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  • 01Winter Treks | Himalayas | Nov-Feb

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    A Complete Guide to Chadar Trek

    Image Credit: Bob Witlox - Flickr

    Guide to Chadar Trek, one of the most adventurous and thrilling treks in the world, offers the best chance to explore a whole new world in the Zanskar Valley. This Guide will help the trekkers to beat all the challenges while trekking through the frozen Zanskar River, unfolding the mystery of the Himalayas.

    The lower sections of this gorge are extremely popular in summers with tourists trooping in for river rafting expeditions. In winters the Zanskar River freezes and trekking enthusiasts flock to this region to enjoy hiking expeditions.

    During the winters, the road to Zanskar Valley is closed due to snowfall and this makes the frozen river the only way to access the valley. The trek across the frozen river is called the ‘Chadar’ (ice sheet) trek and it holds many surprises and scenes of breathtaking beauty, which attracts tourists and trekkers from all over the country and the world.

    What is Chadar Trek?

    Image Credit: Bob Witlox - Flickr

    The Zanskar River freezes in the winters. The entire river looks like a sheet of ice and hence is referred to, in the local language, as Chadar. From tourism point of view, this trek has been popularised as the frozen river expedition and draws in several amateur and professional trekkers from different parts of the country and the world.

    This guide to Chadar trek is one of the most adventurous and most difficult treks in the country. The distance that is covered on foot is approximately 105 km and on an average a trekker covers 15 to 17 km every day. The temperatures are usually 15 to 20 degrees during the day time and plummet to -25 to -35 degrees during the night in this region.

    While most of the trek is completed by walking, trekkers may even have to climb icy rocks and boulders during the journey. During the journey, the trekkers will walk on the sheet of ice to cover the distance and will rest in caves during the night time.

    Due to the extremely cold conditions that a person has to face during this expedition, it is advisable that every aspirant fully understands the conditions that he will face ahead and prepare accordingly. A person should be acquainted to walking long distances and be prepared for tough camping situations. It is advisable that every trekker carries warm clothes, a sleeping bag and sturdy shoes for the trek.

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    Why Chadar Trek?

    Image Credit: Christophe Roudet - Flickr

    For adventure enthusiasts , trekking is not just an expedition. Trekking is a mode to relieve oneself of the worries of day to day life, revive the spirit of adventure and excitement by undertaking tough challenges and winning them. This trek is not just any other trekking experience.

    Trekkers have to face the toughest of challenges, tread through chilly weather and landscape and sleep in caves during this expedition. The trek holds the secrets of the beautiful Himalayas and enables a person to enjoy the mesmeric beauty of the snow clad mountains.

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    For every person who seeks adventure and is ready to face the harshest conditions and take up the most challenging tasks, this Guide to Chadar Trek is a must. The excitement of walking on ice and climbing on icy rocks is unbeatable and matchless. This trek is an absolute must-do for those who have a flair for high altitude trekking and taking on challenges as they come in life.

    When is the Best Time?

    Image Credit: Bob Witlox - Flickr

    The best time to take the trek is in January and February. Precisely, from January 15 to the end of February is just the right time to set out on this wonderful and adventurous trek. The river freezes into a beautiful sheet of ice and the surroundings are clad in snow presenting a pristine white trail for hiking expeditions.

    The snow clad mountain peaks that will accompany you all along your way to your destination glisten and gleam in the morning rays of the Sun. This is a breathtaking view to watch and the trek is incomplete without being able to enjoy such mesmeric beauty.

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    The beauty of the landscape is the most rewarding part of the trek. Although the trek itself is quite arduous and tasking, the beauty that opens up before the trekkers compensates for the all the trouble and effort put in.

    The frozen river trek is the most rewarding trekking trails in the country and will test your physical stamina and mental focus before opening up its secrets to you. Although the summers attract a large number of water sports enthusiasts from all over the country, this  trek in the winters still remains the most popular activity in this region.

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    How Difficult is the Chadar Trek?

    Image Credit: Bob Witlox - Flickr

    This trek is one of the most difficult and challenging treks in the country. The Zanskar River freezes into a sheet of ice and is the only route to access the Zanskar Valley during the winters. All mountain passes are shut down due to snow fall, leaving the Chadar or the frozen Zanskar River as the only route for passage.

