Located in the surreal Leh and Ladakh region of the Himalayas, the Chadar trek winds over the frozen Zanskar river, and is extremely famous across the world. It takes place in the coldest part of winter in Ladakh. Ladakh is a magnificently stark high-altitude desert kingdom in the Indian Himalayas and is the perfect setting for a winter trek. It is famed for its high passes, brackish water lakes, deep blue skies and a landscape that is larger than life.
Over hundreds of years, the Zanskar river has carved a path for itself through the rocky gorges of Ladakh. The walls of the gorges can go up to 2000 feet tall in some places. During the summer, the river is a perfect location for rafting, and during the winters it transforms into a sheet of ice. The ice on the river forms such a thick layer that the locals use it as a road. Trekkers will walk over this frozen river, camp in caves and in tents on the ice and trek past towering waterfalls that are frozen in mid-flow. The trek is intense and is a great test of your endurance and will under freezing temperatures, and has the reward of an unforgettable experience. As you trek you’ll witness breath-taking views of the majestic snow-clad peaks, hanging icicles, surreal landscapes, bleached rock faces, and weather-blackened trees.
The Chadar trek in Ladakh is one of the most unique treks in India, and possibly in the world too. It offers a fascinating opportunity to experience a winter phenomenon in the legendary Zanskar Valley. This dangerously thrilling trek involves walking on the frozen Zanskar River, camping in this icy wonderland, and discovering the dramatic beauty of a winter landscape. Through much of the trek, steep canyons accompany you on both sides. Sometimes the canyon walls are the only support you have as you make your way across fast flowing icy cold river water. Thick snow covers much of the trail and at night, you camp in tents on ice or in ancient caves.
The trek is a unique journey that is on the bucket list of almost all trekkers. While it's a valley trek across flat ground that doesn't take a toll on your legs, it's the temperature that you need to get used to. You walk in sub-zero temperature during the day and sleep in temperatures that can reach -25 degrees. Although the trek has gained popularity in recent years, it is still an isolated place where you and your team might be the only people as far as your eye can see. If you’re thinking of doing the Chadar in trek, here are the top five reasons you definitely should.
Due to the extremely cold winters, the Zanskar river freezes and that's when trekking enthusiasts from around the world flock to this place. The Chadar trek 2019 will be open in the months of late December to mid-February.
You can choose from whirlwind itineraries of the legendary frozen Zanskar river trek that give you a taste of the experience, without taking too long. It's perfect for those who are not sure they'll be able to handle longer durations in the freezing weather, or for those who have time restrictions. There are also longer itineraries that gives you enough time to acclimatise before heading out to take your first steps on ice. The Chadar trek 2019 packages start at INR 17,800. Here is a complete list of things to carry on the Chadar trek.
NOTE: All departures for Chadar trek 2019 have a compulsory medical check-up in Leh. This is to ensure that you are fully acclimatized and fit to undertake the trek. Read a complete list of things you should know about the Chadar 2019 trek before you book.
The Chadar trek takes place in the coldest time of winter so that the Zanskar is completely frozen and you can trek on it. You can expect days to be anywhere between -5 and -10 degrees Celsius. However, at night it can drop drastically, going to -15 to -20 degrees Celsius. During the day, it’s not difficult to stay warm while you’re walking, but once you arrive at camp, you’ll start to feel the cold. Make sure you have the right thermals, fleeces, jackets, and hats, socks, gloves, etc.
There are risks in any adventure sport, but with qualified and experienced guides, a strong support staff, and the right precautions, you should be safe.
The most common risk on the Chadar trek is altitude sickness. You can avert ill effects by making sure you stay warm and hydrated, follow the instructions of the guide at all times, don’t exert yourself on the first two or three days, and alert your guide if you’re feeling sick or unwell. If you want to know about high altitude trekking, read How to prepare for a high altitude trek.
Your operator will provide you with a complete list of gear to pack. Make sure you go through this and take each item. Talk to your operator to ensure you get the right quality, and check all your gear before you leave home. It’s always a good idea to break in your trekking shoes so you don’t suffer blisters on the trek. You can read this complete list of items to pack for the Chadar trek but do follow your operator’s list to the word.
It is not recommended to go for the Chadar trek if you have no prior trekking experience. This is not because the Chadar trek requires any technical skills – it doesn’t – but you will have to trek in harsh conditions, in a remote location. You might not be prepared for the cold, or you might not like the camping and toilet arrangements. Instead, you could try starting off with a short snow trek in Uttarakhand instead, and aim for the Chadar trek in 2020.
Having said that, there are some fit first-timers who have been on the Chadar trek, and have come back delighted with the experience. It depends on your fitness levels, having realistic expectations and the right attitude, and being mentally resilient.
You won’t be bathing at all on the Chadar trek. You can use a dampened tissue to wipe sweat away before you sleep. Do note: wet wipes may freeze on the trek. All operators will provide toilet tents on the Chadar trek. Every day, they dig a pit in the frozen river banks, some distance from the tents and the river, and put up a tent over it. You will be expected to shovel mud into the pit when you’re done.
For women, if you are expecting your period during the trek, do make sure you carry enough pads or tampons. You might not find the brands you like in Leh, and there are no stores along the trek. You will have to pack the used pads or tampons in plastic bags and carry them to a place where you can safely dispose of them. Some operators will light a fire for you to burn used pads/tampons, but this depends on their policies. Have a chat with your operator before you book if you want to know.