Meeting the Grey Ghost

5th Feb 2020

Photo of Meeting the Grey Ghost by anurag sharma
Day 3

An account on Tigerwalah's Snow Leopard Expedition:

After much research/ following up/ anticipation/ wait and preparation i finally landed at Spiti Valley in search of Grey Ghosts. It was our first ever snow leopard expedition so both excitement and expectations were pretty high. One the very first day of our arrival at Spiti we were blessed with sighting of a male leopard on kill- what a start i must say. Did spend almost entire day watching this old male as he guarded his kill on a mountain slope. From a photo perspective it was not such a great photo opp but who cares, a first is always special.

I had the opportunity to watch this old male with distinct facial markings on multiple occasions over the next 3 weeks. As per locals this male aged 10+ years approximately, was sighted very frequently around Kibber ( our base) and was father of most of the cubs in the area. Words may fail to describe him but he probably had seen it all- change of weather cycles over years, fought and defeated intruding males, explored and expanded his territory year after year. Signs of ageing were visible on him and most trackers anticipated that this probably was his last season and he might not be sighted next season. Little did we know that this prediction will come so soon, few days after my return from Kibber he fell of from cliff in the gorge while hunting an ibex, resulting in death of both ibex and this old male...End of an era in the valley. I will definitely miss his presence next season when i return.

Other highlight of the trip was sighting of mating pair of leopards, having missed them previous evening we planned to return to the same area the try our luck. Early morning snow fall was not encouraging however we decided to go anyway instead of waiting in our rooms. Reached the location after a long drive through heavy snowfall and steep hike from our drop point, our hearts were filled with joy when our tracker after scanning the gorge through his binocular pointed towards a cave- said Shen ( snow leopard in local language). Still getting used to of tracking the ghost with perfect camouflage in similar backdrop i took a while to figure out two grey dots barely visible at the opening of cave across the valley. It was still snowing and as per our guide the chances of them coming out were very bleak, something none of us wanted to hear at this point of time after having crossed so many hurdles. Almost after 1 hour of no activity they suddenly came out of the cave, first the female and then the male and they started mating in open. Like all cats the intercourse was brief however the female was slightly more aggressive towards male post mating ( an interesting observation for me). This behaviour continued for next 5-6 hours while we watched them sipping chai and eating from a safe distance ensuring the cats were not disturbed. Someone up there was definitely watching out for us as this interaction turned out to one of the best behavioural observations of trip. First a male on kill, now a mating pair our guests were getting greedy for more....the illusive mother and cubs what else?

Luck was definitely on our side next morning as well when Tenjing our lead tracker radioed back -- 'cubs being sighted at a gorge 3 km from our camp'. We were on the move in no time and reached the spot after 45 minutes of hike through knee deep soft snow. Cubs were sitting in the open, mother was probably away resting/ hunting somewhere. Initially there were only two cubs and soon the third one joined in, it was such a joy watching little fur balls exploring the territory boldly and confidently the entire day. While the cubs were starting to get playful we had to return back to the camp as sun started to set and sighting time was over.

Needless to say that group was thrilled with all these sightings across 8 days of their stay at Kibber and we descended back to Rampur as i had to welcome group II at Rampur for Snow Leopard Expedition :II

While group one was smooth sail group II had its fair share of adventures - a landslide which delayed arrival at Kibber by day and half as we are forced to stay on the way before roads were reopened, an avalanche on our way delayed our journey back to Rampur as well. Second batch had some great sightings as well mostly of the old male on several occasions during our stay. Mother and cubs had ventured far away from the valley and remained elusive for rest of our stay .

All in all we had sightings of 8 different individuals during our maiden expedition to Snow leopard along with sightings of Red Fox, Golden Eagles, Lammergeier, snow cocks, chukar partridges, snow finch, herds of blue sheep, Ibex etc.

Already looking forward to snow leopard expedition scheduled in Feb 2021, drop us a mail on if you wish to join. Check out detailed itinerary in our fixed departure tours section here.