    The ideal or best time for the this trek is in the months of January and February as the swift river is harnessed in the bounds of blocks of ice and the surroundings are all covered in the pristine white beauty of snow. The temperatures are incredibly low during the day time and plummet to uncomfortably freezing temperatures during the night time.

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    Trekkers who want to explore the Zanskar trek must be prepared for facing unsettling temperatures and harsh camping conditions. The total distance covered in the trek is around 105 km, most of which is covered on foot. There might also be instances wherein the trekkers are required to climb icy rocks and boulders.

    The nights are spent in caves near the frozen river and hence all participants should come prepared with the warmest jackets, sleeping bags and sturdy shoes. The camping conditions, unlike in other trekking expeditions, are extremely tough and hence each participant should be mentally and physically prepared for the challenges ahead.

    How Cold Does it Get?

    Image Credit: Bob Witlox - Flickr

    The Chadar trek expedition is conducted in the winters. The best time to set out on this expedition is in January and February. The swift and steady River Zanskar lies harnessed in bindings of ice and everything around is covered in pristine white snow.

    The temperatures are amazingly low during the day time and hover between 15 to 20 degrees while they plummet further to -25 to -35 degrees during the night time. The climatic conditions of this region are quite harsh and extremely cold. So for any visitor who wishes to explore the Zanskar trek, it is extremely important that he is physically and mentally prepared for the trek.

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    The total distance covered during the trek is around 105 km and most of it is covered by walking through these extreme conditions. You may also be required to climb icy rocks and boulders during the journey which makes it extremely essential for you to be physically and mentally fit.

    The journey is arduous and tasking, especially because of the extremely cold temperatures. Furthermore, while during the day time you will have to walk over the chilly sheet of ice or the frozen Zanskar River, during the night time, you will have to sleep in caves near the frozen river.

    How Long do We Walk Each Day During the Trek?

    Image Credit: Pradeep Kumbhashi - Flickr

    The total distance covered along the trek is 105 km. Trekkers will be required to walk around 15 to 17 km a day to complete the trek. The trail is along the frozen River Zanskar which lies harnessed and bound in its icy bindings and the snow clad surroundings are a treat to watch.

    The most rewarding aspect of this tough and challenging trek is that it rewards everyone with the secrets hidden in the snow covered slopes of the Himalayas and opens up a vista of breathtaking Himalayan beauty to its visitors. During this guide to Chadar trek, you will be required to walk along the length of the frozen River Zanskar and also, at times, climb icy rocks and boulders.

    [Contact us now to book your Ladakh trekking tour]

    The temperatures are unsettlingly low and every aspirant must be physically and mentally prepared for the tough camping conditions. The Chadar is the only connecting route during winters into the Zanskar Valley and the Ladakhis and Zanskaris use this route twice a year. The climatic conditions may not be exactly favourable but the adventure and challenges that the trek has in store for the adventurous makes it one of the most popular high altitude trekking trails in the country.

    Most of the journey is covered on foot by walking on the pristine white solid sheet of ice and a little bit of climbing and manoeuvring. The nights are spent in chilly caves near the frozen river, which makes it mandatory for every trekker to carry along the warmest of jackets, sleeping bags and sturdy yet warm shoes.

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    Trek Itinerary

    Image Credit: Bob Witlox - Flickr

    The journey begins at New Delhi from where participants interested in the Chadar Trek will be transported to Leh. This is followed by a visit to nearby monasteries or any local festivals that are happening at the time. On the third day you will be taken on a full day tour of Phyang, Liker and Alchi for sightseeing.

    On day four, you will proceed from Leh to Chilling to Zaribago and cover the distance over five hours of trekking. You will spend the night in a camp at Zaribago and proceed for the next destination in the morning. On the fifth day, you will move from Zaribago to Deepyokma which is a four hour trek on foot.

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    The evening is spent in Deepyokma and the next morning i.e. on the sixth day you will trek to Nyrakpulu. This distance is covered in four or five hours of trekking. The next morning you will trek for one hour from Nyrakpulu to Lingshed. You will spend the eight day in Linghshed relaxing, sightseeing and preparing for the next day’s trip.

