Bhutan Ups and Downs

Equal footsteps for all

(Dana)  Druk Path Trek in Bhutan.  5 days.  63 kilometers (37.8 miles).  32 walking hours.  Elevation from 2200 to 4250M (14,025 feet) and back to 2100, with several ascents and descents in between.  As reference, our peak was over 2.5 times higher than Denver. Camping every night.  No showers.

It was supposed to be five days of challenging but blissful trekking through blooming rhododendrons amidst Himalayan peaks set against sapphire skies, but springtime in Bhutan is as predictable as springtime in Boston.  Instead, we learned about endurance, persistence and keeping yourself company over the hours of putting one-foot-in-front-of-the-other. We lived the ups and downs of trekking.  Plummeting temperatures and spirits contrasted with receiving blessed holy string necklaces in a mountaintop monastery and having Greg complete this physical test as well.  My favorite moment was realizing that the six of us were literally stepping in each other’s tracks to ascend a steep, snowy ridge; it was a clear reminder that the kids are growing up.  The emotions of the five days mirror the yin and yang, the ups-and-downs of the trek.

(Alex) The last five days on the Druk Path were the hardest on the trip so far; they were not only physically challenging, but mentally too. Walking twelve kilometers a day to our next destination for the night, rain, snow or shine. Sleeping in small tents through the rough ten-degree windy nights was not high on my list. Stepping into large slush puddles until our feet froze to our boots, then getting back into the mildly wet boots the next morning and hiking is not something I like to do. Pushing ourselves to do the last few kilometers to camp in the snow blizzard and rainfall really takes a lot of mental effort. Though, they weren’t always hard, the treks were beautiful. Snowy mountains, forests blanketed by the deep green Spanish Moss, fields covered with yak and horse dung, and a lake surrounded by boulders are the vistas we could see in all the directions. At some points, the hot mountain sun would come out and warm us up inside, but then disappear as quickly as it had come. I am very proud of myself for walking over 60 kilometers over big snowy mountains in a period of five days. The Druk Trail was difficult at times, but was a good test of our ability to power though the hard parts and squeeze as much as possible out of the enjoyable ones.

Boys in an abandoned yakherder's hut

(Reis) Glistening, shimmering mountains above me. Crisp and pristine white snow crunching under my feet. We trek onwards.  My mind is screaming to stop and rest. My frigid digits are telling me to keep on moving towards the next warm camp. We walk onwards. The rhododendrons surround me, making the snowy background look like an intricate pattern. The sun pulses rays of heat down for brief seconds, before the clouds swallow it up again. We trudge onwards. I spy the camp, and I am relieved. I suddenly get excited. We race onwards. We get there, sit down, relax, for the trekking is done. For the day.

(Emma) As we climb up and down the steep, wet, rocky mountains I think to myself, “What in the world am I doing?” I know why we are doing this as we climb over the beautiful passes. The mountains of the Himalayas are sharp and covered with snow, just like you see in pictures. The scattered lakes reflect the white snow of the peaks. The horses carrying our bags and tents trot by us even though we started so much earlier. Those are the moments that you want to think are perfect. But then there are the CONS. My feet frozen to my shoes because we had to hike up in the snow and slush. The tent blowing the whole night so I cannot sleep. The nights getting down to 10 F.  My knees buckling after all the climbing up and down. Those are the things that I will forget after the years (hopefully), but the good memories will last forever! So all I have to say is, I love steady structures, not tents!

(Greg) I had not had this kind of physical hardship since I was a kid backpacking and mountaineering in Alaska.  And the hardship wasn’t just about the knee. The kids did not overstate it: it was cold and wet and vertical but equally beautiful and exhilarating. We knew this year would challenge and expand our sense of cultural balance, but it is the challenge of putting one cold foot in front of the other that builds will and balances the persistent, nagging negative voices in the head. I am supremely proud of these guys.

Kids are tough.  Whether they are western kids freezing in tents for the first time or young 8 and 10 year old monks playing soccer on the frozen turf barefoot between classes behind the monastery…

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5 Responses to “Bhutan Ups and Downs”

  1. I previously made a comment about you all not missing Antarctica during the Holi Day color festival. Well, when I see the treck now, may be it did remind you of the cold of Antarctica or may be it was worse, as in Antarctica you could always come back to the warmth of the ship 🙂
    Cold & wet feet are not for me, well done to all!!!

  2. Wow what an amazing accomplishment to hike so far in just a few days, through such exotic places and tough conditions! You all deserve a medal. Your description of pulling on damp boots at the START of another day’s wet, chilly hike made me shiver. And yet each of you was able to see beauty and find something to enjoy along the way. Totally inspiring. Great work and great explorers!

  3. Judy (Lori's Mom) 08. Apr, 2011 at 7:52 am

    I have been following your amazing journey ever since Lori told me about it. Wow,this Bhutan trek makes our last New England winter feel like a cakewalk. Kudos to all of you for doing this. What impressed me the most is what troopers you all are and how quitting was never an option. I would have gotten on one of those horses by the last day!

  4. You guys are so amazing and inspirational. Facing the adversity and not only facing it but forging ahead for days on end. What a lesson to teach your children…

    love following your adventure!! great job….

  5. Maureen (Lapides) Pomeroy 17. Apr, 2011 at 4:43 am

    wow, Dana and family! So proud of all of you for completing that trek. I´ve heard my kids complain on much shorter hikes… enjoy all your journeys!