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The Snow Leopard

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  12,170 ratings  ·  937 reviews
When Matthiessen went to Nepal to study the Himalayan blue sheep and, possibly, to glimpse the rare and beautiful snow leopard, he undertook his five-week trek as winter snows were sweeping into the high passes. This is a radiant and deeply moving account of a "true pilgrimage, a journey of the heart."
Paperback, 352 pages
Published August 4th 1987 by Penguin Books (first published 1978)
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Joan O'Connor This book was the reason why I went to Nepal as a 20-something, hiking the Himalayas on my own, sleeping in tea-houses, eating dahlbat everyday and…moreThis book was the reason why I went to Nepal as a 20-something, hiking the Himalayas on my own, sleeping in tea-houses, eating dahlbat everyday and still reminiscing 30 years later about the best time in my life. This book will spark that interest in you and prompt you to search yourself.(less)
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Her har du bogen. Du havde måske søgt efter 'leaopard' istedet for 'leopard.' Jeg har selv fundet mange danske…more

Her har du bogen. Du havde måske søgt efter 'leaopard' istedet for 'leopard.' Jeg har selv fundet mange danske titler på Goodreads og har lagt kritikker både på dansk og engelsk. Held og lykke med det.(less)
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Apr 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2014
“The sun is roaring, it fills to bursting each crystal of snow. I flush with feeling, moved beyond my comprehension, and once again, the warm tears freeze upon my face. These rocks and mountains, all this matter, the snow itself, the air- the earth is ringing. All is moving, full of power, full of light.”
― Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard


I'm a little embarrassed to say I hadn't paid attention to much of Matthiessen's work before he died. I had Shadow Country on my shelf and every intention
David Schaafsma
I have taken months since reading this book to finally write this (long) review:

Here's some selections from the book to begin, so you can see Matthiessen's spirit, his Buddhist nature, and his love of language, without my intervention or commentary:

“The secret of the mountain is that the mountains simply exist, as I do myself: the mountains exist simply, which I do not. The mountains have no 'meaning,' they are meaning; the mountains are. The sun is round. I ring with life, and the mountains
Michael Finocchiaro
This is a beautiful book about a personal and physical journey in Nepal by Peter Matthiessen. It is also a spiritual journey where the goal becomes completely interiorized by the author as it progresses. A wonderful book for meditation on higher values in these times of, well, no values.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
May 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Those Who <i>Love</i> Pop Mysticism
Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard is his account of his two months in Nepal. He was invited along by field biologist George Schaller on his expedition to study Himalayan Blue Sheep--and perhaps catch a glimpse of the elusive snow leopard. (Said in the book to consist of only 120 remaining individuals. Thankfully, at least according to the Wiki, the current population is estimated to be in the thousands.) So on September 28 of 1973 "two white sahibs, four Sherpas, fourteen porters" assembled to make ...more
Grace Johnson
Jul 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Grace by: Simon Avery
I really took my time with this book. I didn't want to be disturbed by the sounds of subway trains, interrupted by phone calls or daily trivialities. This wasn't a read I just 'fit in' but truly savored. And oh, my heart hurts a little now that it is over. It is a slow book, and thus may not appeal to those looking for action or conclusion even. It is a book that celebrates the spark of life that propels us towards transcending our heavy human existence in pursuit of something...more. Here, the ...more
Damn. This book started out so well.

However, after only a few pages it seems to have turned into a version of Log from the Sea of Cortez (which also was a massive disappointment for me), complete with philosophical and religious musings on the author's own life, his experimenting with different drugs, and his understanding of Buddhism - in none of which I have any interest at all.

The parts where Matthiessen describes the natural environment of his trek through Nepal are fascinating.
Jan 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing

A masterpiece of travel and nature writing that gloriously transcends both genres. This is one of the best books I've ever read in the English language. Yes, that's right. I'm including a quote at the end of this review so you can see what I'm talking about. When you get to that quote, try reading it aloud. The beauty of those words spoken will break your heart.

At age 46, in 1973, Peter Matthiessen walked, with biologist George Schaller, from Kathmandu to the Crystal Mountain in Tibet and
J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
THE SNOW LEOPARD was a book I nearly didn't finish. It does get trying in some parts. This is one of the few books that I actually had a dream about while reading it. It seemed profound at the time, and I was very glad that I soldiered on to the end of Matthiessen's wonderful story.
Ok, I admit after the first chapter I considered not carrying on reading. At this point around a third of the content was religious philosophy - which is not for me. However the third of the book that was the hiking expedition and the third that was about the flora and fauna was great, and I am glad I persisted.
Despite a few more forays into the spiritual journey, the expedition and scientific research parts of the book are much more heavily featured in the following chapters.

