“…the first night was difficult to pass in the tents. The wind was gushing through the valley, and we were feeling the chills inside our bones, even though we were tucked inside the double-layered warm sleeping bags!”
Welcome to Vinay’s story of his Chadar Trek days.
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things”
The Man of the Hour, Or Rather Ice? – Vinay Prajapati.
A very few people dream, dare to drag them to work toward it, and actually achieve it in one-shot – no trial and error. Meet Vinay Prajapati, an engineer from Ahmedabad, who dreamt, prepared and conquered the Chadar Trek. Sounds fancy?
Well, it surely was for this simple-natured first-time trekker who made peace with Nature, in India’s most difficult trek – The Chadar Trek. One fine day, Vinay was on YouTube watching videos for the most difficult trek in India, and the other day, a couple of months later, the adventurous soul put his feet on the frozen river-water to follow his dream! He strongly believes in preparing for your adventure, whether be it diving deep into the sea to experience life under-water, or flying from the sky, or even wandering off into the upper Himalayas for an early attainment of Nirvana. The key to undertake an adventure is proper information, patience, and passion. He says, “We gained enough information for the trek, so we did not feel the difficulty much!”
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Well, we are not surprised with this man’s first trekking feat, whose most favourite quotation is, “To Travel is to live.” Embarked on a journey which has no looking back now, he already looks forward to his next travel plan which could either be The Valley of Flowers Trek (around 14,400 feet, Uttarakhand) or perhaps The Bhrigu Lake Trek (around 12,000 feet, Himachal Pradesh). Well, whichever destination be it, Vinay shall always have the skies clear and nights full of stars!
The First Call – Planning Chadar
“Earlier, I had not undertaken a single trek but as soon as I watched a video on YouTube, I decided to go for the Chadar Trek”, says Vinay, in his travel talks with us after his first daring adventure on the frozen soil!
Like every other curious mind of a traveler, Vinay started gaining information for what was going to be the trip of his lifetime. He read blogs, travelogues, websites, articles and every other possible piece of digital paper which remotely mentioned the word ‘Chadar’. Who knew that he’d be having his own Chadar Trek travelogue prepared one day?
After being thorough with his research, in the second half of 2017, he finally decided to let Thrillophilia handle his booking, whom he thought to the best guiding-star for his lifetime experience, scheduled for January 2018.
The roads have always had their own excuses to draw strangers close, and shall always will. The same occurred in Vinay’s Chadar Trek journey. Although he was accompanied by friend Drashti on this frozen trek trail, he never imagined that he’d get close to the other set of travelers in his group.
In his own words, “The others were a little lazy, and otherwise crazy for pictures, but were amazing…”. The picture above and the video below surely speak a thousand words, undoubtedly!
The Final Call – The Chadar Trek Itinerary
Vinay’s 8 Nights and 9 Days journey began on the 20th of January, 2018 when he crossed the snow-capped roads and mountains of Leh-Ladakh through the air to acclimatize for the day. Some of the key places that they were to cover during their frozen-ice trek needed their bodies to be well-versed with the chilled climate and the high altitude of the region, and this explains the importance of resting or acclimatizing (as they call it) on Day 1. These key places include Chilling, Tilad Do, Shingra Koma, Gyalpo, Tibb Caves and Nerak. One could certainly take a casual stroll into the markets of Leh, and breathe the vibes of the local Ladakhi culture.
On Day 2, Vinay and the group grasped with open arms the morning serenity with a panoramic view of Leh from the majestic heights of Shanti Stupa, nestled about 5 kilometers outside Leh. Little did they know that a silent, yet crazy, magical journey awaited them for the rest of their days on Chadar.
They say that once the sense of adventure kicks in, the other five basic senses take the backseat. The next few days were all about that. Right from the picturesque drive to Tilad Do via Chilling to the first steps on ice to reach the campsite at Tilad Do, everything seemed like a mirage – just too good to be true! The group spent amazing moments learning how to traverse through the ice-clad terrains of the Zanskar river, and Vinay funnily mentions the “penguin walk” in his post-trip conversation with Thrillophilia. In his words, “when we started, it was a bit tough to keep our feet on ice…we fell a lot of times, and then we learned how to walk on ice”
As the next couple of days just went by, trekking along the difficult terrains of Shingra Komi, Tibb Cave and Nerak; and back to the base camp became a ritual. A ritual never meant to be broken. The slippery-walk on the ice, the daring attempts to spot a snow leopard, waving at the ever-happy local Zanskari folks, capturing every single moment through the lenses of their phones and DSLRs, and warm conversations too became ritual gradually. As days went by, the group’s interaction with the icy soil got stronger, and part of their souls wished they never had to go back to their interestingly ordinary lives in the urban-structured spaces they call homes.
Vinay recalls his words, “We were so excited for the trip..although initially they were tensed because they had never been to sub-zero degree Celsius temperatures before..”. However, once they left the uncomfortably cold valleys for their comfortably warm homes, they all “missed the serenity of the place, the sky so clear and the nights so dark.”
Whilst the group spent their days trekking on ice from one campsite to another, the nights were dedicated to being lying down under the blanket of stars in the dark skies of the Zanskar valley. Conversations were exchanged, bonfires were lit and the nights were spent in the laps of Earth; which were untouched, unpolluted and unconsumed.
One of the major campsites of the trek is near the 50-feet waterfall known as Nerak, which becomes completely frozen at this time of the year. Right around the time of dawn, Vinay recalls witnessing sun-rays creating different hues of colors, crawling around the ice spikes, as if they were being summoned upon.
Most of the nights at Chadar were almost about giving in to the chilly winds. As Vinay mentions, it was as if “we were feeling the chills inside our bones, even though we were tucked inside the double-layered warm sleeping bags!” Whilst our post-trip conversation with him, it appeared that his adventurous self-has battled the fiercest nights now; and he already looks forth to his next trekking expedition now.
Way to go, Vinay!
Planning Chadar Trek? Consider these Pointers by Vinay!
The Chadar Trek is no cakewalk, they believed. Vinay’s calculative approach and commendable mental strength to undertake Chadar as his first trekking expedition made them rethink. His spirit of adventure let him make these pointers for himself and everyone else, who wants to embark on this journey!
- Information is everything. Before you start booking your tickets and spots, get to know everything about the Chadar Trek in detail.
- More than physical strength, you shall need mental strength. Be mentally prepped to face sub-zero temperatures, the harsh winds, and just basic vegetarian food (in case you’re a non-vegetarian).
- Dress in multiple layers. Ideally, use four layers for the upper body, including a jacket and a waterproof wind sheeter, with a fleece lining. For the lower body, it’s suitable to wear three layers, including thermal underpants and waterproof pants with a fleece lining.
- Gumboots, Woolen Clap, and Gloves are an absolute mandate.
- Keep your prescribed medicines handy, and appropriate medicines in the unfortunate event of an AMS attack.
- Keep your electronic devices warm enough and carry spare batteries and SD Cards for your camera.
Vinay’s story deserved an ear. He was kind enough to hand-in his recommendations and suggestions to Thrillophilia, which they are already looking into, in order to make the Chadar Trek an experience you’d want to take home in 2019.