Ladakh is a union territory of India bound by two of India's oldest and grandest mountain ranges, The Himalayas and The Karakoram. It is one of the highest tourist destinations in the world. Every year more than 3 lakh tourists from India and abroad visit Ladakh. Due to its natural beauty and challenging landscape, it has become quite popular amongst the world's adventure travelers. The snow-capped majestic mountains, the icy cold weather, and irregular terrain make this region perfect for an adventure.
Every year, thousands of people go trekking in Ladakh. One of the most popular treks in this region is the Chadar trek. It is quite challenging because of the cold weather and high altitude. But as it is rightly said, just like in life, the best views come with the hardest climbs; similarly, completing the Chadar trek will leave you content and rejuvenated. A limited window of only 30 to 40 days is available, usually between 10th January and 20th February depending on the solid formation of Chadar, the carpet of ice.
Do you know about the Chadar trek? Have you added this to your adventure bucket list? If not, then, you will surely add after reading this complete guide about the chadar trek.
What is the Chadar trek?
The word Chadar is a Hindi word for a long cover (like bedsheets). This Chadar trek requires you to walk on the frozen Zanskar river. The frozen river appears to resemble a blanket or cover made of snow; hence the name chadar trek was given. Chadar trek is also known as Zanskar Gorge (as it is near Zanskar River). It is situated in Ladakh. Earlier, it functioned as a traditional route for the native people living there. All the roads were closed in the winter months due to heavy snow. Nowadays, it has become an adventure spot for people. The route passes through vertical cliffs, which can be as high as up to 600 meters. The snowfall shut down all mountain passes, leaving Chadar or the frozen Zanskar River to be the only way through. A one-way path of 150 km is also the only way in and out, even in an emergency for the Zanskari locals staying there. The trek involves perseverance and survival – learning to survive under zero in the harsh terrain, engaging with locals and understanding how they live, particularly within the most dwelling regions in the world, as you walk over a dramatic gorge frozen by a waterfall along the frozen Zanskar road, which spans over like a "Chadar" (that is the name), and acts like frozen waterfalls.
Why should you go for this Chadar trek?
If you wish to explore the Himalayan region's unexplored natural beauty, then Chadar trek is your answer. The natural beauty of snow-covered mountains is indeed aptivating. If you are looking for a break from the monotonous daily routine, then Chadar trek is perfect. The difficult paths, the fresh air, and the natural beauty help relieve the soul and body from the daily pressures of life. If you are looking for an activity that could raise your adrenaline levels, you should go trekking at the Chadar trek.
Itinerary for Chadar trek
It usually takes 9-13 days to complete the entire chadar trek.
Day 1: Departure from Delhi and arrival at Leh
Day 2: Resting and exploring Leh city.
Day 3: Medical check-up and getting clearances from the departments.
Day 4: Drive to Chilling and trekking to Zaribago.
Day 5: Trekking to Deepyokama
Day 6: Trekking to Nyarakpulu
Day 7: Trekking to Lingshed
Day 8: Exploring linished
Day 9: Starting to return, trekking to Tso Mopoaldar
Day 10: Trekking to Tildo
Day 11: Drive to Chilling and returning Leh
Day 12: Departure from Leh and arrival at Delhi
The Chadar trek is 105 kilometres long, but the trekking path is usually between 60-70 kilometres. It depends upon the package and the organizer you choose.
On average, a trekker needs to walk 12-14 kilometres daily to cover the entire trek in 9 days.
What will be the temperature for this trek?
The best time to go trekking at Chadar trek is during the winter months of January and February. Since this trek involves walking on Zanskar's frozen river, it is extremely important that the river be completely frozen.
During this trek, you would have to face severely cold climatic conditions. During day time, the chadar trek temperature is between 0°C and 20°C. During the night, the temperature can be as low as -25 and -35°C.
What is the must-carry equipment for this trek?
The Chadar trek is one of the most difficult and dangerous treks of the country. Thus, it is a good idea to go fully prepared.
Below is a list of items that you must carry while going for chadar trek Ladakh :
Medium-sized backpack in which you can carry all the required items.
Duffle bag and a sleeping bag(many organizers provide these, if your organizer doesn't provide this, then carry your own).
Garbage bag (generally polythene bags)
Trekking boots which are spiked to help you walk on the ice.
Thermal wear (the ones which dry quickly like hiking pants, hiking long-sleeved t-shirts, fleece jackets, woolen socks, woolen caps, insulating gloves )
Sunscreen, lip balms, and sunglasses because UV rays are stronger in the mountainous region.
Water bottles and water purification tablets
Personal medication(if any)
An emergency first aid contains medicines for rehydration, altitude sickness, nausea, diarrhea, a pain-relieving gel, and a few band-aids.
Essential toiletries like toilet paper, soap paper, hand sanitizer, etc.
Emergency food items (packed food items like nuts, chocolate bars, energy bars)
Can I get equipment on rent in Leh for the trek?
Though trekking is a soul-refreshing activity, it is quite a burden on the pocket as the required trekking gears are quite expensive. If you are a first-timer and are not sure whether you would go for trekking a second time, renting trekking equipment is a good idea.
In fact, in Leh, many locals earn their livelihood by renting trekking gears to the trekkers. They have quite a good range of trekking products ranging from backpacks and sleep bags to high-end trekking shoes. This way, you can save your money and explore the types of equipment suitable for you.
How can you reach Leh for the trek?
