The Frozen River Trek – A Trekker’s Dream Come True
“I woke up in the morning with flying butterflies in my stomach, as if I was going to write my exam in my school days. Of course, I am going to sit for my dream test; it’s a test of endurance, ability & survival. I am going to Chadar today!”
“Adventure is worthwhile.”
Welcome to Chandan Nath’s tales of the frozen river trail!
The Himalaya Lover – Chandan Nath
Chandan has been awestruck with the Himalayas and The Himalayan treks since an early age of 10. Having been born in West Bengal, his first encounter with the mountains was with Kanchenjunga in Darjeeling. That was just the beginning of a life-long affair with the mountains for this trekker; who claims to have covered the Langtang-Gosaikunda, Pindari-Kafni, the mystic Roopkund trek, Sar Trek and Har-ki-doon trek amongst the many other treks that he’s undertaken.
In 2018, the Chandan managed to tick off the Chadar Trek off his bucket list which also includes a trek to Machu Pichu, scuba diving, an Amazon rainforest expedition and the visit to Antarctica. No wonder, Mr Nath believes in the quote, “Stay active, and be passionate”.
Let’s walk through the Chadar Trek through his eyes, shall we?
How did Chadar 2018 happen?
The thing about Chadar Trek is that it is deemed to be India’s toughest trek. One is simply walking on a frozen river at sub-zero temperatures for about 8 nights. It is not scary enough, right? Well, we forgot to tell you that the frozen river keeps melting from time to time during the trek! Yes, really!
The River Zanskar turns all-blue upon melting!
“Being an avid Himalayan trekker, Chadar Trek was a dream to me. But somehow it was not materializing. I kept trekking in other parts of Himalayas. So, I resolved to do it in 2018”, shares Chandan.
After thorough research on the internet, he stumbled upon Thrillophilia one fine day. After a few telephonic calls and email exchanges, he reserved his slot for the mid-January batch, 2018. Chandan Nath was going to Ladakh, to undertake the Chadar Trek in 2018!!
Acclimatization in Ladakh
The trek commenced with a day’s acclimatization in Ladakh. For most of us who are unaware, acclimatization is to get used to the high altitudes and low oxygen before a trek.
Chandan landed in Leh on the 14th of January, 2018 to begin his test of endurance in the frozen-land of Zanskar. After having rested for a while in the comforts of their hotel rooms, the group ventured into the inviting lanes of Leh.!
A little encounter with the city lanes made them realize that Leh was wrapped with untouched urbanization, and it was beautiful and one must visit Leh-Ladakh once.
Chandan Nath explores the city of Leh
The Chadar Trek is a test of endurance. It includes trekking for around 75-85 km on thin, thick and almost-melted sheets of ice. The temperature ranges between 0 to -25 degree. The group was all set to begin their Chadar journey on the very next day.
And the Journey Began – Heading towards Tilad Do
The early morning of 15th January, 2018 witnessed, “The trek coordinators instructing the porters to load camping gear and ration for the next few days on top of our tempo-traveler. The air was filled with enthusiasm, and after breakfast, we started for Tilad Do…”
The journey from their hotel in Leh to the first campsite, Tilad Do, was about a 65 km drive along River Indus, and later the frozen River Zanskar. The tiredness of the long, rough stretch of the roads vanished away, as soon as they got off the tempo-traveler. As the group made their way to take the first step on the frozen river, it was as if a mesmerizing spell had gotten cast on them!
A quick look around, and the bright yellow tents comforted their nerves and they knew that this was going to be home for the next few days!
The group checks out their tents at Tilad Do
Trekking ahead – Shingra Koma to Tibb
The biggest challenge that the group felt was waking up at dawn, to begin their journey ahead. The trek coordinators bribed the trekkers with a round of hot piping tea and breakfast, to get them out of their comfortable double-layered sleeping bags!
The next challenge was to learn the art of walking on those ice sheets. Initially, the team members would fall now and then, on the icy terrains of Zanskar. However, with some time spent doing that, they learned from their falls!
As the first night of the trekking day dawned, sleeping and dining tents were spread out. The group was served piping hot rice, and slices of pineapple for desert. The entire campsite at Gyalpo looked straight out of a movie. The group seemed to have collected themselves near the bonfire lit in the neighboring caves. Now, this was repeated as a ritual for the following nights, for the temperature was rapidly dropping down as they moved ahead.
The nights were a different sight altogether. Looking at the open sky has a completely inexplicable feeling, which all the Chadar trekkers barely manage to express!
The Last Point of Chadar – Nerak Falls
The hike from Tibb to Nerak Falls was nestled about at 11,150 feet of elevation. The 13 km long trek to the Nerak Falls was perhaps the most difficult one in Chandan’s journey. A trek coordinator announced during one of the breaks on the way to Nerak Falls, “Chadar has melted ahead” and the news came like a thunderstorm to the group. The group had to traverse through a long stretch of the cliff, and a sheer drop would mean falling into the rapidly-flowing River Zanskar from a height of 60-70 feet.
The group traverse through the cliff above the melted Chadar
At this point, Chandan was almost certain about calling it a day, and returning back to Leh. Chandan recalls, “As I informed Lobsang about my decision of going back, he took my left hand in his firm grip and calmly instructed me where to put my toes. And soon after, I found myself standing on the other side of the cliff.”
The frozen Nerak Falls
As he climbed up the neighbouring cliff, he could not thank Ladakh enough for the beauty which lay in front of him. In our post-trek talks, we asked Chandan as to what did he miss the most? The reply came, “The glowing colorful mountains which made me feel like an explorer to another world.” After a night’s rest at Nerak, the group continued through the same frozen pathways back to the city of Leh, where they stayed for a night before flying off to their respective destinations.
Truly, some places just leave you awestruck. The Chadar Trek was one such place, and off did it go from Chandan’s bucket list in the early winters of 2018!
Is the Chadar Trek Calling You to Ladakh?
The group in ecstasy after completing the Chadar Trek!
Before you venture out to Zanskar in the early months of 2019 to undertake the Chadar Trek, here are a few pointers which will prove helpful. Chandan states that mental and physical preparations are equally important. Here’s what he advises for all Chadar enthusiasts-
- Try to acclimatize for 3-4 days at Leh
- Wear 4-5 layers of clothing instead of just one
- Carry all your regular medicines
- Purchase gumboots from Leh
- Keep your backpack light. Avoid unnecessary items
- Respect locals and the local traditions
- Always listen to your trek coordinator, and treat them as co-trekkers
- Respect nature. Do not challenge it
- The Chadar Trek demands discipline. Be so!