This Handbook contains everything you need to know about this Secret Compass classic expedition to Bhutan.
Read on to discover our ethos and team-centred approach and for the nitty gritty like flight and visa advice, insurance requirements and kit recommendations. Use the buttons below to ask questions or to apply for this team or, once approved, to secure your spot on the team with a Booking Form and a £400 deposit.
Arrive: by 0630 on 20 October 2019 into Kathmandu, Nepal.
Depart: leave any time from 1500 hrs on 4 November 2019 onwards.
Insurance: Ensure you have comprehensive cover.
Docs: send your flight, insurance and passport copy in.
Balance due: 90 days before departure on 20 July 2019.
The primary aim of this classic expedition is to trek for ten days through the remote alpine valleys, foothills and mountains of the Bhutanese Himalayas. Leaving the well trodden paths which lead to the cliffside Paro Taktsang, the Buddhist temple complex known as the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, you’ll follow yak herding routes to navigate forests, wild rushing rivers and steep-sided valleys.
The secondary aim is to make a summit attempt of a remote 5400m peak, in a bid to earn a full scale confrontation with the world’s highest unclimbed mountain; Gangkar Puensum. Supported by pack animals, the expedition route will make the most of these winding trails to enable a steady acclimatisation to a remote alpine basecamp.
Enveloped on three sides by India, the independence of the buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan has endured for centuries. The glaciated towering peaks along its northern border with Tibet form an arc in the Eastern Himalaya, where the nation’s mountaineering ban on all peaks over 6000m deems many of them unclimbed. Forge your own path through the untrodden heights and wild heart of the Land of the Thunder Dragon in the shadow of the world’s highest unclimbed mountain, Gangkar Puensum.
Trek for ten days through wild Himalayan foothills and valleys.
Attempt to summit a 5400 metre peak.
Marvel at the mystery of Gangkhar Puensum (7570m).
Forge a route using trails frequented only by yak herders.
Chance encounters with barefoot pilgrims on the way.
Explore ancient fortresses and monasteries.
Visit the spectacular Paro Taktsang – the Tiger’s Nest Monastery.
View Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga and Jomolhari from the skies.
You need to organise your own international flights. It is advised that you book a flexible flight ticket that can be changed or refunded if the expedition dates are changed or if it is cancelled for any reason. See our online Terms and Conditions.
You need to be at international departures in Kathmandu airport on the morning of the 20 October. Current schedules have your flight to Bhutan on this day at 0845, and so you must be in Kathmandu no later than 0630 to meet up with the Secret Compass leader and rest of the team. It is therefore advisable that you stay in Kathmandu overnight on the 19 October. This is not included in the cost of the expedition, however there are many budget hotels very near to the airport and an informal meet up with your SC leader and other team members will likely be arranged.
The expedition will finish when the team arrive back to Kathmandu on the 4 November, and current schedules state that the flight will arrive at 0830. If flying onwards on the 4 Nov however, we advise booking flights that depart after 1500 in case of delays or flight schedule changes (as happened in 2017).
As part of requirements set out by the Bhutanese government all visitors (excluding Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian passport holders) have to obtain a visa. This is processed through a Bhutanese Travel Company as part of the Minimum Daily Package that all visitors have to pay (this is included in your Secret Compass expedition). Due to these laws, we will be using a company that will process all of our visas. It is essential that all copies of passports are sent to Secret Compass so that we can provide this information to our local partner. The Bhutan Department of Immigration will issue a visa clearance letter which will be held by the Secret Compass leader, this will be presented at check-in in Kathmandu and at passport control in Paro. Nepalese visas (if required) are your responsibility.
All expedition members should have a valid passport with at least six months remaining. Please ensure you have at least two spare pages in your passport. It is Bhutanese law that you carry your passport at all times. Make copies of your passport information page to store in your luggage. Please send a clear, colour copy of your passport to Secret Compass ahead of the expedition and carry photocopies with you on the expedition in a safe place.
Travel insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all expeditions. You should be aware that many standard insurance policies may not cover you adequately for all aspects of a remote expedition and so we strongly recommend that you purchase a suitably designed insurance policy. Secret Compass cannot comment on the suitability of your cover so if you are in any doubt please contact your policy provider and ask them to confirm that you are covered to our minimum standard (below).