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    From Linghshed you start trekking on the Chadar. On the ninth day, you will trek through the icy surroundings of Linghshed. After spending a day in the beautiful environs of the Himalayas and the mystical Zanskar River, you trek on for four hours to Tsomopaldar.

    The next day i.e, on the 11th day you move from Tsomopaldar to Tilatdo in a five hour trek. On day 12, you undertake a five hour trek from Titado to Chilling. On day 13, you are transported back from Leh to New Delhi. The entire journey is of 13 days and is one of the most amazing experiences that you can have.

    How Big are the Groups?

    Image Credit: Bob Witlox - Flickr

    Trekking with a group of friends is definitely an enjoyable experience. You can set out on this expedition with your friends, colleagues or family. Usually, at least six persons are required for the expedition. However, as many as 15 or 18 persons can be included in the group. Usually, a large group does not exceed this number.

    The objective of keeping the groups relatively small is to ensure good management and also make sure that all guests have a wonderful and memorable experience. Usually, the groups consist of like-minded people who can enjoy and relish the beauty of the region in spite of the harsh conditions.

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    The groups usually consist of both men and women. To ensure the safety of women during the trek, the guides and other support crew are carefully selected for the trips. The trek is usually led on by a professional trekker who has completed the basic and advanced mountaineering course and certified in the first-aid course.

    The team will be accompanied by a local guide, a cook, a helper, a porter and other staff. Complete care is taken to ensure the comfort and safety of all participants during the arduous trek on the frozen Zanskaar River.

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    Accommodation Arrangement for the Trekkers

    Image Credit: Christophe Roudet - Flickr

    In the mainland, all accommodation is made in A Class hotels with all meals included in the package. Comfortable accommodation will be arranged for trekkers. Usually tents are used while camping and persons are generally accommodated in a two man tent. However, due to the harsh and extremely cold climate, trekkers are advised to get some essential items such as steam crossing sandals, insulating fleece jacket, rain proof jackets, insulating gloves, warm sleeping bags etc to protect themselves.

    During the trek on the Chadar, the campsites will be set up in caves in the area and hence having all these warm clothes and items is mandatory.  Before setting out for the trip, every participant must be fully aware of the conditions that he will have to face during the trek and prepare accordingly.

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    During the Chadar trek, care will be taken to ensure safety of all participants. However, trekkers will also have to take a few measures for their own safety and health. The trek is usually conducted in groups of at least six persons and is led by a professional trekker who has completed his Basic and Advanced Mountaineering course.

    In addition, these lead trekkers are also certified in Wilderness ‘First Aid’ in order to ensure quick medical help during the expedition. Furthermore, other staff such as porters, cooks, helpers and local guides is also sent along on the expedition to ensure successful and fruitful completion of the trip.

    Type of Food Being Served

    Image Credit: Bob Witlox - Flickr

    The food that is served during the expedition is decided and cooked carefully. Usually Indian vegetarian dishes and egg dishes are served during the trek. It is important that the dietary needs of the participants are met during the duration of the trek. The climatic conditions of the region are very extreme and different from those in the mainlands.

    So in order to keep all trekkers in good health and energised for the journey ahead, well cooked vegetables and eggs are provided in order to keep them fit and healthy for the journey. Hygiene and safety are a priority during the trek and especially while cooking the food. So utmost care is taken while preparing the food for the guests.

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    The trek covers a journey of about 105 km and most of the distance is covered on foot. For this reason, it is very important that is no mistake or shortcoming in meeting the dietary needs of the trekkers. So a high protein content diet is chosen for the trekkers and this is met by choosing the best vegetables and eggs.

    The trek is extremely tough and occasionally requires climbing on icy rocks and boulders. Furthermore, the temperatures of the region hover between 15 to 20 degrees during the day time and -25 to -35 degrees in the night time, which makes it essential for the trekkers to remain energised and high on metabolic heat.

    How to Get Safe Drinking Water During the Trek?

    Image Credit: Bob Witlox - Flickr

    Himalayan water is generally considered safe and pure enough to be consumed directly. However, since the participants or trekkers are from different parts of the country, it is advisable to check with the lead trekker about filling stations. Usually, during the trek, water from the region is purified by boiling with chlorine tablets and then made available for drinking.

