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Chadar Trek

Fixed Departure Trek: Please see the “Fixed Departure Treks” link for the schedule or click here

Customised Trek: We are pleased to offer customised tailor made trekking trips to Chadar (Frozen Zanskar River) for individuals and small group of people according to their preferred dates and service.

The Trek Highlights:

Length: Leh to Leh in 8 days; 7 days of trekking from Tilat Sumdo to Nerak and back to Tilat Sumdo. Walking on frozen Zanskar river bed around 70Km.

Access: Leh is only accessible by flight during winter. Manali and Srinagar roads remain closed. There are direct flights to Leh from New Delhi and Srinagar.

Highest Point: Leh ~ 3500m/11500ft; Nerak ~ 3500m/11500ft

Grade: Moderate; Walking on ice and snow in cold condition

Seasons: Mid January to Mid February

Further Option: Trek till Padum in Zanskar valley and return on the same track back.

About Chadar Trek: Chadar, the frozen Zanskar river trek is unique in all aspects. The season, terrain, conditions, people and culture are factors to the trekkers worldwide to venture in the cold and harsh winter. Padum, the centre of Zanskar remains cut off by road during the winter months. This is a traditional route used by the Zanskari people to connect to Leh/Ladakh. In the winter when the Zanskar River is frozen, the ice sheet is referred as Chadar (Means “Cover” in Hindi). People just walk over the river while the children and luggage are carried by local made wooden ski sledges. The river gorge is deep and most of the time it is barred from direct sunlight. At places the river bed is pretty wide and in places much narrower. The temperature remains below freezing throughout the day and can plummet to -20/25 Deg C in the night. There is very little vegetation in the trek route apart from few Juniper trees. Due to wind and water erosion, the rock formation of the gorge is spectacular to see. Due to irregularities in weather pattern the ice sheet forms and breaks frequently. For this reason the trail frequently changes its course on both side of the river. The frozen waterfalls are also an added attraction of this unique trek.

Temperatures ,Clothing & Shoe: Trekkers need to be careful and cautious while selecting the proper clothing, shoe and gears for the Chadar trek due to harsh and cold climatic conditions.

Temperatures: Entire stay during the trek will be mostly in sub zero/freezing temperatures.

*** Leh: Day temperatures will be around 0/2 Deg C and nights can be -8/-10 Deg C

*** Tilat Sumdo is particularly a cold place where morning temperature around 8 am can be -10 deg C.

*** During Night and early morning the temperatures can plummet to -15 Deg C

*** In recent years the temperature of Leh has increased in winter. It is NOT a common situation that you will get a minimum temperature of -25/-30 Deg C, though it is best to prepare for the worst!

Clothing:

1) A base layer t-shirt of dry fit/quick dry type (preferably a full sleeve one)
2) A mid layer, which should be a woolly cot/thermal t-shirt/shirt.
3) Outer layer as a heavy jacket either insulated (synthetic fill)/fleece or down jacket.
4) A windproof jacket on top (hooded one is better)
5) To protect the legs use an inner thermal wear and on top of it a windproof trouser/trek pant.
6) Gloves are a must. Use a double layer gloves, the inner should be warm with fleece or woolen material and the outer with waterproofing material.
7) To protect your head use a woolen balaclava/cap which can be covered with the hood of the jacket/windproof.

Trekking Shoe:

Regular high ankle shoes with good rubber sole are recommended. Shoes with waterproof and breathable Gore Tex inner membrane helps a lot. The best and viable solution is to buy a “rubber” sole gummed plastic boot (high ankle till below knee) from the local Leh market. These are totally waterproof and give reasonable good grip on ice. The price of such boot is Rs 300-400 in Leh. Be sure to break in the boot before starting the trek.Do bring your regular trekking shoes too.

*** Crampons are NOT a must but Himalaya Trekkers (HT) will provide the trekkers with a pair of Crampons. Either they will be strap on Crampons or Ice traction type which can be fitted to any shoe including a rubber sole plastic gummed boot.

*** Trekking poles are highly recommended for this trek and trekkers are advised to bring at least one good quality anti-shock adjustable length trekking pole.

Acclimatisation & Buffer day:

*** Leh is at ~3500m/11500 ft altitude and remains very dry and cold during winter. Being the highest point of the trek, it is suggested that trekkers spend at least 2 nights in Leh, before starting the trek for a better acclimatisation. So we advice that trekkers arrive at least a day earlier i.e. Day 0 instead of Day 1 (refer to the trip itinerary) of the actual trek schedule.

*** A buffer/additional day has to be kept after the scheduled end date of the trek. This day will be used in trekking if required. So the assumption is that you may reach Leh on Day 9 instead of Day 8 (Refer to the trip itinerary) as scheduled. Plan your flight tickets accordingly.

Access to Leh (The trek base): Leh remains cut off by road in winter months. Only way to reach Leh is by flight. There are daily direct flights to Leh from New Delhi and Srinagar by different carriers.

The trip itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive in Leh (~3500m/11500ft) by morning. Delhi to Leh flight is spectacular and a tourist’s delight. One can see the Snow capped endless ridges and mountains of Ladakh, Zanskar and Eastern Karakoram range. In the later stage the river Indus is clearly seen and the monasteries on top of the hills. Leh is one of the most popular tourist destination for tourist worldwide in India and known as centre of Little Tibet. There are several hotel/lodge/home stay scattered throughout the city. Restaurants and eateries cater people of different continents. However during winter the tourist influx is limited and most of the shops, restaurants including the hotels remain closed. There are limited choices of North, South or Kashmiri food in the main market strip. Spend the afternoon buying last minute items like rubber gummed boots, gloves, cap etc. Night stay in Lodge/Home-Stay.

