Chadar Trek – A Walk on Frozen Zanskar River

Welcome to our comprehensive guide to the Chadar Trek – a mesmerizing journey through the frozen wilderness of the Himalayas. In this blog, we will take you on a detailed exploration of this iconic trek, spanning across five unforgettable days. Each day of the trek will be meticulously dissected, offering you insights into the challenges, the landscapes, and the exhilarating experiences that await you. Join us as we embark on this frozen walk, delving into the heart of one of the world’s most extraordinary adventures called Chadar Trek.

Chadar trek : Day 01 – Acclimatisation

Excitement!

Day 1 of our Chadar Trek adventure begins with a crucial ritual: indulging in a long, hot shower, knowing that it might be the last one we enjoy for the next several days. With this comforting thought in mind, we embark on a two-hour road journey towards our destination: Chilling, the starting point of our Chadar Trek experience. In the past, the trek’s base village was Darr, but now, thanks to ongoing road construction, Chilling serves as the new starting point. The ambitious plan is to extend these roads all the way to Padum, the last village in the Zanskar valley, marking our route for the future.

The group introduction before leaving for the trek
The group introduction before leaving for the trek

The journey to Chilling is nothing short of breathtaking, with every turn revealing stunning vistas. As we traverse the winding roads, a moment of awe awaits as the majestic confluence of the River Indus and the River Zanskar unveils itself before our eyes. Both rivers lie frozen, their icy surfaces glistening in the sunlight. The mesmerizing blend of their milky white hues creates a panoramic spectacle that captures our senses and leaves us spellbound. It’s a sight so beautiful that it etches itself into our memories, becoming an indelible part of our Chadar Trek adventure

The confluence of Indus & Zanskar river
The confluence of Indus & Zanskar river

Arriving at the starting point of our Chadar Trek around 12:30 PM, our guide briefed us on the journey ahead. Some in our group opted to lighten their load by hiring porters for their backpacks, while others, like myself, chose to carry our own. This choice, available at booking for an extra fee, reflects the balance between convenience and self-reliance. With packs on our backs, we eagerly began our adventure.

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And the trek begins…

Equipped with gumboots, layered in six layers of garments, and burdened with heavy backpacks, we embarked on our Chadar Trek. The wind whipped through the valley, chilling us to the bone despite our numerous layers. Our feet were numb from the cold, making each step a struggle. As we confronted the frozen ice beneath us, we couldn’t help but wonder how we would endure this harsh terrain for the next four days during our Chadar Trek.

The memory of our first steps on the ice remains vivid—we all stumbled and fell. The initial encounter with the Chadar was a shock of icy coldness. While it may evoke laughter now, at the time, it was quite painful. The ice proved to be incredibly slippery, making every step precarious. Our first day was marked by a constant struggle to maintain our balance and progress towards the campsite. What our porters covered in a brisk 15-20 minutes took us a grueling hour and a half to traverse.

 

Our first falling fun on ice
Our first falling fun on ice

Finally we reached our first campsite of the Chadar Trek – Shingra Kogma.

Campsite…

Shingra Kogma, our first campsite on the Chadar Trek, greeted us with the stunning sight of the Zanskar River gracefully curving nearby. As we approached, we noticed a spacious camping ground to the right of the stream, where our tents had already been set up upon our arrival. Despite the freezing temperatures, a round of medical checkups revealed that we were all in good health, brimming with enthusiasm for the journey ahead.

Zanskar valley in all its beauty
Zanskar valley in all its beauty

Talking about food – it’s well taken care of on the Chadar Trek. Our cook was great and had set a different menu for each day. Food used to be yum. Our Day used to start with black tea at around 7 AM, followed by breakfast at around 8 AM right before leaving the camp. Mid-day meal was served during the frozen walk around 12 at noon – 1 PM. Evening tea and snacks upon reaching the campsite and finally the day used to end with a sumptuous dinner by 7:30 PM.

Days in the valley are short. It used to be dark by 5:30PM. The whole valley used to be very quiet and beautiful. No matter which campsite you are at, when you look around, you see the beautiful turns of the valley. The whole valley is like a frame right out of a poet’s hallucinations – like a beautiful maiden with exquisite curves, terrifying but beautiful. If your body had no limitations, you can just stay there enjoying the bliss of its beauty.

