Snow and Snow Leopards

Orjan is a Swedish PhD student who works at the base camp of our long-term research project in Mongolia.  These are his adventures…

We arrived in the Gobi about a week ago. All the equipment and gers (large Mongolian tents) have been stored in a tiny house since last summer, and the first thing we did was to locate all the things we needed. In two days time, we had leveled the ground for the floor, built, furnished and cleaned the ger. I’ll admit that I didn’t help much; I felt as if I was mostly in the way. I sorted all the equipment and connected the cables for solar power and all electronics instead. It’s quite amazing how fast Mongolians can set up a ger (once the floor is leveled it only takes three-four hours), and that in two days time we can go from “nothing” to a fully functional research camp.

There is a lot of snow in Mongolia this winter. I’ve heard that millions of livestock are dying, on the way to camp we saw piles of dead animals. There are almost no herders in the mountains around camp and the canyons that I want to find snow leopards in are filled with 10-30 cm of snow.

And if snow leopards knew what their species’ name means and could vote, I think they would ask us to change it. They don’t seem to like snow…

Tom told me this long ago, I thought it was because their fur is yellowish-grayish and that they are too obvious in snow. But during the last days when I have hiked around I have found fresh tracks from snow leopards four times (I think it is the same individual that has spent some time close to my camp). I have tracked the leopard and it is very interesting to see how much care it takes not to put its paws in deep snow. It didn’t walk in the canyons, rather it stayed on the mountainsides and whenever it had to cross an area of deep snow, it made sure to find a passage with rocks to walk on.

Today is Tsagaan Sar (Buddhist new year). We had planned to visit with two families, but it is so cold that our Russian van refused to start. Marhaan, my assistant, has tried to thaw out the engine with a blow torch (!) without any luck so far.


  1. Hey Orjan

    All the luck for your on this great experience – seeing your picture i remebered immediately Peter Matthiesen´s wonderful book – hope you have a copy with you for some extra inspiration – enjoy your stay so near to the top of the world;



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