Set at an altitude of 3,900 meters (12795. 2 feet) above sea level, the Chadar Trek is full of physical challenges. The 65 Km route follows through the frozen Zanskar River that is enveloped in a sheet of ice and confined within a sharp 600-meter high gorge. This trek has a sub-zero temperature, frozen river, hefty elevation, icy track, bitterly cold water underfoot and a massive amount of slipperiness, hence the added challenge. But the reward is the picturesque views of the Shanti Stupa and frozen river along the way, and the beautiful stories of the inhabitants of the Zanskar village.
But before you start planning for this winter trek, let’s know little more about the Frozen Chadar Trek and some tips to carry out a successful expedition.
About The Trek
The sub-zero temperatures in the Zanskar Valley region of Ladakh during winters freeze the Zanskar River, forming a thick sheet of ice on the surface. The frozen river traditionally served as a winter trail or a trade route and is now the host of one of the most popular adventures in India. The trek can only be taken during the months of January and February because that is when the ice sheet is thick and ideal for walking. From the nerve-numbing temperatures testing the adventurer in you to the unique terrain that fills your soul with the sense of warmth, the Chadar Trek is completely unique in its very character and is different from any other Himalayan trek.
The activity of walking on the frozen Zanskar River is an epitome of adventure in itself and is a great option for those willing to indulge in the extreme adventure to experience something entirely unique. The trek tests the mettle and spirit of the trekkers with challenges in the form of penetrating cold temperatures, long trail and weak ice sheet at places but what it gives in return is worth all the pain. More than an adventure, the Chadar Trek is a journey to discover your own strengths and weaknesses.
The length of the Chadar Trek is approximately 65 km. The trek begins at Shingra Yokma, from where the trekkers trek up to Naerak over a period of 2 days, camping at Tsomo Paldar and Tibb Cave. Naerak is the return point of the trek and is famous for housing wondrous frozen waterfalls. From Naerak, the trek reverses to Shingra Yokma through the same trail.
What Sets The Chadar Trek Apart
The Chadar Trek is the only trek of its kind. Read to find out how!
The Unique Terrain
The Chadar Trek is not just another mountain trek that takes you through velvety meadows, dense forests, and gurgling water streams. The trek rather gives you an opportunity to walk on an icy path. The terrain on the trek does not involve a lot of ascends and descends. If the ice on the trail is not broken or molten, the major stretch of the entire trek involves walking on the slippery, thick sheet of ice which is the most unique aspect of the Chadar Trek.
The Exceptionally Picturesque Views
The trek introduces you to spectacular sights of the snow-laden Ladakh which is absolutely stunning. The winter season enhances the beauty of the landscapes of Ladakh by manifold. Mountains and valleys painted white with fresh snow are rather picturesque. The trail encompassing the frozen Zanskar River passes through snow-blanketed gorges with the views of mighty mountains accompanying you all along the trail. The sight of the majestic frozen waterfall at Naerak is truly iconic.
What makes the Chadar Trek so special is the fact that Zanskar River is the only destination in the entire world offering an adventure that involves walking on a frozen river. There is no trek anywhere in the world that even comes close to what the Chadar offers. The trek is the only one of its kind, literally.
An Epitome of Adventure
The Chadar Trek involves a number of challenges that only make it even more desirable among the seekers of thrill. The extremely low temperatures, the unpredictable nature of weather, the lack of comforts and luxuries, and the exhilarating act of walking on a sheet of ice, underneath which flows the icy cold Zanskar River – Chadar leaves no stone unturned to set your adrenaline rushing.
Following are the factors that make The Frozen Zanskar Adventure challenging yet truly thrilling:
The Extreme Temperatures
The biggest challenge while trekking the Zanskar River is the extreme weather conditions. The temperature sometimes even drops down to as low as minus 30 degree Celsius, making the cold unbearable and bone-chilling, literally. Surviving such low temperatures is an adventure in itself.
