Dechen Dolkar 

Many, for a matter of convenience, prefer to be in trekking attire, mainly pants and jackets, when trekking in the mountains. One can rarely see a trekker clad in a gho or kira. However, it is different for Sonam Rinchen.

The 25-year-old recently completed the 14-day final reconnaissance survey of the 222km snowman trek in a single gho. He was on a team of 17 members to survey trail stretching from Gasa to Bumthang between August 1 and 14.

Out of 17, 15 were Bhutanese and two foreigners. Sonam Rinchen, who works at the Snowman Race secretariat office, was the only person trekking in a gho.

This is not the first time Sonam Rinchen has trekked in gho. For the past five years, he has been trekking and hiking in gho.

Sonam used to hike in the Bhutanese national attire even on short hikes including the social works along the trails.

In November last year, Sonam completed the 10–day Soe-Naro trek via Lingzhi, which passes above 4,950m, the highest point, in gho.

Sonam Rinchen in his grey gho poses for a photo during the survey

For this year’s survey trek, he didn’t take the gho changes. He had a jacket and inner undergarments.

Sonam Rinchin, a six-feet tall and very energetic, said, “I wore it out of my own interest and for comfort. I didn’t wear it because I wanted to be unique.”

He said that it was mainly inspired by His Majesty The King’s visit to the highlands in gho.

“I believed this would set an example for preservation of culture in times of rapid modernisation by conserving the sacred national identity while the nation accelerates in terms of modern development,” Sonam said.

He said that it would be creating awareness of the significance of such a simple aspect of our culture not just to the general public but also to those communities in the highlands as they serve the nation as ‘the guard of the country’ at the borders.

“Up there, we can hardly see people wearing gho. Maybe a few elderly,” he said.

On the entire trek, the gho served him a dual purpose – as a dress and also as an additional blanket.

Sonam feels convenient in a gho because it is easier to move especially when he walks past the very steep mountain pass which rises beyond 5,500 meters above sea level.

He strongly believes in the spiritual values of the local communities attached to the mountain ecosystems.

“I believe wearing our dress is the simplest way of showing respect to them, and to bless us with favourable weather and a safe journey,” he said.

Tourism Council of Bhutan’s Director General Dorji Dhradhul said that when he was serving as Gasa dzongdag for more than four years, he had been urging people to trek in gho because of his official mandate. “But it was a rare sight to see trekkers in gho or kira, and rarer in youths.”

He said that a young man of his own will, oblivious if anyone would even decide to be in gho the whole 14-day trek. The trek that has the reputation of being one of the toughest treks in the world is indeed an exhibition of strong self-discipline and perseverance.

“I would like to believe this is an apt harbinger of the successful transformation of the nation. Coincidently, this action of his turns out to be a good example of the golden words from the Royal address to the graduates at a recent convocation ceremony,” Dorji Dhradhul said.