Most challenging trek in India: The Ice Walk trek also called as the THE CHADAR TREK

Chadar is topping the list of most difficult treks in India, because of the extreme weather condition(-30 to -35 degree Celsius), difficult terrain and high altitude (11123 Ft).

Trekker who is ready to stand all these challenges will be offered to witness the most amazing creativity of nature, so stunning that it is difficult to take eyes off the scene.

A trail covered in snow:
Few trails leave a mark on heart, Chadar is one of those. It’s been a week that I am back after successfully completing the trek, but whenever I close my eyes – Chadar slide show begins.

What exactly is Chadar?

A rapid flowing Zanskar river transforms itself into a white/ turquoise blanket of ice in winters due to the extreme cold weather (temperature drops down to -35), sheet of ice starts forming at the side conjunction of mountains and river and then stretches to middle of the river, ice sheet formed is not even throughout, there are patches of flowing river in the trail.

Zanskar flows in between the gigantic mountains, if you are standing on the river, all around you are the dramatic, charismatically huge mountains, holding small caves and frozen waterfalls within them.
Chadar trek is actually walking on this slippery ice sheet.
 Sheet is not uniformly formed throughout thus increases the risk of recurrent falling.

The ice on the river forms and breaks without any notice. When walking on river is menacing an alternate route through the snow-covered steep rocks has to be trailed through.

Our trek was supposed to start on 3 Feb 2019, we reached Leh on 2nd

I must tell my journey of amusement did not began when I stepped on chadar for the 1st time but it began when I realized that I am flying over the Himalayan range …. 
Infinite Range of mighty mountains covered with snow, left me wonder-struck, I was delighted to have a bird eye view of such a scenery, steep inestimable series of White Mountains kept me glued to the plane window, it will take a lifetime for a person to cover each and every peak of Himalayas. 
Pilot gave us a FYI when we flew over the Rohtang pass.

Day 1: Reporting day at Leh
As we(I along with my 2 friends) reached Leh at around 1 in the afternoon, pilot made an announcement that current temperature in Leh is -17 degree Celsius. So here we were from 30 degrees to -17 degrees.


A representative from Thrillophilia received us at the airport and took us to the
Hotel-Ratna, we were greeted at reception, Hotel was decent, 24*7 warm drinking water was available, in winters there is no running water in washrooms, all you have to rely on is hot bucket water.

Once entire batch was in, we had our 1st briefing and introduction session. As we all were from different zones, it was very important for us to get acclimatize to Leh’s temperature and high altitude.
We were given basic instructions- to keep our body hydrated (drink minimum 5 L of water daily), which will help to maintain body temperature, no bath for next 10 days, no skipping meals and have proper sleep. We also heard a lot of stories where people do not follow the proper instructions and often get hit by AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness).

After 1st briefing we were given our rooms, on to the right of our hotel was Stok Kangri(highest mountain in the Stok Range of the Himalayas in the Ladakh region)

Day 2: Acclimatization Day
It is very important for trekkers to get proper acclimatization as many of them get hit by AMS and could not proceed further. We heard a lot of stories of trekkers who lost the battle of life just because they neglected important instructions.

As per the new regulations applied by the government, anyone doing the Chadar Trek should atleast spend two days in Leh to get body fully acclimatize to the weather conditions. It is irrevocable and is important that it is strictly followed by every trekker to avoid fatal health problems.

To get well acquainted with the sudden temperature fall, we were taken for sightseeing.
We covered few monasteries and Leh palace. Leh can also be called the cold desert, it has most amazing scenery to offer.

Day 3: Medical Tests, Shopping and learning how to sleep in tents and use sleeping bags

Government of India has made it compulsory for the trekkers to go through the medical test and get the insurance coverage, medical tests basically includes measuring BP and Oxygen level in the body, doctors ask essential health questions, which needs to be answered honestly. A Medical and rescue card is issued for each trekker, in case of any causalities the number on card will be referred for rescue and insurance purposes.

Shopping in Leh is the last option for trekkers to grab the essentials required for the trek, though most of the stores are closed in winters due to off season but Leh’s Army store is the answer for all questions, in case you missed anything from the checklist, BUY IT!

