Ever fancied strolling over the frozen river with the super cold water running beneath your feet and snow-capped dramatic mountains on both sides. If yes, then a trek over frozen Zanskar river or Chadar Trek is certainly going to fulfill your fantasy. The Chadar Trek or the Zanskar Gorge is a winter trail in the Zanskar region of Ladakh, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Its walls are near vertical cliffs which are up to 600 m high and the Zanskar River which is a tributary of the Indus is only 5 meters (16 ft) in places. The overall distance of the trek is approximately 105 kilometers. An average trekker walks 16 kilometers per day, so roughly the trek can be completed in about 9 days. The best time to do the Chadar trek is January to February when the temperature during the winters drops sometimes to -30 to -35 degrees and the ice is in its most stable state. The trek is graded as difficult and it begins from a small village of Chilling from where the Zanskar river actually begins to freeze.
The complete list of places on this trek is as follows:
- Leh ->Tsomo Paldar via Chilling & Tilad do
- Tsomo Paldar->Tibb Cave
- Tibb Cave-> Nerak
- Nerak->Tibb Cave
- Tibb Cave->Gyalpo
- Gyalpo ->Tilad do
- Tilad do->Leh
There are other variations of the trek which go till Lingshed while if you opt to stay more then a bigger version will take you to Padum over almost 14 days.
Who can go?
- The trekker must have an experience of at least one trek before starting off with the Chadar Trek
- The climber must not have a heart problem, high blood pressure, asthma, and epilepsy because these problems cannot be pacified on the mission.
- The climber should be capable enough to carry a 10 kg backpack.
- The climber ought to be fit and should have the required amount of stamina for trekking at least 5kms in 45 minutes.
Things to keep in mind
The trekker should be aware of the climatic conditions of the place and what all essentials are to be carried while trekking and also there are several factors that count for ensuring you a safe journey. The precautions that are to be taken on the footing choices seeing the ice conditions there are:
- There may be cracks in the ice, which the trekker should avoid while walking over it.
- The moment you encounter any sort of cracks under your feet it is advisable to just run and move to a solid place immediately
- Slippery ice can be found at many spots and ought to careful while walking.
- Places that have a coating of snow are the best ones to walk upon normally.
- Ice is definitely not a trekker’s friend so a trekker must be wise enough in choosing the camping spot.
- Trekking gear if brought from home is preferable as there might not be many supplies available during winters in Leh.
- One should always carry ready to eat food items like instant noodles with them as these prove out to be an excellent food option.
- Ice picks, trekking boots, and layers of extra warm clothing are mandatory in such conditions.
- Tents are highly recommended as you are non-local. But at times you can also easily camp in caves like the locals who journey across the river.
At times there are many people who don’t want to be a part of a group and wish to enjoy their own company hence want to travel solo. But Chadar Trek is considered one of the most difficult treks, thus traveling solo on this can be both thrilling and difficult at times. Take a look at the points mentioned below:
- If you are traveling in groups with a good tour operator, they will take care of all your basic amenities, like food will be provided to you during the trek, you also don’t have to worry about the accommodation as tour organizers will take care of that for you.
- Chadar Trek is considered one of the toughest trek in India so you need to take care of all the safety measures like oxygen cylinders, first aid kits, food, etc. Arranging all these things to ensure your safety is certainly a hard task if you wish to travel solo.
Traveling solo undoubtedly can be adventurous but there is no harm if you are assured safety along with fun (group travel with tour operators).
Regulations & SOP to be followed for Chadar Trek
The new district administration of Ladakh has taken various steps to protect the ecology of Ladakh. A comprehensive set of rules and guidelines has been published by the administration for all the trekkers and tour organizers going for Chadar Trek.
- All tourists going for Chadar Trek must spend at least three nights in Leh at a minimum for acclimatization.
- Tourists who will not undergo three days of rest in Leh, any permissions and permits for Chadar trek 2019 will not be issued to them.
- Tourists will have to keep the boarding pass to prove their date of arrival in Leh before beginning the Chadar trek and whether they have spent the required three days time within Leh.
