Bhutan High Trails via Laya

Bhutan High Trails via Laya

14 Views
18 Days From

$7322

$7092

Bhutan High Trails via Laya

18 Days Starting in Paro and ending in

Visiting: Bhutan

Tour operator:

World Expeditions

Tour code:

BHT

Guide Type:

Fully Guided

Group size:

4 - 16

Physical rating:

Challenging

From: $7322 $7092 Mid-Year Mayhem Discount: -$231

NB: Prices correct on 24-Jun-2024 but subject to change.

This tour is no longer available, please see similar tours below or send an enquiry

Tour Overview

A superb trek into the heartland of Bhutan. We follow forest trails and appreciate the wide variety of rhododendrons and other spring flowers as we ascend to our camp beneath the sacred peak of Jomolhari. Suitably inspired we cross a series of high passes (each in the vicinity of 5000m) and camp in alpine meadows beneath a constant backdrop of snow capped peaks. Yak herder encampments and isolated settlements provide an attractive cultural perspective to our trek, while time in Paro and Thimphu provides a further highlight to this outstanding itinerary.

Highlights

  • Gain magnificent views of the sacred peak, Jomolhari and Jichu Drake

  • Discover pristine wilderness trekking over high mountain passes

  • Experience Laya, one of the most remote settlements on earth and home to the indigenous Layap

  • Ascend to 'Tiger's Nest' Monastery for an insight into Buddhist culture

  • Explore the ancient dzongs and market places of Thimphu and Paro

Itinerary

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Day 1 : Join Paro (2200M)

After clearing customs and immigration you will meet your Bhutanese leader and drive a short distance via the main street of Paro to our accommodation. At some stage of our visit, we have planned visits to the main part of town, and a visit to the National Museum. It will depend on our time of arrival into Paro, and when trek preparations are completed.
The touring program will take in the grand Paro Dzong which dominates the valley and is the most important Dzong (fortress) in Bhutan. It is the model by which all other dzongs are constructed. The watchtower above it, Ta Dzong, is also an impressive building that houses the National Museum that is very informative. Old costumes and battle dress, together with priceless jewellery and specimens of the kingdom's unique flora and fauna are included within the museum. Downtown, there is a mixed collection of shops selling basic goods, and also handicrafts of wood, cloth and metalware. Archery is the national sport and practised throughout the kingdom. Shooting ranges lined by willow trees can be seen during our travels, as well as some traditional style bridges.
Overnight Hotel.

Day 2 : Paro Valley, Taktsang Monastery (3100M) & National Museum

Today is a really exciting and informative day as an introduction to this wonderful country. The Paro Valley is truly beautiful, being a location for various farming activities, including commercial quantities of asparagus, strawberries and shitake mushrooms for export, plus various grain and vegetable crops. It is a patchwork of colours delineated by well kept traditional design farm houses that are ornately decorated. All of the slopes surrounding the valley are forested and the hint of mountains beyond is alluring. Our morning is spent exploring and appreciating the Tigers Nest Monastery or Taktsang, as it is known in Bhutan, a short drive from our resort. It takes us about one and a half hours to walk up the winding trail steeply through chir pine forest to a tea house and excellent vantage point. Another half hour walk takes us almost directly opposite the cliffs where the monastery is set. The monastery is the divine resting place of the Guru Ringpoche, and although it was once accidentally burnt down it has now been restored to its former glory. We return back to our accommodation for lunch and then some touring in the afternoon. This evening you will need to repack, leaving behind things you will not require on the trek for safe storage with our local partner.

Day 3 : Drive Past Drukyel Dzong (2580M) To Shana (2860M) And Commence Trek To Thongo Zampa (3250M), (11Kms, Approx 4 Hrs)

It is a short drive of approx 20 minutes up the Paro valley to Drukyel Dzong, which was originally built as a fortress in 1647 to guard against Tibetans invading the Paro Valley. We continue the drive to Shana (1-1.5h drive) from where our trek commences. On this scenic drive we pass through farm country made up of fields of rice, wheat, barley, mustard, potato, and radish as well as herds of cows. The traditional Bhutanese two storey, timber and stone houses can be seen here. We also gain our first views of the summit of Jomolhari (7314m) at the head of the valley. We get under way and take a break for lunch where it suits us, as we are carrying a packed lunch. Initially the trail is wide and flat, as it meanders steadily through lightly forested fields, which in recent years have been the site of the ongoing large-scale Bhutan Government project to bring electricity to the isolated villages further up the valley.
Overnight camp Thongo Zampa.

