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TRACKING THE TREK: CHADAR TREK
Celebrated as the ‘Gateway to the paradise of Kashmir’, Chadar trek indisputably is the most lustrous star Ladakh has to offer. If you are looking for an experience of a lifetime jam-packed with audacious encounters and perils, then Chadar is the just the perfect trek for you. The trail offers you exceptional as well as surreal vistas of landscapes blanketed with snow, ice and frozen waters. The frosty weather has sub-zero temperatures and is in itself a thrill-filled excursion challenging you to keep yourself warm if you can!
The 105-kilometre lengthy trek has been graded as highly difficult and is only suitable trekking experts who are 100% physically fit. Apart from physical fitness, this trek also requires an immense amount of mental preparation and an unbreakable will-power. Mid-January to Mid-February is the best time to takes pleasures of this icy white trail located in the Zanskar region of Ladakh.
Elevated at an altitude of 11,123 feet, Chadar is known as the frozen river trek which is true both figuratively and literally. You will need to prepare your body and mind prior to the ‘Challenge yourself!’ trek. On average you will have to walk 13-16 kilometres in a day so try to live by a consistent fitness regime about 2 -3 months beforehand. This routine should include:
- Getting up early in the morning
- Going for a run of a minimum 2-4 kilometre at least
- Trying to brisk walk and do a lot of cardio of strengthening your legs
- Avoiding elevators and taking the stairs instead
- Cycling or Swimming
- Breathing Exercises
- Practising with your trek shoes and backpack
- Increasing the distance of the run after every week
- Doing pushups, situps, squats and weight training
P.S. Consistency is the key here! ☺
During winters it is not safe as well as not possible to travel through roads so arriving through flights is the only way out. The closest airport is in the capital city, Leh. Try to arrive in Leh 2-3 prior to your actual trekking date as this will let your body to acclimatize to the icy weather conditions. There are a few incredible monasteries to explore during these two days like Thikse, Phyang etcetera. This way you could really soak in the rich heritage of the Tibetan culture.
On your first day of trekking, you will travel from Leh to Chilling. After a while you will reach the enormously stunning Nimoo, the union of Zanskar and the Indus stream. Stop here, take in the surreal view of frozen Zanskar colliding with the swiftly flowing Indus. This sight is something you won’t be able to take out your mind. This is when you will truly recognize that you are in for the most charming trek of your life. After this you will continue the drive which will be more exquisite now as the frozen Zanskar will be alongside you (the road actually, but still). The drive is 64-kilometre-long and is concluded where the road ends. This is the first time you will be viewing Chadar in its actual form. From here you will trek for 1-2 hours to Tilat Sumdo which will undoubtedly boost your excitement for the coming days. You will spend the night here.
On the 2nd day, you will board on a 9 kilometre trekking quest to Tsomo Paldar. The 6-hour trek will let you understand the story behind the name Chadar. Chadar means a blanket, and the whole trek is blanketed or ‘Chadared’ with a Chadar/Blanket of ice or snow. The sounds of the ice cracking and breaking will frighten as well as enthuse you. You will have your lunch in between this trek. The view is heaven like with everything covered in white snow sheets. You will reach your campsite by the evening where your tiredness will be vanished away by the appealing sight of the snow gleaming in the light of the moon.
The subsequent dawn, get up early and be prepared for the longest but the most enthralling and scenic day of the entire trek. Today you will see the nature’s creations at their best. The path will be difficult but worth it. Here you will see some of the most glorious waterfalls ever. These falls with icy-chilled water will captivate you in its glittery and sparkly charm for sure. The serenity these will inculcate inside you is beyond words. You will stroll through various ice cliffs, narrow valleys and pebbly brook banks today. There are steep as well as sharp bends and they are sure to check your physical and mental fitness. This very day will be the test of all what you have prepared beforehand. If you are fortunate, you might catch a glimpse of the exotic Blue Sheep. After the super lengthy and exhausting trek of 14.5 kilometres you will reach your campsite Dibb where you will spend an astounding night in the wilderness.
