Have you ever wondered that you need something more than oxygen to go on? This special air, not found in posh housing complexes of a metropolitan or in tall offices, the kind that puts you in a trance and fills you up on the inside, the refreshing kind, the rejuvenating breath of fresh air-only found high up, way up in the invigorating lap of nature. Where, you ask? In Ladakh, of course! Were you expecting any other answer from me?

Experience Ladakh In a ‘Never Before’ Way
There can be several ways to experience the magical beauty of Ladakh, however, trekking in Ladakh is an adventure at its best. The blessed beauty of the incandescent mountain and the longing valleys of Ladakh have never failed to beckon travellers across the globe. Apart from being the land of dream, it is a popular destination for thrilling activities. The challenging and unique topography of this place lends it a charm of its own when compared to other popular trekking destinations. From the desert to blue waters, burning sun to freezing winds, and from glaciers to sand dunes, Ladakh resembles a paradox of nature. It is home to many trekking trails that can bring one face to face with surreal landscapes while providing an adrenaline rush like never before. Ladakh is a place that ensures that whether the trek is strenuous or easy, at the end you will always a have a great adventure experience by your side.


Chadar Trek:

Altitude: 3850 m
Approx. Duration: 10-21 days
Best Time to Go: Mid January – End February
Difficulty Level: High

chadar

Chadar trek is one of the popular treks that offers an opportunity to register a memorable experience by trekking on the frozen river, Chadar. It is also known as Chadar frozen river trek as the Zanskar River transforms into a sheet of frozen ice during sub-zero temperatures in the winter season. The Chadar trek route is the traditional way out for people to traverse in winters as others ways used to get blocked due to heavy snow in Ladakh. There are several prominent places that the trail to Chadar covers; however, Zanskar is a place of great significance. Being one of the last few surviving cultural satellites of Tibet, Zanskar reflects esoteric nature of Buddhism. It is home to around ten thousand inhabitants who are preserving and perpetuating their cultural identity. The Chadar trek provides a chance to penetrate the isolation of this place.

Moreover, the route taken by the trail connects several villages in the Zanskar valley. Chilling and Lingshed are the only sizable villages that it covers during the journey. The quaint charm and picturesque surroundings of the Lingshed village set it apart from other villages. One of the major attractions of this village is the Lingshed monastery that houses temples, stupas, statues, murals and manuscripts. It also gives an insight into the religious influence on Ladakh. The ancient monastic establishments of Karsha and Zangla are the important places that bear testament to the mysteries related to a land and culture frozen in time behind the ramparts of the Zanskar Mountains, the Shangrila.

Though Chadar trek provides a fascinating experience, it is important to remain cautious of the challenges that it throws. Walking on the river seems to be easy but it involves the risk of sliding on ice. However, the beautiful sights offered by this frozen sheet, Chadar, and the chilly surroundings create a captivating effect on the mind.


Stok Kangri:

Altitude: 6000 m
Approx. Duration: 11 days
Best Time to Go: Mid July-Mid September
Difficulty Level: High

Stok Palace
Stok Palace

Stok Kangri is one of the fascinating trekking options in Ladakh. Situated in the Stok range of the Himalayas in the Ladakh region, it is home to several remote places which cannot be explored otherwise. The deserted surroundings, blissful landscapes, trail with plenty of ridges combine together to make the experience of Stok Kangri trekking all the more exciting. Apart from resembling a unique blend of natural exquisiteness and cultural beauty, Stok Kangri trekking expedition involves a thrill-invoking climb to such high altitude.

The astounding views of the Zanskar valley, Indus Valley and lofty mountains in the Himalayas lend immense popularity to the Stok Kangri trek. There is no other such trek that offers the company of peace and tranquillity in such an inspirational and beautified profound manner. Stok village is one of the key attractions of the Stok Kangri trek. Besides being an exotic location, it reflects a unique blend of traditional and contemporary architectural styles of Ladakh. The panoramic views offered by the Stok Palace and Stok Museum can leave anyone amazed. A 360-degree view of the Saser Kangri and the splendid views of Karakoram Range add a special hue in the trekking expedition to Stok Kangri.