Day 4 : Trek To Soi Thangthangkha (3700M) (Approx 4 Hrs)

We are now trekking within Jigme Dorje National Park, the largest protected area in the country (4350 sq kms.) which extends beyond Laya to Lunana in the east and all the territory to the south. Whilst it is a protected wilderness, the park management which is based at Gasa, has to cope with the needs of lowland farmers and semi-nomadic yak herders. There is an amazing variety of species of plants and animals in the park at both high and low altitudes. The forests are tall and thick, comprising a variety of oaks, maple, birch, larch pine and alders that will be replaced by more and more rhododendron and pines as we trek higher. There are numerous different varieties of the former, and depending on the onset of warmer temperatures after winter, flowers will be in bloom, or past bloom, as the lower altitudes flower earliest. As we climb higher the rhododendron species change from the common rhododendron arboreum (Nepal's national flower) to griffithianum and cinnabarinum. Many of the camps we stop at are not settlements as might be implied by them having a place name. Most are merely clearings beside a water source, which are also suitable camping sites for seasonal yak herders and workers who are involved in the large scale electrification project that will bring electricity to this region of Bhutan. Some of the camp sites with nearby settlements provide an opportunity to recharge your camera batteries and phones, with a minimal fees at times.

Day 5 : Trek To Jangothang (4100M) (12Kms, Approx 5 Hours)

We continue higher to the camp at the base of Jomolhari, a superb alpine setting. Jichu Drake (6794m) rises to our right, with a fine, elegant ridge running down toward the pass that we will cross on our next trekking day. We camp in the vicinity of yak herders from the Paro Valley, who, like their counterparts in Southern Tibet, live in woven yak wool tents throughout the summer months. By now we are above the treeline and the area is characterised by low tundra of juniper and rhododendron setosum, while blue sheep have also been spotted in the higher rocky outcrops.

Day 6 : At Jangothang (Acclimatisation Day)

Today we are at Jangothang, an important day for acclimatisation. A side trip up the small valley towards Jomolhari takes us to a dramatic viewpoint towards the glacier beneath. Alternatively we may make a scenic excursion up to Sopu Lake set adjacent to Nye La pass, both will be worthy photo excursions. As far as mountaineering is concerned, these two peaks, like the rest of Bhutan, have seen little expedition activity from outsiders. Doug Scott successfully climbed Jichu Drake in 1988 on his third attempt, demonstrating that conditions are not so easy on this far east location of the Himalaya, being first in line geographically for monsoonal influences.

Day 7 : Cross Nyile La (4890M) To Lingshi Village (~15Kms, Approx 7 Hrs)

From camp we commence our ascent over rolling slopes of grassland and small brush to the Nyile La (4850 metres). This is a relatively long day on the trail, so if this is your first Himalayan pass just take your time, particularly on the final steeper stages just below the pass, where grasses give way to scree and sand. The electrification project was a hard work on this pass where all the poles were carried by the local people. From the Nyile La we leave Jomolhari and Jichu Drake behind and make a steep descent through dwarf rhododendron shrub towards Lingshi village. In the distance we can soon see the Lingshi Dzong, built to protect this and the other outlying villages of Bhutan from the periodic raids from Tibet. Before we reach the village and the Dzong, we turn off descending to cross a stream, there is a short stiff climb and then a descent into the quiet valley and the camp of Chazhithang by a stream.

Day 8 : Trek To Chebisa (3880M) Village (14Kms, Approx 5/6 Hrs)

While those trekking just to the base of Jomolhari head out towards the roadhead today, we continue to head northeastward, ascending past the Lingshi Dzong across high alpine pastures dotted with rhododendron and daphne to Chebisa. It is a picturesque valley of pastures and shingle roofed, stone houses. At its head, a short stroll from camp, is a tall waterfall cascading from a gap in rocky cliffs with a hanging lake behind. Beneath are stands of very tall, gnarled juniper trees. Our camp is next to the village so you will hear a lot of yak herder Tibetan mastiff and mixed breeds bark at night. These dogs guard the yaks and cattle from predators. Earplugs are recommended. Above Chebisa are the alpine pastures of the blue sheep and bharal that graze to the margins of the snowmelt during the summer months and descend way below the villages during the winter.

