In the local language, ‘chadar’ means ‘blanket’- indicating the blanket of ice that covers the river. The Chadar trek is performed on the frozen Zanskar River in Jan & Feb. The frozen river has been serving as a trade route between Leh & Zanskar for centuries – a perfect example of the resourcefulness of Ladakhis.
This trek is the ultimate thrill- harsh weather, sub-zero temperatures and an unpredictable, shifty path of ice! The 7 to 8 days’ walk from Chilling to Padum is a challenge as well as an incomparable experience. The landscape acquires a pristine grandeur, with a thick white Chadar as far as the eyes can see!
A while back we had written about Ashwin Raghavan’s experience at the Chadar Trek. The season for this winter trek is just around the corner, and its beauty is too breathtaking to be described in words. So we got some super -adventurous trekkers to share their favourite pictures with us!
“It’s a real adventure to cross the slippery and thin layer of the frozen river bed. During Chadar Trek expedition, my team came across a situation where we had to cross deep river bed without any support. One wrong move and you are lost to death in bone freezing deep river water”
“At Chadar, the air is thin with low Oxygen levels.
Every morning, the porters will check your blood oxygen levels using this tiny SO2 checker.”
“At Chadar, morning sun rays lit up Chadar to its extreme vibrance. The sun rays keep playing between the giant mountain tops in the valley. Around 12 noon, sunlight could reach the frozen Chadar base and it becomes really slippery onwards. Hence, the wee hours are used to cover maximum distance and savour the vibrant views of Zanskar Valley.”
“Cairns are helpful to help fellow trekkers find and follow the right path. These milestones are made by piling rocks in specific fashion by every individual/group. Every milestone has its unique formation”
“When I first started on the trek I was unprepared- both for the difficulty and the unparalleled beauty. This place is the definition of ‘breathtaking’. There is this beautiful unbelievable layer of pure white, it’s just a lot to take in at first.”
“The trek itself is not strenuous. The gradient is quite easy. It’s the cold weather that leaves you breathless. Every break in the crevice of a large rock, providing even little protection from the cold, was much appreciated”
“Back in the city, while working and running errands, you think you have the most important job in the world. One lost deadline and you’re finished. Then you turn back and look at the mightiness of Nature- through pictures like this. Your perspective shifts a little, a lot maybe.”
“It all began when I first visited the Himalayas in Ladakh in 2015 and witnessed the confluence of Zanskar and Indus river. There I got to know about chadar trek and since then it was always there back on my mind to trek on the frozen river. Somehow I planned for the trek and I could not believe myself when I first saw the Chadar.”
“Chadar trek is said to be one of the dangerous treks in India and many adventure seekers attempt it but I went there to see how fascinating nature can be and how peaceful it can make you feel. It doesn’t just leave you with an experience but also some lessons to remember for your life.”
“I usually ended up walking at the end of the group as I stopped quite a many time to witness the beauty and vastness of the river and mountains surrounding it and trying to save them in my memories forever and of course to click pictures”
“Once I was walking alone peacefully and the destination was nowhere near for that day. One of my batch members came along and out of nowhere asked me ” So, what have you learned on this journey so far?” I quickly replied ” Patience, a lot of it. ” for a moment he stopped and I guess he understood what I meant. “
“The road trip in 2015 inspired me to come back to Ladakh again. This time I wanted to go deep into the Himalayas. Then I came across Chadar trek. After doing some research one thing was clear. Chadar trek is very dangerous and requires great stamina. This inspired me to prepare myself for the challenge.”
“The Ladakhi way of life”
“The landscape is out of this world. Every direction you look is like a scenery. It is like walking on a different planet. The atmosphere is thin that means it’s difficult to breathe due to less oxygen in the air. Carrying a 12 kg backpack and walking for 8 km per days is a daunting task. This trek really pushes you to the limit, mentally and physically. But the results are fantastic! You walk through an unexplored, untouched part of the Himalayas. You see a billion stars every night which makes you forget all the pain you endured during the day. As a travel photographer, this trek will always be my best experience.”
“Walking alone is the underrated joy of any trek.
Nature, You and unrestricted thoughts! You actually feel free then. No connectivity, No Noise, Pure bliss it is! You think of the times, you almost gave up. You think of the times people didn’t appreciate you. All the troubling times looks tiny watching the river taking turns around the corner. You truly feel at peace. That assurance of your friends being somewhere around you sets you free!”
Read our Top Tips for Solo Travellers
“When you’re too lazy to find your water bottle inside bag pack! The water here is delicious, by the way!”
“Reliving the moments just before returning to the Leh after completing the trek. It was all yellow when we started from here (see our tents below) and within 6 days it was covered in snow. This is why chadar is called the most unpredictable trek.”
Running out of Time
This beautiful trek will, in a couple of years, cease to exist in its current form, as a road is currently being built to take its place. The road will certainly be safe and more convenient than the river, but its completion will mark the end of an ancient local practice.
Also heading the change engine is Global Warming. The weather is getting more unpredictable than usual, and so are the ice levels. Read our guide to sustainable, eco-friendly travel.
Aspiring trekkers probably have 2 years at best to attempt the unforgettable Chadar Trek. Bookings for 2018 are currently open and you definitely shouldn’t be waiting much longer to head out!
Here are some other popular activities for YOU to try this season:
- Say Goodbye to your fears: Bungee Jumping in Rishikesh
- Experience snow like never before: Hampta Pass Trek
- Rappel down into the Valley of Shadows: Sandhan Valley Trek
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