Struggle with sleeping bags…

The sleeping bags provided were double layered that can tolerate the temperatures upto -30 degree celsius. But it’s a task to get inside those bags. It takes a lot of effort and a good 15-20 min of time to adjust yourself within those. At nights, the cold can be unbearable, especially for the first 2 days and one might not get a good sleep. But we managed to sleep for that night.

 

Chadar trek : Day 02 – A Day filled with anxiety and anticipation

The day began with a wakeup call. After having morning tea and breakfast, we started for our next campsite – Tsomo Paldar which is about 3-4 hours from Shingra.

Day 02 begins
Day 02 begins
Anxiety…

As we pressed forward, we received news that the Chadar ahead was fractured, with water levels rising above the knee. Despite the challenge, our guide Donchok instilled confidence in us, assuring that we would attempt the passage cautiously. He emphasized that encountering any further broken Chadar would prompt an immediate retreat, prioritizing safety above all else.

As we continued our journey, we observed that the Chadar was solidly formed, particularly along the side of the river where we walked. Our highly experienced guide meticulously inspected the reliability of the icy path, ensuring our safety and making our day’s trek as comfortable as possible in such extreme conditions.

Lunch break on the rocks
Lunch break on the rocks
The unsung heroes…

The guides and porters on Himalayan treks are often overlooked, yet they are the unsung heroes of these adventures. While some may generalize their role as routine for locals, the truth is, they are the backbone of these expeditions. Without their expertise and dedication, experiences like the Chadar Trek would remain mere trade routes, devoid of the adventure and enjoyment we cherish.

The play of ice and emerald waters keeps on amazing us
The play of ice and emerald waters keeps on amazing us

Arriving at the campsite after a challenging day’s trek, we found it to be considerably smaller than the previous one. Despite our exhaustion, a new sight greeted us, swiftly erasing the day’s hardships – the stars. For avid stargazers, the Chadar Trek is a celestial paradise, and that night, we were treated to a breathtaking display of stars unlike any we had ever seen before. It was truly a sight to behold, leaving us in awe of the wonders of the universe..

Just before reaching the campsite for the day
Just before reaching the campsite for the day

Chadar trek : Day 03 – A Day with detour from our planned Itinerary

The next day when we woke up, it was all cloudy. Apparently if the weather is cloudy, the Chadar formation is not that great. So Donchok came and announced that we would be heading only till Hotung caves, which is another campsite about an hour and a half before Tibb Caves – our designated campsite as per the initial itinerary.

One of the frozen waterfalls on the way
One of the frozen waterfalls on the way

During Chadar Trek , the first 2 days may feel like torture to our own selves because of the extremities. But your body learns to adapt after 2 days, and that is when the actual fun begins. You start to enjoy the Chadar Trek and absorb the beauty around. And because of these hardships, few of our trek-mates, decided to head back to Leh. We bid them adieu before starting our own journey ahead. 

Cracking the falls – Penguin Walk (A unique Chadar Trek Experience)

Today, we were quite relaxed given that we had short distance to cover with abundant time at hand. One thing we realised after falling so much for all these days, is that one should do a penguin walk while treading on an icy surface. Do not lift your feet too much off the ground while walking, just walk like a penguin does. You will still fall but far less. And don’t be too much cautious while walking.  The more cautious you are – the more you fall #FirstHandExperience.. 

Getting a hang of the penguin walk
Getting a hang of the penguin walk
Hotung Caves…

Today’s campsite was the most beautiful of all the campsites on this trek.

Our campsite at Hotung Caves
Our campsite at Hotung Caves

Since our tents were surrounded by valley in all the three directions, it was very windy. But we had reached the moment where the chills were bearable, making the valley more enjoyable. The Chadar had a broken patch, from which the emerald green waters were flowing, making the whole scene surreal. But at the same time, our guide was a bit skeptical about the onward journey, since Chadar didn’t seem to be well formed to withhold the footfalls. But it didn’t dampen our spirits. We left all the worries for the next day. 