Day 9 : Cross Gombu La (4440M) To Shomuthang (4221M) Camp (16Kms, Approx 7/8 Hrs)

From Chebisa the trail gradually ascends to the Gombu La (4440 metres). The views back to Lingshi and the surrounding peaks are spectacular. Here, hill partridges have been sighted, while the griffons may be seen soaring above the alpine pastures. The descent to our camp beside the farm village at Shomuthang is through a forest of cypress then spruce and birch with large stands of rhododendron - griffithianum and campylocarpum. Iris and edelweiss may also be in flower. Our camp is set right beside the river in a small clearing surrounded by dense bushes.

Day 10 : Cross Jare La (4785M) To Robluthang (4165M) (18Kms, Approx 8/9 Hrs)

Our route takes us directly upwards this morning, traversing around many grassy slopes to the Jare La. Blue sheep and griffons can often be seen here. Once at the gap, marked by flags and several cairns we can look expansively across to the adjacent valley and our next pass, the Shinge La. This pass is the highest and perhaps the hardest of our trek. The trail winds down through rhododendron, spruce, cypress and birch towards a broad valley floor where animals may be seen grazing. This may well be our first encounter with the people of Laya whom differentiate themselves by wearing the distinctive woven conical hats with a spike in the top and colourful beads draped around the back. Their 'mobile accommodation' as with all high altitude animal herders in this part of the world, is in heavy woven tents, usually made from yak wool. We trek several hundred metres in height up the opposite side of the valley to our camp in a hollow at Robluthang.

Day 11 : Cross Shinche La (5005M) To Lemithang (4150M) (16Kms, Approx 8/9 Hrs)

It will take us approximately four hours to make our ascent of Sinche La. A slow steady pace is essential to gain it comfortably and make the long descent on the other side. At the pass itself there are glimpses of peaks to our left including Gangchenta. Descending, through boulders and grassy slopes, unparalleled views open out before us. Glacial blue lakes and white ribbon streams are set beneath the dramatic peaks of the 'Tigers Ears' Gangchenta. Further down, classic glacial erosion is at work, with fresh lateral and terminal moraine filling the valley floor along with an enormous milky grey lake. The forests are thick here, and our lovely riverside camp is surrounded by very tall conifers and the Tigers Ears as our backdrop.

Day 12 : Trek To Laya Village (3800M) (13Kms, Approx 5/6 Hrs)

This morning we walk directly away from the mountain environment before us, descending the valley to Laya and our first principle village of the trek. The forests are thick for the several hours; and the trail winds down beside the river steeply, until we reach pastures of the farmers of outer Laya. A swing in the trail brings us up to the main settlement which is spread out over a broad spur several hundred metres above the Mo Chu River. There are approximately 800 inhabitants in this high set village, and there is a school, hospital several small shops and a gompa to meet their needs. Life is not easy in this cooler, isolated location that is snowed in, in winter. Much of their living is reliant on yaks (meat, wool and dried cheese) and one annual crop of barley, mustard and turnips. Beneath the village is an army post protecting the frontier with Tibet, whilst above us to the east are spectacular views ahead to Masang Gang (7194m) and the region of Lunana where the 'Snowman' trek passes.

Day 13 : Rest Day At Laya, Explore Local Area

A day set aside to relax and rejuvenate after the exertions of the past few days. After a leisurely start to the day, we will enjoy some additional visiting time in Laya, threshing wheat with the locals, visiting the school or perhaps enjoying a soda in one of the small shops. Depending on logistics, we will either spend the night in Laya or descend down to the forested spur out of the village to the Mo Chuu River and camp at an army post that guards the frontier with Tibet.

