The Chadar Trek: Get Ready For The Trek Of A Lifetime!

Posted: September 19, 2018

The Chadar trek simply is a thing in its own league. It won’t be an exaggeration to call it amongst the most unique and rewarding adventure activities to be done in India.

The frozen Zanskar river, dramatic bold mountains on either side, and ice all around you – the experience just doesn’t leave you, ever.

Chadar – a colloquial word which means a sheet or a blanket, is exactly the right name for this wondrous trek, for one is literally trekking on a sheet of ice for the whole sixty-plus kilometers of it. Sounds otherworldly, and otherworldly it is – a river which freezes and turns into a trekking spot: treacherous, tricky, somewhat troublesome, but always tons and tons of fun, and an experience one is unlikely to ever surpass in novelty.

Chadar trek is actually on the Zanskar River, which flows through the region of Leh Ladakh in the State of Jammu & Kashmir, a place whose beauty is a thing of legend anyway. This particular nook where the trek is located is even more pristine however, offering stupendously wide views unmatched in their ability to win your heart.

In the winter months of January-February is when the river completely freezes and becomes trekkable. As an added benefit, you are likely to come across some completely frozen waterfalls too, literally frozen mid way, top to bottom! Now if that doesn’t sneakily put a picture in your mind as to the beauty of this trek, what else will?

Why adventure lovers LOVE the Chadar trek!

To be sure, it’s a trek which is categorized as relatively difficult: it requires a good 9-10 days to complete, covers a distance of some 62 kilometers, is located at a daunting altitude of 11,100 feet, and is wholly done on ice which can be dangerous at times. Thus it is advised to have a decent level of physical fitness and trekking experience before you head to the Zanskar river in the winter months of January and February to start this trek.

Nonetheless, or maybe because of the challenging nature of it, Chadar has become a favourite amongst adventure lovers all over India and the world. So to make sure that nothing holds you back, and to help you be ready for this remarkable trekking experience, here is a comprehensive guide on how to prepare for Chadar Trek.

Before you head for the Chadar trek

  • Physical fitness: This has to be the most important part of one’s preparation for the Chadar trek. Building both muscular and cardiovascular stamina is going to help you a lot, and will also let you enjoy the experience that much more. Build your endurance through jogging and basic exercises, and especially work on your legs- squats exercises are your friend.
  • Basic essentials: GOOD trekking shoes which are also waterproof and have a solid grip (cue gum boots!) are an absolute must for this trek. Also, do not forget a sturdy rucksack, a trekking pole, sunglasses and sunscreen for UV protection, and a hot water bottle.
  • Clothes: Carry enough thermals, woolen socks, extra underwear, full-sleeved jackets and sweaters, pairs of gloves, and a raincoat. Keep in mind – while temperatures in the day time itself are sure to test you, it is the nights which you have to really prepare for – when you might have to set up your tent in one of the frozen caves at the bank of the frozen river, or even more jarring, right on the frozen river itself.
  • Extras, but not unimportant: LED torchlight, batteries, a biodegradable toilet kit, and some snacks (always some snacks) could all help you along the way.
  • Medicines: In addition to basics like bandages, antiseptic creams, pain relief sprays, ORS, cotton, also make sure you are carrying meds for motion and altitude sickness, fever, cold and allergy.
  • Documents: You must carry with yourself:
    1. A government issued ID card with photo
    2. Medical certificate certifying your fitness level for the trek
    3. An undertaking that you are fit and able for this trek

During the Chadar trek

  • Acclimatize: When you plan to spend some days at an altitude of 11,000 feet above sea level, you have to get your body used to the climatic conditions prevalent at that altitude before you go out indulging in strenuous activities like trekking on top of a frozen river.
  • Plan it out: For a trek that takes around a week, is upwards of 60 kilometers, and involves walking and sleeping on thick ice, planning your itinerary is a must.
  • Watch your step: The trek is literally over a frozen river, where the ice can be as unpredictable as walking on water at some places and as stable as a stroll on plain ground at other places. One has to be sure of each step they take, has to test the waters so to say. You will get into the rhythm of things pretty quickly though. Pro-tip: following what others, more experienced trekkers and the locals, are doing will go a long way.
  • Remember: This trek is unique in that the terrain and the landscape is always changing, almost consistently so. The way you find the ice on your way back will most likely not be the way you found it originally when you were coming just a couple days back. This, while adding to the drama and overall thrill of the experience, also makes it necessary for you to be cautious at all times.
  • Be ecologically sensible: Chadar sees heavy traffic now. With the kind of international attention it has got in the last few years, it has become one of the most glamorous treks in the world. We all can do our bit to make sure that we preserve this thing of beauty for our future generations to enjoy too. Do not litter, do not pollute.

To sum up, get yourself fit, carry the essentials, keep yourself warm, support your fellow trekkers, and ALWAYS be aware of the ice conditions beneath your feet. With all this settled, you are sure to have yourself a memorable experience. Oh, and remember to click pictures!

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