A 6-7 day trek over a frozen river in subzero temperatures, spending nights huddled inside a sleeping bag sometimes in the open in a cave, is an experience that stirs the soul as much as the body. The Chadar trek, so called because of the blanket of snow that descends over the Zanskar river between mid- January to March is an experience of a lifetime. Everything that you have seen or heard about the Chadar trip is true, it is a unique trek in every respect, from the below freezing temperatures and the unusual caves as camp sites to the frozen Zanskar river and the color changing ice, the panoramic scenery that accompanies you every step of the way makes the Chadar a life changing bordering on spiritual experience.
The Chadar trek involves walking on a frozen sheet of ice which by itself is not an easy feat to accomplish. What adds to the thrill of the trek is the fact that at places the ice chadar fails to form over the river which means that you will need to step out of the river and forge your way through snow covered canyon before reaching a part of the river where the chadar is back over the frozen river. If this is your first time trekking on the Chadar over Zanskar river, it is probably best to be part of a guided expedition to ensure your journey remains free of any major pitfalls. The other alternative is to avail the services of a local guide who can help you navigate the treacherous waters of the frozen Zanskar River without suffering any major handicap. The Trek is in danger of extinction, as an all-weather road being constructed through the gorge will eliminate the need for locals to make the forced trek over the frozen Zanskar River to reach Leh.
Best time for Chadar Trek: Mid-January to Mid-February
Approximate trekking distance: 105 km one way
Average Temperatures: Day time temperature of 10 to -5C and night temperatures ranging from -15 to -30C
Day 1: Arrive at Leh
Spend the first couple of hours resting to aid acclimatization. If you do not suffer from any signs of Acute Mountain Sickness then take a tour of Shanti Stupa, Leh Palace and shop in the local market for some really good winter gear.
Day 2: Leh to Tilat Sumdo via Chilling
Start early to make the 64 km drive to Chilling that takes roughly 2-3 hours. A drive that involves navigating snow covered slippery and narrow mountain roads and navigating steep hair pin bends finally brings you to Nimmu, the site of the confluence of the Zanskar and the Indus river, a beautiful sight worth capturing on camera. Chilling is where you start your experience of walking over the frozen Zanskar river. The chadar can be a fresh coating of snow or ice or old hardened ice or even ice that’s breaking in places. While the locals are experienced on walking comfortably on any of the different forms that the chadar can take, you need to be extra careful especially till you have gauged the thickness and firmness of the ice beneath your feet. Observe the locals and their way of walking over the ice and try to copy their steps, you will observe that they take penguin like steps, the safest way to walk on ice. A 1-2 hour walk over ice will bring you to your campsite for the night at Tilat Sumdo. If you are part of a guided expedition, you will find hot drink and food awaiting you as well as tents pitched for the night. The locals generally spend the night under a cave in their sleeping bags.
Day 3: Tilat sumdo to Tsomo Paldar
Since most of the Chadar gets sunlight only by midday, that too only for a few hours, walking on the chadar in the morning can feel like a walk inside a freezer section of a refrigerator. Ensure nothing but your face is exposed though even that can be enough to set a chill down your bone. As the Chadar forms and breaks, it makes different sounds, so pay close attention to the sounds as it is a clue to the thickness of the ice. Set up tent for the night at Tsomo Paldar for a well -deserved rest.
Day 4: Tsomo Paldar to Dobb
The longest day of the trek involves navigating sharp bends, narrow gorges and even climbing through Rocky River bank, made all the more worthwhile with the frozen cliffs and gorgeous waterfalls that make up the landscape.
Day 5: Dobb to Nyerak Pullu
A 12 km long trek from Dobb to Nyerak takes you pass the famous frozen waterfall, an animated suspension several feet wide and just as tall that reflects all the colors of the rainbow and more as sunlight reflects back from its surface. Juniper shrubs with prayer flags hung around them give you the first hint of the Nyerak village just beyond it. Set up camp by the river side for the night.
Day 6 to Day 8: Begin the journey back to Chilling
Day 9: Fly back from Leh
Wenomads offers travelers the opportunity to be part of a unique adventure, the thrill of which will remain with you long after the journey is over. Completely safe and totally doable, all you need is a never say die spirit and the company of fellow adventurers, we make it possible for you to live your dream, that too in an affordable way.