I had always longed to go on the famous winter trek in Ladakh known as the Chadar trek. It is one of the toughest and most popular treks in treks in Ladakh.
I am an avid trekker and have had the chance to Trek India on several occasions including some really difficult ones.
I have been to Ladakh on quite a few occasions, and on my last trip, I had taken the Stok Kangri trek. Stok Kangri trek was a surreal experience and I fell in love with the place. I was looking forward to being back.
Chadar Trek India
For those who don’t know Chadar, in Hindi, means blanket and hence Chadar Trek means trekking on a blanket of frozen river.
Finally, I got an opportunity and I wasn’t going to miss it.
With a few fellow trekkers, I headed to Ladakh in mid-January to experience Chadar first hand.
My experience of Chadar Trek
It has been almost six months since I went on the Chadar expedition in Ladakh, but I still can’t get it out of my head.
The experience was simply stunning.
The Chadar Trek takes you through the remote Zanskar Valley, over the frozen Zanskar River.
This frozen river trek is a high altitude adventure that is not to be taken lightly.
In winters, most of the mountain passes of Ladakh get blocked due to heavy snowfall.
A walk on the frozen Zanskar River is the only route possible for locals to make contact with the outside world.
The route has been used even since Tibetans first settled in Ladakh almost 1000 years ago.
Trekking the Chadar trail requires a lot of preparation. Camping and food fac must also be arranged in advance, so a package tour is highly recommended.
We had a 14-day itinerary of the trek, which involved 4 days of getting acclimatized to the weather conditions and the lack of oxygen.
Day 1 and 2
You can reach Leh by driving or flying. But the drive to Leh is treacherous in the winter, flying into the Leh airport is recommended.
It is the jumping-off point for trekking in Ladakh. This day is spent relaxing at the guest house and shopping for any last-minute gear.
If you can pack some chocolate treats it really helps with altitude.
Leh is already located at 3,500meters (11,400 ft) so you will be feeling the effects of altitude.
On this day we meet our trek leader and learn about what is in store for the days ahead.
This is a good day to take it easy and get used to the altitude. If you can book a few extra days before the trek to acclimate.
It is very important that you get acclimatized before embarking on this difficult trek.
It is one of the toughest treks in Ladakh.
The Trek starts with a drive up to Chilling where the trek begins at Tilad Do.
This is a short day of hiking to the campsite.
The Zanskar River
Most of the trek happens by walking along or on the frozen Zanskar River.
Shingra Koma to Tibb Cave
On most of the days of the trek, we only traveled on the frozen Zanskar River. The scenery is beautiful passing frozen waterfalls and wooden bridges as we are surrounded by snowcapped mountains.
We were lucky we did not have to use our ice climbing gear at all since the sheet of ice was pretty thick at that time of the year.
The highlight of my experience was watching the locals as they made their way through the river with considerable ease.
Watching them traverse the difficult path nonchalantly is something I can never forget.
On this 14 day India trek, we made our way through several stunning locations, some of which left me completely spellbound.
We camped at Tibb Cave which has been used by locals for centuries as a natural shelter.
When hiking along the river, we keep an eye out for animal prints in the snow. Up here we can see ibex, foxes and even tracks of the elusive snow leopards.
When to Trek Chadar
Chadar expeditions open from January to the end of February.
As a traveler who has had firsthand experience of Chadar trek, I would advise you to make the trek as soon as the season opens around January 15 of each year.
In January, temperatures are really low, which means the Zanskar River remains completely frozen.
There are no water holes or thin sheets of ice anywhere that can be very dangerous.
Having the water completely frozen makes the trek a whole lot easier.
If you are going to do the Chadar trek independently, make sure to book a porter for your Chadar expedition.
The extreme conditions make for a lot of gear, luggage, and layers, so you don't want to have to carry that on your back.
You will have to carry your own food and stove as well. So it is better to have an experienced guide and porter for safety and to take some of the weight.
How Much does it cost to trek to Chadar
As for the price, it can be anywhere upwards of INR 50,000.
It really depends on the tour operator you are booking your trek from.
What to Pack for Chadar Trek
- Gum Boots are mandatory on this trip, so have warm waterproof winter boots.
- Hiking boots
- A good sleeping bag for sub zero temperatures is a must.
- A first aid kit with prescription medications and basic naccessities is a good idea too.
- Pack in layers with a base, mid and water/windproof outer layer.
- Make sure you have good gloves and bring an extra pair should anything happen.
- And warm hats, buffs or balaclavas.
- Goggles or sunglasses
- 2 water bottles or 1-litre hydration pack plus water bottle
- Wondering what to pack for the Chadar trek? Read our guide to how to pack for the Winter Deep Freeze and what to pack for Everest Base Camp.
Divij is an adventurer, a budding photographer and a writer. He has been to various trekking trails and to many offbeat destinations in India.
His passion is to explore all the offbeat destinations in India. Currently, he writes articles on travel for www.Thrillophilia.com.