Chadar Trek, Also called The Frozen River Trek is one of the best treks to be done in the World. Doesn't the name itself sound interesting? One of the most beautiful and unique trek in the planet, the Chadar trek is an ultimate experience to cherish for lifelong !! Its an amalgamation of experiences. That of being in the Cold Dessert of Ladakh, that too in winters where the temperatures drops to as low as minus 30 degrees. The already beautiful and magical landscape of Ladakh is further beautified and made interesting by white snows covering the landscape.
Jump to the important topics:
WHY IS IT CALLED 'CHADAR' TREK
The Zanskar river is one of the major tributaries of the Indus river which originates in the Tibetan Highlands. The river flows through the valley, named by its name, into the highlands of Ladakh into the Indus river and flows to Pakistan. It's a ferocious river and the sheer gush and force of the it is scary during summers. It attracts lots of adventurers seeking Himalayan High with its rapids and is offers a great platform for river rafting. Its is a very popular river rafting destination and the Zanskar river pleases the adventurers with rapids upto class 4. However, it is unbelievable to witness the same river freeze down during the winters and the surface of it forms a thick ice sheet above which you can walk ! It is just so fascinating to witness a fierce river to freeze down and calm its moods in the winters. In return, it does make you much more calmer and excites your heart at the same time !
The frozen Zanskar river served and still serves as the traditional and only way of connect between Leh and Zanskar for the locals during the harsh winter months of Ladakh. It has been used by the locals for centuries and is a unique way of commute in the World. Its so unique that it attracted the National Geographic Team to do a documentary on it which brought this epic journey of the locals to the outside world and limelight. Since then, the Chadar Trek has fascinated many passionate travelers around the Globe and has hit the popularity burst. Its rated as one of the best treks to do in our planet by many.
The experience of walking the Zanskar gorge on top of a frozen Zanskar river, in the cold winter months of Ladakh is just so amazing !! This is a porter supported trek and hence while on the trek, you will also get a rare chance to know the local Zanskaris, their deep rooted culture and traditional beliefs and their difficult, but cheerful way of life !!
Presently, a road is under construction to maintain year round connectivity between Leh, Zanskar and Manali. It has seen unexpected delay in completion, but is expected to be completed in couple of years. The locals have been demanding this road for a long time and will make their life a lot easier, specially to answer medical emergencies during the long winter months. The road construction has disturbed the local wildlife, primarily the elusive snow leopards. It used to be its prime territory for the snow leopards in the winter, but now they dwell up higher in the valley. Once the road starts functioning, it will bring a long traditional culture to an end.
Come have a lifetime experience with us on this historical and unique route in the Trans Himalayas.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFICULTIES OF THE CHADAR TREK?
Chadar trek is one of the difficult treks to do in the Himalayas and the difficulties come in variety of ways. Here is a typical list of the difficulties you will face during the course of the Chadar trek.
Negotiating and tackling the High Altitude:
Leh is placed at an altitude of 3500 Meters and in the winters you have no other mode of travel, but only by flight. This drastically changes your altitude from almost sea-level to 3500 meters, i.e a gain of 3500 meter in just one and half hours. In the Alps, you have peaks of this altitude which people climb over for days. Kedarkantha peak in Uttrakhand is 3800 meter in altitude and a Beginner climb it in 2 - 3 days. But here, you reach a height of 3500 meters without doing any work for it. Moreover, the climate change too is drastic. All these puts you in a tremendous situation of Acute Mountain Sickness, which can be very fatal. Learn more about it on High Altitude Seriousness | Better Know It Better. You need proper rest to get used to the Altitude, and that needs few extra days.
Extreme Cold ranging between minus 17 degrees to as low as minus 32 degree Celsius:
The temperature of the Chadar trek is extreme. In Leh, the temperature ranges between -10 degrees during the daytime to -25 degrees during the night. During the trek, its much more colder as you camp besides the freezing Zanskar river. The temperature goes to as low -32 degrees Celsius. Adjusting to these temperatures can be very challenging. You need proper trekking jackets and need to wear them strategically to beat the cold. Learn more about it by following the link - How To Use Layering, Pack Light And Still Beat The Cold
Inconsistent Weather which can surprise you anytime and change the entire look and feel of the trek:
The weather in Ladakh during the months of January and February is very inconsistent. It is very unpredictable. Sometimes it snows late and results in ill-formation of the Chadar over the Zanskar river. Sometimes, it snows right in the middle of the trek season, which already is a very short span of a month and a half. Too much snow is not good for the Chadar as it weakens the Chadar and also the route gets much more trickier. Snow also play foul to the mountains of the Ladakh Himalayas and landslides and rockfall are a very dangerous, yet a very common problem on this trek. Often trekkers and locals get stranded on this trek due to bad weather. Often lack of care had caused fatal cases on this trek. Getting stranded is the only thing you will not want on this trek to happen to you.
