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Photo: Photographer Ami Vitale
Photographer Ami Vitale and Writer Paul Kvinta
Searching For Snow Leopards
Photographer Ami Vitale journeys deep into the mountainous region of Ladakh in northwestern India in hope of catching a glimpse of the elusive snow leopard. By Rachel Scheer

Positioned between the world's two highest mountain ranges, the Himalaya and Karakoram, the Indian region of Ladakh is a hot spot for summer trekkers. Yet for "Stalking One Very Cool Cat" in the August issue of Adventure, Contributing Photographer Ami Vitale and writer Paul Kvinta joined leading snow leopard expert Rodney Jackson and distinguished sculptor Mark Coreth to explore this region in winter while seeking out the infamous predators.

Being able to spot the legendary swift cats that often prey on herds of blue sheep proved to be a challenge for the crew—or anyone, since few Westerners have ever laid eyes on snow leopards in the wild. "By the end of the trip my eyes began to play tricks on me, everything I saw was a cat," says Vitale. "Spotting cats—or rather trying to spot cats—became an obsession. I might have caught a glimpse of one once, but as soon as I grabbed my binoculars it vanished."

Besides being on constant cat alert, the spiritual atmosphere of Ladakh was a draw for veteran photographer Vitale, who has also gone on assignment for Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report. After spending four years documenting the political tensions in Kashmir, Vitale recently snared a World Press Photo Award for her work in the area. "I've always wanted to see Ladakh during the quiet winter season because its beauty and mysticism appear to be amplified. The rich customs and traditions that the people follow are captivating—the trip was beyond dreams."

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August 2005

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