Day 2 of our Bhutan trek actually started mid-morning October 25, 2011. As I mentioned previously, colder weather with fog and the potential for rain greeted us as we started the formal trek. We were dropped off past Tego La Pass with a very rough trail that ascended a side slope which apparently was an old cattle trail leading up to Laptsa Teng Lagkha at approximately 4003 m. There was the option to climb Laptsa Teng Gang to 4200 m as this would potentially provide a view of Mount Kanchen Jonga 8586 m and Mount Jumolhari 7314 m. However, the weather made any potential views of these mountains unlikely so we passsed on this. We continued to hike to our lunch spot which was very cold -2 C. We were introduced to the setup for all of our future lunches on the trail. Hot tea in a large thermos and a very interesting vacuum sealed thermos containing three different hot lunch dishes was provided and eagerly consumed. Phuntsho and Ugyen would always serve us first and would not eat until we had completed our meal. Red rice was always in abundance as well as deliciously prepared curries, vegetables and meat dishes. Very appetizing. There was always a lot of food left for our guides.
The next portion of the trail was one of the most dramatic with surrounding fog and a lateral traverse on a steep, rocky side slope with precipitous drops looking down into a valley. Above us were monolithic and gothic rock formations. Amazing. The trail passed through Doongshi Nyelsa Lakha and after a short uphill climb over a pass we ended up at our first campsite at Lao Karmo at 4025 m. The trek took approximately 5 hours. We camped on a grassy plateau alongside grazing mules and were provided with relatively small, lightweight tents that were set up for us. We simply had to put our gear in and set up our own beds each evening. With the subsequent weather that we had we did feel proper 4 season, larger tents would have been nice. Upon our arrival and after our bed set up we usually had hot tea to warm up. This particular evening Lorraine Croft led us in some seated yoga stretches to recover from our hike. A separate dining tent was set up for our dinner later in the evening. We also had a separate outhouse tent with a small dug ditch for the unmentionable necessities. The dinners were uniformly excellent. We usually had steaming hot soup to start and an amazing variety of different vegetable and meat dishes for dinner. The trekking was usually quite vigorous and tiring so we usually retired to our tents by 730 or 8 PM at the latest. Our sleep time was usually at least 10 and up to 12 hours. Not always uninterrupted mind you. The first night the mules were busy munching grass that was kept warm by the ground sheets of our tents. Several of us were awakened at least 5 to 6 times due to this carnivorous behavior. We mentioned this in passing the next morning and noted that subsequent nights the mules were allowed to graze away from us in order to not disturb us. Our guide really did everything to make sure we were as comfortable as possible. We were all glad we brought down sleeping pads (sorry Terry and Richard) and -15 to -20 C sleeping bags. They were certainly required. Would the weather improve? We certainly hoped so. Soon after arriving at camp 1 a rainstorm with ice crystals started up. We fell asleep wishing for a warmer and sunnier weather the next day.