Extremely fragile and delicate terrain to trek on:
Chadar, as you know is the local name of the ice sheet that forms over the surface of the Zanskar river. The surrounding mountains are a combination of rocks and mud. Snowfall causes the mud to slide and rocks to fall, which might cause a havoc on the trek. Often you will hear locals or the trekkers share stories of how God saved them minutely. It is also very common to see people with broken bones on this trek. The Chadar formation too is not consistent throughout and needs a very cautious and alert Guide who understands the Chadar intrinsically and inherently.
Some sections of the Chadar formation are not just easy due to ill-formed Chadar and requires you to be on all your fours to pass the section and re-join the Chadar trail. This we call scrambling in rock-climbing terminology which means a non-technical rock climbing or bouldering. You do need good fitness and flexibility to tackle such sections and a cool nerve to see it off.
Very tricky trek route:
The route of the Chadar trek is like a maze where you will have to continually find a connecting way over the ice sheets to reach Nearak or further, and come back again. The Chadar formation is fragile and might change overnight. It might either connect or disconnect the route. The route you choose to follow becomes very important, as if you choose the wrong route which looks strong, it might be disconnected a little further due to a broken Chadar or after going the long way, you might find no further connection, and hence you will require to come back and try a different route all over again, or cross difficult sections to reconnect to the main route. Here is one reason why hiring the best guide and best trek operator becomes very important.
Completion Not Guaranteed:
Chadar is not a trek which assures you that you can complete your trek itinerary as planned, even though yu have planned the best, have the best support staffs and gears. More than 40% uncertainty lies that you will not be able to reach the last point despite having a good support team and preparation. Why ?? Thats how fragile this trek is due to weather and its geology.
HOW SHOULD YOU PREPARE FOR THE CHADAR TREK
Like any trek in the Himalayas demand, Chadar trek too requires you to have all the basic characteristics of a general trekker. These are
- General Fitness and Stamina
- Mental Toughness and Endurance
- Positivity and friendliness
- Possess Proper Gears, at least the bare-minimum essentials
- Resourcefulness and creativity
- and finally the most important thing - Adaptability
If you are trekking in the Himalayas, then irrespective of the trek, you should possess the above listed characteristics in you., Yes, taking easier treks in the beginning helps you to develop these traits, but does not mean that you will not have these qualities in your personality. DO judge yourself and neither over-estimate nor under-estimate your own capacity.
Most importantly, take a note straightaway that it is more of a mental game than physical. Your physical stamina should definitely have the capacity to support your mental abilities and desires. A few weak parts in the physical stamina can be overcome by a strong will-power. However, the vice versa is not true.
Nothing much can be done about your mental endurance as it is a part of your 'self motivation' system and conscious mental training. It starts with initial help from experienced trekkers and being regular on a high altitude treks. The experience teaches you and builds you over time and helps you build your mental stamina. This game is more mental than physical. Smaller physical lack behinds can be overcome by a strong mental motivation system.
We can enhance our physical endurance by training ourselves before heading to the high altitude for trek. This training program should start way ahead of your scheduled trek departure. The earlier the better. You may start your preparation by below mentioned guidelines and take it forward by intensifying keeping your goal in mind. During this entire training period, you should focus on your cardio-vascular health and strength training.
Interval training is a method of training the cardiovascular system by elevating the heart rate significantly and then allowing it to recover for a period before elevating it again. For example, you may sprint to push your heart rate, then walk to allow it to calm down before starting to sprint again. Do not overload, but try to intensify on day by day basis. You may also consider to carry weight on your back to further intensify your training. You may take up cycling to do the same. Cycle very quick. Stop. Walk. Walk Fast. Again cycle very quick. Be careful to warm up your muscles before exercising and cooling it down with stretches post training.
Breathing is a very important exercise and comes very handy on high altitude treks. Practice taking deep breaths and holding it. Our classical yoga exercises work extremely well for breathing exercises. Else, swimming is the best. It works both on your cardio and breathing.
Your shoulder, back, arms and legs need to be strong to be able to sustain a high altitude hike. Train yourself to strengthen your muscles to be able to carry load on your shoulder and climb uphill in an environment low on oxygen. You may start going to a gym or prepare at home yourself. Atleast, 3 days a week, climb stairs with load on your back, do squats, train your calves, do push ups and planks to increase your core muscle strength. Intensify it steadily.
WHAT TO PACK FOR THE CHADAR TREK
Trekking requires you to be in proper gears for camping, safety and personal protection and hygiene. Below is the list of items which need to be bought by each trekkers.
