Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley

Tripoto
17th Dec 2017
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

After lazing around Likir for 4 days, i was acclimatized for cold and thin air. I was staying in "Old Likir Guest house" and made a couple of small treks to explore Likir, with my host and guide, Stanzin. He told me that "The more you rest initially the better you are able to adapt during the trek".

I did not go with a premeditated plan and wanted to get suggestions from locals. Stanzin suggested that i do the Sham trek, which does not require special expedition equipment and gives a good flavour of Ladakh. Sham means "West" in ladakhi language and this trek takes me through some high mountain passes and remote villages. Both me and Stanzin are passionate about wildlife and this trek gives us ample opportunities to spot wildlife. But going without any expectations is very important to enjoy the sightings.

The day before we start, i was amazed to see Stanzin take out elaborate topographical maps of the mountains to chalk out the trek route. Since sometime, map for me means "Google maps". Luckily Stanzin himself is a seasoned guide and he will guide me through the trek.

Photo of Likir by Soumik Neogi
Day 1

Trek to Ulley Village

After the breakfast i was ready for the trek. We had two bags to carry, with each carrying our own lunch. Stanzin was comfortable carrying the heavier bag and that helped me take a lot of photographs during the trek.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

The trek begins along the Srinagar-Leh highway. We took some shortcuts to avoid the initial concrete road. Concrete roads are the worst during trek as it puts a lot of stress on the legs, which the soil would otherwise absorb.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

Its like walking through the painting book of nature. The colors change along the way and nature has its way of adjusting the contrast using the sun.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

We go through a small settlement, which comprise of a couple of houses only. This particular place had a river running through it and there was burst of colors from the flora. On the way we had lunch and we now headed towards Yangthang.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

As this region is dry, i imagined this place to have little vegitation. I found that not only there is variety of flora, they look beautiful in their vivid colors.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

Late afternoon, we arrived near the Yangthang village and took some rest before the steep climb ahead. Yangthang is a relatively small village that was built by ladakhi people who served the monastery and the land was granted by the monastery as appreciation of their service.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

Almost nearing sunset, we were now heading towards the last climb to Ulley. The setting sun makes the perfect background to compliment the mountains.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

During the climb, I witnessed the famous mushroom rocks of Ulley. The structures are formed by wind erotion and snow - over time as loose soil and rocks blow away from below, it may leave an intact rock at the top, resembling a mushroom. They are spread across and adds to Ulley's supernatural appeal.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

We reached Nurboo's house in the evening and received a warm welcome. Nurboo is an expert snow leopard tracker and works with conservation actively. I felt fortunate enough to stay at his beautiful house which was very old and charming.

Nurboo's winter kitchen - The warmest place in winter

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

Prayer wheels - A part of life here in ladakh

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

Cats prefer to sit over/near the furnace

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

Making of the traditional Ladakhi chai - Mixing with butter

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

This kitten just did not want to get off my lap

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Day 2

Ulley

Next morning, we started our search for snow leopard. Though Nurboo suggested us to search in the hills opposite Ulley, we went the other side, having misunderstood his direction. But that turned into a boon as we encountered massive open landscape i have never seen before. As there were no sightings of leopards that day, so we did not lose out either.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

As we reached the top, it started snowing and it was extremely cold. This also set the tone for a snowfall in the lower altitudes in the evening.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

On the way we saw beautiful ice formation along streams and the unique flora of this region.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

As we climbed down we saw the abandoned shelters used by the herders for grazing cattle in summer.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

Rock formations around this place was unique.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

After we came back it was time to witness extreme cold that prevails before the snowfall. After a while snow engulfed all and it continued till late night.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

The kitchen was warm as usual. Nurboo and his wife cooked delicious meal for us, while i rested along with the cats.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

After the snowfall, i requested Nurboo if i can stay in the kitchen. The room on the first floor was freezing and I just did not want to leave the warm kitchen. He greed happily and i slept in the warm kitchen with three blankets.

Day 3

Ulley

The next morning i woke up early as i wanted to see how the place will look after snowfall.

My bed in the kitchen

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

I went out to discover that the place has turned into a wonderland. Everything from the mountains to the road and the toilet looked beautiful.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

Meanwhile Nurboo was busy scanning the horizon for wildlife. He gets up very early and looks for wildlife using his telescope. He is a master tracker and knows all the routes the leopards frequent.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

Suddenly on the snowy horizon there were three leopards - A family of three with mother and her cubs.

First the cubs appear playfully.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

Then we saw the complete family on the top of the mountain

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

Unfortunately this was the last day of our stay at Ulley. As the leopards appeared, Stanzin suggested we drop the next day's visit and spend one more day here. I took no time to say Yes.

My lens was not enought to capture the leopards clearly, so we thought of trekking to the opposite hill and get a closer look. One the way we saw some vast expanses covered in snowfall and the view was unlike anything.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

After climbing the hill opposite the leopards, we had a closer look but was still pretty far away. If we went too close and the leopards smell us, they will move away.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

After a while the family came together and moved away from the hill on the other side, away from our sight.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

As the leopards went the other side, we came down the hill and explored this unreal place a little more.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

In the evening the leopards appeared again and broke the prayer flags that the monastery had put on the top of the mountain. This was a rare moment that i witnessed. The photos do not do justice as the lens was not good enough in low light, but it stays as a fond memory.

Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Less visited places of Ladakh - Chasing snow leopards in Ulley by Soumik Neogi

The next day we start again on our trek again, now heading towards Hemis.

3 Comment(s)
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Thanks Yogesh
Thu 01 04 18, 03:42 · Reply · Report
Amazing experience and top photographs
Wed 01 03 18, 22:11 · Reply · Report
Amazing experience and top photographs
Wed 01 03 18, 22:11 · Reply · Report