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Chadar Trek – The Most Challenging And Enthralling Himalayan Trekking Trail
Despite being considered as one of the most difficult treks, the appeal and majesty of Chadar trek attracts countless adventure seekers every year. The trek, which is carried out only in the peak winter season, requires the participants to traverse the frozen Zanskar River, the very thought of which makes the adrenaline rush through the body of even the most experienced trekkers. The trek is completed over a period of 9 days and 8 nights and every single moment of this duration is filled with great excitement and thrill for the participants.
As the trekkers move over the layer of ice that covers the cold gushing waters of the Zanskar River flowing only a few inches below, they are constantly conscious of the great risk involved. However, it is this risk that builds up the thrill and motivates the trekkers to overcome this extremely tough challenge of nature. The nearly death defying experience, makes the trekkers appreciate the small blessings of life in a better manner. Moreover, they gain the confidence and the maturity to overcome the everyday challenges of life in a far easier and stress free manner.
For most people the decision of undertaking the Chadar trek proves to be a life changing decision. The trail, which takes them through a valley surrounded by snow walls that seemingly stretch up to the skies, makes the trekkers feel humbled. They also learn to appreciate the great beauty and majesty of nature while making the participants realize its true force in a somber manner. The chill, the solace and the thrill of the trek leaves them overwhelmed mesmerized at the same time.
Day 1 : Arrive in Leh ( 9,800 FT, 0 Kms Trek)
The flight to Ladakh is absolutely scenic. You get a birds eye view of the entire city and the layers of snow-clad mountains will help you understand why it is impossible to reach Ladakh by road in winters. You will feel a drop in the temperature the minute you land at the airport, which is also one of the highest airports in the world. Collect your bags and check in to your assigned hotels. Today’s day is extremely important for acclimatization, so try to stay outdoors as much as possible but try not to exert yourself. Leh is quite in the winters and very few shops and eateries are open for business. You can buy dry fruits from some of the shops at a very reasonable price and some woolen clothes too if you like. Take a stroll through the colourful Leh market during the day, and if possible, try to walk till Leh Palace and Namgyal Monastary. The colourful flags fluttering in the air and the view of the entire city from Namgyal Monastary is not to be missed. Drink plenty of fluids during the day to help you with acclimatization and prepare yourself to start the trek tomorrow.
Day 2 : Rest & Acclimatization in Leh
The day is reserved for acclimatization. Your leader may take you for a light acclimatization walk during the day. As per the new regulations of Leh, you might have to get medically examined at SNM Hospital in Leh and today the checkup would be organized (as required).
Day 3 : Leh to Shingra Koma via Shingra (10,550 FT, 70 Kms drive to Shingra, 2-3 hrs trek to Shingra Koma)
The drive to your first campsite, Shingra is quite scenic. You drive along the beautiful Indus river and get a chance to see the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar river at Nimmu. We are going to cover a total distance of 70 kms by road and you will experience a few jaw-dropping moments as the vehicle makes its way around the narrow hairpin bends. It should take about 3 hours to reach Shingra and as you get closer, the inspiring sight of the frozen Zanskar will get you excited about the trek. Your leaders will soon give you tips on how to walk on Chadar. It takes a while to get the hang of it. We call it the ‘Penguin Walk’. Walk around as much as possible, it will help you get comfortable walking on a glassy ice sheet. You will fall a few times, and that is part of the overall experience. You will also be taught how to get inside your double layered sleeping bags before sundown. Today is an exciting day, as it is your first day of trekking on the frozen Zanskar river. You will get plenty of sunshine during the day, so wear comfortable clothes. The best thing about Chadar trek is that you walk on a flat surface throughout the trek. There are no steep ascents or descents and very little chance of catching AMS, since you don’t gain any altitude throughout the trek. If you are comfortable on day 2, you are already acclimatized and you should be able to finish the entire trek without any major issues. Depending on the weather, the Chadar changes its forms. It can be hard and glass like in some patches, or it can have a layer of powder snow on it giving you a better grip, or you could face thin ice in certain areas, so you might have to walk in slush or dodge that entire patch and go over the rocks on the side of the river. Walk together as a team and follow the sledge route. Always follow the sledge route used by the porters as it is the safest route on Chadar. You will get to your next campsite within 2-3 hours, depending on your speed. Your leaders will take you through a few learning modules about being in the mountains. You will have the campsite to yourself to explore and take pictures for the rest of the day. Camp overnight at Shingra Koma.
