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Snow Leopards: Gray Ghosts Of The Himalaya

When you hike the world's highest peaks in search of the legendary snow leopard, be prepared for the unexpected.

Expedition Planner

Pin Valley National Park, India

Permits: Inner Line Travel Permits (required) are available at government offices in India, or by arrangement through an outfitter (see Outfitter below). For visa and permit information, call the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC, at (202) 939-9806, or go to www.indianembassy.org.

Route: Several routes lead from the Sutlej River in Kinnaur to the upper Pin River. Expect to cross passes higher than 15,000 feet and hike 50-plus miles.

Access: The Pin Valley is in northeast Himachal Pradesh. Two roads access the mouth of Pin Valley. The southern route (through Kinnaur; start in Simla) is open from approximately March through December. The northern route (through Lahaul; start in Manali) is passable mid-July through September. Within Spiti, you can take a bus as far as the town of Sangam (depending on season), then hike up either the Pin or Parahio River.

Season: July through September is best for open roads and passes, wildflowers, and wildlife spotting in the high country.

Guide: Himachal Pradesh Sheet #6: Kalpa-Kinnaur, Spiti, and Shimal Area, Leomann Maps (order from Cordee Ltd., 011-44-116-

2543579; www.backpacker.com/

mapstore; $10).

Outfitter: Ibex Expeditions offers Pin Valley treks for $1,995, excluding airfare. Contact: (800) 842-8139; www.trekibex.com.

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