The Mountain Company’s channel on YouTube, below:

Throughout our Lunana Snowman trek we receive bespoke weather forecasts from Michael Fagin at Having professional weather forecasts is essential for safety in crossing high passes and for decision making in the field.

We track all of our groups in the field with GPS check ins from Thuraya satellite phone and this year we have started using Google Maps in real time so friends and families can follow their progress - you can see the Google Maps for Lunana Snowman 2019.

Photo: navigating through the mist and clouds Credit: Jo Clark
Photo: Narwang on Karchung La Credit: Jo Clark

I have copied AITO Traveller Review from one of Snowman 2019 trekkers below:

"Having trekked many times with other companies in the Himalayan Mountains, THE MOUNTAIN COMPANY has surprised and delighted me with its degree of excellence in all areas. To start with there was the thorough and professional planning of the trip details, including enough rest and contingency days to suit the remote conditions. It was clear early on that this was a company that understood remote mountains. Then there was the seamless execution of a very challenging trek. 

There was the meticulous care for the health and safety of all the trekkers AND the local support crew. There was the exceptional quality and volume of great food provided to sustain our energy levels over an extended period of time in very remote parts of Bhutan. Also, THE MOUNTAIN COMPANY provided an experienced western leader which added massive value being the bridge between the trekkers and the local company with whom they have been working for many years. THE MOUNTAIN COMPANY sits above all the other companies in my experience. Well done!!"

You can read all of our AITO reviews received over the years for Lunana Snowman

Jo has written an excellent article on our blog with the title Lunana Snowman- is it the hardest trek in the world? This is well worth reading as explains the challenges and how it compares with other treks. 

Many thanks to Jo, Tsering Dorje, Tsering Tashi, Pema Wangchuk, Tandim Sonam and rest of the crew for all of their hard work organising and leading another successful Snowman trek.

In 2020, we are organising two Lunana Snowman treks both in April/ May and in September/ October. Our trek in April/ May 2020 is now guaranteed to run with availability and our September/ October trek is nearly guaranteed to run.

Please get in touch with us soon if you like to go trekking in Bhutan and join any of our Snowman 2020 groups.

Trek on!

Roland Hunter

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