Emergency medical repatriation (to home country) including any associated expenses abroad of at least $500,000.
Activities: ensure that any expedition activities are included, these could be trekking, horse riding, rafting, MTB etc.
Geographical region: check the geographical region you are going to is insured (often the US and Canada or countries such as Afghanistan are not insured).
Foreign Ministry advice: check your insurance is not sensitive to any travel warnings issued by your respective foreign ministry. In the UK, many insurers will not insure you when the Foreign Office warns against travel to this area. Foreign Office advice will not necessarily mean we cancel an expedition or do not travel to a particular area. Please check @FCOtravel and the Travel Aware site.
Dates: make sure the period of cover begins at the departure and ends at the return to your home country. Many flights take a day or two and time zones vary. Insurance companies may prejudice your claims due to this.
Pre-existing medical conditions: disclose these to your insurance company and to Secret Compass.
Prior to travel Secret Compass will require the name of your insurance policy provider, their 24-hour emergency contact number and your policy number. For full information on travel insurance and links to suggested companies, please visit the insurance page on our website.
Day 1: Oct 20 – Kathmandu Airport, Paro (2200m)
Meet and greet team at international departures in Kathmandu airport before flying to Paro. Settle into a comfortable hotel for team briefing and welcome meal.
Day 2: Oct 21 – Paro (2200m)
Acclimatisation trek to Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Trek up to 3000m to the most famous site of Bhutan, the Paro Taktsang Monastery. Total distance 8.5km.
Day 3: Oct 22 – Wangdue Phodrang
You will now drive the main highway back to Jakar, staying overnight at Wangdue Phodrang. You will stop at the Dochu La pass, which if the weather is clear will give you incredible views of the mountains including Ghankar Puensum. In the afternoon you will wander around a village full of phallus paintings!
Day 4: Oct 23 – Jakar
Continue the drive to Jakar and stop at Trongsa to see the beautiful and ancient Tronsgsa Dzong fortress. Arrive into Jakar and purchase any snacks for the trek.
Day 5: Oct 24 – Campsite 3200m
Drive to Naspe and meet local cook, helpers and horsemen. Load the pack animals and start the trek with a 13km walk to a campsite at edge of the river, passing through an army checkpoint.
Day 6: Oct 25 – Campsite 3800m
Start the gradual uphill climb along the river giving incredible views of the steep valley and snow-covered mountains rising above. Walk 12km to another beautiful campsite alongside river.
Day 7: Oct 26 – Campsite 4200m
Carry on the gradual climb for another 12km, passing the second and last Army checkpoint and Yak herding families in tiny settlements along the way. Shortly after passing a monastery with prayer flags, keep your eyes open for the first view of Ghankar Puensum, the highest unclimbed mountain in the world.
Day 8: Oct 27 – Basecamp 4500m
In the morning, walk 8km to the basecamp where you will be greeted with the most incredible views of Ghankar Puensum and the surrounding valley leading up to this mountain. After lunch at camp, take an acclimatisation trek up to 5000m ready for the summit the following day.
Day 9: Oct 28 – Basecamp 4500m
Summit Day! A pre-dawn start will see you attempt to be the first known climbers to summit the 5400m peak which will give you even better views of Ghankar Puensum. It is a long ridge-line walk, which is not technical but the altitude will make the going slow. A round trip of 9km of walking and return back to basecamp to celebrate.
Day 10: Oct 29 – Campsite 4000m
Return back down the valley and walk 12km to camp at a yak herder’s camp.
Day 11: Oct 30 – Campsite 4300m
Once back at the Army checkpoint, your trail will depart from your incoming route as you turn into another valley where few, if any foreigners have gone before. Walk 15km and camp in a very remote valley.
Day 12: Oct 31 – Yak camp 3900m
The next climb of the trek will take you up over a pass at 4700m before descending to a yak herders settlement. The challenge will be to get the pack animals over with you, especially if there is still snow on the ground.
Day 13: Nov 1 – Campsite 3150m
10km trek today with a final climb to 4000m before your descend back to the main river for your last camp of the day.