- 3 T Shirts ( dry fit )
- 3 Light Weight Hiking Pants
- 4 Socks ( 2 cotton, 2 woolen)
- 3 Undergarments
- 1 Pen knife or multi-tool knife
- 1 Thin Nylon Ropes for multipurpose use
- 1 Toilet Paper Roll
- 1 Small Towel
- 1 Soap Papers
- 1 Ruck Sack
- 1 Small Backpack/nap sack
- 1 Waterproof Hiking Shoes
- 1 Headlamp with extra batteries
- 2 Water Bottles
- 1 Camp Cutlery Set
- 1 Water proof Upper & Lower ( also act as wind proof )
- 1 Poncho ( we provide to our clients )
- 1 Waterproof Sack/Backpack Cover
- 1 Water proof gloves
- 1 Skin Moisturizer
- 1 Lip Balm
- 2 Thermal Inner Wears ( upper + lower )
- 1 Woolen Cap
- 1 Fleece or double fleece jacket
- 1 Good Quality Down Jacket ( we provide to our clients our expedition down jackets )
- 2 Woolen Gloves with a pair of thin inner gloves
- Sunscreen SPF 50 above
- Sunglasses( UV proof/ Polarized)
- Sun Hat
- Balaclava /Face mask
- Dry fruit
- Chocolate/Energy Bars
Medical Kit - Himalayan Medical Kit | A Must Have
EXTRA MANDATORY ITEMS SPECIALLY FOR THE CHADAR TREK:
- 2 extra pair of knee length woolen socks,
- 1 liter thermos flask,
- hot water bag ( we provide our clients with 1 liter hot water bag )
- fleece beanie,
- Gumboots or waterproof, high quality, knee length, better insulated snow boots, for the trek. [ note that gumboots lacks better insulation, but you can manage on a gumboot with layered knee length socks, if budget is an issue ] ( we provide our clients with gumboots )
- 1 or 2 trekking poles. ( we provide our clients with 1 trekking pole each )
- Ice Traction Trekking Crampons
HOW DO WE ENSURE SAFETY AND COMFORT ON OUR CHADAR TREK GROUPS
Unlike the rise of mass-trekking groups and hand-held trekking groups in our country, we, on all of our treks, inspire and motivate to boost more of the Intrinsic and Inherent Adventure Sense of a human being when it comes to our work ethics. We promote and inculcate the culture of Adventure sports and treat trekking not as a leisure activity to have fun in the mountains, but as a sport. Any sport has rules, and we follow those rules with genuine sportsman spirit. For the sake of our pleasure, fun and fame, we never allow irresponsible attitude to breed in our team. That holds true for our staffs as well as clients. We want to associate ourselves with like-minded responsible people in the World. After all, the fun you have during your trek comes aty the cost of Nature. Hence, we try to reduce our footprint as much as possible, specially for such a sensitive ecological zone.
Smaller Group Size:
Our Group size is limited to 10 trekkers for the Chadar trek. It is very important, as the most popular and cool Chadar trek route is very much over crowded. Everyone wants to get it done, but very few want to LIVE it. We strictly restrict our group size to 10 members on this trek for a better experience. Anyways the trek route is overcrowded which we cannot help. We can just do our bit to have a minimal impact on the ecology, as well as stay focused on better natural experience on the trek.
Chadar trek is a porter driven trek and faces tremendous lack of quality resource, as the trek duration is less than 2 months, and the local Zanskaris are limited. So lack of professional porters on the trek is a serious concern. Moreover, to support a 10 member team well, it will require about 13 - 14 porters alone.
Qualified and Experienced Support Team:
We take safety as a serious and the first important factor on all the treks we conduct. The Guides, Trek Leaders and local support staffs which we provide on the trek are highly efficient in what they do and are immensely experienced to handle our clients with class apart hospitality, since they are working in this industry for a long time. Being knowledgeable helps and thats what they are. They are very responsible and capable of handling such treks as they have handled it many times in the course of their career in the industry..
Comfortable Sleeping Arrangements On Camps as well as Hotels:
The equipment we provide on the treks are some of the best in the industry. Few of those are designed and custom-made just to suit our purpose of a safe and comfortable trek experience. From the 2 layered insulated tents to a 'multi-layered' sub-zero sleeping bags, we take immense care to make sure you sleep comfortably, not just on the camps but also in your hotels. We top up our sleeping bags with one or two fleece liners as per individual need for that extra warmth and hygiene factor. No No No - WE DO NOT GIVE SMELLY AND BULKY SLEEPING BAG ON OUR TREKS AS YOU WOULD OTHERWISE SEE ON THE TREK ROUTE. Ours are light weight sleeping bags having high warmth to weight ratio and which are imported and fits the demand of the trek perfectly.
