Travelling in Leh and Ladakh can be a bit more difficult than it sounds. Steep, snow-clad mountains are a wonderful sight, but they are at times dangerous too, which is why several roads in this region are closed during the winters. Villages become highly inaccessible during the winter months leaving trekking on frozen river the only way to access them. Chadar Trek is one such trek which lets you walk through the Zanskar Valley into Chilling and the frozen Zanskar River. In fact, this route has been used for ages for trade and transportation and claims to be the most reliable one with frozen ice covering it during the month of February.
The trek from Chilling to Zanskar valley takes over a week. Imagine walking on ice with heavy backpacks on your shoulders which carry everything that you need to survive the harsh cold weather and the icy water under your feet, camping overnight inside caves with a bonfire being the only medium to keep you warm and alive – terrifying yet exuberant!
The whole trekking route is approximately 75 km with the maximum altitude of 11,123 feet. Having a good guide along with you is very critical. The trek at times may require of you to walk along very steep canyons on one side and icy cold river flowing on the other and slipping or falling may not just be really cold but can prove fatal if you aren’t covered properly. However, adventure always has its own risks and those risks can’t stop the ones who seek adrenaline rush in their day to day lives.
A brief itinerary for this trek could be as follows:
Fly into Leh – Drive to Tlad Do via Chilling – Tilad Do to Gyalpo – Gyalpo camp to Tibb Cave – Tibb cave to Naerak camp – Naerak to Tibb Cave – Tibb Cave to Gyalpo – Gyalpo to Tilad Do and drive to Leh – Return from Leh.
For better or for worse, the current Chadar Trek routes may not exist in the upcoming years as government of India is trying to construct a road through the valleys, which when completed will make the access to Zanskar Valley villages during winter relatively easy (and most likely boring!).
Trekking the Chadar may require permits so find out about them and make the necessary arrangement before starting the trek.