A 31 year old professional photographer made his choice to go to Ladakh to cover the Frozen River trek and was presented with the options of Chadar Trek and the Everest Base Camp Trek. We’ve come across all sorts of travel stories, but none as surprisingly random and raw as this one. Captured by his lenses, the travelogue in raw-
The Lad Behind The Lenses – Sameera Nandana VS
It sounds fancy to pick up the camera and set off on the roads to pursue travel photography. How does it sound when someone trains their body to survive winters as cruel as -35 degrees and fighting frost bites on the tip of their toes and fingers, every night, like it’s no man’s business? Check out the beginner guide for Chadar Trek
Meet Sameera Nandana VS, a 31 year old professional photographer from Hyderabad who randomly picked up the frozen river trek The Chadar Trek, for shooting some of the craziest photos he’s ever shot!
He believes in logics, lenses and liaisoning between nature’s inexplicable creations and his camera’s perpetual functions. Sameera trained himself for three long months, and one fine day simply walked on the frozen Zanskar river trail in Ladakh, a heart-felt desire of not just photographers, but also of nature enthusiasts and passionate trekkers!
As inviting as it sounds, entering the wilds of Chadar Trek is not easy; nor is following one’s dreams!
Planning the Chaddar Trek!
“After I made the final call that, yes, I am doing the Chadar Trek 2018, I had to undergo some rigorous training plan”, says Sameera, after having taken the call to charge his camera with adrenaline rush.
Capturing Chadar is no child’s play; we all knew it. Sameera knew it better. In our conversation with Sameera post his trek, we asked him about his perseverance and preparation for undertaking what is known as India’s one of the most challenging treks. He surprised us with his diet charts and exercise pattern. He started off with a thorough transformational plan to get into the best of shape, within a span of 3 months
Right from diet charts to working out schematically, the photographer was on top of his game from Day Zero. 3 km jogs early winter mornings, baths in tap-running water, egg and citrus diet, 10k marathon 6 times, and 5-6 times climbing up and down his 6th floor office stairs were part of the regime!
This man thought, transformed and silently entered into the wild, with his camera as his only companion!
The Trekking Family – Mountain Madness 18 Gang!
Although Sameera did walk on the Chadar Trek with his camera as his only companion, little did the photographer know that he’d find a family in faraway lands? Sameera ended up calling his fellow trekkers his family and nicknamed them the “Mountain Madness 18 Gang”, he recalls all this in his conversation with Thrillophilia after his adventurous icy walk!
His fellow trekkers share that he made their trek all the more memorable with some of the best clicks that these folks would be dying to put up on their social media platforms; just to showcase to the world how the call of the wild looks like! Here, check out some of the amazing memories they built together.
One of the trekkers picks up the character of Ved from the Bollywood movie, Tamasha!
The lady proposes to his partner, for a change (just for the camera)!
We have reached the Nerak Falls, but first #LetMeTakeASelfie !
Lights, Camera, Freeze – The Chadar Itinerary!
“Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played over and over again in the quietest of chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”
A picture speaks a thousand words. And for that single picture, a photographer can go as far as a thousand miles. That’s exactly what made Sameera put forth his steps toward the frozen territory of Ladakh, India’s land of high passes, on the 29th of January, 2018.
These key places include Chilling, Tilad Do, Shingra Koma, Gyalpo, Tibb Caves and Nerak. The Chadar Trek is only doable during the months of January and February, when the extreme winters freeze the Zanskar River, thereby making it trekable.
“It was adrenaline rush when I heard the final call from pilot that we are about to land at Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport and no photography was allowed. Finally, we touched down and the moment I came out of the flight it was -8 degrees!! It was a lovely feeling with biting cold.” This is how Sameera started his Ladakhi journey, where he shares that it is important to take a day’s break for acclimatizing to the high altitudes of Leh before moving forward to undertake the daunting Chadar Trek!
Sameera here advises, “Do not use room heaters for the night for a better acclimatization.” He casually laughs and shares, “The next morning was like hell, for it reached -23 degrees the last night.”