Leh has an airport of its own, so you can board a flight and directly land in Leh. You can also reach Leh through roadways. You can reach Leh through the train as well. The nearest railway station is Jammu Tawi, which is approximately 700 km away from Ladakh. From there, you can either board a bus or hire a cab. If you don't wish to go via any public transport, then you can also go through your personal transport like a car.
Places covered on the Chadar trek?
In Zanskar valley, you will also come across various monuments like stupas and gompas built by the kings, various monasteries, which are the local deities' shrines. The chadar trek starts from Chilling. However, many organizers drive the trekkers up to Tilad Sumado, which is 1 km away from the first base camp. The journey covers several places like Zaribago, Deepyokama, Nyarakpulu, Lingshed, Nerak(the frozen waterfall, and the point of return), Tso Mopoaldar, among others. The number of places covered depends upon the organizer and the package you select.
What is the difficulty level of the Chadar trek?
The difficulty level of the Chadar trek Ladakh is subjective. For different people, the level of difficulties may be different. If you are a beginner, this trek will surely give you a challenging time due to the extreme weather and icy terrain. This trek involves bearing severely cold chadar trek temperature. You would even have to climb on the icy rocks and boulders. So you must have good stamina and fitness levels. It is known as one of India's most difficult and dangerous treks, so you must take all instructions seriously. And before they enter the first base camp, several people have to opt-out. Majorly because of Low BP, the possibility of hypothermia, strokes and other issues that are real risks to travellers whether or not they have a history of medication.
Permits and regulations for the Chadar trek Ladakh.
In 2019, a new set of rules and guidelines were introduced to conserve the sanctity of the trek and ensure the safety of the trekkers.
Since the chadar trek is the most dangerous, a rigorous procedure is followed to ensure the trekkers' safety.
First of all, the trekkers need to spend at least three days in Leh to get adjusted to the harsh climate change. Trekkers need to produce their boarding pass to confirm their date of arrival. After that, the trekkers need to get a medical check-up done at the local government hospital. The unfit ones aren't allowed to go further. After clearing the medical check-up, the trekkers need to obtain adventure travel insurance from an authorized insurance provider. Then, you need to get a permit from the wildlife department. Finally, you need a NOC certificate from the ALTOA (All Ladakh Tourist Operator Association)before starting your trek.
The authorized tour operators need to provide a list of ration and food items they are carrying. This is done to track whether they bring back all the trash or not. The tour operators are given green bags to collect garbage. They need to deposit a certain amount as security, which will be returned to them after checking all the trash they bring with them after returning from the trek.
How should you prepare for the trek? What exercises and training are required?
The Chadar trek is one of the most arduous treks in the country, so you need to be mentally and physically fit. You need to have good endurance and tolerance levels, above-average health, and no major health issue.
It is a good idea to start preparing in advance for the trek. Here is a list of a few things you can do before your trek to make your body habitual to strenuous physical activities.
Start walking and jogging for half an hour every day at least two months before your trek. Avoid taking elevators and lifts and use stairs instead to improve the capacity of your lungs. It is a good idea to start walking and jogging with weights on your shoulders.
You should improve your breathing capacity by doing breathing exercises. It will help increase your lungs' capacity and improve the circulation of oxygen in your body.
You need to increase your endurance and strength, by including strengthening exercises in your daily work out regime like sit-ups, push-ups, squats, etc.
Avoid using heaters or warm quilts beforehand to make yourself accustomed to the Chadar trek's cold weather.
What are the accommodation arrangements for the trek(in Leh and during the trek?
In Leh, accommodation arrangements are made in good hotels or guest houses where meals and all other facilities are provided to the trekkers. The organizers usually make these arrangements, and the cost is included in the package. While trekking, tents are set up in the caves, and the trekkers have to sleep in those tents. The organizers arrange the food essentials, and a cook(who is a local) goes with the group and prepares the food for trekkers. The organizers of the trek manage these things.
What is the cost incurred for the Chadar trek?
The cost incurred during the trek is dependent upon various factors like the duration of the trek(9 days, 12 days, etc.), the organizer you choose(the arrangements made by different organizers are different like the price of the hotel where they are arranging the stay of the trekkers. The average cost (per person) of the trek can be anything between 20,000-30,000. However, there might be organizers charging a higher amount (up to 50,000). This might be because of the inclusion of certain charges like the airfare.
How to stay hydrated on the Chadar trek?
The Chadar trek temperature is quite low, and the weather is usually dry. You may not feel like drinking water, but it is very important to stay hydrated while trekking; otherwise, you may suffer from nausea and diarrhoea, which will shorten your trek. To avoid such a situation, drink at least 5-7 liters of water daily during the trek (2-4 liters while walking). You do not need to drink water at one go; instead, take a few sips every 15-20 minutes. To adjust to the increased water intake, start drinking 5 liters of water at least ten days before the trek. Carry water bottles and water purification pills of our own (though the arrangements are made by the organizers).
Do's and don'ts for the Chadar trek.
Behave politely with your co- trekkers. Enjoy the trip like one unit. This will promote harmony and help you in making new friends.
Follow all the instructions given by your leader.
Wear as many clothes as you want to. It is important to keep your body warm in the fiercely cold weather.
Always carry an emergency first aid kit with yourself.
Tell your friends and family about your entire schedule.
Keep yourself hydrated.
If you visit any monastery, then pay tribute as per the local tradition.
It is your responsibility to maintain the trek's beauty and purity, so do not throw plastic or any other kind of waste here and there.
Do not use harsh soap or chemicals while bathing in the waterfall of the river. The locals use this water for their daily purposes and do not contaminate water.
Do not skip meals or water. Skipping meals will make you ill and devoid of energy.
Do not wander alone. Always go along with your team.