After several days of 'radio silence', Phil checked in today. He and the team are currently surveying from the remote army base near Mazar, in the Shaksgam valley. (Except Kun who has had to return to Beijing for urgent business there).
They've had a difficult route through the desert from Kashgar, as, other than inhospitable cold, the army are extremely sensitive about the Kashmiri border and they are now at the interface where their permissions are not the 'right permissions' to let them proceed beyond the border control. The upside is that they've apparently been staying in various army shacks along route, which, for the most part, are less cold than sleeping under metaphorical canvas. The temperature drops rapidly to -20/25 at dusk, worsened by the dramatic wind howling through the valley (and virtually obliterating any sense of what Phil was trying to say at the end of the satellite phone).
So far, no recent evidence of snow leopard, just old scrapes, but the next few days surveying are full of promise. They've seen plenty of prey, with increased blue sheep and ibex numbers compared to Mariang, and also sign of greater wolf and lynx activity.
The landscape is predictably awesome, though perhaps less white. They are at c.4000m, and actually the whole area is extremely arid, with the snow line in sight at 6,000m, and frozen rivers in the valleys.
Phil anticipates moving back towards Kashgar on Friday and then heading on to Mariang, so the chances are he'll publish the next post himself. Here's hoping everything goes well, good luck. Dx
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