Day 14: Nov 2 – Jakar
Walk last 12km back to Naspe where the vehicles and a cold drink will be waiting for you. Celebratory team meal and sample the locally brewed Red Panda beer.
Day15: Nov 3 – Paro
Take a morning flight back to Paro, relax in the hotel and shop for souvenirs in the markets.
Day 16: Nov 4 – Kathmandu
Team depart. Fly to Kathmandu. This flight is currently scheduled to arrive in the morning, but in case of delays or changes to the schedule we recommend booking onward flights to depart no earlier than 1500.
About Secret Compass itineraries
Please remember that this itinerary acts as a framework plan. It provides guidance as to our intentions but may not be followed religiously. This is an adventure and by definition the outcome is uncertain. The leadership team will adapt, flex and change the plan depending on the numerous frictions you may encounter along the way.
All our expeditions are achievable by people with an active and healthy lifestyle. However, this is an arduous expedition that will test you and at times you may be sore, tired, hungry and possibly wet! You must be prepared physically and mentally for the expedition and for living in basic conditions for the duration. Please ensure that you train for the expedition and arrive fit and ready to go. You will be required to be fit enough for the following:
Trek: up to 20km per day for 11 days with a max. daily ascent of 1000m.
Daily activity: varies but up to approx. 8 hours per day and up to 11 hours.
Carry: up to 10kg in a daysack (pack animals will take the rest).
Terrain: on small footpaths over often rough, uneven and mountainous terrain with the possibility of snow underfoot at altitudes up to 5,400m.
Climate: Daytime temperature averages 15°C which can drop to -10°C at night/ at altitude.
No previous experience is necessary to join this expedition but at a basic level, you should be comfortable jogging for at least 45 minutes and be able to walk for 8 hours per day in the British hills (or equivalent) carrying 15kg for at least 3 days running. Previous experience with ice axes and crampons would be beneficial but is not essential.
Dental. It is strongly recommended that you have a dental check up prior to departure. Dental problems far from help are VERY unpleasant!
Bhutanese Ngultrum. You can change currency to Nu in Paro or at the airport. Credit cards are widely accepted in large shops or hotels but rural areas are still cash-based.
This expedition is all-inclusive so you won’t need much money apart from tipping, to buy a beer or two and some souvenirs along the way. Tipping is appreciated in Bhutan but by no means compulsory. Your expedition leader will arrange to collect and distribute any tips amongst the local team, a suggested amount is $20.
The following is Secret Compass’s recommended kit list for the 2019 expedition to Bhutan. Some items are vital so please read carefully. There are some examples and video guides on our website under the kit section. If you have any questions, please contact us, there is no such thing as a stupid question! Secret Compass will provide ice axes, crampons and helmets. You are welcome to bring your own equipment if you prefer but please, let us know in advance.
Secret Compass have arranged team members discounts with Cotswold Outdoor, Nordic Life, Outdoor Hire and Expedition Kit Hire, details of these will be sent through on booking.
Baggage and sleeping
DAYSACK (30ltrs): To use as plane carry on and for the duration of the trek to carry your warm and wet weather clothes as well as water and snacks.
RUCKSACK or DUFFLE BAG (60-70ltr): This will be your main bag that will carry the rest of your clothes and equipment and be strapped to the pack animals. North Face or Mountain Equipment duffle bags are ideal for this.
WATERPROOF RUCKSACK LINER: Sealable “canoe” or “dry” bags made by Podsac or Ortlieb. You need a large one to line your rucksack.
SMALLER DRY BAGS (optional): As above, but smaller bags to put essential items in. The large rucksack liners sometimes leak so anything important needs to be waterproofed individually. This also helps to keep you organised.
SLEEPING BAG (rated to -15 comfort3-season is absolute minimum. Add a liner for extra warmth. Down is good but may need waterproof protection eg a bivi bag.
THERMAREST: Winter roll mat required as potentially pitching tents on snow. Bring a repair kit!
WATERPROOF WALLET: For your passport and money!
2x LONG SLEEVE SHIRTS: Thin trekking shirts that dry quickly with long sleeves.
1x WATERPROOF SHELL: Gore-tex or equivalent.
