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Duration: 14 days, 6 days trekking (snow leopard spotting)
Accomodations: Hotel/camping on trek
Best time: December to February
Grade: Strenuous


INTRODUCTION

With the changing of the seasons, the elusive Snow Leopard, the apex predator of the Himalayas, descends from the high peaks into the valleys to hunt for Blue Sheep or other domestic animals. This trip takes us to into the heart of the Indian Himalayas in search of this beautiful animal. The trip starts with a magnificent flight over the Himalayas to Leh, the capital of Ladakh. After acclimatizing to the altitude, we will head to Hemis National Park, where we spend the next few days exploring valleys and gorges, accompanied by an expert local guide. We will spend time in and around the Rumbak Valley, known as the Snow Leopard capitol of the world, and we will camp or stay in local Ladakhi homes.

IS THIS TRIP FOR YOU?

This is an adventurous tour and you need to be flexible in your approach to the trip. The trip takes place in winter when Ladakh is cut off from the rest of the world by road and temperatures drop well below 0° Celsius. Although the hotel in Leh is comfortable, water pipes can freeze in winter and water (both hot and cold) may be provided in a bucket. On the trek, conditions will be basic, either camping in subzero temperatures or staying in local Ladakhi houses. The tour is designed to maximize the chance of spotting a Snow Leopard and this will mean you need to be flexible and we may need to adjust or change the itinerary at short notice should snow conditions or other adverse or local variables deem it wise to do so.

What makes this trip challenging is the weather conditions in Ladakh at this time of year. The walking distances each day will be moderate. Most of the walking will be optional, dependent on your enthusiasm for tracking animals each day.


DAY BY DAY ITINERARY

DAY 1: ARRIVE IN DELHI Our local representative will receive you at the Delhi International Airport and will help with your transfer to the Hotel.

DAY 2: FLY TO LEH (3,500m/11,500ft). You will have an early morning transfer to the domestic airport for the flight up to Leh. This is one of the sensational flights over the high Himalayas with a spectacular view of the Himalayan peaks. If the weather is clear, you should arrive in Leh by mid-morning. This first day of your stay in Leh requires you to take complete rest in order to acclimatize to this high altitude (3,500m). In the evening, a gentle orientation walk through Leh market can be done if your health permits. (B, L, D)

DAY 3: SIGHTSEEING AROUND THE INDUS VALLEY. Today you will be visiting some of the major Gompas (Ladakhi word for Monastery). Your first stop is Shey Palace which is 13 kms from Leh and is the former residence of the Ladakhi royal family. The Palace houses a 350-year-old copper and gold statue of the Lord Buddha. From Shey you can either drive or walk across the field to Thiksey village, where you will visit the Thiksey Monastery perched imposingly on a hillock from which its red and white buildings can be seen from many kilometers away. This Gompa is famous for its 15-meter-high seated statue of Maitreya, the future Buddha. The next stop is Stakna Monstery which is a smaller but similarly impressive monastery, perched atop a huge rock set in the very middle of the valley. In the late afternoon, we return to Leh. (B, L, D)

DAY 4: A FULL DAY AT MATHO OR SPITUK FESTIVAL. Once a year, every monastery in Ladakh has a festival where the monks dress in elaborate brocade and silk costumes and re-enact centuries-old stories from the annals of Tibetan Buddhism. These festivals are a great social as well as religious occasion as people travel from all over Ladakh to participate in these events. The Matho Festival is famous for the State Oracles. Two monks perform the oracle, who once a year go into a deep trance and predict the future of Ladakh. The Spituk monastery festival is famous for its mask dance. Every year the Gustor Festival is held at Spituk from the 27th to 29th day in the eleventh month of the Tibetan calendar. The festival will fill up the entire day and you will return to the hotel in the evening. (B, L, D)

