The Henry Williamson Society

A Shadow in the Clouds: Looking for the snow leopard in Afghanistan

A Shadow in the Clouds: Looking for the snow leopard in Afghanistan

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Richard Williamson tells of his extraordinary journey to eastern Afghanistan in 1972 in search of the fabled snow leopard, undertaken at the request of the film producer David Cobham.

by Richard Calvert Williamson. Paperback, 273pp, with coloured frontispiece, Skirr Books, 2023

A Shadow in the Clouds tells the story of Richard Williamson’s extraordinary journey to the Wakhan area of eastern Afghanistan in 1972. Undertaken at less than a week’s notice at film producer David Cobham’s request, Richard’s brief was to explore the possibilities of the BBC sending out a camera team to the area, liaising with a scientist already in the field, and to write a shooting script for a film about the Marco Polo sheep and the fabled snow leopard in the Pamir Mountains. He accompanied a small hunting party, the last of the season before the winter snows arrived, travelling first by truck, then horses, and finally yaks to reach their primitive camp, high in the Pamirs, where the cold and altitude sickness took its toll. Richard vividly describes not only the privations suffered by the party, but the natural world around them, in which he alone seems interested. As he writes, ‘this unexpected, almost accidental trip to the remote wilderness of the Wakhan gave me the chance to experience in some measure the hardships of the lives of the people who lived here. Above all it gave me the chance to see for myself what it was really like, to watch animals and birds I had never thought to see. But I still had not achieved my real heart’s desire – to see the creature I most wanted – that elusive shadow of the clouds – the snow leopard.’

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