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.
Despite a late start, we had gorgeous weather as we headed past the monastery up to a ridge at over 3,000m.
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.
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.
We eventually stumbled upon the pass through the mist about 45 minutes after nightfall. (We sometimes call that getting beknighted).
But what a spectacular night!
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.
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.
We therefore took Laya on a little adventure in search of running water.
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.
Finally, we filled our bottles and were on our way.
Amazingly, we had this entire valley to ourselves, only 15 km as the crow flies from Thimphu.
And Laya enjoyed being Princess of the valley every minute, including when she found a yak skull to chew on.
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!
As we went down the valley, we shifted from highland pasture into dense forest.
By lunchtime, we found a small clearing at 3600m and stretched out to enjoy the sun before a final climb.
And Laya enjoyed a big rest before being carried. She truly is a princess!