Amongst the Top 10 Treks in the world and the most unique as well!
In one of the mightiest mountains in the world, where most peaks are covered by snow almost round the year, flows the mighty Zanskar River fed by many glaciers. The white water of Zanskar River is famous for its gushing rapids of the white waters that are popularfor extreme white water rafting sport.
ZanskarRiver, in the heart of winter freezes to form a sheet of ice or blanket and is known more popularly among adventurers worldwide as “Chadar”. A journey on this remote and exquisite landscape gives trekkers a glimpse of a world unlike any other place in the world. It’s amongst the top ten treks in the world.
Zanskar frozen river route (Chadar Route) was traditionally used as a trade for locals living in Zanskar Valley, who came through this route to Leh for trading during harsh winters of Ladakh.
The Chadar Trek includes 2 days in Leh and 7 days trek in extreme cold environment. It is a winter trek over a frozen river in Ladakh. Average mean temperature during the day is -15 degrees and during nights the temperature falls between-25 and -30 degrees. The desolate trek is over the ever changing Chadar frozen river. Ice forms, breaks and changes color on the river every few hours. At places, the Chadar (or ice) does not form over the river. Trekkers have to forge a new trail climbing over snow covered steep rocky banks of the river to again descend to a spot on the river where the ice is more stable.
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DATE: Feb 8, 2014
Program Schedule (Summary)
Day 1 – Fly to Leh 3524m (11,562 Feet) above mean sea level.
On arrival keep your woolens and jackets ready before getting out of the air craft.
Leh in winter is very different from what one may experience during typical Leh summer; when the temperatures ranges from an average of -10 degrees to -15 degree.
Transfer from airport to lodging.
It is strongly advised that you do not venture out of Hotel on day one.One needs to let their body adapt to cold and high altitude (thin air conditions). It is advised to rest and sleep most of the day and drink lots of water. Everything should be done slowly on day one.
For those who have been to Leh before will find that most of the hustle bustle shops they found open during summer season may not be open. So don’t depend on the shops on buying any major itemsrequired during the trek at Leh. You may not have enough time and the shops won’t be open.
For those looking to hire Down Jackets and Gloves needed for extreme cold, Trekking Poles have to inform us well in advance so that we can make it available for them.
Day 2 – Drive to Chilling (3 hrs drive) and trek to Tilad Do camp 3100m (2 km, 1hrs trek)
For those who have been to Ladakh before might have come across Sangam point, a place where Indus and Zanskar rivers meet.
We have to follow the road going parallel to ZanskarRiver here.
Travel distance between Leh and Chilling is around 64 KM. We drive to the point where the vehicles can go and then start our Chadar trek.
First day trek is fairly easy. The “Tilat Campsite” can be reached in anhours’ time from the time you start the trek. This campsite is located near Sangam of one of the tributaries of Zanskar and main Zanskarriver.
Get ready for your first night experience of staying in campsite on or near frozen river in extreme cold conditions. It is recommended that you carry pocket size personal warmers that can be kept in your jackets or sleeping bags. Any kind of heat / hot soups / Warm Food / Camp Fire is welcome. Fire wood is a treasured commodity here and comes at a cost.
Day 3 – Tilad Do to Gyalpo camp 3170m (9 Km, 6 hrs trek)
Mornings at Tilad Do campsite are like deep freezer, very cold. Direct sun light does not hit this place until noon.
The days soon assume a familiar pattern.
Wake up time is around 7:00 am. Do your thing, freshen up, have breakfast with hot coffee or tea and you are almost ready for a day full of frozen adventure by 9:00 am.
Our trek guides go ahead with the trekkers, followed by our porter team. It is always essential to stay with our guides. This is the only trek in the world where you can expect the trail to vanish beneath your feet. We can encounter times when we have to wait while our guides may have to scout the best route. We prefer to stay on the river and you will see locals take real risks to avoid rock climbing. For this reason you must have plenty of warm layers to throw on, and of course, spare socks. The ice conditions are too varied, but there are one or two things to bear in mind.
You will develop a sense of the safe and unsafe ice, and learn to catch yourself if you slip. Ensure to use your trekking poles if you want to sound the ice.