It is essential to know a hack of dealing with the weather conditions that can deteriorate on Stok Kangri trek. To trek in the sinking snow and the situation where you might find your legs sinking up to your knees are the problems that require immediate help and extra caution. However, the risk is worth it, as an adventure speaks hollow unless and until the wire of risk charges it with some thrill.

So, if one feels enchanted and thrilled to scale a tough yet an amazing summit, then Stok Kangri trekking expedition is an ideal choice to explore the mighty Himalayan range with a wider lens of perspective.


Markha Valley Trek:

Altitude: 3700 m
Approx. Duration: 8 days
Best Time to Go: June to September
Difficulty Level: Medium

markha

Being the central valley of Ladakh, Markha Valley one of the prominent locations of the region. And so, the trekking expedition to Markha Valley is among the top trek routes of Ladakh. Markha Valley Trek proceed along Markha River through an area which is one of one of the world’s highest inhabited plateaus region, little Tibet in Ladakh. The region provides a clear and stunning view of the Great Himalayan, Ladakh and Zanskar ranges. These views serve are truly exemplar of nature’s beauty and its creativity.

Crossing through three passes of Stok, Stok La and Kongmaru at high altitudes is what adds to the popularity of the Markha valley trek. Apart from giving an opportunity to discover the places that nature has designed with a variety of hues, it offers a chance to experience camping at the base of Kang Yutze peak of Nimaling. To have an interaction with one’s own self under that star-studded sky serves as a therapy for the mind, which hardly gets time to express its own concerns. In that state of introspection, even body seems to recover from the clutches of the war that we constantly wage with the daily struggles of life.

On this trekking trail, trekkers would witness the scenic splendor of the landscape in abundance. They would also come across the willow groves, patches of wild roses, nomadic families inhabiting the region with their herds of yaks and pastel canyons decorated with multi-hued prayer flags furling with winds. Also, one cannot miss the accommodations which have been constructed as parachute tents at most of the village’s en-route. Renowned for its amazing biodiversity, the Hemis National Park is a must-visit during the trek. So, experience the contrasting colours of nature as there is no scope of regret on the trekking expedition to Markha valley. It offers a complete package of fun, excitement and adventure without posing an extreme risk to the safety of the individuals.


Also,

Minimize your impact in culturally and ecologically sensitive areas by being as self-sufficient as possible, especially with food and fuel. Buying provisions along the way puts unnecessary burden on the villages’ subsistence-oriented economies. It also encourages hordes of temporary ‘tea shops’ (usually run by outsiders), to sprout along the trails.

Refuse should be packed up, not disposed of along the route, no matter how far from the nearest roadbed you are. Plastics should be retained for recycling at the Ecology Centre in Leh.

Even when you know that you have to return to shoulder the same old burden, what comes as inspiration from the journey is the courage to start over anew. The trip is an analogy of the lesson that life teaches that it’s all about how you perceive. Though life has not given us the freedom to do away with the struggle altogether, it has given us the choice to find beauty and discover our own sunshine. Somebody has rightly pointed out that amidst the fury of life’s noise; there lies a soulful and an innocent harp that rings deep within all of us.

A lot has been written about the frozen river Chadar trek. Every year, in the months of January and February, headstrong trekkers dare to attempt the trek i.e., walk over the frozen Zanskar river that is the only route for locals to reach Leh. However, it is best explained in a series of photos. After all, a photo is worth a thousand words.

