Chadar Trek is an unusual expedition of walking on a frozen river. The Zanskar River freezes in winter, enabling walking on the ice sheet in a narrow gorge that is inaccessible in summer. Expedition leader and regular at Chadar – Manish Lakhani, along with trekking guide Labsong will be organizing an expedition on Chadar in January 2013. Read details of the trek below. For any queries and to sign up, use the contact form below.
Also see: More images of Chadar Trek.
Trek Dates: 12th January to 29th January 2013
More details on each day of the trek can be seen below.
12th Jan – Arrive Delhi
13th Jan – Fly to Leh 3500m
14th Jan – Leh 3500m
15th Jan – Drive to Chilling and trek to Tilad Do camp 3100m
16th Jan – Trek to Gyalpo camp 3170m
17th Jan – Trek to Dib Cave 3225m
18th Jan – Trek to Neraks camp 3390m
19th Jan – Trek to Dib Gongma or Sarak Do 3500m (if we get Jeep, by evening we will be in Zangla)
20th Jan – Rest Day in Zangla and explorer Snow Kingdom of Zangla and Zangla Fort.
21st Jan –Trek to Pidmo or Hanumil.
22nd – 28th Jan trek Back to Leh.
29th Jan – Return from Leh
Facilities provided for this expedition
- Airfares – Delhi to Leh and Leh to Delhi
- Hotels in Leh
- Airport transfers
- Heated Hotels in Leh
- Accommodation with local families in Zanskar
- Local departure tax
- Group transportation by private vehicle
This is an expedition-style trek with
- Highly experienced guides
- Highly experienced and professionally equipped porters
- All meals and hot drinks; superb Asian vegetarian food
- Roomy sleeping and heated dining tent
- Four season tents, good quality sleeping bags and other critical camping gear
Facilities Not Included
- Personal insurance
- Personal equipment rental/purchase
- Alcohol and soft drinks
- Laundry, tipping and other items of a personal nature
The participants will be travelling at their own risk and organizers are not responsible for any unforeseen accidents.
Day by Day Detail Itinerary
January 12 – Arrive Delhi
Arrive and rest in Delhi. Briefing and getting know each other.
January 13 – Fly to Leh 3500m
Take 6am flight to Leh, which in winter is rarely delayed. Our tour begins by watching a spectacular sunrise over snowy peaks as we cruise at a height of 30,000 feet, far above the mountains. After an hour long memorable flight over the Himalayas, we land in Tashi Namgyal’s 15th century capital, Leh. The cold air will catch your throat and you will definitely feel the altitude. We stay at the comfortable Hotel Shynam near main bazaar, which has heated rooms. After a late breakfast, we will go on a slow stroll around Leh to see a little piece of central Asian history, with its palace dominating the old bazaar with a backdrop of snowy peaks. Lunch on the way and back to hotel for rest. This is a day for acclimatization.
January 14 – Leh 3500m
We will spend this day easy, visiting some sights nearby without straining too much. We drive through the mountainous terrain to ancient monasteries at Thiksey and Stakna and see the colourfully decorated prayer halls – a little bit of old Tibet. There is also lot to explore in this wonderful Central Asian town; the fort and palace, colorful gompas, the mosque, back alleys with steaming Muslim bread, tiny antique shops tucked away, colorful fruit and vegetable bazaars. While you explore the town, our guides will be busy with preparation of trek, gears and porters.
January 15 – Drive to Chilling and trek to Tilad Do camp 3100m
Mornings in Leh in any season are special and different. The fresh air and the son beckons you to head out while the cold air draws you back into the heated room. Breakfast in the Shynam is your last touch of civilization. By eight, we will be on the road driving through the suburbs of Leh, then along with the Indus River.
We stop briefly at Nimu to watch the confluence of Indus and Zanskar River from a high vantage point. When the muddy Indus merges with a clear blue Zanskar River, former’s colours disappear and acquire the purity of the later. We descend into the valley and across a small bridge, now entering the valley of Zanskar. A road running parallel to the river takes us to Chilling and further, as far as the new road under construction allows us to go. It is time to hit the ice! The experience of walking on ice now begins and perhaps quickly followed by experience of falling on ice! It is a short walk on Day 1, so it gives you some time to practice and stretch. The first day’s camp is on a sandy plateau to one side of the Zanskar at the confluence of a stream with the river. On this first day our tents will be erected for guides, who will introduce you to camp routines. It is then to our warm and cozy dining tent, followed by dinner – hot soup and a good vegetarian meal. Evenings in the dining tent, which is big enough to stretch your legs but small enough to be easily warmed, are very comfortable. Before bed, as part of the daily routine, we fill your bottles with boiling water. Great to toast your toes, and drinkable in the morning.
January 16 – Trek to Gyalpo camp 3170m
Waking up is a shock? We hope not too much! It is the most difficult part of the day, but things only get better as the day progresses. The morning cold is eased by the hot beverage that comes to your tent, and hot washing water. Breakfast call is 7.30, but your gear and tent have to be packed by then! Breakfast is as much hot coffee or tea as you can drink, eggs to order (fresh while they last, then powdered), fresh baked bread, jam and honey. Departure time is normally around 9:00, and the days soon assume a familiar pattern. Guides Lobsang leads the group of trekkers, followed by our porter team.