The next morning will freshen you up as the vistas of the campsite is excruciatingly beautiful. Today too, will be an amazing day with a lot of adventures and thrills coming your way. You will set out for a 11.5-kilometre long trek to Nyerak. The beauty of the 7-hour lengthy expedition is majestic as well as inexplicable. This place truly gets you enthralled as you under constant risks of walking on a very thin sheet of ice. You will literally her the sound of it cracking and sometimes breaking too. This sound will excite as well as scare you to your very core. The Chadar will put up persistent challenges for you to conquer today. During the trail, you will see the ‘Incense Tree’ which is considered to be a sacred tree for the inhabitants as they use its twigs in their prayers and pooja sacraments. You will reach the camp by late afternoon. This will be your final day of trekking upwards so take all the pleasure it has to offer to the fullest. The campsite as always, is enchantingly pretty and here you will enjoy natural picturesque at its very peak.
(P.S Be very-very cautious while trekking as the ice/Chadar beneath will not be rock solid here. It might crack or break.)
On the 5th day of your trailing excursion, you will reverse your way back to Dibb. The best part about Chadar is its ever-changing Chadar. The trial never stays the same here. It keeps on changing consistently. So each time you take another step, you will find a fresh experience. The same way back will feel entirely unknown due to its continual climatic and physical changes. Trek slow and enjoy to fullest as you see cyclists pass by and chatting with the locals. You will camp overnight at Dibb.
The sunrise of the subsequent dawn will begin with glimmering sun and a hot cup of Chai. This trivial but pleasurable moment will put a smile on your face while energising you for the rest of the day. Get ready in your trendy trekking couture and set off from Dibb to Shingra Koma. Shingra Koma is a massive camping ground where you will stroll today alongside the immensely attractive and serene river. The view looks like a location from a typical fairyland. You will camp here for the night. The slight but calming sound of the Zanskar river will give you a good night’s sleep.
7th day will be the concluding day of your once in a lifetime trek. You will now feel a strong sense of accomplishment as you have finished the most striking as well as puzzling trek. This day will bring happiness and sadness at the same time and no matter how many pictures you have clicked, you will end up wishing that you clicked a few more. Be sure to take in the last left pieces of Chadar along with you as you trek back to the roads of huba-hub into your regular life again.
The greatest trek of India will become a lifetime memory for you which you will cherish for as long as you live. Every trekker must trek this one of a kind Chadar atleast once.
ESSENTIALS TO CARRY:
- Thermal Wear (2-3 sets as a base layer)
- Fleece Jackets, Woolen Sweaters, Hoodies (Middle Layer)
- Extremely Warm, Waterproof and Windproof Jackets (Outer Wear)
- Gumboots (Very Essential)
- Hiking Shoes
- 5-6 Pairs of insanely warm Socks
- UV Glasses
- Very Warm Gloves
- Water Bottles
- Energy Filler Foods
- Warm Caps
A Few Extra Tips:
- Instead of focusing too much to keep your body warm, focus to keep your mind warm with the notion the feeling this cold is just a state of the mind. Keep telling yourself that it is warm and you are perfectly fine.
- Falling, Slight Injuries and Slipping often is just a part of this trek.
- Carefully observe the local residents and do what they do.
- The trek is extremely unpredictable due to its perpetual changing nature. Be prepared for anything.
- Choose your trek organiser very carefully. Your safety entirely depends on it.
- Do not think of Chadar as an easy trek to avoid prior preparations. It is essential to be physically as well as mentally fit to do this trek.
- Make sure to protect your delicate areas from the icy weather like earlobes, nose, eyes, fingers and toes.
- The Zanskar valley is very fragile, be sure to keep it clean and beautiful as it is for future generations to enjoy.
About the Author:
Rishika began her journey with a few months back. She is highly passionate about Writing as well as Travelling. She is a very insightful young woman and her admirable writings are worth a read!