“If you want something you’ve never had; then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done before.”
The above quote holds true for everything in life, even for walking on a river. Yes, you read it right. In the northern belt of India lies a region, silently tucked, where the river freezes in the months of January and February. Hundreds of trekkers and passionate travelers from across the world come to trek about 75 km in 8 nights and 9 days on a frozen river.
As real as the description gets, let’s hear it from Varad who made his dream come true. Welcome to his story, his destiny, and his memories; etched in his wandering heart for ever.
The Trekker Who Walked on the Frozen River – Varad Aggarwal
Varad shares a special bond with all dogs. Captured in the city of Leh
Meet the 24 year old Delhi guy, whose life took a complete turn from ‘Which club do I spend my Saturday night at?’ to ‘Which destination do I travel to this weekend?’ right after leaving his home for graduation. Varad Aggarwal is a hiker, horse rider, PADI certified scuba diver, solo traveller, guitar player and a biker; amongst the other things he’s chosen to not mention to us.
A complete box of surprises, Varad’s greatest adventures until the Chadar Trek had been the bike ride from Bangalore to Delhi in a surprising ‘less than 60 hours’ duration. Up next on his list is covering all the major ship-wrecked sites across the world, where he wants to scuba dive. More victory to you, Varad!
Amongst Other Things; the Chadar Trek Too Happens Just Once in Life!
The treacherous parts of the frozen Zanskar river
The Chadar Trek or the Frozen River Trek on River Zanskar requires one to be mentally fit and physically active. A 75 km trek in sub 0 temperatures at altitudes higher than 10,000 feet, on frozen ice sheets surely manages to take the trekkers for a ride (read slide).
Despite not being a regular trekker, Varad was headstrong to go to Chadar. The idea of walking on a frozen river was so mesmerizing that in no time, he had reserved his slot with Thrillophilia. Let’s read further to see how did Varad’s expectations fare throughout the duration he was treading along River Zanskar.
The Fellow Trekkers
Varad and his fellow trekkers pose during a photo session break
The entire Chadar Trek gang
“…And your travel companions matter a lot. And it matters a lot when you are on the Chadar. And it matters even more when you are travelling solo,” said Varad, when we asked him about the importance of the right travelling companions. He goes on to describe his travel companions as a bunch of 15 different people from various walks of life.
In his own words, they had “the champion dancer – Noopur; the funny paaji – Charanjit; the guy who enjoyed falling – Sumit; the amazing artist – Sonam; my tent and photography companion – Krishna; the lovely Bengali uncles; the short, cute and angry architect – Indu; the sexy power-couple – Alok and Vinny; the coolest brothers for life – Shashank and Shrikant; the Baahubali boy – Nitin; the rockstar-cum-postmaster – Ranjith, our very cute apple assistant – Siri; my favourite man on the trip – Ravi sir; and of course our PJ King – Kapil.”
Trekkers have some ‘3 Idiots’ fun during the trek
And the Journey Begins
The glimpse of Himalayas while the group was on flight
The ‘8 Night and 9 Day’ journey began on the 13th of January, 2018. Right after having landed at the picturesque city of Leh, their group was escorted to their hotels where most of them took a nice long nap. For everyone who has their eyes set at undertaking the Chadar Trek in 2019, it is vital that you acclimatize for a day at least. This allows your body to come in terms with the elevation and the reduced oxygen level. In the next few days, Varad and the group were about to cover Chilling, Tilad Do, Shingra Koma, Gyalpo, Tibb Caves and Nerak.
The Beginning of the Trek
The final realization of going to Chadar dawned on them after they made the last phone call before setting off for Chilling. With a nice and warm breakfast, they bid goodbye to the comforts of their hotels and boarded the camper which took them to Chilling. The ride was bumpy, and the wait to trek on the frozen river worth it.
The campsite at Tilad Do
Once they reached Chilling, Varad and others followed the trek leader’s instruction to reach their first camp-site at Tilad Do. As they took the first step on the frozen river, a loud sound came from behind; and they all laughed at once. Someone already had their first fall; and they’d begun to get used to it!
The first night is always challenging. Winds rush through your bones and temperature drops down rapidly as the night approaches. Varad jokes about, that the winds did not even spare his contact lenses – they simply froze even in the cases! The next few nights were relatively easier as they knew what to expect. The rushing speed of winds and the minus degree Celsius temperatures had become a regular affair.
The starry nights at Zanskar
The Midpoint of the Chadar Trek & the Journey Back
It was Day 5, and the group had already made their way to Tibb Caves, after surviving the freezing nights at Tilad Do and Shingra Koma. As Day 5 ended, the group had already reached their final destination – the frozen waterfalls of Nerak which is situated at an elevated height of 11,150 feet. For Varad, every single pain and trouble undertaken in reaching this point was worth it. He could barely control his emotions after seeing this wonderful creation by Mother Nature, and for a moment, was tempted to stay there forever.
The frozen waterfall at Naerak
Varad at the final point of Chadar Trek – the Nerak Falls
The Return Journey and the Jump into Zanskar
The most awaited moment of the journey was to reach the campsite of Tilad Do. The return journey was comparatively much easier, and the falls lesser! The group had become a family during those 75 km of trekking in the sub zero temperatures at the frozen land of Zanskar.
The return journey toward Tilad Do
As soon as they reached the base camp at Tilad Do, Varad was super excited to do something he had never done before; jump into the frozen river of Zanskar! He comments, “It was normal for the first 2 seconds. But the very next second, you feel injections pinching you from all sides.”
Until next time, he said to Leh, while flying out to his regular life in Delhi.
If Chadar is where you want to be in 2019, consider these pointers by Varad!
Varad recommends the following ten pointers to keep in mind for everyone who is planning to undertake the Chadar Trek in 2019.
- Do not pack unnecessary stuff. Keep your backpack light.
- Pack in a very organized fashion
- Focus on covering your hands & feet. Get the best quality shoes, gum boots, gloves and socks.
- Cold temperatures will drain your power banks at a faster rate.
- Do not litter plastic waste around.
- Do not rush and walk with porters/tour guide.
- Make sure you workout for a week before starting this trek.
- Headlamp is a MUST
- Keep the team spirit in your group alive and motivate others as well.
- Do it for yourself, and not for others on your Instagram/Facebook feed.
Checking out the chilly waters of River Zanskar on the Chadar Trek