1x WATERPROOF TROUSERS: Gore-tex or equivalent. Consider a bib-style.
2x THERMAL BASE LAYER: Top and bottom. Merino wool or synthetic mix is great, DO NOT bring cotton.
2x TREKKING TROUSERS: Thin trekking trousers that dry quickly and are comfortable.
2x MID LAYER (optional): Micro fleece or equivalent. Prostretch is good for layering. Can be used as pyjamas.
1x THERMAL LAYER (optional): Thicker fleece or lightweight synthetic equivalent.
1x DOWN JACKET: Expedition down jacket or synthetic equivalent.
4x HIKING SOCKS: Fitting well with your boots and comfortable.
1x WINTER MOUNTAIN BOOTS: Ensure your boots are worn in and comfortable. They should be 4 season mountain boots which will provide warmth when up at altitude. They do not need to be crampon compatible.
GAITERS: To prevent snow getting into boots and to keep feet dry!
WARM HAT: Must provide ear protection.
2x GLOVES: Waterproof cold weather gloves with wind protection. You need a thinner pair and a thicker, weather proof pair. We would suggest a minimum of two thinner pairs and two weather proof pairs.
CAMP TRAINERS/SHOES: To wear in an evening instead of your walking boots. Lightweight hiking boots are may also be used for the longer trekking days below the snowline.
1x SCREWGATE KARABINERS
2/3 x ROBUST WATER BOTTLES: Nalgene or Sigg are recommended. You need to be able to carry a minimum of 3 litres of water.
0.5l THERMOS FLASK (optional): Great warmth and morale boost on the mountain.
Health and Hygiene
WASHBAG, TOOTHBRUSH & TOOTHPASTE: Ensure it breaks down small. You do not need a large travel washbag – small dry bags or sealable sandwich bags work well.
ANTIBACTERIAL HAND GEL
SOAP: Antibacterial and BIODEGRADABLE.
TRAVEL TOWEL/SARONG: Quick drying is ideal.
WET WIPES OR BABY WIPES: To clean yourself with!
TOILET PAPER: Travel tissues are ideal.
SANITARY PRODUCTS: Bring nappy bags to remove used items from the mountainside.
LIP SALVE WITH UV PROTECTION: This is essential as chapped lips are painful.
VASELINE: Keep readily available to prevent chafing skin and heel friction blisters.
MYCIL FOOT POWDER OR EQUIVALENT: This will be very useful for keeping your feet and other sweaty areas dry at night.
AFTER SUN/MOISTURISER (optional): Try and avoid water-based moisturiser.
FACTOR 30+ SUN CREAM
Small First Aid Kit
A team medical kit with a comprehensive primary care provision will be carried.
WATERPROOF BAG OR TUPPERWARE BOX: Keep kit dry and safe.
PAIN KILLERS: Ibuprofen or paracetamol.
ZINC OXIDE TAPE AND SMALL SCISSORS: Leukoplast is great if you can source it.
4x MELOLIN DRESSING PADS
2x CREPE BANDAGE
COMPEED BLISTER PADS: Please note that Compeed produce several similar-looking blister packs for corns, etc. Please ensure you purchase the standard / original item.
DIAHORREA TABLETS: Immodium.
DIORALYTE SACHETS OR SIMILAR REHYDRATION PACKS: Nuun or Zero tablets work well as a preventative measure.
PIRITON TABLETS (optional): For allergies.
ANY MEDICATION YOU NORMALLY USE: It may be useful to find out the generic/chemical name for the medication in case you need to source more in-country. Please also check whether your particular medication is legal in your destination.
WALKING POLES (optional): Collapsible trekking poles with snow baskets are great if you have sore knees or ankles or for extra security on steep ground.
HEAD TORCH AND SPARE BATTERIES
SUNGLASSES WITH UV-FITLER LENSE
GOGGLES: Ski goggles for whiteout conditions.
PENKNIFE: Remember to not pack in hand luggage!
LIGHTER: Storm proof for lighting stoves (and burning loo roll!)
GAFFA TAPE (optional): For emergency repairs to your kit, you can take some off the roll and wrap it around something else in your kit like a water bottle.
SPARE BOOT LACES: Also handy for fixing gear, creating washing lines, etc.