DAY 5: DRIVE TO SPITUK AND TREK TO HUSING. (5-6hours) On this day you will leave Leh and drive across the Indus River towards Zingchen. Following the trail from Phey, the road takes you up into the impressive Rumbak Gorge where you start your research for the evidence of Snow Leopards and Blue Sheep. The base camp in Husing will be your campsite for the night. (B, L, D)

DAYS 6 - 10: TREKKING IN AND AROUND THE RUMBAK VALLEY. The next five days will be spent in and around the Rumbak Valley in Hemis National Park. There will be no fixed itinerary and our plans for the day will be dictated by our expert wildlife guide - this is to maximize the chances of seeing a Snow Leopard. Our days will be spent searching for Snow Leopards and other animals that inhabit this area. The extreme cold of winter forces the Snow Leopard and other animals to flee down from the high altitudes they normally inhabit. Hemis National Park is situated within an altitudinal range of 3,300m - 6,400m and hosts an incredible amount of wildlife. It is full of endangered species including the Snow Leopard, Tibetan Ibex, Bharal (Blue Sheep), Wolf, Red Fox, Ladakhi Urial and Pallas's Cat. We will spend most of the time at our base camp at Husing (3,700m), located within a major Snow Leopard corridor. Day walks will take you into both the Husing and Tarbuns Valleys, both well-known haunts of the Snow Leopard. In 2010, the group saw Snow Leopard footprints and scat around this area. A good pair of binoculars is recommended in order to scan the slopes in and around camp. Our wildlife guide will carry a spotting scope that he will set up at camp and on ridges during the day walks. He will also go out in the early mornings and late evenings to search for evidence of any animal movement. You will explore the area around Rumbak Sumdo and Yurutse (4,400m), well-known for its sightings of Argali, the world’s largest sheep. Accommodation over these days will be an infusion of camping and home-stays. One night will be spent in Rumbak village, where we will use a Ladakhi home-stay - a basic Ladakhi house. The other five nights will be spent camping. You will be facilitated with a full trekking crew including guides, assistant guides, a cook, kitchen assistants and porters. (B, L, D)

DAY 11: RETURN TO LEH. The final day in Ladakh will lead you on a trek back to Jingchen, where transportation back to the relative comforts of our hotel in Leh is arranged. (B, L, D)

DAY 12: FLY TO DELHI. On the last day you will take an early departure for the flight back to Delhi. The rest of the day in Delhi is free for individual shopping or sightseeing. (B)

DAY 13: RELAX IN DELHI. International flights usually leave after midnight, so sleep in and relax. Leave for the airport about 10 pm.

DAY 14: FLY HOME.


LAND COST: on request

What’s Included:

  • Hotel accommodations with breakfast.
  • Camping accommodation as per the program with all meals during the treks.
  • Mule drivers and mules during the trekking.
  • All monastery entrance fees, wild life fees and camping fees.
  • Hindi/English-speaking guide.
  • Service of cook and attendants during the trekking.
  • All camping equipment including North Face or equivalent sleeping tent, foam mattresses, mess tents, dining tent & toilet tent
  • All transportation from pick up from the Delhi Airport to departure.

What’s not included:

  • Medical and evacuation insurance
  • Miscellaneous expenses and tips for the staff
  • Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and food in Leh and Delhi.
  • International Air ticket to and from Delhi.
  • A single supplement.
  • Laundry and other services not mentioned in the package. If you need any arrangement Please let us know.
  • Trip cancellation, travel delay or baggage loss insurance
  • Charges incurred as a result of delays, natural calamities beyond the control of  Yama Adventures

IMPORTANT TREK NOTE:
Whilst every effort is made to keep to the above itinerary, clients will hopefully appreciate that this is Adventure Travel in a remote mountain region. There will quite likely be changes to the itinerary in terms of anything from on-the-spot choice of campsite to when a rest day is taken. Weather conditions, road conditions, vehicle breakdowns off the beaten track, local availability of, horses or yaks, can contribute to the need for changes. The Trek guide will do everything in his power to see that you are inconvenienced as little as possible in such circumstances. Timings are approximate.


© Yama Adventures, 2017.

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