    It is always best to check with the lead trainer about such arrangements before you start trekking and understand his plan of action. Do not consume water from any source without first checking with your leader. As the region would be new to you, it is always best to consult someone who is well-acquainted with the region.

    The journey begins from Chilling in Leh and continues till you reach the Chadar. The distance is about 105 km and the temperatures will vary from 20 degrees to -25 degrees. It is essential that you carry warm sleeping bags, sturdy shoes and warm jackets with you in order to face the harsh conditions of the region.

    The frozen river trek does sound difficult but it is one of the most enjoyable and adventurous trekking expeditions you can have in India. With the gain in altitude, the temperatures drop dramatically and blankets of white snow greet you into the mystical land of the Himalayas. To stay safe and fit for the journey, prepare yourself mentally and physically and arrange for all supplies beforehand.

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    Ground Transportation

    Image Credit: Bob Witlox - Flickr

    Your journey to the trek will begin from Leh. All ground transportation is done in the best of vehicles that suit the terrain. You will be taken from your source in Toyota Qualis, an Innova or a Scorpio. These vehicles are the best to travel in this rugged region and hence these vehicles are used for all ground transportation of guests. Special care is taken that all guests have a comfortable transportation before the trek begins so as to ensure that they are not worn out or tired before the trek begins.

    The journey into the beautiful Himalayan ranges is one of the most sought after experiences among trekkers all around the globe. The mysteries of the Zanskar Valley and the snow clad Himalayas have time and again attracted professional and amateur trekkers and mountaineers from all over the world.

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    The trekking expedition into the Chadar is one of the toughest and most challenging trails in the country. Nevertheless, more and more trekkers participate in the this trek every year before of the spectacular beauty of the Himalayas that can be enjoyed during the trek.

    The trek begins from Chilling and continues till the beautiful white blanket of snow which is actually the River Zanskar in a frozen state. The trek involves long distance walking and trekking and hence it is essential for the participants to be fit and healthy. Also the temperatures of the region are incredibly low which make it mandatory for every trekker to carry warm clothes and supplements.

    Medical Evacuations/Emergencies

    Image Credit: Bob Witlox - Flickr

    Safety is a priority during trekking trips and Thrillophilia takes measures to ensure that all its guests can enjoy the trip in safety. Although there will be no doctors accompanying the troupe that goes out on the expedition, the lead trekker is usually trained in Wilderness First Aid course, which ensures that primary medical aid is always at hand.

    Furthermore, the lead trekker is trained in the basic and advanced courses of mountaineering and trekking and he ensures that all safety guidelines are followed and all trekkers are able to enjoy the beauty of the region by avoiding untoward incidents.

    [Best offers on our Exclusive Ladakh Tour]

    In case you are on any kind of medication  or undergoing treatment, consult your physician before deciding to set out on this expedition. Although the beauty and charm of the Himalayan ranges is almost impossible to resist, it is important that you are physically and medically fit for the expedition.

    If you need personal trail medications, carry them with you. If you are in doubt about your fitness level for the expedition, consult your physician or a professional trekker for advice. It is important that you gauge your fitness level well ahead and plan your expedition accordingly. If you are declared unfit, do not venture out for the expedition.

    Other Facts You Should Know

    This trek is one of the toughest and most challenging treks in the Himalayan region. The frozen Zanskar River is the only means of communication for the Ladakhis and the Zanskaris in winters. This route is popularly used by trekking enthusiasts in the winters. However, this route will soon be shut down after the road from Chilling to Padum is completed.

    Things You Must Carry

    Image Credit: Bob Witlox - Flickr

    Thrillophilia arranges for ground transportation, accommodation, tents, kitchen and dining tents, kitchen equipments, stools, tables and mattresses, food (vegetarian and non-vegetarian items), cooks, helpers, porters and guides. Furthermore, Thrillophilia will also include the charges of monument entrances, wild life fees and camping charges in your registration fees.

    Apart from all this, you will have to carry with you a medium sized day pack with plastic liner, trekking boots, stream crossing sandals, water bottles, fleece jackets, rain proof jackets, insulating gloves, sunscreen and lip salve, sunglasses, water purification pills, personal medications (if any), emergency first aid kits, toilet paper, hand sanitizers, emergency food items such as chocolate bars, mouth wash etc.