SMALL SEWING KIT
RE-SEALABLE PLASTIC BAGS: For dirty washing, wrappings, etc.
WATER PURIFICATION TABLETS: Secret compass will purify all water and these will likely not be needed, they are a backup in case our systems fail!
PHOTOCOPIES OF YOUR PASSPORT AND VISA: Don’t keep this in the same place as your original passport.
TIPS (optional): Tips are always appreciated.
Secret Compass organises expeditions, not sightseeing tours. Our expeditions are team-centred, flexible and dynamic. Teams are managed on the ground by Secret Compass staff: industry-leading professionals and guides of the highest calibre. They put the structure in place for your team to have an incredible experience while achieving your expedition’s aims. Our people are as passionate as you are about achieving the extraordinary in the world’s wildest places. Secret Compass teams often go to places that others don’t. This makes our expeditions truly different, taking you beneath the skin and beyond the headlines of the world’s most remote reaches. Inspired by history’s great explorers and challenges, you’ll be set ambitious goals and will overcome similar hardships to those experienced on the audacious journeys of the past.
Remember this is not an organised tour. It is an adventure. More often than not expeditions don’t run 100% smoothly! The nature of the areas we operate in mean that we will encounter a number of challenges that we expect everyone to meet and relish. Friction and hurdles are all part and parcel of an arduous expedition and also to our success as a team. These make the journey more interesting and are often the best and most amusing parts when looking back. Each expedition is thoroughly reviewed on its return and team members will have the opportunity to provide feedback which helps to inform planning for future expeditions.
Local partners and bureaucracy
Our teammates can only achieve the extraordinary with the help of people in the communities we travel through. NGO and aid workers, guides, fixers and interpreters all work extremely hard and are generous in their hospitality to us and our teams: visitors in their land. They are crucial to our success. Please remember and respect that their perspectives and concepts of time, environmental responsibility and customer service might differ to yours. Occasionally there is no established protocol for outside visitors which means we encounter local power struggles or disagreements. Our leaders have years of experience in delicate negotiations like these and conversational chess – especially through an interpreter – and these interchanges are often memorable parts of any expedition.
In some areas our teams explore, we rely on local food sources. This can often be outstanding (but can also be very average) and we always make the best out of the resources available. In other cases, we will supply filling and high-calorie dehydrated expedition foods (ration packs).
Incident management and medical
As part of the safety plan, Secret Compass has a full incident and emergency plan for medical and other emergencies. This will be discussed in full at the arrival brief, so everyone is aware what action will be taken. In summary, incidences are usually managed on the ground by the expedition leader in the first instance with remote support from Secret Compass’s 24 hour Operations Room before evacuation to the nearest appropriate medical centre.
Part of a team
Secret Compass fosters a team mentality across all its expeditions and projects. Like all teams you will have a leader who will give direction to your progress. Crucial to your team’s success – especially when the going gets tough – is the attitude of the teammates working together to achieve the aim. You really are part of a team, not a cosseted guest on a tour. We ask teammates to muck in and help out any aspect of the expedition, from fetching water and helping to prepare and cook food, to carrying some group kit and equipment if required. The working language of all teams is English.
There really is no typical expedition member, though everyone needs to be fit, healthy and ready to take on the expedition’s aim by the time of departure. Participants range from 21 to 65+ in age and come from all over the world. Backgrounds include contract workers and engineers, IT specialists and students, teachers and literature lovers, journalists and keen photographers and so many more. What bonds our pioneering teams is their shared spirit of adventure and their sense of humour and positive outlook. A good teammate looks on the bright side when the 4×4 breaks down, the rain comes early and when a meal is distinctly pedestrian. Our teammates help each other, look out for each, encourage each other and help each other when needed. Our teams have done us proud in working together to achieve their common goal: the aim of the expedition. If this sounds like you, you’ve come to the right expedition company.
You need a robust, spirited and can-do attitude to cope with demanding days and rough camping in rugged and wild places. You’ll cover good daily distances (generally carrying your own kit and equipment), eating expedition foods or relying on local food sources. These elements combine to create the unique character of each expedition. On expedition, challenges, frictions and changes to plans are inevitable. Teammates should meet and relish these as an integral part of any arduous expedition and its ultimate success. Such things make the journey more interesting and are often most memorable parts when looking back.
