Camping trip to Jomkerim Pass

Living in Bhutan is an amazing experience, filled with Gross National Happiness. a vibrant new democracy and a private sector that is just finding its feet. I’m fortunate to work at the intersection of these issues, and I humbly hope to have a positive impact over the coming year. Although I am fully immersed in my work here, there are many benefits on the side, including morning runs up to the Wangditse Monastery and weekend camping trips.

This post presents some pictures from an amazing two day camping trip that Antonia and I did last weekend. We took out 3 month old puppy, Laya, with us, and discovered that she is still a bit young, so we got to take turns carrying an extra 5kg whenever she got tired. I also carries about 5kg of camera gear, and as you can see, it was most definitely worth it!

Our route started at the amazing Dechenphu Lakhang, about 10km north of Thimphu city.

At Dochenphu Lakhang for a later start than planned!

Despite a late start, we had gorgeous weather as we headed past the monastery up to a ridge at over 3,000m.

Laya having second thoughts about this whole hiking thing

From there it was a long hike along the ridge towards Jomkerim Pass at about 4,300m (which was unfortunately labelled on the map as 4,100m!) See map from Trekking in Bhutan below.

Dechhenphu Map

The combination of a late start and a pup not as quick as planned meant that we did not get to the pass until after dark.

Tired puppy

We eventually stumbled upon the pass through the mist about 45 minutes after nightfall. (We sometimes call that getting beknighted).

All (exhausted) smiles at the pass

But what a spectacular night!

Got into camp late, but the views were amazing

By the time we finished dinner, the temperatures were dropping rapidly, and we were running low on water. Nothing to do but to go to bed. Before we did, I took a few more shots, taking advantage of the full moon which had come over the ridge.

A 25 second exposure with the moon lighting up the landscape

This was a 25 second exposure with a 16mm lens on F4 at ISO 3200. Rather than being satisfied with just one, I took a series of shots to stitch them together in a time lapse. Unfortunately, in the -15C temperatures, my camera battery only lasted for 85 shots before succumbing to the cold. It was still enough for a few seconds of fun! You can view that time lapse on Vimeo.

The following morning was cold, and Laya was not the first up for a change.


What little water there was around camp was frozen solid.

Ice in the morning sun

We therefore took Laya on a little adventure in search of running water.

Laya finds a bone at a yakherder camp

Along the way, we found some spectacular views. This one is looking North at the whole range of Himalayan peaks separating Bhutan from China. On the right is Gangkhar Puensum, the highest unclimbed mountain in the world at over 7,500m.


After climbing down a frozen canyon, I eventually found running water a few hundred meters below.

And water is found

Finally, we filled our bottles and were on our way.

Filling up the bottles

Amazingly, we had this entire valley to ourselves, only 15 km as the crow flies from Thimphu.

Finally going down

And Laya enjoyed being Princess of the valley every minute, including when she found a yak skull to chew on.

Laya makes a find, her own yak skull!

It wasn’t just yak skulls we crossed though. This monster yak watched us very closely as we squeezed past him on the trail. I did not bother taking the picture until we were out of charging distance!

Some local wildlife staring us down

As we went down the valley, we shifted from highland pasture into dense forest.

Into the forest and yet another biome

By lunchtime, we found a small clearing at 3600m and stretched out to enjoy the sun before a final climb.

Lunch before a final long slog up

And Laya enjoyed a big rest before being carried. She truly is a princess!

No need to move from here!We eventually made it to Dui Goempa, just as night was falling, and completed the final hour of the hike with our headlamps, for the second night in a row!

At last Dui Goempa at sundown. Now just another 1.5h down to town!


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