Is Chadar Trek in Your Bucket List?
Chadar Trek : A Dream of many, reality only for few!
“Few trails leave an impression for a lifetime.” Chadar trek is one amongst it.
History of Chadar:
The Chadar Trek or the Zanskar Gorge is a winter trail in the Zanskar region of Ladakh, lying in Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Since the Zanskar river freezes and forms the blanket of Ice so is the name “Chadar trek”
For most of us Chadar might be”Once-in-a-lifetime experience” but it is lot more than a trek to the local people of Ladakh region. The route that was discovered as a trade route between Zanskar and Ladakh by local people which is more than 1,000 years old.
In winter, the 230 km-long road that passes through a 5,000 m-high pass called Penzi La is blocked due to the heavy snowfall, making it unusable for vehicles. Zanskar river, drops as low as -40 C in winter, freezing its upper layers and form a chadar. So the locals use this chadar to commute.
Why should you do the Chadar trek?
Chadar is to be experienced and savored for it beauty. It’s a chance to see a completely different world, tucked away deep within the valleys of the Zanskar region under a blanket of ice.
The raw, untouched and unscathed beauty you see on the trek is the primary reason why people all over the world fall in love with it.
The mighty mountains on both sides of the Zanskar river form an awe-inspiring gorge. The sheer size of the rocks makes you feel insignificant. The time comes to a standstill here as you breathe in the life and silence around you.
In here, the world above you is as beautiful as the world beneath you. Walking on an ice sheet with water flowing just a few feet below you makes your heart race out of disbelief and fear all at the same time.
There are several caves along the river, that have been traditionally used by the villagers as shelters to survive the nights on their journey to and from Leh. Your team will cook a hot lunch for you in the caves.
Experiencing the Mighty Chadar!
Chadar trek is about experiencing the serene beauty of frozen waterfalls on the frozen trail of Zanskar, thrill of sleeping in caves and at the same time surviving the harsh terrains at subzero temperatures in one of the most inhabitable regions of the world.
Chadar Trek is considered to be extremely difficult because you have to trek on frozen river in winter when the temperature ranges between -15°C and -30°C. Also the frozen ice breaks at anytime during which we also have to take an alternate route through the snow-covered steep rocks. Walking on this precariously dangerous terrain, brings in its own share of surprises and adventures.Ice forms, breaks, and melts throughout the day. You may feel like a walking Igloo on the trek. Waking up in the morning, you’ll find frost on your hair, sleeping bag and every other thing that you can possibly imagine!
From my personal experience I feel you need only 2 things to survive the trek- ‘Layers and layers of warm clothes’ and most importantly,‘Mental strength’ to fight against all odds and challenges.
Important tips for the Trek:
- Wear multiple layers of clothes. I wore 5 layers on top, 3 layers of pants, 2 layers of socks. At night you can add on more layers if you feel cold.
- Arrive at Leh 2-3 days prior and get acclimatized. Acclimatization is very important before the trek.
- Always follow your leader. As the Chadar breaks and forms each day the leader will check for safe ice patch to walk on.
- If your leg lands in water immediately change your socks to avoid frost bites.
- Wear reflective glasses to avoid snow blindness.
- Ensure to wrap all the things inside warm jackets. Especially the mobile phones and camera batteries.
There is no doubt that this so-called trek is the most adventurous trek in India.
This trek is a life-changing experience. Nothing can surely match the beauty and grandeur of Zanskar,the remotest valley of Ladakh.
This trek is more than braving the harsh conditions. It’s about experiencing the picture square beauty, I say it “The Magical Land”.
Challenges involved on Chadar Trek:
There is no denying the fact that Chadar trek, is not only an absolute awe-inspiring trek but also the most difficult trek. The challenges you face on Chadar Trek are both physical and mental which needs to be overcome to enjoy this extravagant beauty.
The challenges involved during the trek are :
- Nausea, breathlessness, vomiting and symptoms of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). Please carry medicines for AMS.
- Hypothermia. Hence avoid sleeping in wet clothes at night. Try to keep your body warm as much as possible.
- Damage to the body.Given the slippery terrain, you are bound to fall multiple times during the day; one wrong fall may lead to a fracture. So you need to walk cautiously.
- The unkind weather. The weather is unpredictable. There are times when you face heavy snowfalls, so you need to carry all the rain cover and appropriate clothing for this trek.
You have to witness the magnificence to believe what The Chadar Trek is all about. It was indeed a soulful experience for me and given a chance, would surely do it again.