Snow Leopard Expedition - Who is this meant for?

Ashwin Muralidharan

Last updated: 12-04-2021

There is a world within our world, filled with exotic landscapes sliced through by a frozen Indus river, hosting some of the rarest flora and fauna and miraculous experiences. We are talking about none other than the coveted Snow Leopard Trek in the Rumbak Valley of Ladakh. 

The infamous Rumbak valley is perched at a comfortable 4100 M height within the raw and beautiful landscape of the Hemis National Park. The legendary wild cat of the Himalayas can be spotted here in the peak winters (from the end of December to March). 

Snow Leopards are extremely elusive by nature. Spotting one requires considerable knowledge, immense patience, and luck. This is what makes this trek much sought after by everyone. People from across the world come here to view the leopard in subzero temperatures.  

Apart from the Snow Leopard, the Hemis National Park is also home to some exotic animals and birds like the Eurasian magpie, brown fox, golden eagle, and blue sheep.

The expedition is 6 nights and 7 days long where one not only gets to witness the snow leopard in the wild but also gets to learn and actively participate in the process that goes into tracking one.


The difficulty level of the trek:

The Snow Leopard Expedition is rated a Level 4 on the Bikat Rating Scale.

About the BRS: The Bikat Rating Scale rates the difficulty level of all treks and expeditions in our portfolio after taking into account their geographical and climatic conditions.

According to this scale, if you are a beginner who is unsure of your fitness level and don't know what to expect on a trek, a trek-rated one will be a good place to start.

If you liked your very first trekking experience and are looking to test your limits next, the treks rated 2 or 3 will do the job for you.

A beginner who is sure of their fitness level on the other hand is welcome to skip the first two levels and directly start with one of the treks rated 3.

From 4 onwards, the rules change a little. It is mandatory to have trekking experience of the previous level to participate in the next level.


The trails of the Snow Leopard trek:

There are 3 famous spots on this expedition. They are the Tarbung valley, Husing point, and Rumbak village. These three locations form landmark junctions where several pathways are often used by Snow leopards for mating and hunting crisscross.

Every spot has a unique vantage point that offers unparalleled views of the slopes and valleys around. Tarbung valley and Husing valley are about one kilometer away from the campsite we will be setting up in the Hemis National Park. The third valley (Rumbak) is 2-3 kilometers away and will take around 1-2 hours to reach.

The trails to all three valleys involve steep 70-degree ascents and descents. Contrary to our usual trekking itineraries, the days on the snow leopard expedition swing between two extremes. Some days will require trekkers to explore extensively for track marks while other days would involve sitting still and studying the area around.

Be prepared for the latter, long hours of waiting (6-7 hours) each day at these viewpoints under sub-zero temperatures. Ensure you are adequately layered, even during the daytime because the winds in this region tend to get quite chilly, often blowing at speeds of 60 km/hour.


Snow Leopard Expedition - Who is this meant for?


Fitness level required for Snow Leopard Expedition

Although the Snow Leopard expedition is an easy-moderate trek, you will need good lung capacity and leg strength to complete it safely. If you are struggling most of the time, you won’t be able to enjoy the expedition. With the end goal being enjoying the expedition thoroughly and not just completing it, the following is the fitness level we recommend.

Practice jogging/running four to five days a week and see if you can cover 5 km in 30-40 minutes. In addition to this, you can also add some resistance workouts for legs (like squats and lunges), and core workouts into your training schedule.

Since the itinerary of the Snow Leopard Expedition is very different from our usual treks, it is perfectly suitable for beginners as well. People who are unsure of their fitness levels looking to gain a high-altitude camping experience are welcome to try this out.

Alternatively, if you would like to begin with an easier trek, we recommend trying out a level 2 or level 3 trek from our portfolio. Treks like the Beas Kund or Brahmatal which are of lower altitude and lesser duration are excellent choices.

The terrain you encounter on these treks is very different from what you will be witnessing in the Snow Leopard Expedition.  But the experience would still equip you with knowledge of layering on Himalayan Treks, the kind of gear needed, the fitness levels required, etc.


Gear required for Snow Leopard Expedition

While we will be providing most of the equipment needed for trekking (tents, sleeping bags, etc.), there is some basic gear you will need from your end to get through your hike comfortably.

These are sturdy, lightweight backpacks and comfortable trekking shoes. In case, you plan on purchasing them, please refer to the articles below for some helpful tips on how to go about choosing the right gear for your trek.

  • How to choose your backpack – Choosing the right backpack is one of the important steps for a comfortable trek. Even a slight discomfort or imbalance can be a pain. Refer to the article linked above to get some helpful tips on how to choose your backpack.
  • How to choose a good pair of hiking shoes – Normal sports shoes are not well suited for trekking trails. We recommend wearing high ankle shoes which are likely to provide better support and minimize the possibility of injury. Please refer to the article linked above for some helpful tips to keep in mind when choosing trekking shoes.
  • How to use a Trekking pole – Trekking poles are not mandatory. Some trekkers feel more comfortable with them while there are others who find it harder to coordinate walking with them. Based on which side you lean, please refer to the article linked above for some helpful tips on how to use a trekking pole.


Snow Leopard Expedition - Who is this meant for?


Skills required for Snow Leopard Trek

Bikat Adventures is primarily an adventure learning organization. This means our key objective is not just to help our trekkers complete their treks safely but also to help them pick up some valuable skills in trekking and camping along the way.

To achieve this, we have built learning modules that are paired to each level on the Bikat Rating Scale. These modules are then taught in real-time on the trails by our trek leaders.

The following are some skills that are likely to come in handy on a trail like the Rumbak Valley. While you will have all the assistance you need on the trek from our capable trek leaders, we suggest browsing through the articles below to get an idea of what is involved.

  • Hiking attire and layering – The temperatures in the Hemis National Park drop to -15 degrees by day and to -25 degrees by night time. Layering appropriately for protection from the cold is mandatory. Take a look at the article linked above to get an idea of the winter layers needed and how to layer them at campsites and while hiking. Also, check this article to know how to keep yourself warm in Himalayan winters.


Snow Leopard Expedition - Who is this meant for?


  • First aid basics – Getting small bruises and cuts is common in these terrains. Although our leaders will be constantly looking out for your well-being, having some knowledge of basic first aid techniques before you head on a trek can be helpful. Please refer to the article linked above to get a thorough idea of how to manage a basic medical need.
  • Ascending and Descending on Trails – Every trail is different. Ascents and descents can directly impact your knee and ankles. Maintaining the right rhythm and body position is critical and will help you go long and go easy.

We hope this article answers all the questions you may have had on the Snow Leopard Expedition. In case you have any other queries or need assistance with something, please feel free to reach out to us. We are only a phone call away.

Ashwin Muralidharan

Dreamer, listener, and a curious soul. I indulge influence and leave my impressions behind. If y Read more

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