Dhaulagiri Circuit

During the Dhaulagiri Circuit, trekkers travel through remote regions of the Nepal Himalaya. Often, the Dhaulagiri Round Trek is called the trek to Dhaulagiri Base Camp. It follows a trail around Mount Dhaulagiri, the seventh highest mountain in the world at an altitude of 8,167m. You will see a diversity of landscapes that makes this trek one of the best in Nepal. At lower elevations, there are fields and villages framed by views of the Himalayas. At higher altitudes, you see the high alpine, including glaciers and mountain passes. 


Personally, I have led two trek groups on the Dhaulagiri Circuit, both in May 2008 and in October 2010. I have therefore written this article based on my first-hand knowledge and experience. There have been sixteen Dhaulagiri Circuit treks organized by The Mountain Company since 2008. The majority of these groups were successful, and only two were unable to cross the high passes over to Jomsom. Due to an earthquake in April 2015 and the cyclonic storm HudHud in October 2014, this happened.

Dhaulagiri's trail begins in a village before entering a subtropical forest. Our first stop is Italian Base Camp (3,660m), where we stay for two nights for acclimatization. On our way to Dhaulagiri glacier, we walk through Chonbarden gorge. In the morning, we cross French Pass at 5,360m altitude to reach Hidden Valley. From Hidden Valley, one of the best options is to ascend a ridge on the west side of the valley. Views of the Nilgiris, Annapurnas, and Dhaulagiri are spectacular from here. You can view photos from this day hike. We cross the Dhampus Pass at a height of 5,240m and descend to Jomsom after camping in Hidden Valley.

What is the difficulty level of the Dhaulagiri Circuit trek?

The Dhaulagiri Circuit is known as one of the most challenging treks in Nepal. Despite this, we have only graded the Dhaulagiri trek as Strenuous. In our portfolio of Nepal wilderness trekking Pvt. this is our second most challenging grade. Our Trip Grading and Suitability page contains grade descriptions.

Nepal has more difficult treks sherpani col and tashsi lapcha pass than Dhaulagiri. Travel to remote locations and technical mountaineering are both involved in these activities. The Makalu to Everest GHT, Saribung expedition, and Mera Peak expeditions in Nepal fall into our Grade 5/ Challenging category. The Dhaulagiri Circuit trek should not be underestimated, however. One has to respect the mountains when trekking at high altitude in the Himalayas.

I have listed below a few reasons why Dhaulagiri Circuit is known as a hard trek. Our recommendations are based on feedback from our previous trek groups.

The Dhaulagiri trek begins at a low altitude of 1,180m in Darbang village. As a result, it will be extremely hot and humid for the first few days temperatures often reach 25 to 30 degrees Celsius. Temperatures are really exhausting these days. Be sure to have sunscreen, lip salve with a high SPF, and a wide-brimmed hat and bandana as protection from the sun.

We follow the Myagdi Khola river along a narrow valley after leaving Muri village. The trail is high up and there is exposure with a steep drop to the river below. In fact, when I first did In 2005, we had to ascend steep slabs of rock by using a fixed rope on the Dhaulagiri Circuit. Since then the trail has been cut into the rock and it is much wider than before.

Walking through the forest above Boghara camp the trail has lots of exposed tree roots. Take care and be careful as it is easy to trip up or to take a slide.

From Italian Base Camp, we walk down a steep glacial moraine onto the glacier and then back up a slope on the other side. This used to have a fixed rope but now a path has been carved out of it. On the other side of the glacier, we climb up a slope with a narrow path. This is quite exposed and there is a steep drop down to the glacier below. Once we reach the valley floor in the Chonbarden Gorge we follow this easier trail to the snout of the glacier.

There is a high risk of rockfall while in Chonbarden Gorge. It is for this reason that we do not camp here. While walking our groups will spread out. We also insist that everyone wears a helmet (included as mandatory on our kit list).


Dhampus Pass is more difficult to cross than French Pass. It is a short and easy ascent to the top of the pass, followed by a short descent of about 100m. From here, there are four hours of contouring a path that is quite challenging. Despite its sustained slope of 30 degrees, this trail is not too exposed. It is not a smart idea to slip on icy or snowy conditions here. The ice axe and crampons are included on the kit list for this reason. It gives you a good view of Dhampus peak and also the upper Dolpo valley and head of Jomsom you can see the upper Mustang valley. It's the most beautiful landscape you will see in the region.   

Located at an altitude of 5,050m, Hidden Valley is a cold place. Temperatures can drop as low as -15 degrees Celsius over the night.

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