About Chadar Trek
Base Location: Leh
Starting Point: Chilling
Maximum Altitude: 3,390 m
Difficulty Level: Difficult
Trek distance: 70 Km
Trek Duration: 6 Days
The Chadar Trek takes one through the frozen Zanskar River which is located in the Zanskar Region of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir. This is one of those Treks which need to be undertaken during the winter months and hence it is termed as a ‘winter trail’. The 70 Km long trek would test your grit, patience and ability to deal with extreme winter conditions. Hence, suitable gear along with a fervor for challenging trails can make this thrilling route your once in a lifetime experience.
The Chadar Trek is popularly known as a “Frozen River Trail”. The uniqueness of this trek is that it takes place on a very high altitude and is undertaken during the winter months, increasing the level of difficulty of this trek. Also, there are frozen ice sheets all along the trail of this trek and very little vegetation is expected to be seen during the entire trekking period. The cool mountain air might make you feel a bit uncomfortable, but with the proper winter gear and acclimatization, this will soon pass.
Best Time to Do Chadar Trek
The best time to go on this Trek is during the winter months from January to February when the average temperature is around -15 degree Celsius, with night temperatures sometimes falling as low as -25 degrees Celsius. This is also the only time when the Zanskar river is frozen and people can walk over it.
Since this trek is a winter trek, the roads leading to Leh will be unavailable during those months. Thus the best option available is to take a flight directly to Leh. The main airport of Leh is the Leh Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport. Flying over the snow capped mountain peaks will show you why it was impossible to reach Ladakh by road during the winter months. From Leh, you will have to reach Chilling which is the starting point of the Trek. There are a few options available to reach Chilling –
Since Chilling is not a popular adventure travel destination, public transport to this place is severely constrained. Mini buses are available between Leh and Chilling on Wednesdays and Sundays only and the bus frequency is limited to one or two buses in a day.
Taxis are available from Leh to Chilling throughout the day at a cost ranging from 2500 to 3500, depending on the model of the car.
3. SELF DRIVE
Another beautiful option to reach Chilling from Leh is to hire a motorbike from Leh and see all the scenic beauty of the Himalayas along the way.
Itinerary of Chadar Trek
Day 1: Leh to Tsomo Paldar via Chilling and Tilad Do (11,480ft – 10,550ft; Drive 3-4 hours; Trek 3km, 2 hours)
The first campsite of this Trek is located in Tsomo Paldar which is via Chilling and Tilad Do. The drive through here is one of stunning scenic beauty, passing through some really picturesque spots of Ladakh. Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Magnetic Hill and the confluence of the Zanskar and Indus are some of the prominent places along the road.
You would encounter several waterfalls during the route, make sure not to contaminate the water using soaps as the local inhabitant tribes depend on this water for their needs including drinking purposes.
From Zanskar, it is a one and a half hour drive to Chilling. Then beyond that, the entire trek needs to be done on foot. Here, you will have to be careful while treading on the ice surfaces as they can be very tricky. Do expect multiple ice surfaces on this trek. Half an hour of trekking and you will reach Tsomo Paldar, the first campsite. Its speciality is that this camp is under sub-zero temperatures. Thus make sure your warmest layers are taken out.
Day 2: Tsomo Paldar to Tibb Cave (10,400ft – 10,800ft; 15km; 6-7 hours)
This trail is at an altitude of 11800 feet where you will witness frozen waterfalls. You will also see the green waters of the Zanskar river flowing alongside the trail. Overnight can be spent at the Tibb Cave.
Day 3: Tibb Cave to Naerak Camp (10,800ft – 11,100ft; 13 km; 6-7 hours)
The Naerak Campsite is the most awaited campsite in this Trek.
This is due to the fact that Naerak is the coldest campsite of this Trek as here, the temperature at night goes down to an average of -30 degree Celsius. The village of Naerak is a popular destination site of this trek and visiting it is a must for all the trekkers. You can spend the night in the Nearak camp. It takes around 6 to 7 hours for this trail to be completed.
Day 4: Naerak to Tibb Cave (11,100ft – 10,800ft; 13 km; 5-6 hours)
On this day, you return back to Tibb Cave. The return journey will be as challenging as the original journey. Even a slight change in the temperature makes the Zanskar River to constantly shift itself under the ice sheet. On your return journey, you will see an entirely different Chadar and thus, the trek back will not be quite as boring as you would have anticipated. This trail will take around 6 hours to complete.
Day 5: Tibb Cave to Gyalpo (10,800ft – 10,500ft; 12 km; 5-6 hours)
Today’s agenda should be to reach Gyalpo. On the trail, you will be delighted to find the high rise mountains surrounding the river, and hence, giving the image of an ice castle. Also, on your way, if you are fortunate, you might be able to see the footprints belonging to foxes, Ibex and Snow Leopard.
Day 6: Gyalpo to Shingra Yokma and back to Leh (10,500ft – 10,300ft and drive to 11,400ft; Trek 6 km; 3-4 hours; Drive to leh 65 km; 3-4 hours)
This is the last day of the Chadar Trek. The retraced steps will be like nostalgia and this might be the last chance for you to look at all the enticing and grandiose views that you might have missed out on earlier. After trekking for about 6 kms, which takes an average of about 4 hours, you will have to drive back to Leh for another 4 hours.
There is phone connectivity only in Leh and the networks available are only those of BSNL and of Airtel postpaid; in the rest of the trip you will find no network whatsoever. The villages you will be passing through have a satellite phone installed by the Government, but then again, the connectivity is not very reliable.
The Chadar Trek is one of the most fascinating treks to go to. And despite the extreme cold and a high altitude, this trek won’t involve much altitude gain.