Chadar Trek: The thin ice sheet trek for the brave heart
Chadar Trek is the famous name for the Chadar frozen river trek which grows more beautiful every winter with snow-clad peaks and heavenly aura. A favorite among adventure tourists and monks alike, Chadar Trek is a challenging trek to cover. A six to eight-day long trek, the main attraction remains the difficulty level and inhospitable conditions. But brave hearts have challenged nature and won against harsh conditions through patience and techniques.
Also known as the Zanskar Gorge, it is a winter trail in the cold Zanskar region of Ladakh, in Jammu and Kashmir. The path can only be trekked during winter and bears testimony to nature’s best kept heavenly and charming scenery secrets.
Day temperature at the Chadar Trek remains around -10 degrees Celsius and drops to a mind-boggling -20 to -25 after sunset.
The chadar changes shapes every few hours as the snow melts, forms and thickens with temperature over time. Trekkers have to walk over the frozen, thin ice sheet to cross it and reach campsites to witness the real beauty of the trail.
Professional trekkers with knowledge of multiple layers and practical trekking techniques will not find it difficult for any newcomer, it gets harsh. From the mindblowing scenery to chilly temperature and fantastic atmosphere, everything about the trek is terrific.
The best time to travel to Ladakh and cover the Chadar trek is during January-February. Locals are readily available for guidance purpose, so if you are thinking of some extraordinary adventure this year, then this trek must be the answer.
8-day long itinerary for the Chadar Trek :
Day One :
On your first day, fly/ride to Leh (Altitude 11,400 ft) to reach Ladakh. On the first day, take time for acclimatization and stay at the hotel, all cozy and covered in warm clothes.
When you fly over snow clad mountains, you will get the idea why it is so hard to reach Ladakh by road during winter. The airport at Leh is among the highest, and when you get off the flight, you will feel crisp air and incredibly low temperature. You can spend the first day strolling along the market, eating at local eateries or shopping for local items.
Day Two :
Your second day will involve driving to Tilad Do via chilling (11,400 to 10,390 ft.). Here you will have to climb to Shanti Stupa if you want to see the sunrise. You can further continue on a couple of hour’s long trek to Tilat Sumdo and stay at the camps for the night. The peak of Stok Kangri is also visible from the Shanti Stupa, and if you are in for some sightseeing, then the drive will give you a glimpse of Nimu (an Indus Village). After the ride, you will have to reach the campsite for which you will need to cross the frozen Zanskar River, taking your first steps on the Chadar. Chadar means you will be walking on the ice sheet and by evening, tents enter the picture.
Day Three :
Day three trek will take you from Tilad Do to Shingra Koma (10,390 to 10,550 ft.) stretched over 10kms. You will reach Gyalpo via Shingra Koma and stay at the camps at Gyalpo. Steaming hot cup of tea will be your motivation while trekking on the chadar and day three session is indeed a long walking session. The chadar changes nature with the temperature so you will have to be careful. Somewhere, you might wade through ankle deep water, or you might have to climb on the cliffs by the side of the chadar to get across. Day three will involve much walking, and your lunch would be hot, soupy noodles.
Finally, after the 10 km trek, you will reach Gyalpo Campsite which is bend in the river, enclosed with towering peaks and rocks. So, soak in the views and enjoy a warm bed at the campsite.
Day four :
You will have to trek through Zanskar from Shingra Koma to Tibb Cave (10,550 to 10,760 ft.). Day four will follow the similar routine as before. Tea in the morning with sumptuous breakfast and then a 15 km trek over the chadar to kickstart your day four. If the temperature gets too much, walking will keep you warm.
While walking, you will see the beautifully frozen waterfalls, high and low, towering ice rocks. There is a big cave at the Tibb were porters live. Once there, enjoy your warm butter tea.
Day Five :
Next, comes the trek from Tibb cave to Naerak camp (10,760 to 11,150 ft.) stretching over 12.5kms. It is a marvelous trek of all treks as you will see deep gorges, Juniper trees cover with prayer flags and frozen waterfalls. Numerous colors playoff where the sunlight gets reflected at the iced up waterfall.
You will reach Naerak village at the end of your trek. It is situated several feet above the river. Close to the river, the camp awaits the trekkers.
Day six :
On day six, you will walk from Naerak to Tibb Cave (11,150 to 10,760 ft) through a 12.5kms long trek.
This trek marks the end of the chadar trek as you walk back to the Tibb cave, the point where you started. The Zanskar river changes form with the minutest changes in the temperature so the path you took, in the beginning, would have changed by now.
While on your way, you will see many locals in traditional woolen Gonchas along with the picturesque mountains. The trek back to the Tibb cave is genuinely hypnotizing.
Day Seven and Eight :
Day seven trek will take you from Tibb Cave to Shingra Koma (10,760 to 10,550 ft.) through a 15kms long trek. You might just come across a Snow Leopard while walking here.
After that, you will trek 10kms from Shingra Koma to Tilad Do (10,550 to 10,390 ft.), and then a drive to Leh will send you to the warm comforts of the hotel/guest house. Day Eight is the last day of chadar trek, and on this day, it is best to soak in the effervescent mountains and take some memories home with you.
So, this was the routine for a beautiful 8day long trip in Ladakh for Chadar Trek. It is best to travel in a group of people and enjoy the local culture. You can go shopping in the local markets for souvenir once you are back to the hotel.
Summary of Chadar Trek
Place | Zanskar Valley
Starting point | Leh
Trek length | Approx 105 kilometers
Time of trek | 8-10 days.
Mode | foot with stick support and a trekking shoe
Essentials | Power bank, poncho, move/voilini, toiletries.
Terrain | Will have to walk on frozen ice sheet beneath which is flowing water.
To see | Water cascades, clouds, clear blue skies and breathtaking forest in sunlight. If lucky may spot rare snow leopard.
Definitely, Do’s | Night stargazing, Take a dip in river only after consulting guide
Don’ts | Think to bath in river assuming running water is not that cold and avoid trekking at night.
Note | Please don’t litter.
Other recommended difficult trek in Ladakh: Markha Valley Trek