When my husband first approached me for the Chadar Trek, I was like ‘Seriously? No way!’
For a lover of sunshine like me, walking on ice in freezing cold was absolutely a big no-no. But soon, my love for adventure overshadowed my inhibitions and I boarded my flight to Leh.
The announcement of the temperature being minus twelve degrees welcome us the moment we landed on Leh. Oh well, I knew what was coming on my way.
This is not the first time I am coming to Leh. I have been here before and the place is full of vibrant colors and cheerful people during this season. But the winters are harsh isolating Leh from the rest of the world keeping flight as the sole means of transport. The magnanimous Zanskar river flowing through the region becomes completely frozen and a blanker of ice forms over it, which is called the Chadar. Some of the villages in the Zanskar region remains completely cut off from the city of Leh.
Treking for about 7-8 hours in extreme weather conditions is the only way the villagers can reach Leh. The Chadar frozen river thereby is not a favorite haunt for adventure loving people like us but also is an integral part of the life of the region.
For trekkers, the trek starts from Chilling, which is just a few kilometers away from the Zanskar-Indus Sangam and goes through the canyons of the Zanskar river, finally ending at Nerak village.
The Chadar trek is full of surprises. While the cold wind threatened to freeze me, the mesmerizing view of the golden mountains and the frozen waterfalls gave me the reason to be alive. The only way to beat the cold was to walk. The Chadar was not uniform and there were soft snow and sometimes hard ice and at times there were no Chadar at all. Wading and crawling over the thin blanket of ice and climbing through the sides of the mountains were the ways by which we trekked.
Walking over the ice is not a child’s play at all and I soon realized it. We walked like penguins, fell down and then got back to our feet again and within two days, I got hold over the technique of walking over ice. I could feel the river flowing underneath and enjoyed the melody. It changed with the thickness of the Chadar and is a surreal experience.
The night at Chadar were quite cold. But we had the stars to gaze at. The campsites are very difficult. Just imagine!! You have to sleep on ice. Often caves are used for camping. The cold would literally make out hands and feet go numb and all we could do was move around to bring back the sensation.
The Chadar trek transformed me as a woman, extending my level of endurance pushing me to challenge my own limits. The natural beauty which I witnessed there will remain treasured in my heart forever. And of course, I will never forget the friends I made on the way.
Chadar Trek has its own panache which is why National Geography terms this trek as one of the most glamorous treks of India.
The trek route:
Leh – Tilat Sumdo – Shingra Koma – Tibb – Nerak – Tibb – Shingra Koma – Tilat Sumdo – Leh.
A word of caution:
Recently , the travel companies have been taking people for trek without even paying a heed to the environmental scenario. Chadar has a very vulnerable ecosystem and extensive trekking breaks the river break, creating problems for the locals of Zanskar region whose only means to reach Le is trekking. I had done this trekking on 2015 and learnt that the Chadar had not properly formed in mid January. So please trekkers, let’s be responsible travellers from now on.