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Chadar Trek

Frozen River

Walking on Frozen river of Zanskar is an ultimate experience for adventure lover. The traditional name of the trek is “Chadar trek” the frozen sheet, which was only way in and out for Zanskaris in winter when all other ways are closed due to heavy snow fall at high passes Therefore, it had been trade route for centuries for Zanskari People. Now the route is also famous as winter trekking among adventure lovers. For last several years, we have been organizing this winter trek in three different options with trained local Zanskari potters and our well-experienced guide and staff. The most isolated and made inaccessible for nearly eight months a year due to heavy snowfall resulting in closure of all the access passes, Zanskar has the distinction of being the least interfered with microcosms of Ladakh, and thus one of the last few surviving cultural satellites of Tibet. This geographical isolation together with the esoteric nature of Buddhism practiced here has enabled its some ten thousand inhabitants to preserve and perpetuate their cultural identity This Chadar trek allows you to penetrate this isolation and to examine. Some of the villages along the Zanskar River in the midst of winter and thus catch a glimpse of the lifecycle during this unique time of the year. A visit to the ancient monastic establishments of Karsha and Zangla promises to heighten your insight into the mysteries of this Shangri-la, a land and culture frozen in time behind the ramparts of the Zanskar Mountains. Chilling and Lingshed are the only sizeable villages on this trek until Hanamur and Pidmo before Pishu and Zangla in Zanskar, all the rest are names of places and caves along the route.

9 Days
18+ Age
  • Destination

  • Departure

    Leh, Ladakh
  • Departure Time

    Any Time
  • Return Time

    Approximately 8:30 PM.
  • Dress Code

    Trekking equipment
  • Included

    All taxes and official expenses
    Basic guesthouse accommodation
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    City tour
    Departure Taxes
    Local staff and porters
    Permits and TIMS permit
    Personal Guide
  • Not Included

    Alcohol and cold drinks
    Domestic flights
    Entry visa
    Hotel
    International flights
    Mandatory travel insurance
    Personal trekking equipment
    Tips for trekking staff and driver
1

Day 1: Arrive in Leh

Arrival Leh by morning flight and transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax and acclimatize to the altitude 3,500 m. In the morning we rest and catch up on some sleep and in the afternoon there will be a gentle orientation walk of Leh and its bazaars.
2

Day 2: Drive to Tilad Do via Chilling

We start the morning by witnessing the sunrise from the Shanti Stupa , from where you can get a panoramic view of the entire town of Leh and its surroundings. You can also see the peak of Stok Kangri almost beckoning you to climb it.
But today’s agenda includes a very picturesque and thrilling long-drive to Chilling. The roller-coaster ride takes you along the Indus to the village of Nimu, where the Zanskar converges into Indus. After stopping at this confluence point to take in the view, the drive continues and the road begins descending right into the river valley. There are quite a few heart-stopping moments as the vehicle negotiates the steep hairpin bends over snow covered road. The road goes past Chilling to Tilad Do. Among these mammoth mountains, the feeling of insignificance of one’s being does not escape anyone.
To reach the camp-site, you have to cross the frozen Zanskar river and this is when you take your first steps on the Chadar. It takes a while to get a hang of walking on the ice sheet. As the evening comes, the team pitches tents on the banks of the Zanskar, and hands out thick warm sleeping bags. To get some exercise and keep warm, you can climb up the nearby mountains and get a good look at the frozen river. As the sun sets, it drags the temperature down with it, and the sleeping bags in the tents look quite inviting.
Overnight stay in tents
3

Day 3: Trek to Shingra Koma

Today is a long walking session, about 10 km, on the Chadar. The trek leaders will give a briefing about the day, and give tips on how to walk on the Chadar. Depending on the weather, the Chadar can assume various forms. It can be a cold and hard surface of slippery ice, or it can have a dusting of snow over it, providing a good grip. The ice can be thick or thin, and its best to keep closely following the guide. The locals, it appears, have a sixth sense as to where exactly to step on the Chadar. At places, it might be necessary to wade through ankle deep water, or climb on the cliffs at the side of the river. Eventually you get used to walking on the Chadar, which looks like a cross between gliding and skating. Mid way to Gyalpo, the porter-cum-cooks prepare hot bowlfuls of soupy noodles for lunch. It is important to keep up a decent level of fluid intake. Nothing makes you adapt to the conditions faster than nicely circulating blood in your system.
After passing Shingra koma, you reach the camp-site for the day at Gyalpo. The Gyalpo campsite is at a bend in the river, surrounded by high peaks and walls of rock-faces which almost look man-made. All that is left to do is to soak in the views, have an early dinner and call it a day.
Overnight stay in tents
4

