The Chadar 2020 trek takes you through the frosty environs of a snow-swept land, through a rocky gorge carved by the legendary Zanskar river. It’s a rare experience that is only available for a couple of years more, before the highways being constructed here will make it possible to do road trips with short visits to the frozen river. If you’re thinking of doing the Chadar 2020 trek, here are the top five reasons you definitely should!
1. There’s no other trek in India like this one.
The Chadar trek is unique because it takes place on the surface of a frozen river. Other treks in India go over hills and mountains, through passes and caves, up old forts and down into valleys, but this one winds along the route of the Zanskar river. Where the ice is thick enough, you’ll be walking over it. Where the guides believe the ice is too thin, you’ll walk on the frozen river banks.
In the evenings, you’ll stop and set up camp, enjoying the peace of the river, and the starry skies above. You’ll be able to see the campfires of other trekking groups down the river, and singing sessions and hot meals make the cold night merry.
One of the highlights of the Chadar 2020 trek is Tibb Cave, an ancient cave that becomes every trekker’s favourite spot. The walls of the cave are blackened from the soot from decades of campfires, and whatever time of the day it is, there’s always someone stirring a large vessel of hot, sweet tea here. Invariably, everyone stops here and is offered tea. The feeling of camaraderie here is heart-warming, and you’ll feel like a real adventurer as you exchange notes with other trekkers.
2. You’ll see sights you’ve never seen before.
Winter brings spectacular changes to the landscape of Ladakh. This high altitude desert offers the most dramatic views, especially in the river valley, thanks to the Zanskar river. You’ll walk past dozens of waterfalls that are frozen, creating walls of icicles that tower over head. You’ll see air bubbles from the river frozen under the ice. In some stretches, you’ll be walking on a thick sheet of ice, with the river swirling underneath.
All around you, every day, the Chadar is changing. If the temperature rises just a few degrees, the ice thaws, cracks, and refreezes in new patterns. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot mountain goats navigating the steep slopes of the river valley, but there’s very little other wildlife. The trees around are bare of leaves, and their weather-blackened limbs stand out in stark contrast to the white landscape all around.
3. You’ll take on the most challenging conditions, and it’ll still be fun.
The Chadar trek takes place in the coldest months of winter, when the whole region is buried under snow. Temperatures are well below zero during the day, and can go as low as -25 degrees Celsius at night. But you’ll have all the gear you need to stay warm, and your crew provides you with warm drinking water, hot soup, and hot meals to keep you going. At night, you’ll sleep with as many layers as you can, zipped into thick sleeping bags.
The Chadar trek takes place at just over 11,000 feet, and every itinerary includes a medical check-up and a couple of days in Leh to make sure you’re acclimatized. However, you’ll feel the effects of the altitude in your breathing. With the thinner air up here, your movements are slower and you’ll feel breathless sooner. But with all this, the Chadar 2020 trek will be one of the most epic journeys you’ll ever undertake, and you’ll never really forget what it felt like to be out on the river, in the middle of a dark winter night.
4. You’ll enter a whole new world.
The Chadar trek really takes you out of your comfort zone. You’ll be far away from civilization; you’ll be cold most of the time; you’ll try butter tea (which not everyone likes), and you’re at the mercy of nature. But that’s only for a few days. You’ll gain a new understanding of what life is like away from the cities. You’ll learn a lot about the Ladakhi people and their challenges. It’s a humbling experience, and you’ll develop a deeper appreciation of the comforts and privileges of your daily life
5. You’ll win ultimate bragging rights!
Psst! The Chadar trek is not a difficult one – no steep slopes, and no technical training required. However, it is not to be taken lightly. The weather and altitude make it challenging, and the harsh conditions can be life-threatening if you don’t listen to your guide. Do remember that there is a swift and frigid river swirling under your feet at all times. But this is what makes it so special. Not everyone dares to take on the challenge of the Chadar.
When you come back, you’ll feel stronger and more confident than ever before. There’s just something about an adventure like this that boosts your sense of self. And when the Chadar 2020 trek is all over, and you’ve defrosted and returned to your home, you’ve joined an elite community of Chadar trekkers who have faced it all. Be prepared for awed looks and lots of questions as you become the hero of your circle!
Here’s what you need to know about the Chadar 2020 trek before you book.
The complete packing list for the Chadar 2020 trek.
Have you been rafting in the Zanskar yet?
These are the best adventures in Jammu Kashmir!
The best motorbiking routes in India (Ladakh is just one of them!)
The ULTIMATE gear guide for Indian adventurers
How to prepare for high altitude trekking
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