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Chadar Lake, Ladakh can be a difficult place to Trek. The mountains are steep and in the winter snowfall closes many of the mountain passes and makes the few roads treacherous.
Region :- Leh, Ladakh, J & K
Grade :- Difficult
Max Altitude :- 11,123 Ft.
Approx Trekking Km :- 75 kms.
Some villages become completely inaccessible between November and March. One method of accessing snow-bound villages during the winter is trekking on top of the ice of frozen rivers. The Chadar trek is one such route, connecting villages in the Zanskar valley (deep in the mountains) with Chilling (on the road to Leh) along the frozen Zanskar River. This route has been used for centuries for trade and transportation, and is most reliable in February when the ice is most stable.
Now, We should make it clear that the Zanskar river is big and fast-flowing. For most of its length between Chilling and the Zanskar valley the river is confined within a steep canyon. If the idea of walking over frozen river ice with a large pack on your back and very cold rushing water a few inches below your feet is terrifying, then you are not alone. People sometimes die on the Chadar trek, usually local porters who carry goods on the river for their livelihood and can't afford to be conservative. The hike from Chilling to the Zanskar valley takes more than a week, and at night porters usually sleep in caves in the canyon walls.
This trek is considered as one of the most exciting and unique treks – a very special and an extraordinary trek on shiny ice on the bank of Tsarap River. You will be dropped by a vehicle at Chilling Sumdo (crossed road) then yourtrek leads in a narrow valley filled with breath-taking views of ice-peaks and unexpected hanging icicles that will attract your gaze for some time. You will spend the night at cave camps with the help of a born fire that will keep you warm and relaxed.
Our daily trek begins at around 9:00am and by then the sun's up and blue skies bring cheer despite the cold temperatures. The trek goes along the Tsarap River in the region of Nyerag, Lingshed and constitutes toZanskar!
Needless to say, having a good guide is critical on the Chadar trek. Trekking on the ice was intimidating. A covering of snow made it difficult to assess its thickness. At times we had to walk along a narrow margin of ice, constrained by the canyon wall on one side and deep rushing water on the other. Slipping in or falling through would not just be cold; it could be fatal. The water was deep and fast, and you would likely be swept under the ice in seconds.
For better or worse, the Chadar trek is an endangered activity and within 5 years will cease to exist in it's current form. A road is currently being blasted out of the rock face above the river. When completed, winter access to the Zanskar valley villages in the interior will be relatively straight-forward. The road will certainly be safe and more convenient than the river, but its completion will mark the end of an ancient local practice.
ARRIVE AT LEH (3500 M) Arrive in Leh airport where you would be greeted by our representative and transfer to your hotel. Today, we would spend the day in the room itself to acclimatise to the high altitude. This is absolutely necessary and is most important for the days ahead. Overnight in the hotel.
LEH – CHILLING – TILAT DO (3200 M) DRIVE/3-4 HRS & TREK/1 HR Post breakfast, we take a beautiful drive through the beautiful scenery with your first views of the Indus river and later the Zanskar river at their confluence at Nimoo. From Nimoo you follow the Zanskar to the roadhead at Tilat Do. From here we cross the Zanskar and depending on the time available we camp on the other side of the river or we continue ahead a bit before setting up camp for the night. Overnight in trekking tents.
TILAT DO – SHINGRA (3350 M) TREK 5-6 HRS We begin the day at 7:00 am with a cup of hot tea. After breakfast, we set off on the “Chadar” which will be our routine for the rest of the trek. Today, we will trek close to 10-12 kms depending on the fitness of the group. Though our objective would be to get to Shingra we could camp earlier also in case the going gets tough during the day. This is something that we would follow all through the trek where we would keep the itinerary flexible to accommodate the group depending on fitness levels. Overnight in trekking tents.
SHINGRA – TIBB CAVE (3400 M) TREK 5-6 HRS Post breakfast, we set off for Tibb Cave. Today we trek through the deep gorges of the Zanskar valley with sheer cliffs on both sides. The lack of direct sunlight keeps the snow well packed for the trek. We end the day at the big cave here which is used by the locals when traversing this valley and set up camp for the night. Overnight in trekking tents.
TIBB CAVE – NYERAK (3680 M) TREK 6-7 HRS Post breakfast, we continue the walk through the gorges to the Nyerak village. Enroute we pass a large frozen waterfall which is gushing water during the non-winter season and is a stop point on our rafting trips down the Zanskar river during the Aug-Sep period. Today we camp below the Nyerak village and one can go up to the village in the evening. Overnight in trekking tents.
NYERAK – TIBB CAVE ( 3400 M) TREK 6-7 HRS Post breakfast, we begin to retrace our steps on the return trek. Though we will be returning by the same route, a lot of the trail would have changed as the river changes by the hour during the season depending on the temperature and sunlight. So in most cases it will be like a different trail itself!! We camp overnight at the Tibb cave. Overnight in trekking tents.
TIBB CAVE – SHINGRA ( 3350 M) TREK 5-6 HRS We retrace our steps to Shingra. Overnight in trekking tents.
SHINGRA – TILAT DO (3200 M) – LEH TREK 6-7 HRS & DRIVE 3-4 HRS Today is the last trek day as we trek back towards Tilat Do. Here we cross the frozen Zanskar for the last time and then board our vehicles to drive back to Leh. Once in Leh, we check into our hotel and have a relaxing hot water bath and relive the memories of this wonderful trek. Overnight in the hotel.
DEPART FROM LEH Transfer to the airport for your flight home