The Thrilling Ice Sheet
The trail of the Chadar Trek is essentially slippery and you can assume that you are going to slip while walking on the ice several times. Moreover, you can find the ice sheet weak and broken in some parts, which only multiplies the thrill of walking on it.
It’s a Looong Trek
The entire trek covers a distance of approximately 65 km, which is quite long as compared to other treks in India. To complete the trek, one is required to walk a stretch of 10-12 km every day despite the harsh weather conditions and other challenges which makes the Chadar Trek all the more thrilling.
Summing up all the challenges the Chadar Trek throws at you and everything you get to experience during the trek, it would not be an exaggeration to claim that the trek is an ultimate dose of thrill.
Things to know before you trek The Chadar
Since the Chadar Trek finds the place among the most challenging treks, there is a set of guidelines one should follow to ensure safety during the trek. Abiding by the guidelines and safety instructions will not only help you to keep mishaps at bay but will also help you to successfully complete the trek.
Keep the following points in mind while trekking the Chadar:
- The high altitudes may lead to acute mountain sickness, so acclimatizing to the climate and atmosphere before beginning the trek is a must.
- Pack first-aid kit in your backpack. And if you are on medications, you must carry your medicines with you.
- You must follow the trek leader’s instructions sincerely to avoid getting into a bad situation during the trek.
- The temperature at night dips down to a minimum of minus 35 degree Celsius, so it is important that you keep your body warm to avoid hypothermia.
- Wear layers of clothes rather than wearing thick clothes.
- Do not wear thermal wear inside the jacket as it increases the chances of hypothermia due to sweating.
- Wear cotton socks during the trek and the socks you wear at night must be dry.
- Keep the backpack fluffy so that it can absorb the shock if you slip on the ice while trekking.
- If the ice sheet looks thin or weak, avoid walking on it as it may break.
- While on the ice, walk gently. Do not exert pressure on the sheet by running or jumping.
- If at any point you feel unwell, do not avoid informing your trek leader.
- Overlooking your fitness is not an option if you are planning for the Chadar Trek. Ensuring you are physically fit by getting yourself checked by a physician is a must before taking up the adventure.
- Many people make the mistake of packing unnecessary items and omitting the necessary items.
- Avoiding drinking water just because you don’t feel thirsty in the chilly conditions may lead to dehydration.
- Choosing the wrong clothes and shoes for the trek is a big mistake as your outfit has a big role to play in keeping you comfortable and safe during the trek.
- Trekking the Chadar at night is not at all advisable.
- Skipping food is another mistake many trekkers make which only makes their body weak and less resistant to the challenges.
- Not taking weather report seriously could prove to be a huge mistake on a challenging trek like Chadar.
- Physical Fitness: Since the Chadar Trek is a challenging one, one needs to prepare themselves physically in advance to take the challenges. It is advisable that you start exercises like jogging, running, squats, and basic cardio workout at least 4 weeks before your trek begins. You should be able to jog a distance of 5 km within 35 minutes time.
- Mental Fitness: Before you take the Chadar Trek, you should prepare yourself mentally as well because the extremely chilling climate during the trek needs mental strength and endurance.
The Chadar Summed Up
The Chadar Trek is undoubtedly one of the most enthralling treks anywhere in the world owing to the experience of walking on the frozen Zanskar River and the magnificent landscape one gets to pass through while trekking here. However, the trek is quite challenging too and demands physical fitness and endurance. The trek is not suitable for beginner level trekkers. So, it is essential that you are both physically and mentally prepared for the harsh climate and other challenges that may arise on the journey of crossing the trail which is nothing short of a wonder of nature in itself.
Learn About The Chadar Through Travellers’ Experiences
If you need further exciting insights into the Chadar Trek, there is no better way than reading through the travel stories of Chadar Trek of our ‘Brand Ambassadors‘ Ishwar Yadav, Varad Aggarwal and Anirban Mahajan who trekked the frozen Zanskar River with Thrillophilia!