- The boarding pass will be verified at the time of Pre Medical Check-up in Leh, so please make sure you keep them safe with you
- On Day 3, tourists must undergo a compulsory medical check-up in Leh which will provide clearance for undertaking the Chadar trek. Tourists who are found medically unfit will not be allowed to go the trek.
- Once the tourists will clear this medical test, they will have to apply for adventure travel insurance for Chadar trek from authorized insurance providers.
- After getting the approval for the medical test and buying the adventure travel insurance, tourists need to apply for the permit for Chadar trek from the Wildlife Department in Leh.
- Finally, tourists have to get an NOC (No Objection Certificate) from ALTOA (All Ladakh Tour Operator Association) to go for Chadar Trek.
- In order to save the environment, all authorized tour operators for the Chadar trek must provide the list of rations and food items to the Wildlife Department. This is required to ensure whether the group has brought back the trash or not including tins, plastic bottles, and other plastic materials. The local tour guide of the group for Chadar trek is responsible for ensuring that it gets done and will also be held responsible for any littering.
- The wildlife department will provide the green bags for the trash and will collect a security deposit from the local guide. The security amount will be refunded to the guide after the completion of Chadar trek and verifying whether all the required trash has been brought back from the trek or not.
Most of you must be wondering after reading this as to what rubbish is all this, but frankly speaking, if the government is working so hard and putting so many efforts in bringing out a clean and eco-friendly place for you then why can’t you do your bit, after all, all this is being done so that you (the tourists) can enjoy their journey on clean paths and without any hassle and disturbing the ecology.
The Tourist Information Center in Leh main market opposite of J&K Bank will be set up for a single clearance window for the entire process of Chadar trek. At this window only, the tourists will
- Register at this window for the Chadar trek,
- Complete the pre-medical test,
- Get the adventure travel insurance,
- Get the permits for Chadar trek from Wildlife department,
- Get the approval NOC from ALTOA (All Ladakh Tour Operator Association)
If you are doing the Chadar trek through a local tour operator, they will assist you throughout the process.
How to obtain Permits for Chadar Trek?
Now, that you understand the rules and regulations to be followed for the Chadar trek, let’s look at how to get permits for Chadar trek.
- You should completely fill the registration form provided by your tour operator or you can get this Chadar trek registration form at TIC Leh.
- On the third day after your arrival in Leh, you should submit your duly filled registration form, original boarding pass and a copy of your photo ID proof. Valid ID proofs are Driving License, Aadhar Card, Passport or Voter Id Card.
- Next, you should check with your tour operator about the time slots for a medical check-up at TIC and issuing the adventure travel insurance. You should get the registration form for pre-registration from your tour operator to avoid a last-minute rush.
- Once you are finished with registration, you will undergo the pre-medical checkup.
- After the doctors provide you the medical clearance, they will provide you an ASC360 Adventure Travel Insurance and a Medical Rescue Card.
- After obtaining both Medical Clearance / Rescue Card and Adventure Travel Insurance, you need to apply for Wildlife Permits for Chadar trek and the NOC letter from ALTOA.
- Either you can ask your tour operator of Chadar trek to make the payments or you can yourself make these payments on the spot at TIC too.
- Finally, before you start the actual trekking for Chadar trek, you will need to present your Medical Rescue Card and the permits at the check post at Phyang or Chilling.
Estimated Cost for your trip
- Typically a Chadar Trek package from a tour company costs between 20k-35k depending upon the luxury options chosen, this will include your food, accommodation, and transportation in Leh.
- This cost totally depends on you whether you wish to travel by air or by road. For eg: If you wish to travel by air like from Delhi->Leh and Leh->Delhi you can get your tickets done between 8-10k.
- Followed by this if you are going for trekking for the first time you need to have trekking gear with you and that could cost you around 10k.
- Don’t forget to carry extra cash for personal expenses like 15-20k for emergency purposes.
On whole, the trip can be done in between 35k-70k depending upon the luxury options chosen.
Don’t forget to keep all the points mentioned above be it rules, guidelines and things to carry, at the top of your mind while you are traveling for Chadar Trek. Chadar Trek is one of the toughest treks in India so for all those who want to have that adrenaline rush amidst those magical and majestic mountains on both sides, Frozen river below your feet and cool breeze gushing on your cheeks, you should definitely go for Chadar Trek. Happy Trekking.