It is essential always to stay with our guides. The first few days are generally problem-free, but we can and will encounter times when we have to wait while Lobsang scouts the best route. We prefer to stay on the river, and you will see Zanskaris take real risks to avoid rock climbing. For this reason you must have plenty of warm layers to throw on, and of course, dry socks. The ice conditions are too varied (and insanely beautiful) to list out here, but there are one or two things to bear in mind – you will find yourself warming up and getting comfortable as you walk, enjoying the views and occasionally watching for wildlife. Look out particularly for snow leopard prints, Ibex on the gorge walls, and the crazy ‘Dipper’ birds that dive from ice into the river, turning over pebbles looking for edibles.
You will develop a sense of what is safe and unsafe ice, and learn to catch yourself if you slip. But be ready to learn as you fall in the first couple of days.
The lunchtime begins with a tea and follows with pulao or Zanskari Kiu (dumpling stew) bread, cheese, jam, biscuits or the good old instant noodles. Some days if the ice conditions are poor and we are behind schedule, we can only have hot tea and an uncooked lunch. The ice conditions change quickly and what takes an hour at noon can take three hours by 3pm. We do not rush; but we do not dawdle! If you hear Zanskaris calling down the valley, particularly at the corners, don’t worry; they are screaming to scare away the demons who lurk in the ice. By 3-4pm we should be in camp on a plateau above the river. Today we start putting up our own tents. While your guides help you with this, Lobsang gets the dining tent up, the porters gather firewood, and soon the tea is ready. Dinner will be ready by 7:00.
January 17 – Trek to Dib Cave 3225m
This is a beautiful day when the river starts to curve and you can see the uphill slope of the ice as we ascend the river into Zanskar. We are now getting used to walking on the ice and the initial anxiety is past, but that doesn’t mean we will stop falling altogether. We pass incredible waterfalls on our left, normally frozen into aquamarine ice cliffs. The waterfall was said to have come from a river given to local people who visited Tibet centuries ago to plead for water for their barren land. They were given a box which they were told they must open only on their return home. The curious Zanskaris were nearly home when one of them opened it; out jumped a tiny fish, and the river sprung from the ground high above here.
Also today we will probably have to climb briefly above the river – on the sharp bends the speed of the current breaks up the ice. Lunch is on a rocky beach by the river, and camp is near one of the many caves that are blackened by centuries of use by the fires of locals. Our porters use these caves to cook and sleep in, and many of them are slowly being turned into small huts by Zanskaris recruited by the Border Roads Organization to shelter the road workers as they come through here. This is a popular campsite and you might see some locals camping on their way to Leh or back.
Januar 18 – Trek to Neraks camp 3390m
One more spectacular day when it comes to seeing frozen waterfalls and narrow gorges. Crags seem to leap up from the frozen river surface, and ibex can usually be seen defying gravity far above. You will see Yellow Billed Choughs making a curious whistling sound as they fly in small groups half-way up the gorge. After lunch we pass the ‘incense tree’, so called because the locals use its branches to burn in their morning rituals, and the prayer flag draped tree marks the entrance to Zanskar Region.
The porters will normally take a few twigs from the tree, then tear a small piece of prayer flag to wrap it in, and present it to you. Welcome to Real Zanskar! An hour later we turn a corner, and there, high above the river, is the bridge that links Zanskar with Ladakh, and Neraks village with Lingshed Monastery – bridge used in summer months when they can’t ford the river. Then the valley gorge opens up, and we see the small huts that mark some of the summer grazing of the Neraks villagers. The village is far above. We stay indoors today at a small river-side loghut, in a relatively warm and comfortable heated room. Don’t blame us if you don’t feel like braving the colds tomorrow to walk deeper into Zanskar. And yes, rum is possible!
January 19 – Trek to Dib Gongma or Sarak Do
Another amazing day on the ice, and a long one. At the end of the day we are back in another world with some hints of civilization, where good folks from Border Roads Organization are braving the cold and building the road from Zanskar End. Tsarak Do is a cold camp with lot of wind, but do not worry; brave this night and you are back to comfortable quarters of heater room in a Zanskari House.
January 20 – Rest Day in Zangla.
Not a hard day if there is a trail, but in fresh snow, it may be. We don’t strain too much and take it easy, getting ready for the walk back.
January 21 – Trek to Pidmo or Hanumil.
Today, we begin tracing our way back before re-entering Chadar.
January 22- 28 on the way back to chilling.
The same way back? Surprise ? Well, technically yes we are same way back. In fact the Chadar changes by the minutes and hours, and the colours and perspectives all change. And yes, it is quicker downhill. We do know that the Chadar will be as challenging on the return trip. We do know we have plenty of time for those problems, and we do know that Uncle Angchuk and his jeeps will be waiting for us when we climb stiffly off the ice, the Chadar, one of the great adventures done! And now, way back to home.
January 29. Back to home
Cost of the expedition: Rs.85,000/-
Please use the form below for any queries or to register for the trek. Alternately, email expedition leader Manish Lakhani at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 9998866669