Challenging and Rewarding: My Experience on the Upper Dolpo Trek

25, Apr 2023 |

The Upper Dolpo Trek is a challenging trek that requires good physical fitness and a trekking experience. However, the experience is worth it

As I began my journey towards the Upper Dolpo Trek, I was filled with excitement and anticipation. This remote and challenging trekking route is located in the western part of Nepal and is known for its stunning landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and rare wildlife.

Starting from Juphal, a small airstrip in the Jumla district, the trek followed the ancient trade route that links Dolpo with Tibet. The trek took us through lush forests, arid deserts, deep canyons, and high mountain passes. The scenery was simply breathtaking, and I felt grateful to be able to witness such natural beauty.

One of the most unique aspects of the Upper Dolpo Trek is the opportunity to explore the traditional lifestyle and culture of the Dolpo people. The Dolpo people are primarily of Tibetan descent and practice Bon Buddhism, an ancient shamanistic religion that predates Tibetan Buddhism. They are known for their distinctive clothing, which includes woolen chubas, Topi hats, and colorful aprons. They are also skilled in traditional crafts such as weaving, woodcarving, and metalwork.

As we made our way through the region, we encountered several Buddhist monasteries and Bon Po pre-Buddhist monasteries. They preserve one of the last remnants of traditional Tibetan culture. The Shey Gompa is a Buddhist monastery located at 4200m in the She Phoksundo rural municipality of the Dolpa district in Nepal. It is also known as the Crystal Monastery and is the spiritual heart of the Upper Dolpo Trek. Its interior is decorated with Buddhist paintings, and the festival that takes place here every year is a symbol of victory against the evil spirits, the Rakshas.

The Upper Dolpo Trek is also famous for the Shey Phoksundo National Park, which is home to rare and endangered species of wildlife such as the snow leopard, musk deer, and blue sheep. The national park is also home to the beautiful Phoksundo Lake, which is a stunning turquoise-colored lake set amidst the high mountains. It was one of the highlights of the trek, and I felt lucky to have witnessed its beauty.

The Upper Dolpo Trek is a challenging trek that requires good physical fitness and trekking experience. However, the experience is worth it. The trek provides an excellent opportunity to explore the unique lifestyle, culture, and landscapes of the Dolpo region. It takes you around immense Himalayan peaks with five high passes: Kang La (5,380 m), Saldang La (5,060 m), Chharka La (5,015m), Sangda La (5,515 m), and lower Sangda La (5,035m).

The Upper Dolpo Trek itinerary starts by plane from Kathmandu, Nepalgunj, Juphal, and Dunai. The trail leads through arid landscapes and mixed forests to Ringmo Lake and Say Phoksundo Lake and through indigenous cultures. Our hike took us to the last settlement before Tibet, and we could see the Tibetan border as we reached Musi Gaun. Continuing our ascent, we reached Jomsom via the Sangdala Pass (5,111 meters). It was the starting point of the Upper Mustang Trek, the Tilicho Pass Trek, the Dhaulagiri Pass, and the Thapa Peak climb.

The Upper Dolpo Trek was an unforgettable experience that I will cherish forever. It provided me with a unique opportunity to explore the traditional lifestyle, culture, and landscapes of the Dolpo region. I highly recommend this trek to anyone who is seeking an off-the-beaten-path adventure and is willing to challenge themselves physically and mentally.

photo credit: KimKim

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