The book is
Mar 31, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel-writing
I don't want it to seem like I didn't enjoy this book. I did. You do get a feel for how liberating, calming, centering, that it would be to walk out of the modern world to the cold and quiet mountains and let it all go…all the complications and illusions of life. He is a student of zen Buddhism and is trying to write a zen Buddhist book. I think if this were a different book I would like it better…but these people, this place…his attempt to be 'zen' all the time, it just feels detached and that ...more
The Hook - Peter Matthiessen passed away April 5, 2014 at the age of 86. I had read some of his fiction, loving the way his adventuresome novel Far Tartuga (1975) made me feel. I decided it was time to give this memoir, The Snow Leopard (1978) recounting his climb of Mount Everest in search of Blue Sheep and a quest to spot the elusive snow leopard a try.

The Line – On Acceptance
In its wholehearted acceptance of what is, this is just what Soen Roshi might have said: “I feel as if he had struck
Sometimes it's not till I finish a book that I realize how much I am in love with it. That's the case with this lovely travelogue, which smartly does not pretend to be anything that it is not. It's not given any frills or decoration, other than beautiful and inimitable descriptions of nature. It is a humble record of a man's journey through the Himalayas and his concurrent spiritual journey. To ask after the object of the journey is missing the point—and I hope this doesn't sound cheesy, as it ...more
(4.5) For two months of 1973, from late September to late November, Matthiessen joined zoologist George Schaller on a journey from the Nepalese Himalayas to the Tibetan Plateau to study Himalayan blue sheep. Both also harbored a hope of spotting the elusive snow leopard.

Matthiessen had recently lost his partner, Deborah Love, to cancer, and left their children behind – at residential schools or with family friends – to go on this spirit-healing quest. Though he occasionally feels guilty,
“Amazingly, we take for granted that instinct for survival, fear of death, must separate us from the happiness of pure and uninterrupted experience in which body, mind, and nature and the same.” (42)

Matthiessen’s book is part travelogue, part naturalist observations, and part coming to terms with loss. About a year after the death of his wife, Matthiessen travels along with a friend in search of a snow leopard, really in the search of big blue sheep. It’s much hiking and camping, and eating.

Oct 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
I started reading this book, expecting to enjoy it. I love travelogues, natural history and animal discoveries, studying animal behavior... and I put this book down. Matthiessen's tone drove me bonkers. I may try it again later. He is not a lens through which to observe a part of the's all about him, and, quite frankly, I found him boring.
Mar 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Read this, which I've had for years, in 3 days. Brilliant, vivid account of Matthiessen's journey with a biologist and a team of porters and sherpas through the quiet, snow-covered and strange Himalayas. The biologist is seeking to observe the rutting of the region's unique blue sheep. Matthiessen is seeking an encounter with the more secret snow leopard, a not-so-vieled metaphor to the real substance of the journey, which is a quest for enlightenment. Interwoven are reflections on the history ...more
This is a beautifully written book of Matthiessen's journey to the roof of the world in Nepal. He is travelling with George Schaller, primarily to look for and study the wild blue sheep of the region. Whilst they are on there, they are hoping to spot a snow leopard, a rare almost mythical creature, that Schaller has glimpsed very occasionally.

Matthiessen is a Zen Buddhist, and this for him is as much a spiritually journey as a physical one, and he uses the metaphorical journey to look back at
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, religion
Lovely! This is mostly travel, but also part reminiscence, part religion and part natural history. It is one of the most nicely written travel works I have read. Matthiesen’s descriptions of nature are stunning. My reading speed slowed down due to his style.

Mattiesen’s travels were as much an inner journey as a journey to Inner Dolpo in Tibet studying sheep and hoping to glimpse the reclusive snow leopard. Travel is not just about visiting faraway places, but can also be a lot closer than we
Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who like travel stories with a deeper background
This one of those books, that make you think deeply about the greatness of nature and how small mankind is. I'll make this book one of my all time favorites, because when I finished it, I wanted to start reading it again. There's so much in it to think about and so much that I missed reading this first time.
I have a crush on countries with mountains, and especially those with snowcovered caps. Whenever I'm is Switzerland, or Norway I'm enjoying the great glaciers: those mighty rivers of ice.
May 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
FIVE STARS AND BEYOND! This memoir chronicles, in the form of a daily log, the months-long trek Matthiessen took in the Himalaya with legendary wildlife biologist George Schaller. GS had planned the expedition to observe montane wildlife - primarily the snow leopard and its prey, the blue sheep. PM, a student of Buddhism, made the journey as a kind of pilgrimage after the death of his wife. Their ultimate destination was a range so remote it was nearly impenetrable by travelers and its villages ...more
Kevin Lawrence
Dec 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Read years before as a young man interested in travel/nature writing: recently, I lost one of my beloved dogs and so I read this again more as a journey about mourning and exploring Buddhist principles. Really a beautiful book that one can get a good feel for by sharing a haiku written by the field biologist Matthiessen accompanies through this Himalayan region:

Cloud-men beneath loads.
A dark line of tracks in Snow.
Suddenly nothing.
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
An often-lovely meditation on an extended climbing/scientific expedition/meditation thing.
Ridhika Khanna
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all nature lovers and also people who are into hiking/climbing.
Actual Rating: 4.5

This book has been a very refreshing and a peaceful read.

