During the spine-chilling months of winter, life in India’s northernmost territory of Ladakh, literally comes to a halt! The heavy snowfall that starts here right from the beginning of November freezes everything, including the rampaging course of the mighty Zanskar River that zooms through the hellish gorges & humongous mountains of the great ‘Himalayas’. The mercury lingers around 5 to 20 degrees below the freezing temperature & this spiritual land of Buddhist monks, that sits 12000 to 13000 feet high up in the Himalayan alpine region, gets isolated from the rest of the world.
As the life in this region becomes challenging for the normal people, exactly at this point of time, the hordes of adrenaline junkies start thronging in & around Leh to be a part of one of the most thrilling & unreal trekking experiences in the world of trekking- The Chadar ‘Frozen River’ ’Trek- India’s Most Dazzling Trekking Experience!
The ‘Chadar Trek’, which derives its name from the Hindi word for the ‘Blanket’, is considered as one of the most daunting & tricky yet the most amazing hiking experiences in the world! The route for the incredible ‘Chadar Trek’ traverses through the whirling course of the ‘Zanskar River’. The hefty snowfall works its magic & covers the river surface with the thick blanket of snow, hard enough to walk over.
The Chadar Trek: An experience like ‘never before’
This seven to eight days long trek begins from Chilling & culminates at Tilad Do after covering some 105 kms of distance through ‘Zanskar Valley’. During the complete excursion through this winter wonderland, bitter cold tests your endurance at every step as you move on through the icy path, while the frozen ‘blanket’, that changes its color from the bluish tinge to off-white, which glitters during the few hours of sunshine that enters directly into the gorge, to milky white carpet on a moonlit night, gives you pleasant surprises around every corner!
Although, for the majority of the time during your journey, you will be walking on the ice blanket (Chadar), at some places, you might have to part your way to climb the icy rocks, which flank the embankments, in order to dodge the thinner ice layer or no ice patch of the river. The ice layer can be treacherous at some part & it is always advisable to follow the path under the guidance of the expert Zanskaris– the indigenous tribe of the Zanskar Valley!
How You Can Plan Your Trek:
The trek route goes through some of the most isolated parts of the world & lets you to get acquainted with the culture that seems to be frozen in time. Adorable hamlets dotted with amazing Buddhist monasteries adorn the stark white landscape of the valley. The detail itinerary of this mesmerizing expedition can be designed based on the following travel plan which is preferred generally by the majority of the trekkers venturing on this unmatched adventure!
Day 1- Arrive at Leh, Get used to with the conditions:
During the winter, aerial transfer is the only possible option to reach Leh since the roads connecting ‘Leh’ with the mainland remain blocked due to the heavy snowfall. Being perched on the high altitudes, it takes at least a day to adjust to the conditions. So it is the best way to linger around in the local market & enjoy shopping to get soaked up in the climate.
Day 2- Drive to Chilling & hike to ‘Tilad Do’ campsite:
The trek begins from ‘Chilling’ which can be approached via road drive from ‘Leh’. The road twists along the mighty ‘River Indus’ & goes via village Nimu where the ‘Zanskar’ river flows into the ‘Indus’. A small hike to ‘Tilad Do’ campsite introduces you with the celebrated ‘Chadar’ of the river for the very first time & the day thus comes to a halt!
Day 3- The Show Begins!
After the two day long warm-up, the real thrill begins from the third day of the journey! The 12 km long trail begins through the frozen riverbed which pose some serious challenges if the hikers lack past experience of walking on the shiny ice surface. The shiny surface can be highly slippery. The day culminates in ‘Gyalpo’ campsite after passing through ‘Shingra Koma’.
Day 4- A walk through the narrow gorges & fairy tale frozen waterfalls:
The fourth day of the trail brings some of the most mesmerizing spectacles of the nature’s artwork! A 14 Km walk that concludes at the ‘Tibb Cave’ for an overnight halt goes through the heavenly landscape decorated with the phenomenal ice rocks & magnificent frozen waterfalls. The specious ‘Tibb Cave’ provides the leisurely shelter during night times!
Day 5- The story continues through deep canyons:
The expedition through this frozen land continues from where it halted the previous day & the trail continues through the deep canyons. The surprise awaits en route as you witness evergreen ‘Juniper’ trees those dazzle on the Spartan backdrop of the snow-coated valley. The largest waterfall in the region meets you in the frozen form as you move along your journey towards the campsite in ‘Naerak valley’, perched at an altitude of 3390 m!
Day 6- Retreat back to Tibb Cave:
The ‘Naerek Valley’ marks the point of return of your journey & the entourage traces the way back to the ‘Tibb Cave’ for overnight stay. Another piece of surprise appears before you as you hardly find anything familiar with what you saw just couple of days back while tracing the same path, thanks to the frequently changing snow & the ‘chadar’ formation that dons new attire & color after a span of a few hours!
Day 7- Back to Gyalpo:
Return journey continues till ‘Gyalpo’ wherein, you will spend a night in camp admiring the glory of the sky full of the glittering stars & gazing at the calm looking icy blanket that shimmers pleasantly in the moonlight.
Day 8 – The last day of the amazing journey!:
Technically, the last day of the trek, you trace your way back to ‘Tilad Do’ followed by the drive to ‘Leh’ from ‘Chilling’.
Day 9 – Bid adieu to Leh:
Catch a flight to head back home from ‘Leh’, reviving the magical eight days you spent in the arms of the ‘Zanskar Valley’, an experience that will never vanish from the most pleasant memories in your life!
Trekking through the Zanskar Valley undeniably tests your mettle to the extreme level. However, the nature’s spectacle that you get to experience here is truly unrivaled. It is an experience that every ardent trekker must try at least once in the lifetime!