One need not hesitate to say that this is one of the most difficult treks in North India. Spread over Leh, Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, this trek is at an altitude of over 11,000 feet. It takes experienced trekkers 9-10 days to cover an expanse of 70-75 km, which is the range of this trek. Winters make the region inaccessible and for many years, people have used the frozen river of the Zanskar Valley to reach remote villages and travel through this region. The journey between Chilling and Zanskar is exhilarating but not meant for the faint hearted.
Chadar Trek Villages
For those of you who cannot complete the entire journey, this village is a must see. It is unlike other Himalayan villages and is sparsely populated. There is a monastery here, which is unlike any other experience to soothe oneself. A visit to the solar school is also something, which some trekkers might find interesting. Yaks are reared here and children go to schools and temples unlike any other village in spite of the frigid weather, which is a great learning experience from them. Living in the homestays at Lingshed will surely be a refreshing experience for you. The hospitality of the locals will make up for the cold to some extent.
Chilling and Nyrek
Chilling is another significant village beginning from which you trek through the steeps canyons to reach Lingshed. Nyrek is located several hundred feet above the riverbed and some people stay back in the caves here for the thrill of it. In the summer, this site is used for rafting along the Zanskar and giving refuge to trekkers in the winters.
Chadar Trek Difficulty
If you want to finish this frozen Chadar river trek, be prepared to start training months in advance. Although the best time to visit is the winter, it is a challenge to surge ahead with the biting cold. The days are frigid while the nights are unsettling. Trekkers might have to sleep in caves and not get even the most basic amenities. You’ll have to cross-mounds and blocks of ice on the river to reach the Zanskar valley.
Chadar Trek Route Map
It is advised to reach Leh by air because roads and passes are normally blocked in the winter. It takes most people 2 days to get accustomed to the drop in temperature. You can see the Stok Kangri peak here. After staying in Leh and buying any necessities that you want, starts the long drive to Chilling. Along the drive, you will be able to see the Zanskar merging with the Indus. After reaching Chilling starts the real trek. You cross the sheet of ice and put up tents along the river at night. Your next campsite can be Gyalpo or Tilad Do depending on your speed. Walking on ice is unpredictable so one must be careful about where to stop and pitch tents. The next stop is Tibb Cave where you can stay for the night. Along the way you will get to see towering mountains and frozen waterfalls which are a once in a lifetime thing to see. The last stop is the Nyrek village, which is at the highest point during the trek. Sharing butter tea and noodles with the locals at this point will make you feel like you’ve conquered the world! You return through the same path till you reach Leh and fly back home, marking the end of this glorious trek.
Chadar Trek Weather
As mentioned earlier, the weather is extreme in this region. The daytime temperatures can range from 8-15 degrees while at night they can be as low as -20 and -30 degree Celsius. You will need to carry your warmest clothes since the cold here is more dangerous than biting.