The group flight usually departs London Heathrow in the evening.
The group flight will arrive into Delhi in the morning and we will transfer to our hotel. Those who have made their own flight arrangements will join us at the hotel during the day. You are free today to explore Delhi or rest after your flight; rooms may not be available until noon but it is often earlier than this.
A very early start today for the flight to Leh. We usually leave the hotel at around 2am and drive to the airport for the very early morning but highly spectacular flight over the Himalaya to Leh. Incredibly beautiful in winter we fly over the huge expanse of snow capped peaks. Landing in Leh the temperature will drop dramatically and we will need our down jackets at the airport. If the weather is good and the flight goes on time we should be in Leh for breakfast. The rest of the day is free to relax and acclimatize to the altitude (3,500m). In the morning we rest and catch up on some sleep and in the afternoon there will be a gentle orientation walk of Leh and its bazaars.
Today we visit some of the most important monasteries in the Indus Valley. First we drive just over half an hour to Shey, once the residence of the Ladakhi royal family. Below the old palace ruins is a small temple containing a two-storey gilded statue of Buddha. From Shey we can either drive or walk across the fields to Tikse. Set on a hill it is one of the most impressive gompas in Ladakh, It has several temples, one of which contains a superb statue of the Future Buddha. We then drive on to Stakna, a small but friendly monastery perched atop a huge rock. In the late afternoon we return to Leh
We spend today at a monastery festival. Once a year every monastery in Ladakh has a festival where the monks dress in elaborate brocade and silk costumes and re-enact century old stories of the Tibetan Buddhist religion. People come from all over Ladakh to the festivals and these are a great social as well as religious occasion. At the Matho festival we have chance to see the amazing State Oracles perform. These are two monks, who once a year go into a deep trance and predict the future of Ladakh. The whole day will be spent at the festival and in the evening we return to our hotel in Leh. Please note on the 4th February 2012 departure the sightseeing will be altered and we will visit the Matho Festival on Day 3 (Day 4 Ex London) and visit the monasteries on Day 4 (Day 5 Ex London).
Today we leave Leh and we drive across the Indus towards Jinchen. We follow the trail from Phe to the entrance of the impressive Rumbak Gorge. The trail takes us up into the narrow gorge and we start our search for evidence of Snow Leopard and Blue Sheep. We camp tonight at our base camp at Husing (3,700m).
Day 7 - 11
The next five days will be spent in and around the Rumbak Valley in the Hemis National Park. There will be no fixed itinerary and our days will be decided on by our expert wildlife guide - this is to maximise the chances of seeing a Snow Leopard. Our days will be spent searching for Snow Leopard and other animals which inhabit this area. The extreme cold of winter forces the Snow Leopard and other animals down from the high altitudes they normally inhabit. The Hemis National Park is situated at an altitude range of 3,300m - 6,000m and hosts an incredible amount of wildlife. It is full of endangered species including Snow Leopard, Tibetan Ibex, Bharal (Blue Sheep), Wolf, Red Fox, Ladalhi Urial and Pallas's Cat. We will spend most of the time at our base camp at Husing (3,700), which is on a major Snow Leopard corridor. Daywalks will take us 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 to scan the slopes in and around camp. Our wildlife guide will carry a spotting scope which he will set up at camp and on ridges on the daywalks. He will also go out in the early mornings and late evenings to search for evidence of any animal movement. We will explore the area around Rumbak Sumdo and Yurutse (4,400m), well known for its sightings of Argali Sheep.
Overnight we will use a mixture 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. We will have a full trekking crew with us including guides, assistant guides, cook, kitchen assistants and porters.
Today we trek back to Jinchen, where we will meet our transport back to the relative comforts of our hotel in Leh.
An early start for the flight back to Delhi. The rest of the day is free in Delhi for individual shopping or sightseeing.
A free day in Delhi in case of any delays in the flight from Leh. If we fly to Delhi on schedule then today is free for individual sightseeing. You may want to visit Old Delhi with the magnificent Red Fort and Jami Masjid. Humayun's Tomb (a forerunner to the Taj Mahal) is worth a visit. In New Delhi there is India Gate and Parliament House to see; and of course Delhi has a wealth of interesting shops and markets.
After breakfast we transfer to the airport for the flight back to London. For those on group flights, these depart around lunchtime and will arrive in the UK the same day. For those not flying on the group flight back to London they will leave us after breakfast.