Day 14 : Trek To Thongchu Drak (3500M) (Approx 5/6 Hrs)

Initially our route takes a broad trail down, fairly steeply, through tall conifers to the river and army post. It then follows the course of the Mo Chu to the roadhead. The Mo Chu is a major Himalayan river that flows on through Punakha and then directly south to form the border between Assam and West Bengal, on into the Brahmaputra/Ganges and into the Bay of Bengal. The trail undulates down through beautiful forest of spruce, larch, birch, maple and rhododendron (sanguineum, cinnabarinum and arboreum). Be prepared for plenty of mud underfoot; these black fertile soils receive regular traffic of horse trains laden with goods/supplies travelling between Laya and the roadhead. Impressive waterfalls cascading over large boulders complete the setting as we trek to our campsite. This area between here and Gasa is also the habitat of the local red pheasant and takin, the national animal of Bhutan.

Day 15 : Trek To Gasa Village (2770M) (Approx 4/5 Hrs)

Today is our final day of the trek. We will be picked up by our car half way from Ponjothang road point. This road was built to connect Laya with the rest of Bhutan as part of the government initiative to upkeep the nomadic traditions of the people in these areas and to boost their local economy. On this stage the rhododendrons are particularly impressive including the giganteum, falconeri, arboreum, sanguinium and cinnabarinum species. They are found in the midst of a mixed conifer and deciduous forest together with many alders and oaks. This stage also includes an ascent to a minor pass - the Bale La (3950 metres). From the pass the trail winds downhill to Ponjothang where our waiting vehicle will pick us up for the drive to the village of Gasa (2850 metres). This is the local administrative and monastic headquarters and also the site of an impressive Dzong guarding the trade route to Tibet. (If you do want to hike more today, do let your guide know. The hikes from here will mostly be on the dirt road.) Below the village is the site of the Gasa hotsprings where we will have the opportunity to soak our aching joints and celebrate the end of our trek. Overnight camp Gasa.

Day 16 : Transfer To Punakha (Drive Approx. 2-3 Hrs)

This morning we drive to the rich fertile valley of Punakha. The drive is around 2-3 hrs passing by the various villages and settlements on the way. The drive is beautiful through idyllic countryside past agricultural fields and sub tropical forest with waterfalls on the way. Once in Punakha, we visit the local bazaar before our excursion to the Punakha Dzong with its 21 temples, administrative buildings and Assembly Hall. It remains the winter residence of the ‘Je Khenpo’ - the head monk of the Drukpa sect - the Tibetan Buddhist sect that constitutes the official religious school of Bhutan. We can enjoy a short hike to visit Chimi Lhakhang, a small temple dedicated to one of Bhutan’s favorite saints, the “divine mad monk” Drukpa Kinley. This region was the stomping ground (nearly 500 years ago) of this rather unconventional character, who taught Buddhist dharma by employing an often shockingly ribald sense of humor.

Day 17 : Drive To Paro Via Thimphu (Approx 4/5Hrs Driving)

We aim to stop in Thimphu for enough time to get a feel for the country's capital.
The main Secretariat building, the Tashichho Dzong is the most prominent building consisting of the main Secretariat, the National Assembly Hall, the Office of the King and the Throne Room. Its remarkable construction is in traditional Bhutanese style completed without the use of nails or metal of any kind. There is a large Stupa dedicated to the late King HM. Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, regarded as the founder of modern day Bhutan. Then there is the Handicraft Emporium with famous weaving, woodcarvings and paintings and also the Post Office - Bhutan's exquisite stamps are world-renowned. We then drive onward to Paro. You will be provided with some free time to shop for any last minute gift and souvenirs from either Paro or Thimphu markets before sitting down to a farewell dinner with your guide and driver, marking to the end of this beautiful journey to Bhutan, the country of happiness.
Overnight: Hotel

Day 18 : In Paro, Trip Concludes

The trip concludes after breakfast with a transfer to the airport.

What's Included

  • Accommodation
    4 nights hotel

  • 17 breakfasts, 17 lunches and 17 dinners

  • airport transfers on Day 1 and Day 18

  • expert bilingual guide

  • Safety equipment including portable altitude chamber, group medical and satellite phone for emergency use

  • good quality accommodation in Paro

  • the use of a World Expeditions trek pack which includes a quality sleeping bag, down or fibre fill jacket and insulated mat (valued at over US$500)

  • all group camping equipment

  • private transportation

  • all park entrance fees and trekking permits

  • animals to carry 20kgs personal equipment

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What You Carry

In your daypack you will need to carry extra warm clothing (depending on the altitude, location and weather), two water bottles, camera, and personal items such as sunscreen, etc. Porters and mules carry all group gear and your trek pack.