Mountain ranges from flight

Mountain ranges from flight

High peaks of Ladakh range

High peaks of Ladakh range

Leh market in winter

Leh market in winter

Leh castle

Leh castle

Day 2: In the morning by car reach Tilat Sumdo (~3170m/10400ft). We take the NH1 (Srinagar Leh highway) and the road descends slowly till Nimmo which is the confluence of Indus and Zanskar river. The start difference between the flowing pattern is surprising. While Indus flows steadily, Zanskar remains frozen. After Nimmo we leave the main highway and enter in to the Zanskar valley and slowly ascend following the river course. This road will eventually connect Padum, the capital of Zanskar to Leh and cut short the road distance to a third to the present road via Kargil. Distance is 75Km and can take around 4 hours. After unloading the logistic we carefully descend to the river bed. The camp is beside the frozen river bed and there are few caves which are used by the local support staffs for night shelter. . “Sum” means 3 in Zanskari language. A tributary named Yunglam joins here with Zanskar. After taking the hot lunch walk around on ice to get the feel of it. This is a cold and windy place indeed in the night. Night stay in tent.

Descending to Tilat Sumdo campsite

Descending to Tilat Sumdo campsite

Team HT after a look and feel walk

Team HT after a look and feel walk

Day 3: Today morning we start our trek to Shingra Kongma (~3270m, 10725ft). Mornings are typically cold at Tital Sumdo. Water freezes quickly inside bottle. We start our trek on the frozen bed of the river. Walk slowly to get adjusted with this typical terrain. Depending on the current condition of the Chadar either we walk on the left or right of the ice sheet. In 3 hours we reach Shingra Yongma. This is a good spot to take the hot lunch enroute. The river valley is wide here and a suitable place to camp. Walking for another ohour or so we notice a cave on our left ( True right of the river) and prayer flags. This place is called Bakula Bao. From here we follow the river course to reach our campsite for today named Shingra Kongma. Kongma means “Up” and Yongma means “down” in Zanskari dialect. The camping site is on our right ( True left of the river ) and can easily accommodate 10/12 tents. Distance is around 10 Km take and may take 5/6 hours. Night stay in tent.

Rock formation on Chadar

Rock formation on Chadar

Hot lunch at Shingra Yongma

Hot lunch at Shingra Yongma

Day 4: Today we trek to Tibb (~3370m/11050ft). The river takes a turn from Shingra Kongma and then goes straight for a while. There are frozen waterfalls on the left bank of the river. After walking for an hour we reach an opening beside the river where camp is possible and called Tsomo. The river gorge becomes narrow as small as ~6m/20ft at a place and zigzags through. Prayer flags flung here. This stretch is adrenaline pumping for the people who raft down the Zanskar river in summer. Continue walking for another 2 hour to reach Hotong Yongma, and is a good place to take hot lunch. After lunch in an hour we reach Hotong Kongma. Our campsite for the day Tibb is another 2 hours from this point. Distance is 12 Km and may take 6/7 hours. Tibb has camping side on both side of the Chadar, right side being the bigger. On the left side of the Zanskar river, there are few caves which can also be used as shelter. Night stay in tent.

20 ft narrow gorge

20 ft narrow gorge

Formation of ice sheet

Formation of ice sheet

Day 5: Our walk for today is till Nerak (~3500m/11500ft). After walking an hour we reach Yongma Do. Here we may have to take a detour from river bed and climb up a rocky cliff to negotiate the semi frozen ice sheet. Continue the walk to Kongma Do and then to a place called Juniper Point where few Juniper trees stand aside the river bed on our right. Local porters will greet you with the Juniper leafs. Tipping the jovial support team is a custom here. From here we go straight and take a right turn and find a huge frozen waterfall. We stop here for posing in front of cameras. Nerak is only 10 minutes walk from here. A wooden bridge is present here to connect Lingshed and Nerak. The villagers of Nerak and Lingshed exchange provisions and connect using this bridge during summer and monsoon. Nerak campsite is on our left side (True right of the river) and is around ~45m/150 ft above the river bed. There are couple of very basic home-stays and one small shop inside it. Basic provisions are available here. Total distance is 12 Km and can take 5/6 hours. The Nerak village is another one hour climb up from the campsite. Night stay in tent/home-stay.

Negotiating a rocky cliff

Negotiating a rocky cliff

Chadar trek_Himalaya Trekkers 18

Frozen waterfall just before Nerak

Day 6: Today we start our return journey and trek back to Tibb. Night stay in tent.

Nerak Home-stay

Nerak Home-stay

Bridge between Nerak and Lingshed

Bridge to connect Nerak and Lingshed

Day 7: Trek back to Shingra Yongma. Distance is 15Km and may take 5 hours. Night stay in tent.

Rocky formation due to wind erosion

Rocky formation due to wind erosion

Shingra Yongma campsite

Shingra Yongma campsite

Day 8: Trek back to Tilat Sumdo, 7 Km and can take 2 hours. Then we take the car and get back to Leh by late afternoon. Night stay in hotel/lodge.

Walking back to Tilat Sumdo

Walking back to Tilat Sumdo

Chadar trek_Himalaya Trekkers 22

On the way to Leh

P.S. : The distances and altitudes are indicative and may not be exact.