So without further ado, here’s what’s so special about Chadar Trek and why it should be on your travel wish-list for 2019:

chadarThe temperature here drops to around -30 degree Celsius and is the most suitable for being tread on in the winter months, hence.

webp-net-compress-image-23Trekkers start this exploration from Chilling and hike further up to Naerak(they can return from this point itself) and then Lingshed. The entire ice trail is about 105 kms long and trekkers walk about 15 kms each day

webp-net-compress-image-22A road between Zanskar and Leh is under construction which will make it easier for the locals to commute. However, it poses a great threat for the wildlife including snow leopards in the area.

chadarFrozen Naerak falls.

chadarThe fluctuating temperature in the valley makes and breaks the ice in the river. So, trekkers are to use extreme caution in a terrain such as this.

shutterstock_1113151_cf8ceThe gigantic brown mountains that outline the frozen river present a great visual.

chadar trekLocals cook food here in caves and it is served in caves. How dreamlike!

webp-net-compress-image-21Impeccable trekking gear should be made use of while carrying out this trek. The ice sheets thin down over different times of the day.

shutterstock_7977997_tjn49Camping is an absolute delight on this trek! Enjoy incredible starry nights. Star-gazing is definitely something you should check off your list when you’re here.


What are you waiting for?
Pack your bags and set out for this dreamland! Chadar trek can be undertaken by experienced trekkers each January-February. This is a perfect trek for your travel goal list. 

An Experience Like Never Before 

The Chadar trek is a must for all those people who are living in cities and have been seeking an opportunity to have freedom from their hard-working lives for a short while. After completing it, one will realise the immense beauty of pristine nature and why it needs to be protected. The Chadar trek is a completely different trek as it involves walking on a frozen Zanskar river at an altitude of 13,000 ft for days in sub-zero temperatures at around -25 degree Celsius. The experience of trekking on an aqua blue ice trail between calm brown mountains along with cold breeze is an experience within itself. This trek has been categorised under the major difficulty level trek, as it requires a heavy amount of exertion. One is also required to have a proper guidance before beginning this trek. The trail of this trek is approximately 105 km and on an average, a trekker will be walking a distance of 15 to 17 km per day

During winter, this frozen lake route of Chadar is one and only route that connects Zanskar Valley and Ladakh.

Special Treats: MAJOR VILLAGES EN ROUTE
Villages falling in the trail of Chadar trek are Nerak and Lingshed. Trekkers will be coming across these two villages on different days during the trek.

NERAKIt is one of the two villages where the trekkers will be taking their stoppages. The views of the sunset from this point are worth witnessing. Travellers should definitely click some pictures from this point. Trekkers will be reaching towards this village after witnessing the captivating frozen waterfall and the massive Tibb Cave. This village serves as a major base camp of the Chadar trek. In order to reach Nerak Village, trekkers will be climbing a steep mountain trail. This village houses facilities such as a rudimentary health dispensary and a solar plant. There is also a residential school at this village where students study till the elementary level. All the basic essential goods including ration are bought for an entire year and are brought in this village from a small settlement of Wonla, which is located at a great distance and is situated across the Zing La pass. Only the Chadar trek trail connects the Nerak Village with the outside world. This village is home to around 30 families.

LINGSHEDTrekkers will be arriving at the village of Lingshed. Trekker arriving in Lingshed will be delighted to know that this village is known as one of the oldest villages in Ladakh. This village is filled with an ample amount of nature’s beauty. It is also home to the Lingshed Monastery, which is one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh. This monastery is a famous tourist attraction. By now, the trekkers would have visited popular tourist spots such as Gyalpo and Dibyokma. Gyalpo is an enchanting campsite which is located in a meadow in the Zanskar River. At this region, travelers will discover imposing peaks and large natural rocks which are naturally sculpted in abstract shapes. Dibyokma is another stoppage point during the Chadar trek. From this point, travelers can enjoy a breath-taking view of the Himalayas, it is also known as the most peaceful point of the trek.


