Chris Bonington – My Bhutan Adventure (Part 1)

I’ve just got back to Australia from a wonderful trek with my son Joe in Bhutan. He is a Personal Trainer here in Sydney and runs commercial treks as an enjoyable side line. The trekkers met up in Kathmandu and then flew with us to Paro in Bhutan where we were met by Finn, co owner of “Bridge to Bhutan” www.bridgetobhutan.com who were there to give us really superb support and service.

Here’s our complete team on a visit to the Tiger’s Nest – one of the most important and beautiful Gomphas in Bhutan.

Front row – Joe Bonington and Sue Glover. Rear row: Bill Crozier, Kevin Bennett, Andrew Iggo, Robert Bennett, Mary Thomas, Gary Followwill, Carolyn Brisgeman, Chris Bonington A great team that really gelled.

We arrived in Paro on the day that the newly wed King and his bride were visiting the town to presnt his bride to his people. It was a gala day with everyone dressed up in traditional Bhutanese dress. This is the main street, closed to cars for the day, and the men are wearing the “Go”, a special tunic, and colourful knee length boots.

We arrived in Paro on the day that the newly wed King and his bride were visiting the town to presnt his bride to his people. It was a gala day with everyone dressed up in traditional Bhutanese dress. This is the main street, closed to cars for the day, and the men are wearing the “Go”, a special tunic, and colourful knee length boots.

The girls are smart with long skirts and colourful silk jackets. The children always were traditional dress to school and adults must dress traditionally if working in or visiting any government office. This is just one way of helping to preserve Bhutan’s unique traditions.

We set out on our trek on 20 October after an hour’s drive to a ruined Dzong called Druk Gyel at a height of 2489m. We were undertaking the Jhomolhari – Laya trek, considered one of the best in Bhutan.

We were going through the Jigmi Dorgi National Park. It was a wonderful wilderness with pristine forest in the valleys, high grass lands in the upper reaches, unspoilt villages and superb snow peaks.

Sonam was our superb guide – knowledgable, helpful and very resourceful. He’s keeping touch with the assistant guide out in front.

We had a long second day through thick forest and it started to rain early on. Lunch stop was under some overhanging rocks. Carolyn and Mary from the West coast of Canada making the most of the shelter.

It then began to snow and kept snowing all afternoon.

But next morning dawned fine with our first glimpse of Jhomolhari – 7413m. The first ascent was made by Spencer Chapman in 1937 by its South East Spur – probably the right hand sky line. Today the climbing of any peak f over 6000 metres is banned.

That day, on our walk to the Jhomolhari we had a serious crisis. Mary went down with a sudden and very fierce attack of cerebral oedema. Without the care of Dr Bill Crozier, one of our trekkers, the loan of a oxygen bottle from the Jangothang village health post and the fact that we had a “PAC” (portable altitude Chamber), she might well have died. A local villager very kindly took them into his house since the rest of the team had already gone on to the Base Camp

Joe, Bill, Sonam and Pasang our Tibetan assistant guide, kept pumping up the bag through the night. The following day two Indian Army helicopters picked up Mary and Carolyn and took them back to Paro where Mary made a complete recovery and was able to meet us at the end of the trek. It was a real lesson though how important it is to have a doctor and a PAC (http://www.treksafe.com.au )with you on a trek. The incident occurred at a height of around 3800 metres.

Sonam, Joe, Bill and Pasang whose superb team work and dedication saved Mary’s life.

Read part 2 of Chris’s blog