How I finally made it on my often-dreamed-of Bhutan trekking holiday
The green World Expeditions wallet containing my final documents arrived in the post and I had a little chuckle to myself as 10 years ago I was putting these packs together myself and sending out them out for clients on Bhutan trekking holidays, including the Snowman Trek… It cemented the feeling even more how lucky I was to be finally fulfilling my dream of doing this special trek.
It all started back in 2005 whilst at University. I was at a study session at a friend’s house and there were these stunning pictures of the Himalayas on the walls. I can still remember them now. Just mind-blowing. They were from the Snowman Trek in Bhutan and from that day on I knew I had to do it whatever happened. I tried to do it post-uni but there were just too many factors stopping me. Instead, I opted for Nepal and did the incredible Everest Circuit with World Expeditions. On return, I started working for World Expeditions and had two and a half fantastic years in the London office and I always think fondly of my time there. I still work in travel now, but there was never another option for the Snowman Trek. World Expeditions has always had such a strong philosophy on getting it right ‘on the ground’ and really going that extra mile in all areas.
So, as I sit here typing now, I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe I’ve actually completed the trek and just how incredible it was. There was so much expectation on this Bhutan trekking trip and it just went way beyond what I could have imagined.
The sheer remoteness, being able to switch off from the world, the spectacular scenery, getting to know about the Bhutanese way of life and having the support of World Expeditions and their attention to detail just came together in one all-round life changing trip.
I really will never ever forget the Snowman Trek.
So many people have asked me about the trip to Bhutan on my return, so I thought I’d cover the main questions to give an idea of what it’s really like. I love talking travel and I’d welcome anyone to contact me if they are considering it and I can give them the down low and help make a decision. I appreciate this trek in Bhutan is a massive commitment on many levels, but seriously, it’s worth every hoop you have to jump through and boy, did I have my fair few.
Why this Bhutan trekking trip is so special
Honestly every day is different. I had no idea about this before I went, but for a 23-day trek to have such variation is quite surreal. It just gets better and better and better.
Sometimes you turn a corner and you are just stopped dead in your tracks. The scenery is just unbelievable and you think that maybe only 200 or so trekkers a year get to see these views. Very special.
And crossing 11 passes – there aren’t many treks in the world that get to cross this many and they are all so different. You celebrate crossing each one in true Bhutanese style and it helps keep the group motivated and the trip interesting. It’s bitter sweet when you cross the 11th one. We had a lot of snow and it was magical.
Is the Snowman Trek in Bhutan really that hard?
Yes and no. The length of the Bhutan Snowman Trek makes it hard from a mental point of view and things do start to wear you down. But from a fitness perspective, the trip is incredibly well paced and although there are some tough days for sure, they are balanced with a slightly less challenging day either before or after. World Expeditions provides a leader (we had the fascinating Andrew Lock who kept us entertained with many a story) and two guides, so you really can go your own pace.
It’s definitely not to be underestimated and experienced trekkers will relish the challenge, but it’s definitely about going in with the right mindset.
Oh, and wearing layers, layers and layers. [Read the top gear tips from our GHT trekkers] Moisture management became our mantra.
23 days with a group of people – did you all get on?
YES. You fast track friendships and the camaraderie is lovely. Our group all got on amazingly, we all supported each other and everyone was there for their own personal journey. I think people on the Snowman Trek are quite self-selecting and you’ll most likely be with like-minded people. World Expeditions provided a western leader which really added that extra layer and it helped bond everyone very quickly.
Managing the altitude
Generally, this specific Bhutan trekking trip works its way up slowly to higher altitudes and acclimatisation days are built in early on, so everyone in our group was fine, except a few headaches and sleepless nights. It’s really by the latter part of the trip that you sleep up high and by then, most people are settled in to the high climes.
What’s one of your best memories of Bhutan?
Getting to know my guide JC and feeling so lucky that he was part of this experience. We are both the same age, had loads of banter and I miss him a lot. He taught me so much about Bhutan and life and supported me throughout the trek. I can’t wait to go back to Bhutan and meet up with him again.
Words and images by Matt Brazier
Do you have more questions on this Bhutan trekking trip and crossing so many high passes? A travel consultant at your nearest World Expeditions office can answer any other queries you may have on Bhutan, or even help put you in touch with Matt directly.
Let us know in the comments, what’s a dream trek you would like to do?
More about trekking in Bhutan
- Take me to the Bhutan Snowman Trek trip page
- On the Couch with Mountaineer Legend Andrew Lock
- Traveller Stories: 50 Years of Happiness in Bhutan
- Show me all Bhutan trekking holidays
- Trek Training Guide: Getting Fit for your Trek