This Ladakh Trek In The Quest Of The Elusive Snow Leopard Will Set Your Heart Racing
Home to a variety of fauna such as snow leopards, blue sheep and many Himalayan birds, Hemis National Park – a high altitude national park, is one of the major attractions of Ladakh that draws adventurists and animal lovers from all over the world. It is popular for being the best place to see a snow leopard in the wild, and also the largest national park of India.
One great way of seeing the snow leopard is to do the Snow Leopard Trek. This seven to eight day trek takes your through trails that serve as abodes for several endangered animal species such as argali (great Tibetan sheep), bharal (blue sheep), shapu (Ladakhi urial), Asiatic ibex, the Tibetan wolf, the Eurasian brown bear (endangered in India), the red fox, Himalayan marmot, mountain weasel, Himalayan mouse hare and birds such as golden eagle, the lammergeier vulture, the Himalayan griffon vulture and many more animals.
Where is it?
The base camp for the trek is in the Hemis National Park, which is just an hour’s drive away from Leh. It is recommended to stay in Leh for a day or two to acclimatise yourself before moving towards Phey, where the trail begins. There are direct flights from Delhi to Leh. A round trip would cost you around ₹5000.
This is a moderately difficult trek, where you hike for around five days of the total eight-day trip. The trail is not very tough to walk on, but the extreme weather conditions make it difficult to hike. You will walk through snow and the temperature will range from minus 10 degrees Celsius to minus 20 degrees Celsius.
Trip360, an adventure company that organises this trek, charges ₹44,500 per person. This includes transport from Leh and back, accommodation on twin-sharing basis, transfers to and from the base camp, all meals, ponies to carry your things, a basic first aid kit and travel insurance. Find all details about the trek here.
When to do it
Despite the harsh weather conditions, December to March is the ideal time to do this trek, as this is mating season for snow leopards.
This eight-day long trip involves acclimatising in Leh for two days before moving on to the trail. From Leh, you will be transferred to Zingchen in Hemis National Park from where the trail starts. The trail ends at Husing, which will serve as your base camp for exploring Rumbak Valley. From Husing, you will trek down to Zingchen from where you will be transferred to Leh.
This is the route for the Snow Leopard trek: Leh – Zingchen – Husing
Arrive in Leh
Arrive in Leh, enjoy the sight of magnificent mountains greeting you and check in to your homestay. The beauty of the place will really astound you, but don’t rush it! You will have ample time to explore this snow-laden heaven. Take it slow, as it is necessary to acclimatise yourself to the high altitude, freezing climate and gusty winds. Enjoy a warm bowl of thukpa and interact with locals.
By now, your body should have started adjusting to the climate. The first half of your day will involve visiting Leh Palace – a former royal palace overlooking the town providing great panoramic views, the Shanti Stupa – a white domed Buddhist structure symbolising peace which is also a vantage point, and Shankar Gompa – a Buddhist monastery. The next half of the day can be spent experimenting with Ladakhi food and shopping for Tibetan antiques in the main market.
Drive to Zingchen and begin your trek to Husing
This is the day you will start the trek. You will leave from Leh and reach Zingchen – the starting point of the trek. Start the trail from Phey to the confluence of the stream coming out of the Rumbak gorge to where it joins the Indus, and you will see the first signs of snow leopard scrapes. The trek up to Husing takes you through a narrow gorge where you may spot your first blue sheep, which are the main prey of the majestic feline creatures. Stay overnight at Husing, which will be the base camp for next three nights.
Start your day looking around at Husing
With expert trekkers, you will explore the areas of Rumbak Valley in hopes of catching a glimpse of the majestic snow leopard as well as various other exotic mammals and birds.
Keep your eyes peeled at Husing for a snow leopard
The majestic feline creature is good at camouflaging itself, and can be easily missed. Do not be dejected. Combine the power of belief with clever investigative strategies and you shall be rewarded. Your base camp at Husing is on a major snow leopard corridor, so stay alert.
Head to Rumbak, Sumdo and Yurutse for a sighting of the argali sheep
Explore the areas of Rumbak, Sumdo and Yurutse, well known for its sightings of argali sheep. You might as well end up seeing a snow leopard hunting for its prey.
Trek down from Husing to Zingchen; drive to Leh
Trek down to Zingchen, relishing the unique flora and fauna. From there, you will be transferred back to Leh.
Time to say goodbye
Bid adieu to the magical, mystical, winter wonderland and gear up for telling your exciting tales to friends and family.
What to pack
You must carry clothes for the extreme cold, wind, rain and snow. Heavy down jackets can be rented for a very reasonable cost from the Indian Mountaineering Federation in Delhi, if one is a member. Don’t forget hand- and toe-warmers. Trekking boots, UV protection sunglasses, sunblock and snacks such as energy bars, dry fruits and chocolates are all essential items to pack. The list is not exhaustive. You can read more about what to pack here.
Interested in this trek? Find everything you need to know here.