Chadar Trek
Chadar Trek

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Chadar Trek
Chadar Trek

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Image by Vatsal Bhatt
Image by Vatsal Bhatt

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Chadar Trek
Chadar Trek

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Season: January and February
Tour duration: 22 days round trip from Delhi to Delhi
Temperature: minus 25°C – minus 35°C
Grade: Challenging

 

Chadar Trek in Ladakh 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. At only 11,150 ft altitude,
Chadar Trek almost feels like an expedition to the North Pole, where the temperatures
drop down to -30 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 Chadar trek allows you to get to know the Zanskari culture up close through
the locals you meet on the trek and experience their hospitality. One of the highlights
of the Zanskar frozen river trek is the most magnificent waterfall frozen completely
from top to bottom called Nerak waterfall. The best time for the Chadar 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. When it
comes to trekking In India, Chadar is the most glamorous trek.

 

The total distance of this trek is approximately 105 km, with about 15-17 km covered per day. The temperature remains at minus 15°C to minus 20°C during the day and minus 25°C to minus 35°C
at night, which means professional equipment is needed. Most of the trek is walking on the ice
(chaddar), but in some places, we must climb icy faces and rocks. In Zanskar itself the walk
on normals trails. Any person thinking of joining this unique adventure must be fully
prepared to accept tough camping and walking conditions. Nights will be spent in caves
and in Zanskar, in local peoples homes if available. The porters and the kitchen team will
be totally Ladakhis/Zanskari, who are used to working in all weather conditions. 

Itinerary:
 

Day 1: Arrive Leh (11,400 ft.) (Acclimatization day)


You would arrive at Leh from various parts of India, on an early morning flight. From the plains, once you land at altitudes like 11,000 ft, you sure are breathing lesser oxygen. We would advise you to keep thick woollens handy in hand baggage to be worn before you land at Leh airport. You also have to
consciously take things easy on Day 1 without any exertions.

 

The first day is to be taken super-easy and relaxed. No exertion whatsoever. It's a day to allow your body to adapt to changing environment, and only relaxation and recuperation. We shall be conducting a small briefing and kit check-up, for your impending trek just before your dinner. We shall also regularly
keep an eye on your level of adaptation to low oxygen levels, BP etc. A minor headache is
normal on the first day. The night will be spent at the hotel.

Day 2: Acclimatisation and Optional Local Tour


Alt: 2,800m - Lukla | 2,652m Phakding | Walk 8km, 3-4 hours

You are advised to spend the second day too acclimatizing to the high altitude. Your adaptation would get better today. We shall also make sure that you have all the necessary equipment for the trek. Spend
your time at leisure. Short walks to nearby Leh Market by the afternoon would be a nice thing
to do. All those who are keen, we would arrange for you a visit to Leh Market, Leh palace and
Central Asian Museum. Overnight will be at your hotel.

Day 3: Acclimatisation Day and Medical Check-Up


Today being your 3rd day of arrival in Leh, you would be taken to SNM Hospital for a medical check-up and to get a mandatory Medical Fitness certificate. The rest of the day is free for you to take a
local tour of the Leh region. Mild walking and rest are recommended.

Day 4: Leh (11,400) – Tilad Do (10,400 ft.) via Chilling
Trek from Tilad Do (10,400 ft.) – Gyalpo (10,550 ft.) via Shingra Koma


Early morning we will drive to Tilad Do via Chilling. It is a 65 km long drive and takes a little less than 2 hours to reach. Tilad Do is the start point of the Chadar trek. We trek 8-10 kms, along the frozen
Zanskar River to Gyalpo via Shingra Koma. The trek is at an altitude, lower than Leh, and
hence you should be good to take on the walk. Your camp and tents would have been set
beforehand by our team. Spend the night in cosy tents under the open skies.

Day 5: Gyalpo (10,550 ft.) – Tibb Cave (10,800 ft.)


Alt: 3,870m | Walk: 10km, 6 hours

After an early breakfast, we gear up today for a long day’s walk. The trek to Tibb Cave is 15 km long, though the altitude remains almost the same. On the way, you would see some unique vistas
like frozen waterfalls, sheets of ice, natural caves etc. We would reach the camp by
afternoon. We spend the night in tents at Tibb Cave.

Day 6: Tibb Cave (10,800 ft.) - Nyerak Village (10,760 ft.)


In the morning we again gear up for a 12.5 km trek to the base of Nyerak Village. You would feel a lot more at ease on this day. The newly constructed Bailey bridge and the giant frozen waterfall is the
last point of this trek. It's a turning point - from where we return back to Chilling.

The long march along the river is as hard as it is fulfilling. Today the tents will be set up by the river for the night. The ice-cold water of the Zanskar River and the cold winds would be fun to feel. Incidentally,
on this whole trek, Nyerak Village is the only place where some communication can be expected
- there is a satellite-linked STD phone. In case of a dire emergency, one can trek up to the village
that takes about 90 minutes one way. However, there is no guarantee that the
communication link is working. It's worth checking about it en route.

