Found only in remote mountainous areas of Asia, tracking the enigmatic snow leopard in the depths of winter is a genuine wildlife adventure
Arriving in Leh (3500m), the capital of the former Buddhist kingdom of Ladakh, on the hour long flight from Delhi, the rarefied high altitude air hits you as you stop off the plane. The sky is cobalt blue, the surrounding mountains blanketed with snow and the mercury hovers around freezing. Most visitors come to Ladakh in its short summer months when nature bursts into life, but the winter is the best time to try and spot snow leopard.
After spending some time gently exploring ancient monasteries and temples to acclimatise to the high altitude you’ll leave civilisation behind and head high into the vast mountainscape, passing the confluence of the glacial Zanskar and Indus Rivers and isolated temples. As smaller valleys intersect guides begin scanning the hill sides and the skyline for any silhouette; this is excellent ibex country.
Based at a homestay or simple lodge daily exploration of the area by vehicle and on foot with your guide, and interacting closely with local people for the latest intelligence, the search for snow leopard begins. Although not covering ground as in a conventional trek, hiking on rough terrain, often in snow, at high altitude is physically demanding, but you choose how much to do.
Sharing this harsh environment argali, ibex, woolly hare and Himalayan Vulture may soon reveal themselves but the snow leopard is known as the Ghost of the Himalaya for good reason. The enigmatic cat is solitary by nature, as shy as it is rare and impeccably camouflaged. Itselusiveness in this vast wilderness can vex their seekers and sightings are not guaranteed, or may be through a spotting scope, but this adventure is one that it truly all about the journey.