The snow leopard trek is for the feline enthusiasts purely interested in tracking and viewing the elusive snow leopard. The stunningly attractive animal has been elevated to mythical status, partly because of its dwindling numbers and partially because of the legends surrounding it. The Snow Leopard of Central and South Asia has a life span of 15-18 years and is unable to roar because of an absence of the larynx. Well known for its beautiful fur, the snow leopard has a whitish-tan coat with ringed spots of dark, ashy-brown and rosettes of black. Its tail is heavy with fur and the bottom of its paws are covered with fur for protection against snow and cold.
Meeting and assistance on arrival and transfer to Hotel. Overnight at hotel.
Fly to Leh and stay at Omasila. It is amazingly beautiful flight and takes you right across the main Himalayan range into the trans-Himalaya. Received on arrival at Leh and transferred to the hotel. Day is at leisure to acclimatize. Meet Dr Chundawat and his team. (We suggest minimum complete rest for two days). Ladakh's capital, Leh is built into the base of the snow-covered Karakoram Range (HImalayas) at over 11,500-ft. An important Buddhist center since the 3rd century B.C, Leh has also been a major commercial hub on the Silk Road in central Asia. The 20th century has turned Leh into an important India Military base and tourist boomtown. Leh lends itself to walks and relaxation. The narrow lanes behind the main bazaar have tempting little shops and great views of the Himalayas.
Day at leisure to acclimatize. Overnight at Omasila
Guided tour to Shey palace, Thiksey and Hemis monastries. Shey, about 10 miles from Leh, was once the residence of the royal family and is famous for its high gilded statue of Buddha. Thiksey is one of the largest and most impressive gompas (monastery). There are several temples in this gompa containing images, stupas and exquisite wall paintings. Overnight at Omasila
LEH / RUMCHUNG SUMDO / HEMIS NATIONAL PARK
We in search of the snow leopard and its associated species begins. After early morning breakfast, drive to Spituk (2-3 hours). Meet camp staff and drive to Rumchung Sumdo. On the way stop at the "Latoo", investigate collection of horns of wild animals piled and its religious significance. Photographic breaks and also if time permits a look for historical carvings (thousands of year old) on the rocks along the banks of the river Indus. At the confluence we meet our horseman, our camp and personal luggage is loaded on the horses and we start trekking. One hour walk along the river Rumbak through some thick sea buckthorn and willow bushes. Chances of encountering lots of interesting summer migrants and ubiquitous chukar partridges and occasional brown and white breasted dippers, oriental hobby etc. Crisscross the river several times. Stop at Zingchen, a small village for lunch. Overnight at the Camp
Early breakfast and collect pack lunch. Trek to Hursing in search of snow leopard and its major prey the blue sheep or bharal. Trek through a narrow and deep gorge along the Hursing valley to get an idea of snow leopard preferred habitat. Look for fresh signs - scrapes and spray sites etc - on the way up and also keep an eye out for mouse hares among the rock piles. Scan the slopes for bharal. The females prefer this steep terrain for lambing. Picnic lunch next to a mountain stream. Check out one of the nests of the golden eagle pair that patrols this area if it is in use. Walk back to camp. Tea, rest at the camp and walk around for evening pictures. Walk time- Total 4 hours (excluding break) 21/2 hours gradual climb along the valley floor (3700 to 4100m) and back. Overnight at the Camp
After early breakfast, pack and leave the camp with pack lunch. Camp shifts to Rumbak base, picnic lunch. Easy day out; visit to Rumbak village. Get to know a Ladakh village and their natural friendly life style. Join our horseman/local family friend in his house for authentic Ladakhi meal. Photographic opportunities throughout the day for shutter bugs. Evening learn some local cuisine from camp staff. Scan slopes around the camp and village to locate herds of blue sheep coming down to lower slopes to take advantage of green flush at lower slopes. Camp at 3900 m. Walk Time- 1.30 hours. Overnight at the Camp.