The Beautiful sights of Ladakh were certainly beginning to cast its spell on Sameera!
The clear blue skies cloud the Ladakhi territory.
The Chadar Days
When you get passionate about something, everything else begins to seem vague. For example, the – 10 degree Celsius temperature on Day 2, and the frost bites which kept coming back on the tips of feet and hands.
A Mountain Madness 18 Gang’s trekker poses for the camera, pure un-candid and uncaring!
The journey on the ice-bed began once the group reached Tilad Do (via Chilling) after a 5 km trek, where they camped for the night. The Base Camp was a 3 hours drive from Hotel Auspicious, where the group bunked in on Day 1 of their Ladakhi escapade.
Unquestionably, the journey to Tilad does make everyone wonder about how beautiful and unexplored India is, in all senses! As soon as they set feet on the grounds, these thoughts of theirs turned into reality!
The mighty and beautiful mountains around Zanskar River!
Sameera exclaims, the cracking sound of the Chadar confirmed that they were not day-dreaming! We kept going forward each day on the icy terrain of the mysterious beauty of Chadar!
Sameera puts a word of caution that “battery drains much faster in extremely cold environment” and advises photographers to carry additional SD cards and batteries. Every day brings into your face, unprecedented landscapes of the Mother Nature.
A major achievement was reaching the Tibb Campsite, after trekking for a distance of 14 km. Sameera recalls, “I was totally exhausted. I rested my back on a rock at the TIBB camp and removed my shoes. My socks were all completely wet, unfortunately I forgot to carry enough socks and I had to suffer with frost bites on my feet!”
A trekker boasts an ice particle, and its thickness at Tibb Camp.
“One must learn the art of walking on Chadar’s ice”, travel experts at Thrillophilia advice, and Sameera confirms the same and adds that it is the penguin walk that one must try and do. He goes on to add that “Should you fall on the thick ice, try to fall on your back, and even if you slip, let your back rest for a while before you get up. Falling on the front end, or sideways causes much more pain when the chilled winds blow at night.”
“Don’t forget to pop in the pain killer, for the pain shall only worsen with time.” He later relaxes our deep conversation with the fun pointer that one of the group members was counting the maximum number of falls by each person, and they all would later laugh at it.”
The penguin walk is the right walk on the thick ice of Zanskar River.
The Chadar Nights
The first night of the trek was characterized with the sounds of “Sir, Chai, Sir” after the group had comfortably nestled on top of a mountain hill. We had yellow lights emitting from the bonfire, which was our only means of protecting ourselves in the ‘killing’ chilling night temperatures.
The camera captured all the shades of the night. Sameera does caution that one must be extra careful while using their instruments in extreme temperatures.
The group would dance on ice (picture below), have their supper and make way to the comfortable double-layered sleeping bags in their tents as nights would approach the icy Zanskar belt. The late nights were meant to rest your bodies as much as you could, for each day brings along a new challenge, a new fear which these trekkers boldly overcome.
Slide away the pained feet; slide away the enthusiastic Chadar Trek trekkers!
We asked Sameera about the most notorious night and he quickly mentions “…no one knows that the best was yet to come” says Sameera, describing their night at the Nerak Camp, after having trekked through the darkness to return from the Nerak village, 5 km uphill from the Nerak Base Camp, with the support of just a head-lamp and hopes, some of them broken!
The happy face of a local Ladakhi at Nerak Village.
Planning To Take The Chadar Trek? Read what Sameera has to say:
Capturing Chadar was no child’s play, Sameera recalls. He quickly adds up the following pointers for all those who are planning to capture Chadar in 2019.
- Carry a 360 degree hand Gimbal Stick.
- Carry extra socks and change your wet socks as often as possible.
- Dusting powder will be your angel, when it comes to curing frost bites.
- Do not carry heavy bundles of dry fruits, or chocolates. Carry enough, but keep your backpack light.
When we asked him about the most cherished memories, the photographer went mum; and we knew that their lied deep entrenched in the cold moonlit nights, surrounded by the comforting noise of water flowing nearby and the silent gaze at stars. A few things, perhaps, no camera ever captures!