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    Trekking on a frozen Zanskar river

    Only if the title tells you enough of what we are talking about, we will not brag about it. But in case you are proud of that inkling that you have about the Zanskar Chadar Trek in Ladakh, let us assure you that this is something that will arm you with bragging rights for life.

    Towering mountains lending cliffs to block the bleak ways, a sheet of snow comfortably taming a wild river underneath, and blood chilling temperature in the realm around–all of this is in one 75 km long trek. If you think no level of adventure can redefine your life, this trek will change all of that.

    Chadar Trek: The Inspiration

    Chadar- sheet of ice on Zanskar river

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    Chadar means sheet – the thick sheet of ice that enslaves the ever-feral Zanskar river. Come winters and the civilisation living beyond the canyons and ravines of the valley gets clogged with snow. And it is then that the ice on this river allows the inhabitants of this remote valley to reach out to the world in case of emergencies.

    One might tag trekking as a recent fad, but Chadar is different. It is the closest you can get to walking on a glacier. The difficulty level, the thrill-o-meter, and the experience top all the treks you can imagine. The mere idea of a successful expedition on these snow boulders is unparalleled. It’s not a trek, it’s a rejuvenation of a different kind. And to be a part of it, one needs utter caution and preparation.

    When can you do the Chadar trek?

    Snow clad mountains and the roads on way to Chadar trek

    Image Source

    January and February; it is in the middle of January till late February that one can catch the raw thrill of walking on a frozen river. The trek usually takes 9-10 days, and one has to cover a minimum of 16-18 km per day.


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    The Preparation: Suggestions from an average trekker

    Things to carry for Chadar Trek

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    1,300 ft above sea level, a bone-chilling quaint surrounding, and a violent river ready to break the ground anytime it wants–all of this for a distance of almost 75 km to Zanskar valley. We are certain you are not planning on walking in your sandals with a stick in one hand and a portable speaker in other.

    It truly does need all the preparation in the world of trekking and one must start preparing with at-least month in hand. Hence here are a few suggestions from an average trekker:

    Things you must carry

    All you need to carry for your Chadar trek

    Take all the accessories that you need. Buy gumboots as the normal hiking shoes aren’t enough. They prevent the feet from frostbite, don’t get wet easily, and cost INR 400. Extra pair of socks, waterproof gloves, body warmers, flask bottles, exothermic pouches, trekking rods, couple of sleeping bags are some of the most basic things.

    Acclimatize and Build Stamina

    If you have never been on a trek that needed acclimatization, we suggest you take it more seriously this time. For the January trek, we suggest you spend at least 2-3 days in north India’s winter. By the time you are camping and hiking with proper gears on in subzero (-8 to -5 degree celsius on average) conditions, you will feel that cold is just a state of mind.

    Physical fitness is important. Start working out and build some stamina before you head for Chadar. After all you are going to scale some of the rarest heights.

    How to reach the starting point?

    An aerial view of the snow covered Leh airport

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    The only way to reach Zanskar is through the air. The nearest airport is Leh and all flights land before noon. Be prepared to come out of your aircraft as the bone-chilling temperature awaits you on the vast expanse of white snow.

    From here you head to Chilling (64 km) by road and then trek for about 2 hours to Tilat Sumdo, the starting point.

    Trek to Zanskar: That Walk to Remember

    A trek through the Zanskar river

    Image Source

    One of the most enigmatic adventures on earth, this trek is an enthralling expedition that goes through some of the most breathtaking panoramas on earth.

    1. Tilat Sumdo is the campsite for the trek. It is the confluence of Zanskar and a small stream.  The trek starts from here.
    2. Next comes Shingra Koma, which is almost 10 km from Sumdo.
    3. After Koma, on the 2nd day, comes one of the most beautiful spots of the Chadar trek — Tibb. Tibb is full of caves and waterfalls. The caves are used for night stays and waterfalls are used for framing some of the most scenic vistas of Himalayas in Zanskar valley.
    4. Nerak follows Tibb on the 3rd day and next comes another campsite called Gyalpo on the 4th day. At a bend in the river, is this beautiful place full of wall of rocks resembling human faces. Surreal is the word to explain the sights here.

    5. The trek further goes through Dibyok ma on 5th and 6th day and ends at Ling shed by the 8/9th day. Ling shed is one of the oldest villages in Ladakh. The village also has one of the oldest monasteries in world. It is one of the most naturesque sights on the trek. The locals have opened their homes to the tourists.


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    The Extraordinary Stay

    But wait, what about lodging and food? Fret not, all trek organizers take care of camping and food. Another popular lodging option enroute Zanskar Valley is cave camping. In some of the most picturesque nights, right in the middle of nowhere, dining and living in caves is certainly an extraordinary experience. But thrills apart, there are a several homestays—simple and warm—on the way to Chadar Trek.

    So, before you embark on something as mesmerising, mysterious and magical, here are a few bullets you must keep in mind.

    Do’s and Don’ts For Chadar Trek

    The trekkers on their way to Zanskar Valley

    Image Source

    • Maintain that adrenaline rush for a good period of time. Don’t lose heart if something does not work out.
    • Follow the locals like a shadow. They know the best of the trek. Do not do anything that the locals are not doing.
    • Make peace with falling and failing. You will slip on the ice and you will have to get up – this will be the case for the first couple of days.
    • Carry sufficient eatables and edible water, food may fall short.
    • Keep a first aid kit handy. Bring your meds as the cuts and bruises are a welcome greeting here.

    Things not to do on Chadar Trek

    Trekkers enjoying a warm sleep in one of the caves enroute Zanskar

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    • Do not undermine the weather reports. Keep sync with MET records.
    • Skipping a meal is the last thing you would want to do. The trek is demanding and it would need you to be on you toes even when you are sleeping.
    • Do not neglect the Guide. Follow him/her religiously.
    • Do not litter, do not use soap in waterfall for the obvious reasons.
    • Do not over stress. Take a break when you feel it is required.

    The Experience

    Chadar trek packages start from INR 18,500. Most of these are group treks, where the package excludes air fare, airport pickup and drop, personal expenses, and luggage carriage charges. However, these specially designed packages do, normally, include the service taxes, professional trekking kits and guide, and meals on trek (only veg). Some of the popular Chadar Trek organizers are Chadar Trek; Road Trek Ventures; Adventure Nation; and We Nomads.

    If looking for a summer expedition of a different kind, do read through the whispers from Kheer Ganga.


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