The serene valley as witnessed near Hotung caves
The serene valley as witnessed near Hotung caves
Photoshoot session…

Since this was the most beautiful campsite, and we had reached quite early, we pulled out our phones and cameras and the sound of clicks filled up the air.

Celebrating our day with some romance
Celebrating our day with some romance

Whatever you click is a frame in itself. It is bound to come out spectacular at Hotung Caves. All you need is couple of poses and we had no dearth of them. The clicks lasted past supper.

Photo session after reaching the campsite
Photo session after reaching the campsite

There are few large caves at Hotung, where generally porters take refuge for the night. The trekkers during the Chadar Trek stay in the pitched tents.

Finally, we had our dinner around a small campfire, and headed to our tents.

Chadar trek : Day 04 – Final Destination “Nerak Waterfall

Today was the day when we reach our final destination – Nerak – the frozen waterfall. It was supposed to be the longest walk for us today. Since we did not reach our designated campsite the last day, we had to cover that distance plus reach Nerak and then return back to Tibb Caves – our campsite for the day.

We were asked to start early, as the sunlight in the valley lasts only for a few hours. It’s not that it gets dark early but just that the sun is gone. You can’t enjoy the warmth of the direct sunlight, which you so crave for in the valley. Our pace was a bit fast today because over the past 3 days we had got accustomed to the ice patterns making it a little predictable for frozen walk during the Chadar Trek.

The first view of snow clad mountains when the valley ends
The first view of snow clad mountains when the valley ends

During the walk to Nerak there are several small waterfalls frozen with dangling icicles. But you forget all the previous ones the moment you set your eyes on the magnificent waterfall at Nerak – final destination of the 5 day adventure called Chadar Trek.

First view of the Nerak Waterfall
First view of the Nerak Waterfall

You can buy our Digital Prints of Chadar on Etsy

Rendezvous with Nerak…

We were in awe of its grandeur. The rendezvous just swept us off our feet. For a few moments you just stand still and want to take a good look at it. It’s 56 ft high and about 30 ft wide. One can see tinge of blues in that waterfall. You wanna go near it, feel it, bow to its splendour, even kiss it. One just falls in love with it. This was the sight for which we had endured everything on the way.

Nerak - the frozen waterfall and destination of the trek
Nerak – the frozen waterfall and destination of the trek

There were not many groups there with us because most of them had turned back at the start itself which turned out to be a blessing in disguise for us.

The Gang - Deep Freeze
The Gang – Deep Freeze

Because the valley was very quiet, solitude was a real bliss. We were there for almost an hour. Before turning back, we all gave one last hug to the waterfall that stood still – overwhelming us. And then, we headed back to our campsite.

With our guides - Donchok and Rigzin
With our guides – Donchok and Rigzin

Chadar trek : Day 05 – A Day filled with a sense of relief and achievement

As we embarked on our final day, we encountered numerous patches of broken Chadar, forcing us to wade through water frequently. Despite the long journey back to civilization, the day was filled with laughter and excitement. To add to the adventure, we even hitched a ride on the sledges pulled by our guides, adding a playful twist to our homeward journey.

Fun moment
Fun moment

During our return journey, we couldn’t resist the temptation to taste the flowing river water, only to discover it was actually ice slush. The unexpected experience left us in awe of the raw beauty and purity of nature, adding another unforgettable moment to our Chadar Trek adventure

Drinking original ice slush right from the flowing Zanskar river
Drinking original ice slush right from the flowing Zanskar river

At last, we had conquered it. With the completion of our Chadar Trek, we fulfilled a dream and added yet another extraordinary experience to our travel diary. As our trek concluded by 5 PM, we made our way back to the resort, reflecting on the incredible journey we had just undertaken.

And the trek is completed
And the trek is completed

The Chadar Trek stands out as a journey where every step holds as much excitement as the final destination itself. Without the enchanting valley surrounding it, Nerak wouldn’t have captivated us with its mesmerizing beauty.

Last mile on the ice
Last mile on the ice

We hope you enjoyed our detailed account of our journey to the wonderland called Zanskar. We like to imagine you were right there with us every step of the way, soaking in the adventure and beauty just as we did. If you’re hungry for more travel content related to Ladakh, feel free to explore by Clicking Here.

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