The sleeping mattress which we provide for this trek is not the usual rubber or a thin black foam ones. We provide a thick foam mattresses which is about 1.5 inch thicker and with water-proof cover over it to make sure that your camping bed is not just well-insulated, but also well cushioned and cozy.
Moreover, we give enough hot water on the trek and provide all of our trekkers with 1 liter hot water bags to make a self heating system within their sleeping bags. All these precautions make sure that you sleep well during the trek, which directly impacts your trek experience.
The hotels which we provide in Leh are Centrally Heated and you need not pay extra for it. Although, the central heating system is subject to availability of electricity in Leh, but these days its usually consistent due to the competion of the Alchi Hydro Electric Project.
Hospitable Camping Experience:
We take care to check that we provide you not definitely a luxurious, but a hospitable camping experience. A separate dining tent ensures that you eat well, not standing or sitting on the ground, but seated on a camping chair. We think that in that freezing cold, we can do our bit provide a chair to sit and eat, make your dining experience not luxurious in anyways, but good enough. Similarly for the camp toilets, which are dry, but we take the pain of carrying couple of toilet seat with us to ease you out.
Well Planned Food On Trek:
The food we serve on the trek is apt for the conditions and our past trekkers had so many good things to say about it. We provide utensils and care for our camp helpers as well. In such dry and cold conditions, hot soups, soupy noodles are definitely a need. We provide with lots of nutritious hot food so that your body is well fed to compensate the high metabolism rate of your body. We understand that your body is trying hard to cope up with the cold and to keep your core-organs warm. The high altitude just adds further to the energy dissipation of your bodily reserves. So for example a 'hot mango juice' to replenish all your energy drains, or a 'hot gulab jamun' to treat your taste buds, we do all that we can to feed you better, as good food is directly related to good sleep, and hence a well conditioned body for a better experience !
Medical Safety And Stress To Acclimatization:
We understand the importance and seriousness of the altitude of Ladakh, specially during the hostile winter months, and hence keep our team alert on medical attention. Our itinerary is one day longer and includes an extra acclimatization day in Leh just to ensure you are safe and enjoy the trek. In this rest day, we take to around Leh to show you the beauty of Ladakh in Winter. This helps you ease out and acclimatize better to face the hard days coming your way.
Each day on the camps, the leader takes you around so that you do not sleep, but stay well acclimatized. Our food is planned for faster acclimatization. Garlic soups for example.
Our leaders are qualified 'Search and Rescue' students of mountaineering certified by the Indian Mountaineering Foundation. They do not just have certificates, but also have proper knowledge, experience and practical expertise to handle any medical emergencies during the trek.
We carry Oxygen cylinders on our trek, and that cylinder is not carried by the porter, but by our leaders themselves, who walk with with the clients. We also carry Pulse Oxymeter on the treks and monitor the blood oxygen saturation of all of our trekkers in a general health check ups in that conditions. Our medical kit has all the important medicines required to be carried on such a trek.
Safety Gears On The Extreme Chadar Trek:
We provide all the required safety gears like helmet, anti-slip crampons, gaiters, etc on the trek. Being mountaineering students ourselves, we understand the importance of these gears. To reduce your organizational pains, we now have also started to provide gumboots as well which is the most essential thing to carry on this trek. We take care of all what is required to meet your expectations of a safe and comfortable trek, even in the extreme temperatures and hostile conditions.
To top it up, we provide our Expedition Quality Down Jackets, trekking poles and water proof ponchos to our trekkers who do not want to buy it as these are really expensive for anyone to buy for one-time use.
Staff Care, Quality and An Authoritative Trek Leader:
The quality of local resources, cooks and porters are not neglected at all, and we make sure that we hire responsible local resources for your group accompanied by one of our leaders who ensures that the quality of service is delivered as promised and liaisons between the group and the local hires.
We ensure our staff is not put into inhospitable work conditions in an already extreme climatic conditions. In return, they ensure the entire team that they do not keep anything left around to give us and you a better and satisfying experience. Giving them water proof gloves and hot water to wash utensils for example..
All these we do just to ensure you have a lovely, memorable, safe and comfortable experience in one of the most extreme treks in the World.
Not to mention, in doing all so, we want to draw to your attention that we face a tremendous competition from the low-cost trek operators.
However, we keep experience building as our first priority.
Having said all these, our trek fees for the Chadar Trek is significantly on the higher side compared to the mass-trekking agencies. We are happy that people chose us for our values, work ethics and the warm, good service and high hospitality that we offer even in such inhospitable conditions. We are happy NOT TO BE CATEGORIZED AS THE Lowest Price Category Service Providers For The Chadar Trek.
Come, join us for this awesome adventure in January and February.