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    In case you do not already own these things, you can hire it from Thrillophilia. You can rent sleeping bags, trekking shoes and clothing etc. The package charges do not include the cost of any kinds of personal expenses such as tips, insurance, laundry and phone call charges, any kinds of beverages or any other cost incidental to any change in the itinerary.

    While setting out for the trek, it is essential that you are dressed in long sleeve, hiking shirt; long quick dry hiking pants. You can also carry a hat with a retention cord on windy days.

    Your duffel bag can carry your sleeping bag, your complete set of spare clothing, long and regular underwear, inner and outer socks, a pair of fleece sweaters, insulating hats, a pair of running shoes, your toilet kit, your toothbrush, soap, towel etc.

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    Fitness Required

    Image Credit: Bob Witlox - Flickr

    The trek to Chadar is extremely arduous and tasking. Not only does it test your physical stamina but also your medical health. It is essential that you are in the best of health before you set out for this expedition. Usually, the lead trekker is a trained professional in the basic and advanced courses of trekking and mountaineering and also trained in Wilderness first aid.

    But to avoid any critical or untoward situation in terms of health and fitness, it is best that you consult a professional or a physician and get yourself checked before participating in the Chadar trek. In case you are on medications, make sure you carry your medicines with you while venturing out for the trek.

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    The climatic conditions that trekkers have to face during a trip to Chadar are extremely harsh and cold. It is essential that you are physically and medically fit to take up this challenge. The temperatures hover between 15 and 20 degrees during the day time and between -25 and-35 degrees during the night. The nights are usually spent in caves near the frozen Zanskar River in extremely cold conditions.

    Hence, it is mandatory that you understand the challenges that lie before you completely and fully before stepping out for the expedition and prepare yourself accordingly. Carry warm clothes, warm bedding and food supplements to keep you energised during the trek. Also, carry chlorine or other water purifying tablets to filter and clean your water before drinking.

    Approximate Cost

    Image Credit: Bob Witlox - Flickr

    The approximate cost for the expedition of 13 days and 12 nights starts at about Rs 52,000 per adult. The cost may vary from individual to individual depending on the type of accommodation chosen or available, number of people travelling, activities possible and availability, changes in government fee on entry or taxes, credit card fee as per payment gateway charges etc.

    The total cost includes the cost of ground transportation using Toyota Qualis, Scorpio or Innova, accommodation in A class hotels including all meals, tents, kitchen equipments, stool, tables and mattresses, meals, support staff and entry fees to monuments, wildlife areas and camping fees.

    [If you are looking for a road trip check out Ladakh Overland Journey]

    This package charge excludes the cost of sleeping bags, trekking shoes and clothing, any kind of personal expenses, tips, laundry, insurance and phone calls, any kind of drinks and cost incidental to change in itinerary etc.

    Apart from this, you will have to bear the expenses of hiring or buying the equipments and essential items required for the trek such as day size packs, trekking boots, stream crossing sandals, water bottles, fleece jackets, rain proof jackets, insulating gloves, sunscreens, sunglasses, emergency first aid kit etc.

    These items are vital for survival during the trek and hence must be carried by everyone participating in the expedition. You will also need special clothes such as long sleeve hiking shirts, long quick dry hiking pants, hiking socks, trekking poles etc. Some of these items can also be purchased from Leh if you do not own them yourself.

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    How to Plan a Cost-Effective Trek

    Image Credit: Pradeep Kumbhashi - Flickr

    Planning is very important to make a trek cost-effective. If you wish to cut down unnecessary costs, you need to plan your trip in detail. Just packing a ruck sack and heading for the Himalayas isn’t enough when it comes to planning a trekking trip.

    You will need to plan things such as time of the programme, choice of the route and route details, choose the route type, check your capacity, capability and experience of your team members, collect information, plan for food, take gear and equipment, medicines, making the budget etc. For your personal expenses, take account of factors such as items to be packed, guide, porter, cook, check your physical and medical fitness, use of food and dos and don’ts at the campsite.

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    By planning out all these things beforehand, you can cut down a lot of unnecessary expenses during your trip. Prepare a checklist and tick out everything you have arranged. An organised approach to planning a trip is the best way to make your trip fruitful and cost-effective.

