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. You’ll be walking on this icy sheet for your trek.
This thrilling trek involves walking on the frozen Zanskar River, camping in an 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 the sheet of ice, with a raging river just beneath. 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.
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. 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.
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.