Early breakfast. Packed lunch. Day in the mountains with snow leopard expert Dr. Raghu Chundawat. Participate in SLIMS (Snow Leopard Information Management System) to help BAAVAN Trust. Dr Chundawat will lead us along one heavily used snow leopard path - a secret trail discovered by him eighteen years ago. More recently, several wildlife documentary crews have used this area to successfully capture on film this mysterious creature. Easy pace but steep climb, stop at many places to check snow leopard signs and record fresh movements. Learn about geological history of Himalaya and its ecological importance to several million of people dependent on its welfare, sitting at a high vantage point over looking Ladakh and Karakoram range. Lunch break at top looking down the gorge towards first camp site at Hursing. Divide in two or three groups to climb down to increase chances of encountering a snow leopard on our walk back to camp. Walk time- total 4 - 51/2 hours.
Pack and shift camp to Ganda la base. On the way, look for bharal and wolf signs. Likely to find a few herds of blue sheep, plenty of chukar partridges near Yuriche (one house village) and red and yellow billed choughs. Check two known traditional nests of golden eagle on the way. This is a habitat for one of the rarest species of wild sheep, the great Tibetan sheep or Tibetan argali. Meet the lady of the Yuriche house, who single handedly saved a group of three that now has increased to near thirty animals. An extraordinary yet unsung story. Hold one of the skulls preserved by the Yuriche house and feel the weight of the enormous horns. Look for the diminutive mouse hares and their predator, the Himalayan weasel among the caragana bushes. Observe and hear the Himalayan marmot, a giant ground squirrel. Walk time - Total 4-5 hours. Gradual climb (3900 to 4300 m) along the river bank. Camp- 4300 m. Overnight at the Camp.
Search for herds of the world's largest wild sheep. Divide in two or three parties armed with spotting scopes and expert local guide and survey three separate valleys and try to locate these rare animals. High chances of encountering wolves and large grouse size Himalayan snow cock and Tibetan woolly hares. We conduct a count of argali, collecting data on age, sex, number seen and group size. This information will go to the local wildlife Department and to the Nature Conservation Foundation, an Indian NGO working actively with the International Snow Leopard Trust. Walk time- 4-5 hours. Elevation range- 4300-4500 m. Overnight at the Camp.
Pack and shift camp to Stok La base via Rumbak village. Trekking day. Wildlife spotting en route. Downhill for two hours and one hour walk through Rumbak fields. Elevation range - 4300 to 3900 and up again 4100 m. Walk time 3 1/2 hours Overnight at the Camp.
Shift camp again. Pack and ready for a steep two and half hour climb to negotiate the Stok La pass 16,000' high. Stop at the pass lunch break photographic opportunity. Climb down and trek through some amazing vertical rock formation. Discuss geological significance learn more about formation of Himalaya. Likely to see several herds of bharal. Look for snow leopard evidence. This is favourite snow leopard terrain. Reach camp site, tea and if still feeling energetic, wonder around some of the side valleys to sit and listen for calls, look for evidence and locate any sign of movement among the cliffs. Back to camp. Walk time 4-5 hours. Elevation range- 4100 to 4600 m Camp - 4000 m Overnight at the Camp.
Easy morning. Divide in different groups and survey side valleys and spot blue sheep herds. The topography of the valley is unique and geology very interesting. We will discuss the geology and origin of Himalaya and see the sign of continents collusion. Overnight at the Camp.
Today morning trek to Stok where we board our Jeeps and drive back to Leh, visiting the Stok palace and museum en route. Walk time - 3 hours Explore the quaint market and the old palace this afternoon. Dinner in one of the local restaurants. Overnight at Hotel Omasila or similar.
Transferred to the domestic airport this morning to board flight to Delhi. (9W 610, 0735-0850 hrs; subject to change) On arrival at Delhi's domestic airport, greeted and transferred to hotel. Overnight at Hotel.
The entire day is at leisure to rest. This evening transferred to the International airport for our overseas flight. (Check In is three hours prior to flight departure) We suggest you fly only in the evening as we need a buffer day incase flights out of Leh do not operate due to bad weather.