Day 7: Naerak Village (10,760 ft.) – Tibb Cave (10,800 ft.)


Get up early and enjoy the view as your breakfast is prepared. We will trek back to Tibb Cave today (12 km). We get there by late afternoon to set up camp. The walk down the river is a bit easier than going up.
While there is always a shortage of firewood, but it would be an endeavour of the team to give
you some bonfire - wherever the firewood can be collected. Spend the night in tents by the river.

Day 8: Tibb Cave (10,800 ft.) – Gyalpo (10,550 ft.)


Post breakfast, we’ll continue trekking back from the same route that we came from. You would be a bit low on energy after trekking for 5 days so we will take it easy. Once we reach Gyalpo, we’ll set up camp by a warm fire. Spend the night in tents by the river. At times if the nights are warm, the Chadar may
melt and we may have to take some detours. This means that for the sake of safety, we would
leave the weak Chadar and take a route along the mountain face - your guides are an expert at
these and they would systematically lead you over these de-tours. At times they are
a good change from the Chadar walk.

Day 9: Gyalpo (10,550 ft.) – Tilad Do (10,400 ft.) via Shingra Koma – Leh


This will be the final day of the magical Chadar Trek. We will trek back to the starting point, Tilad Do via Shingra Koma. We will reach there, by noon, if all goes well and as planned. Your trek ends here.
Many people take a customary dip in the melted waters of the Zanskar river before they board
the trek. I did, everyone else does - you may do too. Please inform your guide beforehand
if you have any such plans. They are the best guys to guide you through the process of this holy dip.

A seat in your minibus or jeep will be such a welcome thing after the trek. And so will be the comforts of your hotel room in Leh. As we drive to Leh, you would carry the memories of an awesome ancient
ritual of Zanskar. Not many in this world will have an opportunity to do a unique trek like
Chadar. The hot shower after the trek in your hotel would be one of the finest you would
have ever had in your life - you just don't want to stop it. You would spend the night at Leh Hotel.

Also, it is the last day to recollect the amazing memories you made during the trek,
over a simple dinner with your trekking mates.

Day 10: Departure From Leh


After early morning breakfast, we shall transfer you to Leh airport for your flight back home.
Weather is at times unpredictable, and flights cancellation and delays are quite common.
One of the many uncertainties that are typical of a high altitude region - further
complicated by the fog conditions in North India in the Jan - Feb months.

Do's and Don'ts On Chadar Trek

 

It’s always good to plan for an additional day to accommodate any unforeseen conditions
like bad weather, broken bridges, flight delays, casualties that may arise.
One should inform one’s family before coming for this trek,
so in case of an emergency, they can come for help.
As there won’t be any pharmacies on the Chadar river trek, please do carry
the required medications and a first aid kit, in case of any bruises or cuts.
Abide by the instructions given by the trek leader or instructor in order to enjoy a safe
and sound trekking Since you will be trekking in an eco-friendly zone,
make sure you do not litter the vicinity and carry your leftovers back.
Flowy and frilly clothing might hinder your movement. It is better to avoid such type of clothing.
Do not rely on sports or casual shoes as they might compromise grip on the snowy surface.
When meeting monks or other locals on the way, pinpointing is not advisable as they make take offence.

Mountain Ethics

We have a zero trash tolerance policy. We always clean up ourselves on all hikes and trips. We use
portable T3 tents and portable toilets and washbasins at our campsite which are cleared and
wrapped up at the end of each journey. Our camp locations are temporary and we don’t
keep any permanent fixtures at the location. We say NO to plastics. Be local – there is no
harm learning a few local words while you are there. It always helps in building a rapport
with the locals and blend in. Try to eat and buy locally. Carry your own water bottles.

What to carry?

  • Valid ID proof (Passport/Voter ID/Drivers Licence)

  • 70 to 90-litre backpacks and a small day pack

  • Water-proof trekking shoes - to be used in camps as also as an alternative

  • One down jacket with hood

  • one fleece jacket

  • 2 full sleeves sport

  • 2 Sets of Thermal inners - upper and lower body

  • 2 Trekking pants that can be closed at the bottom

  • Sunblock cream

  • Warm balaclava, and two warm buffs

  • UV protected Sun goggles preferably with a strap

  • Strap on Studs for shoes to help walk on the ice sheet ( optional & available on Amazon)

  • Spare undergarments and 2 layers of socks ( plan for four changes at least)

  • Flashlight with extra batteries (preferably a compact head wearable)

  • Heat retaining water bottle, preferably wide-mouthed, with at least one-litre capacity

  • Personal toiletries - hand sanitiser, toilet roll, toothpaste & brush

  • UV protected moisturiser

  • Quick-drying camp

  • hand towel

  • Power bank for phones or cameras with charging cables,

  • your music

  • maybe something to munch - energy bars, chikki etc.