Irian Jaya’s Kombai
The Tree House People

Kingdom of Bhutan
Chomolhari Trek
(to Gongyul)

The Chomolhari route [see map] is a sixteen day trek up into the high country of the Himalayas. The route often parallels Bhutan’s border with Tibet, and ranges in altitude from 7,500 to 16,076 feet. It passes under the highest unclimbed peaks in the world with several mountains higher than 20,000 feet clearly visible. It also passes through remote towns and villages that can only be reached by several days of hiking. The locals still live very traditional lives without electricity or plumbing and depend on subsistence farming and animal herding for their living. 

The trek begins at Paro.

We had 40 pack horses to carry our supplies and our gear.

Unlike Nepal, Bhutan has not been deforested. This is
partly because Bhutan has a much smaller population,
but it is also because the government has made a great
effort to protect the environment. We were told that you
have to get permission to chop down a tree.

Up in the mountains above the tree line.

We found the skull of a blue sheep. Wild snow leopards still live high up in
the mountains of Bhutan. They are good at staying hidden and we never
saw one. We did see a freshly killed sheep which our guide thought may
have been the result on an encounter by a leopard.

Our tents pitched below Bhutan’s highest peak, the 23,997 ft. Jhomolhari (Chomolhari). Bhutan briefly opened up this peak to climbers, but the local population was upset as they believe that the peak is the home of gods and should not be trespassed upon. One year when they had a bad harvest, the farmers complained that it was because the gods were upset. Under pressure, the government agreed to place the mountain off limits to climbers. Many of the Bhutan’s highest mountains have never been climbed for this reason.

Crossing the 15584 ft. high Nyele La Pass.

A dzong in a monastery fortress. They were built to protect the passes from
invading Tibetans. We passed by this abandoned one.

A view along the wall of the dzong.

Descending into a deep valley with the village of Gongyul below.

Entering the village of Gongyul.

In the village of Gongyul.

Some local girls in Gongyul.

Yak Man!