Infrastructure and natural events
The areas we travel to often especially remote. Transport infrastructure can be ageing, inadequate or non-existent. Flooded roads, collapsed bridges, fallen trees and vehicle break-downs are all par for the course. Our teams thrive on overcoming challenges like these – be prepared to get stuck in and push occasionally! Natural phenomena like desert sand storms, early monsoons, landslides across key routes, winter coming early, gale force winds and driving snow can all make for a more interesting time on the expedition.
Secret Compass is an expedition company not a tour company. Expeditions contain inherent risk. This is part of the appeal for teammates. We do not make expeditions safe as, by definition, that is impossible. We construct and implement a three-staged risk management approach to reduce risk to what we perceive as a tolerable level.
We conduct a thorough risk assessment of potential hazards and threats that may be encountered on the expedition and provide recommendations to reduce the likelihood of harm occurring/ severity if it does occur.
As part of our expedition plan, we detail actions to be taken to implement and resource the recommendations of the risk assessment. This includes a detailed medical and communications plan.
The expedition leader is responsible for dynamic risk management on the expedition itself.
Key risks encountered on this specific expedition include altitude related illness, pack animals and accidents or medical emergencies whilst trekking in a remote environment. If you would like to see the full Risk Assessment for this expedition, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
It is your responsibility to understand the risks associated with adventure travel in remote areas. You also must understand that medical evacuation will take an extended period of time (potentially up to 4 days) and will require wilderness extraction techniques and long carries by stretcher. In-country search and rescue and emergency services are very basic or non-existent and the expedition will rely on internal resources for medical evacuation. By joining this expedition, you accept the risks associated with the venture. If you require any more information on specific risk management for this expedition, or would like to speak to us about our medical planning prior to the trip, please get in touch.
Read team Testimonials or watch this short video featuring expedition teammates (filmed on location in Ethiopia) for an insight into life on expedition.
Bhutan values its traditions and culture. All locals wear their traditional dress the Gho for males and Kira for ladies. Tourists are not expected to wear these, although in Buddhist monasteries and religious places legs and shoulders need to be covered. The planned route for this expedition is through a protected area. There have been sightings of snow leopards in the park in recent years. We would expect all of our Team Members to treat the natural surroundings with respect and be sensitive about waste and litter. The Bhutanese people believe that mountains over 6,000m in height are sacred so in 1994, the government prohibited climbing on all 6,000m+ peaks. This means there are hundreds of unclimbed mountains in Bhutan, including the world’s highest – Gangkhar Puensum.
The trek will follow steep sided valleys on yak herder trails, which can be quite rocky underfoot. The trail will follow alongside a raging river, which will be crossed a number of times either on footbridges or if necessary forded on foot or using the pack animals. The trek to the basecamp is a gradual ascent giving plenty of time to acclimatise to the altitude. Once at basecamp, the climb up to 5,400m will be off a footpath and might be rocky and loose under foot, near to the summit there could be small pockets of snow. We have planned several days of acclimatisation and the team will be briefed on the symptoms and treatment of altitude sickness by their experienced Secret Compass expedition leader.
The average temperature in October at Naspe, at the start of the trek, is 15°C during the day, reducing by an average of 1°C per 100m vertical height gain. On this expedition you must be prepared for a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions from blazing sunshine to heavy rain or snowfall. There is a chance that snow can be found from 4,400m and above.
When not on the trekking phase of the expedition we will be staying in hotels with all necessary amenities of a western 3-star hotel such as hot showers and wifi access. Throughout the expedition we will be sleeping in tents. You will be sleeping at altitude and potentially above the snowline. Occasionally people on our expeditions are not prepared for camping for multiple days. Living in these conditions can degrade your health if you do not look after yourself and increase fatigue if you are not used to living rough. You need to be highly organised so that your night and morning routine is done efficiently and quickly. If you are inexperienced at camping, it is essential that you get as much practice as possible prior to the expedition.
