Millennium Post

The Snow Leopard Trekking Expedition

Tracing the elusive Snow Leopard through the mountaineous trails of Leh-Ladakh is among the most memorable adventures that mustn’t be missed by a true travel connoisseur.

Travelling is the one thing that brings peace to my being – I ensure that we are on a vacation with family and friends at least a couple of times every year. Sometimes it is extremely important to take a step back from daily routine to think of where one is headed. There is no better place to do this than to be in the embrace of nature. This time around, I am thrilled to tell you that I checked off one of the greatest adventures on my list. During the beginning of March, I embarked on one of the most exciting adventures of my life, trekking in Leh Ladakh. In my company were Voygr Expedition and some dear friends from Entrepreneurs' Organisation. We took up the challenge of the snow leopard expedition, keen to spot one. Despite them being territorial and shy, and the area being home to only nine of them, we were hopeful and determined.

Travelling is an activity that requires immense energy but somehow, this journey seemed to be one that relaxed my soul. In fact, for all my co-travellers, it was a welcome break from the chaos and monotony of our daily lives. While travelling together, we realised how much we had in common, just as a result of our love and appreciation for exploring the unexplored. The trip had beautiful views, wonderful paths and, of course, a sighting of the elusive snow leopard – but more than that, travelling is something that rejuvenates my body and mind. The sheer quiet, distance and isolation from everything we know is refreshing. The thought of a group of people, from different walks of life, coming together to be immersed in nature and the wild, is beautiful to me. In the beginning, I didn't know what signing up for this trip would entail, I did not think about how extreme the trip would be. My only motivation was that I wanted to push myself to do something new. This adventure seemed perfect for it, and, of course, the possibility of sighting the snow leopard was extremely exciting for me. My journey looked a little like this:

We caught the morning flight to the Trans-Himalayan town of Leh. We spent the day at a pace that is slower than normal to properly acclimatise ourselves to the high altitude. The first day was easy and we were given much-needed info on how the next few days will pan out. On Day 2, we explored the beautiful monasteries of Thiksey and Matho and visited the Siddhartha School in Stok.
We set out for Hemis National Park with an hour-long drive to Zingchen on Day 3. From there, the trek began with a walk to our camp, about an hour and a half away. We spent the daylight hours searching for the elusive ghost of the mountains through binoculars or a spotting scope with the expert spotters; and, the evenings were spent around the kitchen fire, tucked into our ultra-warm sleeping bags. The next few days, we explored the Hemis National Park without expert spotters on the lookout for wildlife such as the Argali (Great Tibetan Sheep), Bharal (Blue Sheep), Shapu (Ladakhi Urial), and the Snow Leopard. Our camps were moved depending on our spotting success and intel reports of Snow Leopard spotting around the valley. Each day we were trekking for a few kilometres, as little as 2 km per day and as much as 8 km per day. Day 4 was the day we spotted a Snow Leopard! It was highly unlikely, and all of us were thoroughly excited. The 7th Day was the last of this adventure, so after a trek to Zingchen and a short drive to Leh, we had a day to rediscover the comforts of a hot shower. it was our free day to rest, relax and explore Leh. The next day, I made my way back to Delhi, ending this perfect, adventurous trip. The trip concluded on the 8th day, and though the leopard sighting was the highlight of the trip, the totality of my travel left me satisfied and happy.
It is not easy to sum up my experience in a few words. I still remember walking in extremely challenging terrains only to find out that the mischievous leopard has moved to a completely different territory, leaving us to follow his footprints. It was challenging and pushed all of us much beyond our comfort zone, living without electricity, no washrooms, no access to hot water added to the challenges. But when I revisit the roaring sight of the mighty beast, it all makes sense – it feels that all that effort was completely worth it.

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