In the beginning, Mr. Pico Iyer introduces this book as a mystical book which takes you on a journey in Himalayas where you can feel each and every blister on your feet.
It is a big thing to say and I was actually apprehensive on reading it as the introducer had set high expectations for me. What if it is not that good? What if it is just like any other travel book?

However, I decided to read it. It took me a few chapters
Lars Guthrie
Feb 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Cliches become cliches because of their truth. So noting that the journey is more important than the destination fits here, in a book whose title refers to the author's quest to view the snow leopard in its Himalayan habitat during a perilous late fall journey to the remote Dolpo region of Nepal, an area so far from the rest of the world that the author's traveling companion notes the total absence of machine sound, even the engine noise of a plane. Matthiessen fails to see the snow leopard, but ...more
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
While I will never hike or climb in the Himalayas, this travel novel provides details on the beauties and hardships of such an adventure. But this work is more than a travelogue, it is a journey of spiritual quest and discovery for the author with the elusive Snow Leopard serving as a token of his goal.

The book takes the form of a daily journal recounting the terrain, weather, vegetation, wildlife, and meals of the small party. Accompanied by a world renowned expert on the Himalayan Blue Sheep,
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It’s taking me forever to finish THE SNOW LEOPARD by Peter Matthiessen - a brilliant and beautiful masterwork, a meditation on Zen Buddhism, a travelogue and a moving memoir. Reading only a few pages at a time because I don’t want it to end. Ever.
Bede Millner
Nov 19, 2018 rated it liked it
In short: I enjoyed the travel and adventure moments of this book, but little of the rest.

I didn’t realise before starting, how strong the Buddhist/religious theme would be throughout. And while some of it was interesting, I found for the most part it was too in depth, and that most would struggle to follow along, and appreciate the context, without having extensive prior knowledge.

Likewise, the flora is covered in such detail that to me it was just indistinguishable words on a page that added
Missy J
Finally done with this. It was the first time for me to read a book by Peter Matthiessen and I'm afraid I didn't like it too much. First of all, this book was chosen by my book club for our visit to Nepal. However, most of the book is really about Tibetan culture. I imagine Nepalese culture to be slightly if not more different than Tibetan. Secondly, the author underwent to a difficult journey. His wife just died of cancer and he left his young 8 year old son for a dangerous adventure climbing ...more
Jun 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
I read this in Laos but lost it somewhere in Muang Khua, so had to wait until returning home to read the last 100 pages. Reading this while eating alone in restaurants gave the impression of a conversation with Matthiessen that stopped and started with my meals, and also lying in bed. Such an ideal way to read this book. It taught me some about Buddhism, about which I am extremely ignorant, and motivated me to learn more from different sources. In Nong Khiaw, a roach as big as a mouse crawled ...more
Olly L-J
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully poetic account of two journeys - one physical and one spiritual.

I loved Matthiessen's descriptions of Nepal and the Himalayas, there are passages of exceptional beauty, especially around the Crystal Mountain. And, this being the high mountains in late autumn, there are also parts where you his descriptions of the darkness and cold seem to seep into your bones.
I thought his observations of the people there were fascinating, they reminded me a lot of the descriptions of the locals
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Peter Matthiessen is the author of more than thirty books and the only writer to win the National Book Award for both non-fiction (The Snow Leopard, in two categories, in 1979 and 1980) and fiction (Shadow Country, in 2008). A co-founder of The Paris Review and a world-renowned naturalist, explorer and activist, he died in April 2014.
“The secret of the mountain is that the mountains simply exist, as I do myself: the mountains exist simply, which I do not. The mountains have no "meaning," they are meaning; the mountains are. The sun is round. I ring with life, and the mountains ring, and when I can hear it, there is a ringing that we share. I understand all this, not in my mind but in my heart, knowing how meaningless it is to try to capture what cannot be expressed, knowing that mere words will remain when I read it all again, another day.” 83 likes
“And only the enlightened can recall their former lives; for the rest of us, the memories of past existences are but glints of light, twinges of longing, passing shadows, disturbingly familiar, that are gone before they can be grasped, like the passage of that silver bird on Dhaulagiri.” 54 likes
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