My Advice to a Tour Operator on the Destruction of the Jumolhari Base Camp Trek

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Yeshey Dorji

A reader from Australia (a tour operator) left a note on my blog seeking my advise and additional information on the Jumolhari Trek trail. The following is how I replied:
Hi James,
Greetings from Bhutan and thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment on the destruction of Bhutan’s most famous trek route – the Jumolhari Base Camp Trek.
What happened is most shameful and highly irresponsible. We may never be able to undo the damage that has been caused but it is my hope that the government will do whatever is necessary to salvage some of the destruction. Hopefully the Austrian government will chip in too – supposedly it was their money that was used to cause the damage to the trail.
With respect to my views, I cannot say for certain – but it may be possible that the trail will be cleared of the trees and wreckage by the time your group arrives here in October. You will have to ask your local partners to monitor the situation closely. If it seems like the trail will remain as dangerously cluttered as it looks now, perhaps it may be a good idea to suggest an alternate trek to your clients who have booked already. Nothing ofcourse will substitute the beauty of the Jumolhari trek – but there are other treks that come pretty close. Your local partners should be able to suggest one.
Having said that, you will have to make a decision – in consultation with your Bhutanese partners – whether it will be prudent for you to get your clients to do the Jumolhari trek, even after you have become aware of the state it is now in. It is my belief that you sold the trek to your clients in good faith – based on the pristine condition it was in. But that situation has now changed. Therefore – should you chose to withhold the information of the trail’s destruction from your clients, I see two issues: one, you are not being ethical, and two, you may stand to lose more than just 15 clients – you may be accused of putting your own interests above that of your clients. Therefore, if I were in your shoes, I would put the cards face up on the table and let the clients decide. You don’t want your clients returning home from the trek and accuse you of misleading them.
But one thing you can assure them without hesitation – that if they can overlook the rough trail, the view at the end of the trek will be stunning and unmatched. I am also happy that you have chosen October month to do the trek. That is a great time to go to Jumolhari. The trillions of shimmering stars in the night sky of Jangothang will more than compensate your clients’ initial disappointment with the trail.
Finally, to answer your question: The destruction starts at the start of the trail and goes all the way to the end of the trek – Jangothang.
Here is wishing you BEST OF LUCK with what you decide finally.

Bye and take care