3 February, 2021 | Reccy Guide
Winter in the Hemis National Park is synonymous with snow-capped mountain backdrops, chilly camping nights, and chances to spot the rare and famous snow leopard. Found only in central Asia, the snow leopard’s population is today down to only a few thousand – making its spotting an exciting adventure. Due to the wide availability of prey down in the Valley, the park is renowned for being one of the best areas to spot the feline during its winter descents looking for food. Embarking on a Snow Leopard trek will take you through the Valley in search for the big cat and for other native wildlife.
Your trek will most likely start in Leh; and as you will be visiting during the winter months, you will need to fly into the local airport. Indeed, all access by land will be impossible at this time of the year. Once in Leh, it is recommended that you spend a couple of days exploring the surroundings of the city. This will give your body time to adjust to the altitude and will enable you to enjoy your upcoming trip more prepared. After acclimatization in Leh, you should be ready for the rest of the trip as the trek itself does not go to high altitudes. Waiting for your trek to start does not mean that you will spend days being bored, as the city offers a multitude of sights to explore. The local market is a great option to take part in the vibrant local life, and the many monasteries in and around Leh will teach you lots about Buddhism and its evolution.
After a couple of days exploring Leh, you will finally take off for the Snow Leopard Trek. It’s difficult to give a day-by-day itinerary as each trek company offers different options, but you can expect to start by a quick drive to Zingchen where your trek will start from. From there, most tours will take you to various spots in the Rumbak Valley and the intensity of the hikes will vary depending on your preferences – some of them are only short hikes to nearby villages while others take you across Stok La pass. But no matter the hikes, the focus of this expedition is on spotting wildlife. You will spend your days looking out for animals that your experienced guide will point out, from Tibetan Hare, Antelopes, Ibexes and, if you are lucky, snow leopards.
Snow Leopard Trek in Spiti Valley
While most treks depart from Leh and head to the Hemis National Park, where the Rumbak Valley lies, you also have the option to embark on a Snow Leopard trek in the Spiti Valley, in the Pin Valley National Park. You will start your journey from the town of Shimla, where you will take a jeep to Reckong Peo. From there, you will hike to the small village of Kibber, which will be your home base for the next few days. Over the duration of your trek, you will leave early morning in hopes of spotting wildlife; but no matter what you come across, you can be sure that the spectacular views the park offers will leave you in awe.
When should I go?
The Snow Leopard Trek is one of the only winter treks in the Ladakh region. You should visit during the months of November and March, as this will give you the highest chances to witness the snow leopards coming down to the Valley in search of food. Temperatures will be cold as you can imagine, and it will likely be snowy – so pack accordingly.
There is no more magical way to see a snow leopard than by discovering its environment while looking out for him, and the anticipation will make their sighting that much more rewarding. So if for you, discovering new wildlife is one of the highlights of traveling, you can be sure that the Snow Leopard Trek will be the trip of a lifetime.