Dreamlike Chadar Trek: Enjoy Camping Under Starlit Skies 

chadar
During the night, the travelers will also get the opportunity to see a vibrant sky full of stars. The Chadar trek is known for its rough camping conditions and fluctuating temperature, there will be several instances where trekkers would be required to manoeuvre through difficult terrain of the trek and climb cold boulders of ice and rock.    

chadarThe wide frozen aqua blue ice trail formed by Zanskar River in winters between massive, calm, golden brown mountains is the prime factor which makes Chadar Trek a special trek.

Lifesaver Tips: Exercising Precaution While Treading On The Frozen River 

  • It is suggested that one should share his or her schedule to go on Chadar Trek with at least one friend or family member. This will ensure that he or she has someone for help in case of an emergency.
  • It is advised to carry warm clothes as there is a high probability of temperature to drop extremely low.
  • Travelers are suggested to carry ample quantity of edible food and water with them, as there might be a shortage of food and water during the trek.
  • One should not forget to carry a first-aid kit and medicines, as the travellers will be involved in activities which will require a lot of exertion and will be often getting minor bruises and cuts during the trek.
  • One should ensure that the trail of the trek stays clean and they should not pollute the trail or dump anything during the trek. Travellers are also advised not to use shampoos and soaps at any of the waterfalls.
  • One should respect all religious faiths and the calmness of all the shrines that fall en route.
  • One should not disobey or disregard any of the instructions and tips given by the guide.
  • Avid skipping any of the meals during the trek as the intense terrain of Chadar trek will require trekkers to have a high amount of energy.

The best time to go on Chadar Trek is considered to be the winter season between the months of January and February. At this time, the Zanskar River is considered safe and is suitable for walking.

One of the most adrenaline-pinching, risque, thrilling explorations organised in the winter months(January-February) of every year is a trek on the frozen Zanskar river-Chadar Trek. The ice trail is a bold exploit even for the most advanced trekkers. Fluctuating and harsh weather over a frozen trail between ginormous golden mountains, this one is for the truly headstrong.

But it isn’t impossible! Far from it. The wild undertaking is carried out successfully by hundreds of trekkers every season. Through Naerak and Lingshed, the venturous make their way to the frozen river.  Couple months of preparation and reliable information about the trek beforehand are their only friends. Of course, having a presence of mind and trekking gear in perfect shape are absolutely non-negotiable.

chadar trek

Before we go on to discuss what truly makes this trek so challenging, here’s what you should at least pack for the trip:

  • Trekkers are also suggested to carry a pair of open-toe slippers, which one can wear around the campsite without wetting their socks
  • Proper trekking shoes with high-rise ankle, waterproofing and insulation
  • One size large pair of gumboots – a kind of boots for the purpose of wading through icy water
  • Open toe slippers for casual wearing around the camp
  • Two synthetic trek pants
  • One windcheater
  • Two pairs of upper and lower body thermal wears
  • Two warm pants
  • Two full sleeved collar t-shirts
  • 1 down jacket
  • 1 fleece jacket
  • 3 pairs of merino trekking socks
  • Four pairs of undergarments
  • 1 complete body raincoat
  • Woollen gloves and synthetic waterproof gloves
  • Woollen cap that covers the ears
  • Woollen socks for sleeping in the night
  • Woollen stole or balaclava to wrap around the neck.
  • Lip balm
  • Sunscreen
  • Cold cream
  • Toothpaste
  • UV protection sunglasses to prevent snow blindness
  • Trekking pole
  • Head torch
  • Daypack
  • Rucksack with a capacity of 50 to 60 litres
  • Medicine kit
  • Insulated water bottle and thermos flask
  • Utensils
  • Packaged refreshments
  • Plastic sealable polythene bags, which can keep items dry and safe

chadar

Know It All: The Multi-fold Challenges of Chadar Trek 
One will always face the mind-blowing challenge of walking on a thin ice sheet which may break at any time and thrust you in the icy cold water at around -25 degree Celsius temperature. Apart from this challenge, there are some other challenges as well that one may have to face:

