Best time to visit
January to February
About the trek
Ladakh has always captivated visitors with its magical charm and beauty. Be it the picturesque mountain peaks, azure lakes or the challenging trekking trails, this scenic valley is known for all. While during the summers, the region adorns the most vibrant colors of nature, during the winters it is embraced with heavy snowfalls that cut off the entire region from the rest of the world.
Chadar trek is one for the adrenaline-junkies that like to go all in or all out. This trek will give you a chance to walk on the frozen Zanskar River. It is a huge favourite among Indians and travellers from abroad. Meant to be tried only by seasoned professionals, Chadar river trek is about endurance, focus and fitness. The beauty of this region attracts a lot of visitors, but its harsh and deserted environment is quite demanding. On a Zanskar Valley trek, you would meet the locals and understand their way of living in one of the most uninhabitable regions in the world; some locals stay in the camps alongside the banks. Meeting with these locals who sustain a challenging lifestyle or a livelihood in these conditions is sure to charge you up. The temperature, in general, is twenty degrees below the freezing point and sometimes goes even further below. So, one should try to generate sufficient body heat by walking over sustained periods of time.
The Chadar frozen river trek is an experience for the brave-hearted that seek thrill through responsible eco-tourism. The weather and terrain might shake your confidence a bit but if you can surpass that then the journey to this land will be the most enrich experience of your life.
Day 1 and 2 : Arrive in Leh, acclimatize and get a medical certificate
You can reach Ladakh on your own by air/train or bus. Keeping in mind the health problems that trekkers are facing (Acute Mountain Sickness), as per the new regulations applied by Ladakh Government Authorities, anyone doing the Chadar Trek should be at least spending two days in Leh to get your body fully acclimatized to the weather conditions here. It is irrevocable and it is important that it is strictly followed by every trekker. You can spend the day shopping at the Leh market. It is very important that you get used to the cold temperature in Leh because the temperature will only tend to fall as you start walking on the frozen Zanskar, where the temperatures reach way below zero even in the daytime. A clearance certificate upon a medical check-up will be issued by the Sonam Narbu Hospital. One will get a certificate only when adequately fit and acclimatized for the trek.
Day 3 : Leh to Shingra Koma
Altitude – 10550 feet to 11480 feet
Distance – 65kms drive, 3kms trek
Time taken – 3-4 hours for the drive and 2 hours for the trek.
You will start your journey to your first campsite which is Shingra Yokma via Chilling & Tilad Do. It is one of the most scenic drives which brings you the delight of seeing some of the most beautiful spots in Ladakh. Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Magnetic Hill and the confluence of the Zanskar and Indus are some of the places where you can take a pit stop for clicking memorable pictures. An hour and a half of driving along the Zanskar will get you to Chilling. The car will drop you right where the road ends. This will be your starting point of walking on the Zanskar.
Start your walk towards Shingra Koma where you will be pitching tents and staying for the night. You will need to ready yourself mentally and physically for the days that are coming your way. Get used to walking with wearing the gumboots, which will definitely be a challenge in the initial stage. To get the hang of patterns of ice formation will take some time. You will have to judge the fragile surfaces from the strong ones as there are a number of different kinds of surfaces on Chadar Trek, but once you start walking you will know more about it. Make sure your backpack is light and small so you can manage and use the weight on your own effectively. This will be your first experience of camping under sub-zero temperatures. You will be staying the night in tents and be ready for the entire trek as this is just where the Chadar expedition starts.
Day 4 : Shingra Koma to Tibb Cave
Altitude – 10800 Feet
Trek Distance – 15 kms
Time taken – 7-8 hours
Start your day early morning as you have a long day ahead as you have to trek a distance of 15 kms under sub zero temperatures. As you make your way to the campsite of Tibb Cave, you will be seeing some of the most beautiful formations of nature like the frozen waterfalls that stand frozen in time. The source of some of these frozen waterfalls is still unknown and there are a lot of myths and beliefs about them. The mighty Zanskar will be flowing all along with you on the trail and the emerald green water will have a smoothing effect. After walking for a couple of hours you’ll come across different rock patterns along the way which look artistic when the sun rays fall on them making their way from behind the clouds. You will reach the Tibb cave soon and this is where you will be camping for the night. Relax and be awestruck by the beauty of nature around you.
Day 5 : Tibb cave to Naerak village
Altitude – 11,100 feet
Trek Distance – 13 kms
Duration – 6-7 hours
Today, you will trek the most scenic part of the region and get a chance to witness the largest frozen waterfall and prayer flags. The bridge built next to the site of the waterfall is used in summers to reach Zanskar from Leh. The 13 km long trail will bring you the chance of seeing the most scenic landmark of Chadar Trek that is the frozen waterfall. This frozen waterfall is a nature’s masterpiece in itself and attracts trekkers and adventurers from across the globe. You can proceed towards the village of Naerak to mingle with the locals and understand their way of living. Stay overnight at the village camp comfortably. Naerak will be the coldest of all the campsites on the trek where the temperature goes down to as low as -30 degrees during the night. It will be important that you wear proper clothing and in layers to stay safe from the biting cold.
Day 6 : Naerak to Tibb
Altitude – 10800 feet
Trek distance – 13 kms
Duration – 6-7 hours
Today you will start the return journey and go back to the Tibb cave. If you have the notion that going back is the easier part of the journey, the Chadar will force your mind to think again. The Zanskar River reacts to the slightest change of temperature, and constantly keeps repackaging itself. The Chadar would have assumed a completely new form, and will it will almost be impossible to say whether you have been here before. On your way back to Tibb Cave, you will be seeing a lot of locals negotiating the Chadar wearing the traditional woolen Gonchas, where some of them are monks coming back to Leh from the monastery at Lingshed, while other are young students going back to schools in Leh after their vacations, accompanied by their parents. To see this sight is warming enough. You will be in awe of the way these people have adapted to the temperatures below zero and still smile. Today again you will be camping overnight at the Tibb cave.
Day 7 : Tibb to Gyalpo
Altitude – 10500 feet
Trek distance – 12 kms
Duration – 5-6 hours
Starting from Tibb, go up to Gyalpo today. The high walls of mountains rising from the sides of the river almost look like castle walls.You will be noticing a lot of fresh trails and footprints all along the trek, belonging to Foxes, Ibex or Snow Leopards. Although you won’t be lucky to spot a Snow Leopard; but you can almost be sure that you are being watched by one all the time. Camp at Gyalpo and relax in the lap of nature.
Day 8 : Gyalpo to Shingri Koma and back to Leh
Altitude – 10300 feet and drive to 11400 feet
Distance – 6 kms trek/ 65 kms drive
Duration – 7-8 hours
Today is the last day on the Chadar Trek. Retracing the steps we took, this will be the last chance to look at the majestic and mesmerizing Chadar, which you will miss for sure. Trekkers along the way, who are about to start their trek will for sure ask you the experience. It will be amazing to play guide to these people and to talk to someone about the experience while it is still fresh in your head. Tonight you can sleep in a warm room at Leh and get some rest and take all your exhaustion out from the trek.