The ice conditions change quickly and what takes an hour at noon can take three hours. We do not rush but we do not dawdle! If you hear Locals calling down the valley, particularly at the corners, don’t worry, they are screaming to scare away the demons who lurk in the ice.
Packed food is not recommended during day on a trek like Chadar, as it can freeze. So our cooks can quickly pack local favorite Maggi with vegetables, local soup thukpa, etc. Drink plenty of warm liquid stew along with your food. It is great for acclimatization and cold.
Carry your personal munchies (Dry Fruits to keep your immunity high. Walnut, Almonds, Raisins, Dehydrated Apricots, Cashew etc is advised), protein bars to replenish from daily endurance of treks. You can carry chocolate bars to replenish carbohydrates. This will help to balance ones diet with the regular food had during the treks.
You will find yourself rapidly relaxing as you walk, enjoying the view, watching out for wildlife. Look out particularly for snow leopard pugmarks, Ibex on the gorge walls, and few occasional birds flying and few even diving from ice into the river, turning over pebbles looking for edibles.
Today we will pass through what the porters call ‘Chadar Gate’. A little surprise for the trekkers.
Day 4 – Gyalpo camp to Dib Cave 3225m (14 km, 8 hrs trek)
Today is full of surprises and fantastic landscapes. The river starts to curve and you can see the uphill slope of the ice as we ascend the river into Zanskar. We will pass incredible waterfalls on our left, normally frozen into aquamarine ice cliffs. The waterfalls were said to have come from a river given to local people who visited Tibet centuries ago to plead for water for their barren land. They were given a box which they were told they must open only on their return home. The curious Zanskaris were nearly home when one of them opened it and out jumped a tiny fish and the river sprung from the ground high above here. Also today we will probably have to climb briefly above the river – on the sharp bends the speed of the current breaks up the ice.
Lunch will be on the rocky beaches by the river, and camp is near one of the many caves that are blackened by centuries of use by the fires of locals. Our porters use these caves to cook and sleep in, and many of them are slowly being turned into small huts by Zanskaris. This is a popular campsite.
As a camping etiquette, our teams’ first job is to dig a toilet pit and clean up the rubbish left by groups. If there is no snow here the sand that blows around can contaminate your food. We have stringent hygiene rules for our kitchen, anti-bacterial hand wash always available. Use it!
Day 5 – Dib cave to Naerak camp 3390m (10.5 km, 7 hrs trek)
Look forward to one more spectacular days. Crags seem to leap up from the frozen river surface, and ibex can usually be seen defying gravity far above. After lunch we pass the ‘incense tree’, so called because the locals use its branches to burn in their morning rituals, and the prayer flag draped tree marks the entrance to Zanskar proper. The porters normally take a few twigs from the tree, tear a small piece of prayer flag to wrap it in, and present it to you. Welcome to Zanskar!
An hour later we turn to a corner, and there, high above the river, is the bridge that links Zanskar with Ladakh, and Neraks village with Lingshed Monastery – in summer. Then the valley gorge opens up, and we see the small huts that mark some of the summer grazing of the Neraks villagers. The village is far above. A trail is normally beaten through the snow to these huts, where we camp. And rum is possible.
Day 6 – Naerak to Tibb.
Today we start our return journey and go back towards the Tibb cave. And if you thought that it was just a matter of retracing your steps back to Chilling, you have to think again. The Zanskar River reacts to the slightest change of temperature, and constantly keeps repackaging itself. The Chadar would have assumed a completely new form, and it will almost be impossible to say whether you have been there before.
On the way, you can meet a lot of locals wearing their traditional woolen Gonchas – some of them monks who are hiking from the Lingshed Monastery to Leh, some of them young students accompanied by their parents returning to their schools in Leh after the winter vacation. Watching the locals negotiate the Chadar is a fascinating sight. They are suitably adept to the climate and seem very much at home in the sub-zero temperature and the biting cold winds. Nothing wipes the smiles off their faces and dampens the warmth of their spirit.
Day 7 – Tibb to ShingraKoma.
Day 8 – ShingraKoma to Chilling and drive to Leh.
Day 9 – Return from Leh.
Cost is Rs.35,000/- Ex. Leh (9 Days).
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