Bright sunlit skies and snow-capped mountains welcomed us as our flight landed in Leh airport. At 10,000+ feet Leh airport is one of the highest civilian airports in the world. During the three-day acclimatization phase, the temperature was in the range of -10C to -20C and the wind shear would notch up the chill factor a bit more.
You had to wear three to four layers of clothing to just walk from our room to the hotel’s restaurant. We knew that staying in a heated hotel room in these conditions was luxury. The real test would be during our stay in the Rumbak valley with nothing but a tent and a sleeping bag to shield us from this weather. And not to mention that this was our first high altitude trek ever. But our spirits were high as this was going to be an amazing experience and the excitement of spotting the Snow Leopard kept us going!
The night before the trek into the Hemis national park, it snowed heavily and almost the entire Leh landscape turned white. During our drive from the hotel to the Zingchen entry point, we stopped several times to just soak in the beauty of the place and to spot the Urials and the Blue Sheep, which were grazing on the steep cliffs of the rocky mountains. The sheer vastness of the landscape just took our breath away.
It was snowing as we began our trek from Zingchen to the campsite in the Rumbak Valley. We had cloudy skies, frozen streams and snowy trails for a majority part of our stay in the national park. Winters are extremely severe in these parts of Ladakh, thereby increasing the chances of seeing a Snow Leopard in the wild.