Grading

These adventures involve trekking, cycling or rafting in remote areas in variable weather conditions for up to 8 to 10 hours a day (possibly more subject to weather conditions and altitude). This may include spending successive days at altitudes not generally exceeding 6000m. These trips may often be over three weeks in duration. You will need an excellent level of fitness, be prepared to carry a daypack weighing up to 8kgs (and in some cases a full pack) and be completely comfortable in adverse weather conditions.
* Suggested preparation: One hour of aerobic type exercise, four to five times a week for three to six months prior to departure. Hill walking with a pack in variable weather conditions or on/off road cycling is also recommended.

Check out our Q&As

  • Who will be my travelling companions on the tour?

    We have offices on three continents which means your travelling companions will be just that – international and wonderfully eclectic. Part of small group travel means that although travellers come from various locations and backgrounds, you will be travelling with like-minded companions who, like you, are keen to share the experience and forge lifelong friendships.

  • What about environmental impact?

    We believe that adventure travel revolves around establishing a strong relationship with the people and environments in which we operate. Our responsible travel policies have been carefully developed to ensure that we minimise the impact of our presence and help to protect the regions we visit while contributing positively to the local community.

  • What should I pack?

    Your pre-departure documents include a detailed packing list with items that you need to bring. While most of the equipment for daily activities is included in your tour cost, some items like helmets and hiking boots are best brought from home. The pre-departure documents also include information on layering and recommended brands for various items to ensure you are fully prepared for your trip.

  • Do you operate a “single share” option and how does it work?

    Yes. World Expeditions does not require single travellers to pay a surcharge for travelling alone on the vast majority of our trips. Our holidays are primarily on a twin share basis, so if you are joining the group as a solo traveller, we will match you with someone of your own gender. The choice is yours however; if you prefer not to share, we do offer single supplements for private occupancy.

  • Are tips included in my trip price?

    Tips are not included in the tour cost. Tipping is a personal thing, do not worry about how much, or when, to tip. Tipping guidelines are provided for certain destinations in our pre departure information upon booking, however the best advice will be provided by your tour leader.

  • Am I suited to small-group travel?

    We recognise that many of our travellers have not been on a ‘group trip’ before. Yet what our departures provide is both structure and flexibility, allowing you plenty of freedom within the framework of the itinerary. You’ll find that with our maximum group size at 16, you’ll travel in a minimal impact style with a great group of like-minded travellers.

  • Can you advise which vaccinations are recommended?

    While our pre-departure kit provides information on vaccinations, we suggest that you consult your doctor, local government inoculation centre or a travel medical specialist in order to get the most current advice regarding vaccination requirements.

Reviews from travellers on this tour

N. Placzek(Singapore)  

Bhutan High Trails via Laya

06 Nov 2017

I had the most amazing trip in Bhutan & I just wanted to send a email to thank ever one personally for making my trip so special. This is my fourth trip that l have booked with World Expeditions. I have always had very competent & professional guides/crew etc & this is the reason l continue to keep booking my trips with you. I have never been disappointed. This trip to Bhutan, World Expeditions have exceeded my expectations. I had the most wonderful crew & guides. Jigme Tenzin our tour leader was professional, courteous, competent & helpful. He was also extremely knowledgeable about all things Bhutanese. He was able to point out all the different flora & fauna on the trek & answer all our questions. One of the highlights of the trip was when Jigme pointed out a Himalayan bear on the opposite ridge which we were able to watch for some time & with the help of Jigme binoculars. Also his comprehensive knowledge of Buddhism was invaluable. If l have the opportunity in the future to return to Bhutan l would absolutely want Jigme to be my guide. I just wanted to thank him again for making my trip so special, his kindness & encouraging words will stay with me forever. Our assistant guide Dawa Dawapey was also extremely professional, courteous & helpful & he also had a wonderful sense of humour. His fluency in English was a great help. I am sure that in the future he will make a very good senior tour guide. I would also like to thank Sha Kinley camp manager/chef & Passang assistant cook. The food was amazing. Not only was it delicious but nutritious as well. We ate like Kings, the menu was interesting & varied we were even served hot poached pears & gulab jamun indian sweets for dessert. Five star service on the mountain. Also our tents/ mess tent & toilet were always clean & erected when we arrive in camp at the end of the day. Top marks. Lunch was also of a high standard. Not only had Sangye the lunch boy set the table nicely & the food was hot, but he had always chosen wonderful locations for us to stop for lunch. Last but not least l would like to thank "Karma A" & "Karma B". It was such a pleasure in the morning to see their smiling faces when they delivered our morning coffees in the sub zero temperatures. No request was too big or too small. Our water bottles were always filled & "washy washy" water always available. They went out of their way/call of duty to make our trip comfortable. I am sure if they decide to pursue a career in tourism they will be successful. Our drivers "Damchen" & "Tugten" also did a fantastic job. Not only did they safely navigate the roads, but they were always punctual & the cars were always clean & well maintained.

