Chadar trek is one of the most thrilling yet a challenging one for the trekkers in Ladakh. The temperature during winter in Ladakh drops down to minus 5 to 40 degrees, yet the trekkers, the exceptional adamant one choose this trekking. This trekking is worth the challenge. The Chadar Trek is done on the frozen Zanskar River which provides an access trail to the Zanskar Valley and is used by locals and tourists during the winter’s seasons. The walls both side of the river rise vertical cliffs up to 600 m high and at some places the Zanskar River is only 5m wide. During the summer this river becomes a perfect location for river rafting expedition and during the winters it transforms into an ice sheet where the Chadar trek is performed.
Arrive at Leh and. The moment you land at the Leh airport, one of the highest airports in the world, you will feel the fresh and crisp air, and a drastic drop in the temperature. So rest in your hotel room and in the evening roam around Leh market. Leh is a culturally rich place. There are dozens of monasteries and ancient temples that you can go around.
The day is reserved for acclimatization. Your trek leader may take you for a light acclimatization walk during the day. As per the new regulations of Leh, you might have to get medically examined at SNM Hospital in Leh and today the checkup would be organized (as required).
As per new rules, trekkers have to stay three nights in Leh. On Day 3 trekkers need to go for medical check-up and purchase adventure insurance from ALTOA(All Ladakh Tour Operators Association) at Rs. 3000 per person, and then only they will provide NOC for the trek.
The drive till Bakula is a road head. Then trek to ShingraGoma. You drive along the beautiful Indus River and get a chance to see the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar River at Nimmu. We are going to cover a total distance of 80 km by road and you will experience a few jaw-dropping moments as the vehicle makes its way around the narrow hairpin bends. It should take about 3-4 hours to reach Shingra and as you get closer, the inspiring sight of the frozen Zanskar will get you excited about the trek. Your leaders will soon give you tips on how to walk on Chadar. It takes a while to get the hang of it. We call it the ‘Penguin Walk’. Walk around as much as possible, it will help you get comfortable walking on a glassy ice sheet. You will fall a few times, and that is part of the overall experience. You will also be taught how to get inside your double layered sleeping bags before sundown. Always follow the sledge route used by the porters as it is the safest route on Chadar. You will get to your next campsite within 2-3 hours, depending on your speed. Your leaders will take you through a few learning modules about being in the mountains. You will have the campsite to yourself to explore and take pictures for the rest of the day. Camp overnight at Shingra Goma.
Today we will start our trek after a nutritious breakfast. Today is going to be a long walking session, you will cover a total 14 km on Chadar and it should take you about 6 to 7 hours to reach your next campsite. Make sure you fill your thermos with warm water before you leave, all liquids tend to freeze in this region given the extreme temperatures, so a thermos is extremely important. You will only get sun shine around 9-10 am, that too in patches as the giant rocky mountains on both sides of the Zankar river tend to hide the sun. On the way we will see many frozen waterfalls. The walk also crosses through narrow gorges, where the trekker may have to climb briefly on to the Rocky River bank. Our destination for the day is Tibb Cave. Your staff will cook you a warm meal mid-way, so fill your bellies and enjoy a hot cup of tea. By 3pm, you’ll be at Tibb, and the last 200 meter walk is extremely gorgeous. Camp overnight at Tibb.
It’s the most eagerly awaited day, especially because en route Nerak – the first village of Zanskar – is a stunning frozen waterfall. It is going to be another long day, so you will start early. Aim to reach Nerak campsite before 3pm, so you get plenty of time at Nerak waterfall. You will have lunch inside a cozy cave mid-way, a cave huge enough to fit 12-15 people comfortably. Reach Nerak campsite, have some snacks and make your way to the gigantic Nerak waterfall. It should take you about 30 minutes to get there, and you might see a few domestic Yaks grazing the higher grounds along the way. Right next to the waterfalls is a bridge across the river, which takes you up to Nerak village. It’s fascinating to see the old wooden bridge under the new concrete/steel bridge, giving you a chance to see the age old constructions. Spend some time marveling at the sight of Nerak waterfall, before heading back to the campsite for your dinner. Camp overnight at Nerak.
Today, your trace your steps back to Hotomg campsite. And if you think you are going to see the same frozen ice sheet again, think again. The Zanskar river reacts to the slightest change in the temperatures, and constantly keeps changing its form. You will not be able to recognize the sights, it all seems so different on the way back. You might walk on a glass like surface or patches and patches of slush, depending on the weather. Throughout the way, you will see the local porters wearing the traditional woolen robes called ‘Gonchas’, with colorful beads around their neck and their traditional hats. It’s fascinating to see the locals negotiating on Chadar, as they seem to walk like the wind, absolutely comfortable with the slippery uneven icy surface. They will greet you using the local phrase ‘Julley’ which is the Ladakhi term for hello/welcome. You might also catch a few locals singing traditional ladakhi songs while pulling their sledges and enjoying the journey. Camp overnight at Hotomg.
Today is the last hard long day, as we will try to cover as much distance as possible. We will camp at Bakula campsite today, which is just 30 minutes away from Shingra Yokma. It will take you about 7 to 8 hours to reach Bakula, which seems to be an abandoned campsite above the river, so you have the entire campsite to yourself. Since the campsite is higher up, it tends to get quite windy but also tends to get a lot of sun early morning. You sometimes come across footprints on the patches of snow on the surface here, which give you an idea of the wildlife in the vicinity, shying away from human contact. You may not see them, but they definitely observe you from a distance. Overnight stay at Leh.
Take your Flight to your Destination in the morning.