Shey Gompa and Inner Dolpo
- A real adventure trek in Nepal`s wild west
- Shey Gompa and Crystal Mountain
- Stunning Phoksumdo Lake
- The setting for Eric Valli`s superb film - Himalaya
- Extend you holiday to Chitwan National Park
Hidden behind high passes, Inner Dolpo is one of the least accessible and yet most alluring corners of Nepal. Few travellers have penetrated to the heart of Dolpo, a region beautifully portrayed in Eric Valli's excellent film - 'Himalaya'. This is very much the land that time forgot, with a mix of ancient Tibetan religions and a hardy people who make their living through farming and through trade with both Tibet and Nepal. Even the Nepalese regard Inner Dolpo as a mysterious, inaccessible land where ancient shamanistic versions of Buddhism still hold sway. The spiritual heart of Inner Dolpo is ‘Shey' - literally the crystal mountain - so called because of its unusual mineral stratifications. At the base of the mountain sits the 11th century Shey Gompa, said to have been constructed by a Tibetan Buddhist teacher who arrived here on the back of a flying snow lion. Whatever its origins, Shey Gompa is widely revered and every year hundreds of pilgrims come here to visit the gompa and make a ‘kora' or circuit of the ‘Crystal Peak', Dolpo's own version of Mount Kailas. The region was visited in 1973 by Peter Matthiessen accompanying George Schaller, who had been given special permission to visit Shey during his study of the rare Himalayan blue sheep and the even rarer snow leopard. Matthiessen's subsequent book detailing both his trek and his personal spiritual journey has become a classic of its genre. Dolpo was first opened to trekkers in 1990 and Inner Dolpo only in 1992 but political troubles in and around the southern access towns led to Dolpo being effectively closed from 1999. The historic resignation of the King of Nepal in 2008 and the subsequent accord with the insurgents has seen the return of peace in the lower valleys, and treks into this very special place are once again possible. Flying to Dolpo's only airstrip at Juphal, we trek north along the steep sided Suli Gaad Valley to the lush green fields of Ringmo. Nearby is the stunning blue lake of Phoksumdo which featured so dramatically in Eric Valli's masterful film ‘Himalaya' about the lives of the Dolpopa. We spend a day acclimatising in this beautiful spot before tackling the Kang La to reach Inner Dolpo and Shey Gompa. Beyond Shey our route heads east crossing the Shey La to the major Dolpo settlement of Saldang where we turn south. We cross another high pass, the Jeng La to reach the village of Dho Tarap and descend the impressive rocky gorge of the Tarap Valley to Tarakot. We end the trip with two relatively easy days trekking through the villages of Lower Dolpo back to our starting point at Juphal. For the connoisseur of Himalayan trekking and for anyone who wishes to visit an unspoilt region of near mythical status, this trek is an absolute must.
Is this holiday for you?
This trekking holiday into the restricted Inner Dolpo offers a variety of trekking conditions from maintained trails well trodden by local people to lesser used routes over shale and scree. With a combination of a number of longish trekking days, several high pass crossings, and the negotiation of the steep gorges of the upper Phoksumdo and Tarap valleys, this holiday is tougher than the Annapurna Circuit and we have placed it at the highest level of our DEMANDING grade. A reasonable level of fitness is required for this trip and it is recommended that this is not your first experience of trekking above 4,000 metres (13,000 feet).