    Before you set out for the trek or decide on going trekking, do a little homework by researching on the destination, the geographical and climatic conditions, on the things that you will need to carry and the things that will be provided to you from the agency that will facilitate your travel and then prepare a checklist. With an itemised checklist, you cut down the chances of missing out anything and hence the cost of buying an item or renting it last minute.

    Common Trekking Mistakes

    1) Lack of Physical Fitness: Get yourself physically checked and only when you have been given a clean chit by the physician should you plan a trekking trip in high altitudes. High altitude trekking requires a lot of physical stamina, strength and endurance and for this reason it is highly essential that you are in the best of form. Persons suffering from heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes etc should refrain from trekking in high altitude regions.

    2) Poor Packing: While setting out on a trekking expedition in the Himalayas, it is important that you pack all your stuff wisely. Remember that when you are climbing uphill, each and every gram in your rucksack will weigh heavy and hence wise packing is absolutely necessary.

    [Check out our guide for Himalayan Trek]

    So if you are a beginner, consult an experienced trekker before packing. If you are experienced, prepare a checklist and then pack only the most essential items.

    3) Dehydration: Many people avoid drinking water in chilly conditions. This results in dehydration. So keep your water bottles close and drink in as much as you can. This will allow your body to maintain its water balance. By not drinking enough water during trekking, you aid in your body’s dehydration and make it weak and tired during the trek.

    4) Wrong Outfit: Dressing up right is not just for parties and night outs. It is important that you are dressed in the right clothes and gear to enjoy your trekking experience at high altitudes. Do not wear flowy or frilly  clothes that will make navigation difficult. Make sure you wear warm woollen and polyester clothes that suit the weather and help you trek easily.

    5) Trekking at Night: You may feel adventurous enough to trek at night, but the best way to avoid trouble while trekking in the Himalayas is - avoid trekking at night. The slopes are slippery and there are no lights to show the way. If you venture out at night, you are sure to invite serious trouble.

    6) Wearing the Wrong Shoes:  Since you will be spending most of your time walking, it is best that you choose the right shoes for yourself. Strong and sturdy shoes with metal spikes are perfect for walking in the snow. There are different types of shoes for different terrains and you should choose your shoes carefully if you want to make your trekking experience enjoyable. A wrong set of shoes or even socks in the wrong terrain can spoil all the fun in your expedition.

    7) Skipping Food: Eat well when you are on an expedition such as the frozen river trek. Many people skip their food not realising that this can cause a lot of problems. While on such a tough task, it is important that you give your body all the energy and nutrition you can to make it strong and sturdy enough to face harsh conditions. By skipping food, you make your body weak and less resistant to the severe conditions of the region.

    8) Avoiding Weather Report: Do not forget to check the weather report before you start trekking. Neglecting or avoiding the weather report can land you in serious trouble, especially at such high altitude regions. Check for websites that offer such information and keep yourself updated before setting out for the adventure.

    Is the Trip Customisable?

    Yes, the trip is customisable and can be designed to suit your preferences. Himalayan expeditions are carried out in different time frames depending on the weather and climatic conditions. If you wish to travel independently, you can choose your time frame and preferred group size.

    The charges will depend on the number of people in your group, trek area, trek style and duration of the trek. Before going on a trekking expedition in the Himalayas, it is best that you take a few things into account such as the geographical and climatic conditions of the region, the things you will require, common trekking mistakes that people make while trekking in such a terrain etc.

    Also, plan your journey well ahead of time. Use a very organised approach to plan your travel. Do your homework by researching well on the region, the climatic conditions, the trek route, the different trek styles, the best season to trek in the region etc to make your expedition fruitful and enjoyable.

    Armed with this information, you can plan your trip wisely and make it an enjoyable and memorable experience. Most people overlook such matters considering it to be trivial and are in for a big mess when they start trekking.

    [Get Thrilled? Contact us to book your Chadar Expedition]

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    <div style="clear:both"><a data-cke-saved-href="" href=""><img data-cke-saved-src="" src="" title="The Zippy Guide to Chadar Trek" alt="The Zippy Guide to Chadar Trek" border="0" /></a></div><div style="text-align:center;font-size:16px;">Courtesy of: <a data-cke-saved-href="" href="">Thrillophilia</a></div>

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