Day 4 : Shingra Koma to Tibb (10,760 FT, 14 Kms)
The biggest challenge from here on will be getting out of your warm sleeping bags and stepping outside your tent in freezing cold weather. The zankari people are well known for their hospitatlity and your staff will wake up way before you to ensure you have a hot cup of tea and a warm meal ready before you leave. Today is going to be a long walking session, you will cover a total 14 kms on Chadar and it should take you about 6 to 7 hours to reach your next campsite. Make sure you fill your thermos with warm water before you leave, all liquids tend to freeze in this region given the extreme temperatures, so a thermos is extremely important. You will only get sun shine around 9-10 am, that too in patches as the giant rocky mountains on both sides of the Zankar river tend to hide the sun. Marvel at the views as you walk in this huge valley with nothing but pure crisp air and huge rocks on both sides of you. The colour of the Zanskar river flowing in the middle is vibrant and deep blue and sometimes you will see water flowing right beneath you under the thick ice sheet. You will see a few frozen waterfalls along the way. Your staff will cook you a warm meal mid-way, so fill your bellies and enjoy a hot cup of tea. By 3pm, you’ll be at Tibb, and the last 200 meter walk is extremely gorgeous. Camp overnight at Tibb.
Day 5 : Tibb to Nerak (11,150 FT, 12 KMs trek)
Today is the most important day on the trek because you will get a chance to see the-mother-of-all-waterfalls ‘Nerak waterfalls’ after reaching your campsite. It is going to be another long day, so you will start early. Aim to reach Nerak campsite before 3pm, so you get plenty of time at Nerak waterfall. The sun will again be shun from the valley, so keep moving to keep your body warm. The ice in various patches is broken in the middle of the frozen river, forming geometrical structures of various shapes and sizes, which are facinating to see. You will have lunch inside a cozy cave mid-way, a cave huge enough to fit 12-15 people comfortably. Reach Nerak campsite, have some snacks and make your way to the gigantic Nerak waterfall. It should take you about 30 minutes to get there, and you might see a few domestic Yaks grazing the higher grounds along the way. Right next to the waterfalls is a bridge across the river, which takes you up to Nerak village. It’s fascinating to see the old wooden bridge under the new concrete/steel bridge, giving you a chance to see the age old constructions. Spend some time marveling at the sight of Nerak waterfall, before heading back to the campsite for your dinner. Camp overnight at Nerak.
Day 6 : Nerak to Tibb (10,760 FT, 12 Kms trek)
Today, your trace your steps back to Tibb campsite. And if you think you are going to see the same frozen ice sheet again, think again. The Zanskar river reacts to the slightest change in the temperatures, and constantly keeps changing its form. You will not be able to recognize the sights, it all seems so different on the way back. You might walk on a glass like surface or patches and patches of slush, depending on the weather. Throughout the way, you will see the local porters wearing the traditional woolen robes called ‘Gonchas’, with colourful beads around their neck and their traditional hats. It’s fascinating to see the locals negotiating on Chadar, as they seem to walk like the wind, absolutely comfortable with the slippery uneven icy surface. They will greet you using the local phrase ‘Julley’ which is the Ladakhi term for hello/welcome. You might also catch a few locals singing traditional ladakhi songs while pulling their sledges and enjoying the journey. Pengiun walk your way to tibb and enjoy the rest of the day. Camp overnight at Tibb.
Day 7 : Tibb to Bakula (10,550 FT, 12.5 KMs trek)
Today is the last hard long day, as we will try to cover as much distance as possible. We will camp at Bakula campsite today, which is just 30 minutes away from Shingra Yokma. It will take you about 7 to 8 hours to reach Bakula, which seems to be an abandoned campsite above the river, so you have the entire campsite to yourself. Since the campsite is higher up, it tends to get quite windy but also tends to get a lot of sun early morning. You sometimes come across footprints on the patches of snow on the surface here, which give you an idea of the wildlife in the vicinity, shying away from human contact. You may not see them, but they definitely observe you from a distance. Camp overnight at Bakula.
Day 8 : Bakula to Shingra Yokma (10,550 FT, 1.5 KMs/30 mins trek)
And it all ends today. We have two options today, we can either head back to Chadar and walk on the frozen river again or go over the rocky hills right in front of the campsite in order to reach Shingra Yokma. Whichever route your leader chooses, depending on the conditions of the routes, it will take just about 30 minutes for you to reach your last stop. The sun greets you like an old friend all day, sending you back with a warm farewell. Enjoy some time at Shingra Yokma campsite, your last on Chadar, before the tempo travelers come pick you up. Head back to the hotels, do a bit of last minute shopping before the market closes, and prepare to catch your flight as per your schedule. Stay at hotels in Leh.
Day 9 : Departure From Leh