Day 4: Trek to Tibb Cave

This day follows the same early morning routine: bed tea at 7, breakfast at 8, and quick-march at 8:30. Have a good breakfast, as today is the longest walk of the day – almost 15 km. But that is nothing to worry about, all the walking keeps you incredibly warm.
Today’s walk through the deep ravines of the Zanskar is stunning. The sublime walls of the mountains on either sides of the river keep the sunlight away from the Chadar for most part of the day. There are numerous caves in these mountains, big and small. Today is the day when you can see frozen waterfalls, some higher than the others. As the fable goes, centuries ago the local villagers faced a dearth of water and went to Tibet to plead for water. They were given a box which they were to open once they reached the village, and not any time sooner. But curiosity got the better out of them, and when they opened the box, two fishes jumped out of it, creating two huge waterfalls. One of those waterfalls, miraculously, is not iced-up even in such freezing cold. The rocks below this waterfall are covered with moss, and this is the only greenery you’ll see on this trek.
At Tibb, there is a big cave. This cave is the dwelling of all the porters, and they welcome you warm-heartedly in here. The highlight of the day is to share a cup of butter-tea with them!
Overnight stay in tents
5

Day 5: Trek to to Naerak camp, Attraction Frozen waterfall

Today is the most spectacular of all days on this trek. Walking on the river you cross deep gorges and reach a point where Juniper trees are covered with prayer flags. The porters give you a twig of this tree tied with a piece of prayer flag as a badge of good-luck and good-health. A few steps away stands the mother-of-all frozen waterfalls – a huge instance of suspended animation several feet tall and equally wide. You can see dozens of colours in this enormous ice structure as sunlight plays off its surface. Right next to the waterfall is a bridge across the river which is a part of the summer-time road from Zanskar to Leh.
The Naerak village lies several feet above the river, a vigorous hour-long trek can take you to the village if you want to see the life of a Zanskari. The camp is set up close to the river.
Overnight stay in tents
6

Day 6: Trek to to Tibb Cave

Today you start the return journey and go back to the Tibb cave. And if you thought that it was just a matter of retracing your steps back to Chilling, you can think again. The Zanskar River reacts to the slightest change of temperature, and constantly keeps repackaging itself. The Chadar would have assumed a completely new form, and will it will almost be impossible to say whether you have been here before.
On the way, you can meet a lot of locals wearing their traditional woollen Gonchas – some of them monks who are hiking from the Lingshed Monastery to Leh, some of them young students accompanied by their parents returning to their schools in Leh after the winter vacation. Watching the locals negotiate the Chadar is a fascinating sight. They are suitably adept to the climate and seem very much at home in the sub-zero temperature and the biting cold winds. Nothing wipes the smiles off their faces and dampens the warmth of their spirit.
Overnight stay in tents
7

Day 7: Trek to Shingra Koma

Starting from Tibb, go up to Gyalpo today. The high walls of mountains rising from the sides of the river almost look like castle walls. You can see several trails of pug-marks all along the trek – footprints belonging to foxes, ibex or snow-leopards. You would be lucky to view a snow-leopard; but you can almost be sure that you are being watched by one all the time.
Overnight stay in tents
8

Day 8: Trek to Tilad Do and drive to Leh

This is the last day of treading on the Chadar – the last chance to immerse in the pristine beauty of the frozen river. Once you reach Tilad Do, it is time to say good-bye to the Zanskar and the Zanskaries. The team and porters will take good care of you and make this trek one of the most memorable experiences for you. Tonight you get to sleep in a warm guest-house again.
Overnight stay in the guesthouse
9

Day 9: Departure day

Early morning transfer to the airport for taking the flight back home.

Tour Location

Chadar trek

Chadar trek is like no other trek in the Himalayas. Walking on a frozen thick glass like river, with dramatic mountains on both sides, is an experience of a lifetime. It almost feels like an expedition to the North Pole, where the temperatures drop down to -35 degrees at night, the ration is transported on sledges, you find refuge in caves and life blossoms on survival instincts, making it an eminently ‘do before you die’ trip. The trek allows you to get to know the Zankari culture up close through the locals you meet on the trek and experience their hospitality. One of the highlights of the trek is the most magnificent waterfall frozen completely from top to bottom called Nerak waterfall. The best time to do this trek is from mid-January to mid-February, that is when the Zanskar river freezes and you get to walk on massive slabs of ice spreading for miles and miles. The landscapes and overall experience will leave their imprints on your hearts forever.

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