Back to the hotel in evening- we packed our bag packs, segregated things to be carried and things to be left in hotel, and got shifted in the tents leaving behind the comfort of the rooms, we learned how to use sleeping bags. We were provided with the best quality 2 layered sleeping bags, similar to what is provided to the soldiers in Siachen.

Day 4: Leh to ShingraKoma via Chilling &Tilad Do

Morning after breakfast, troop left the hotel and 

began the most adventurous journey of our lives, enroute to Chilling we witnessed the top spots in Ladakh – Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Magnetic Hill and the confluence of the Zanskar and Indus. Way to chilling is the most scenic stretch in the Ladakh region, as one passes through the beautiful river side and featuring magnificent cliffs.

After 2 hours of Amazing drive we stepped on Chadar for the 1st time. 

Walking with gumboots on was definitely a challenge at the initial stage,after few slips and falls we gradually got a little understanding of the ice patterns as which surface is fragile and which is trustworthy.

Planting feet is the most important of the cases, check for the ice steadiness with walking stick before stepping on it wholeheartedly. Bag pack prevented major injuries when falling on ice.

We reached ShingraKoma after 2.5 hours of walk, porters prepared the finger licking yummy lunch, after which we headed for another medical test. This test decides if we are fit to trek further as the temperature will only tend to fall as we move ahead.

We enjoyed this day to the fullest- hiking on the brown mountains, sledge ride on ice sheet, camp fire and what not.

We were provided with the hot water bags so that the warmth could make us fall asleep in no time.
Camping under sub-zero temperatures made us realize the worth of comforts at home.

Day 4: ShingraKoma to Tibb Cave

Chadar did not leave any chance to surprise us, morning when I unchained my tent, the scenery was entirely different to what I saw a day before. All the brown cliffs were now white, snow all around.

Before starting the trek, group leader informed trekkers that today is the last day to step out, as Chadar is one such trek where altitude is gained in quick successions. Slowly but gradually from ShingraKoma to Tibb Cave (6-7 hours), we will be gaining an altitude of 400ft.

Our group was filled with the enthusiastic professional trekkers, none of us opted out.

We were served with lunch midway to Tibb cave- that was the yummiest pasta I ever had.  

Route to Tibb caves has some of the most eye-catching 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 amongst the villagers.

The mighty Zanskar was flowing all along with us on the trail. After walking for a couple of hours we came across different rock patterns along the way which look enigmatic and artistic.

Snow fall took the oath of not stopping at all, snow on ice sheet made it easier for us to walk but at the same time it was risky as we could not judge the formation of ice.Frosty winds made us shiver like leaf in storm.

Day 5: Tibb Cave to Nerak
Day 5 was the most important day for all of us, we were just few miles away from the most amazing waterfall of Nerak. We started our day with much needed hot cup of Kava tea.

Our previous batches faced many issues reaching Nerak, half of them came back mid-way, due to breaking of ice and lethal climatic conditions, it was getting difficult to reach Nerak as entire patch was broken, and cliffs were too high to climb.

Previous batches warned us about current situation of Chadar. It was risky to move ahead.

Well… these stories did not dismayed us, our courage was high to deal with such situations, at-least it is worth a try,so without any 2nd thought we started our journey towards Nerak. Our trek guide boosted our confidence.

WILL POWER is all what is required in this trek, to do the dares. Few patches were difficult, we had to climb mountains and walk in water on the broken flimsy sheet, the only concerns was water should not get inside the boots, as it can cause serious causalities.

All this was worth when the curves of Zanskar opened up and there it was- A gargantuan frozen waterfall, master piece shining like a diamond, white as milk with shades of turquoise blue. Each drop of the water froze perfectly.  - The Most Iconic landmark of Chadar trek.

Very few waterfalls in the world have this combination where it does not change its shape when they freeze, series of steep drops were clearly visible, and it was no less than a miracle. I just could not believe that something like this can exist in reality, I felt like I am in the fairy world.

We group of 12 boys and 2 girls, were PROUD to have made it till there and witnessed unbelievable miracle of the nature.
We celebrated like anything, we danced, we hugged the fall… we celebrated!!!!!!!

Well, that was not the end, we had to trek back the entire trail to reach Leh… and the return journey bought us the challenges that we have not thought about…


Chadar Part 2 :


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