Ian Read(Toowong, QLD)  

Bhutan High Trails via Laya

14 Oct 2016

The Bhutan High Trails Trek via Laya was an amazing physical and cultural experience. Our Guide was knowledgeable and generous of spirit, giving us wonderful insights into the complex layers of a deep Buddhist culture grappling with the modern world. All this against the backdrop of the Himalaya. Breathtaking and unforgettable.

David Reyolds(USA)  

Bhutan High Trails via Laya

04 May 2018

Best trek I have been on. Top quality guide and crew, Bhutan is amazingly progressive. In addition to the wonderful scenery, the trek really helps you understand the Gross National Happiness in action. World Expeditions had us each carry yellow backs to pick up 10 pieces of trash per day. Very good idea! We picked up a lot of trash and set an example on the importance of not littering in the age of plastics. Visiting mountain people in their homes was one of my favorite moments. Our guide arranged for us to eat lunch in a house when a snow storm made eating outside less than appealing. The other participants on the trip where all very interesting, well traveled folks.

Glenis Bradley(Brisbane, QLD)  

Bhutan High Trails via Laya

9 Nov 2022

Great trip with local knowledgeable guides but need new tents

Manuela Saldarriaga(Lake Mary, Florida)  

Bhutan High Trails via Laya

16 Nov 2022

This trip was fantastic! It was a beautiful blend of culture and wilderness. Bhutan's mountain passages provided ever-changing breathtaking views, the villages a rich display of traditional culture, and monasteries gave an anchoring of history to each of our experiences. If you're on the fence about visiting Bhutan you should go!

Rachael McKenzie(Kirribilli, NSW Australia)  

Bhutan High Trails via Laya

2 Nov 2023

Just completed the Laya Trek in Bhutan which was amazing. The whole experience from booking to the fabulous guides and staff in Bhutan was exemplary. Highly recommend !

Richard Stanton(Auckland, New Zealand)  

Bhutan High Trails via Laya

4 May 2023

This was a great trip in an amazing country. The team really looked after us on the trail. The route is challenging, so preparation is essential as is having the right gear for changing conditions. The rewards are stunning views, great companions and the personal satisfaction of completing the trip over high passes in remote areas.

L. Walter(East Melbourne, VIC)  

Bhutan High Trails via Laya

06 Nov 2019

Without a doubt the trip was one of the best I have ever done. Bhutan is an amazing country with amazing people and an amazing culture. I could not have been more pleased with how the trip was arranged and delivered throughout the whole time we were there. All the staff involved in Bhutan were amazing from our drivers to camp staff to guides. Our main guide Kinzang Tashi was brilliant – a great manner and leadership style, extremely knowledgeable and a great pride in his country and culture – a real credit to World Expeditions. The itinerary itself provided a great balance between trekking and culture and leaves me wanting to explore more of this great country – can’t wait to go back.

Christopher Holmwood(Parkside, SA)  

Bhutan High Trails via Laya

1 Nov 2022

Wonderful trip. Fascinating place, fascinating people! Logistics well organised. Good communication before departure. Trek well led, pace was moderated so grop was not dispersed. Great itinerary, with gradual acclimatization to the elevations. Hard to beat!!

Talyn Stanton(Auckland, New Zealand)  

Bhutan High Trails via Laya

2 May 2023

This was an awesome trek but not an easy one. Ground crew in Bhutan were first class. Make sure you fully understand what the trip requires in terms of fitness, camping experience etc.

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