  • Acute Mountain Sickness: According to a report, around 15 trekkers are reported to have been hospitalized in 2018, due to symptoms of AMS such as nausea, vomiting and breathlessness. During Chadar trek, trekkers can trek up to 11,123 feet. This sudden change in altitude may affect one’s body, thus failing him from accomplishing the trek. In order to prevent such as thing, trekkers are advised to first stay in Ladakh for a few days before starting the trek. This will enable one’s lungs to adjust according to the change in altitude. This time can be fruitfully used by taking acclimatization walks by trekkers.
  • Constant change in trekking trail: As a major portion of Chadar trek is covered over the frozen icy path formed by Zanskar River, the slightest of change in temperature has an extreme impact on the frozen trail of Chadar trek. It is highly suggested that travelers should pay attention to all the commands and instructions of the team leader and trek on only sledge routes. During an average day, the frozen river undergoes a constant process, which involves the formation of new ice sheets, melting of old ice and irregular breaking of ice blocks. During Chadar trek, travelers will always find the frozen river in a different condition. At times, the whole river will be completely frozen and its surface will be suitable to walk. At other times, the frozen stream of ice will completely melt from the center portion, thus leaving only narrow side trails of ice to walk on. There will also be times when the river would completely melt and the trekkers would have to leave the melted stretch of the river and climb the mountains. When there won’t be an option to climb the rocks, trekkers would also have to wade through the cold slushy stream of the river. It is suggested that trekkers should walk in small packs comprising of 6 to 7 people along with a person, who has all the necessary equipment including rope, carbines, harnesses, slings, a throw bag, sleeping bag and is ready to handle any kind of worst-case scenario. In case a trekker falls into the deeper portion of a running stream, he or she should prevent flowing along the stream. In such a case, a leader would throw a throw bag end, so that the drowning person may grab hold of it and get saved. In order to prevent such a situation, trekkers can opt to get anchored with the leader, who will be attaching all the trekkers by rope to his or her anchor.
  • Extreme cold conditions: The excessive cold conditions during Chadar trek often result in causing hypothermia to trekkers. Hypothermia occurs due to lack of warmth within one’s body. Usually, during a trek, hypothermia sets into one’s body after he or she has worn wet clothes for a long duration or even during the sleeping hours. People having weak bones should refrain from opting to go on this trek as the slippery icy terrain leads one to fall numerous times. Also, people with any kind of serious heart condition are also prone to hypothermia. The cold weather during the trek shrinks the blood vessels in one’s body, thus causing an immense pressure within the heart and leading to hypothermia in people with serious heart conditions. In order to tackle the issue of hypothermia, a trekker is required to be constantly active and warm during the Chadar trek. During the day, trekkers should constantly keep their body in motion, which will help in keeping themselves warm. It is suggested that trekkers at camping site should perform activities such as exploring campsite, interacting with locals or even playing some sports on the icy field. Trekkers are required to bring warm clothes which may protect them from snow blizzards and avalanches.
The ice sheets are dangerously thin at some points. Extreme caution is advised to the trekkers.
The ice sheets are dangerously thin at some points. Extreme caution is advised to the trekkers.

IN THE UNLIKELY SCENARIO OF A DROWNING: 

  1. Shout at your loudest to attract attention.
  2. Seek hold of the bank and staying glued to it.
  3. In the case of getting dragged away, travelers can hold on to their bags and place it above their chests as it will help them stay afloat.
  4. If a drowning traveler in a running current of the river is unable to reach the surface, he or she should look for a whirlpool in the river.
  5. Once the traveler gets rescued from the river, it is necessary to remove all wet clothes at once.
  6. In case a traveller gets hypothermia, he or she can try to get warmth from sleeping bags and hot water bottles.
  7. In case a traveler is in a serious case, the support staff should set up a tent and arrange warm stoves for warmth.

Are you still reading?
You have already won half the battle if you are well equipped with information because now you know what to expect. And come on, all this risk is what makes Chadar trek an absolute thrill! If you play by the rules, you will never forget this once-in-a-lifetime experience.