The expedition will officially start at Kathmandu airport on the morning of the 20 October. Previous experience in-country suggest flights will be scheduled on this day at 1340, though this is subject to change (this will be updated nearer the time). To make this departure, you must be in Kathmandu Airport no later than 0630 to meet up with the Secret Compass leader and rest of the team. It is therefore advisable that you stay in Kathmandu overnight on the 19 October. This is not included in the cost of the expedition, however there are many budget hotels very near to the airport.
The expedition will finish when the team arrive back to Kathmandu on the 4 November, and current schedules state that the flight will arrive around 0850. If flying onward on the 4 November, we advise booking flights that depart after 1500 in case of delays or changes to the flight schedule (as happened in 2017).
International flights are included from Kathmandu to Paro and return. Secret Compass will arrange internal flights from Bhumtang, Jakar to Paro at the end of the expedition.
At the start of the expedition we will be driving along the main highway from Paro to Bhumtang, Jakar over two days. There is not an internal flight on the day we depart, but the drive gives the opportunity to see more of the country and take in some of the cultural sights. The road is currently under maintenance to widen it to two lanes, and is an uncomfortable and long journey, so if you suffer from travel sickness then you should bring personal medication for this.
The remainder of the journey will be by foot, the team will be supported as far as basecamp by pack animals whilst you carry daypacks. You will be carrying your warm and wet weather gear, snacks and water whilst the rest of your equipment will be strapped to the animals.
We will be eating in the hotels for the duration of the trip when not trekking. This is buffet style and caters to large tourist groups as it is covered under the Minimum Daily Payment set under the Tourism board for Bhutan. The food is excellent, local meals to cater for all dietary needs. A cook will accompany the team for the duration of the expedition and you can expect fresh, high-energy food with a blend of Bhutanese and Western flavours.
You will have an experienced expedition leader with you throughout who has led pioneering mountaineering trips before. They will be wilderness first aid trained and have extensive experience of trekking, working and operating in remote areas of the world. A very experienced local guide, accompanied by a team of local assistants, cook, and horsemen, will also accompany you.
Secret Compass staff will be carrying at least two methods of communication, usually a Satellite Phone and a DeLorme two-way communication device. These will be used for regular updates to head office and for emergencies.
Unfortunately, routine communication between team members and family/friends is not possible – please reassure them that no news is good news! If there is an emergency and someone needs to contact a team member, they can contact Secret Compass’s Operations Room on +44207 096 8428 who will endeavour to pass a message on within 24hours.
Cell Phone. Your mobile roaming will work in Paro and other towns. There will be no coverage along the entirety of the trek.
Here are some frequently asked questions that are specific to this expedition. Read our general FAQ page for questions such as ‘how do I join an expedition’ and more. Can’t find your answer? Contact SCHQ.
Where should I stay in Kathmandu?
There are plenty of hotels to choose from in Kathmandu (Thamel is a popular location) if you wish to make arrangements for the night before the team meets or to extend your stay outsire of the expedition dates. Secret Compass does not yet know the team hotel as this will be decided closer to our departure. A WhatsApp group will be set up so teammates can make plans together if desired.
I’m a vegetarian. Can I join?
Teammates with dietary requirements are welcome to apply for this expedition and should state their specific requirements when applying, Secret Compass may request further details. The food situation is outlined in the Practicalities tab and the local cooks are very used to catering for dietary requirements.
Can I arrive a day late?
As the plan outlines, there is a chain of transport to get teammates to the location where the training will commence, so start and end dates are not flexible.
I’ve never done trekking before. Can I come?
Yes. As long as you fulfil the fitness requirements and have an adventurous spirit and willing to work as a team, then you will have no problems.
Can I charge electricals?
Once the expedition phase begins, there will be no access to mains power. Please ensure that you are self-sufficient in terms of charging your appliances by bringing things like spare batteries, lightweight solar panels or power packs to avoid frustration.
Will there be telephone signal?
Your mobile roaming will work in Paro and other towns. There will be no coverage along the entirety of the trek.
Do you provide further advice?
You might find our Get Ready section useful, with further advice about fitness, flights, travel insurance, visas and our approach to risk management.
How can I apply?
Use the buttons below to contact Secret Compass with your questions or to complete our no-obligation Application Form to join this team. Someone will get back to you promptly.