Trekking to the Chadar Lake, Ladakh, India
Ladakh and Trekking in Ladakh
Located within an hour’s flight from Delhi, Ladakh, a land of paradox grandeur, is truly a backpacker’s delight.
Ladakh’s contrasting topography is an enigma to the human eye. From arid stretches to sparkling water bodies, blazing sun to icy winds, and frozen glaciers to barren lands, each element of beauty is in sharp contrast to the other.
This awesome handiwork of nature is seen everywhere, you can’t take your eyes off for a single moment!
No wonder, Ladakh is on the wish list of every traveler whether in India or worldwide.
This high-altitude desert land, soaked in the mystic Buddhist culture is also one of the safest and most bewitching trekking destinations in India.
If you are high on thrill and adventure, trekking in Ladakh Himalaya is arguably one of the best in the world. Trekking and hiking in Ladakh is a dynamic activity because of the versatile topography of the region. Traversing the treacherous trails that snake between the highest roads is simply a eureka moment for enthusiastic trekkers.
Ladakh hiking and trekking season commences from early-to-mid June and runs until September. The brimming seasons are July and August. Rains lash the region in late August and September when the outdoor activities take a moderate backseat.
However, trekking in Ladakh can be an all year activity for the adventurous souls.
Brave hearts can also explore the pristine beauty of Ladakh in winters by setting foot on some classic winter treks.
Chadar Trek is one such stunningly beautiful trek that enamors you with a beauty so divine that one has to witness it beauty to believe it.
Let us take a virtual tour of this trek through this blog.
About Chadar Trek
Chadar Trek, also known as a Trek to the Frozen River, is a 62 km journey that takes you to a staggering elevation of 11,483 feet.
The trek journeys along Zanskar, the most popular tributary of the Indus River (Tsarap River) that transforms itself into a frozen expanse during winters. This frozen sheet, fondly called Chadar, gives the unique name Chadar Trek to this expedition.
The frosty experience and awe-inspiring views of the frozen river and the Shanti Stupa cast a magical ambiance to this trekking adventure.
The grandiose journey of Chadar Trek commences from the magnificent town of Leh (capital of Ladakh), a gateway to many spell-binding hikes and treks. One can reach Leh either by air, rail, or road.
How to Reach Leh from Delhi
- By Air- The most preferred way to reach Leh is by air. Leh’s airport Leh Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport is well-connected to major Indian cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, and Srinagar.
● By Rail– Jammu Tawi is the nearest railway station to Leh, located at an approximate distance of 700 km. from the main town. Jammu Tawi is well-connected to major cities such as Kolkata, Mumbai, and Delhi. Many JKSRTC buses, cabs, or local cars and jeeps ply between Jammu Tawi and Leh.
- By road-Leh is connected to Srinagar and Manali via the Zojila Pass and Rohtang Pass respectively. Any of these two famous roadways are your best options if traveling to Leh by road. But, one should note that both these roads are closed during the winter months due to high snowfall in the region.
Just reaching the start point of the trek is not enough, one has to take some mandatory permits before one can breeze into the idyllic expedition.
Permit for Chadar Trek
The Chadar or the frosty sheet is depleting fast due to unregulated and reckless tourism in Ladakh. The administration is taking stringent steps to protect the fragile ecosystem of the region. The following set of guidelines have been issued for trekkers and tour operators embarking on Chadar Trek-
- Acclimatization- All trekkers undertaking the Chadar Trek are required to spend at least three nights in Leh for acclimatization. For trekkers who fail to meet this requirement, are not granted any permits for Chadar trek. Trekkers have to show the boarding pass before starting the Chadar trek. This is to prove their date of arrival in Leh and to know if they have acclimatized for three days. This boarding pass is verified during the Health Check-up in Leh. So, ensure that the boarding pass is safe with you.
- Health Checkup- On Day 3, trekkers have to undergo a compulsory health checkup in Leh. It is mandatory to get this clearance for undertaking the trek. If found medically unfit, you areforbidden fromembarking on the trek.
- Adventure Travel Insurance- Once you clear your health checkup, you have to apply for travel insurance through authorized insurance providers.
- Permit from Wildlife Department- After getting health clearance and buying travel insurance, trekkers need to apply for a permit from the Wildlife Department in Leh.
- No Objection Certificate- Lastly, trekkers have to apply for No Objection Certificate (NOC) from All Ladakh Tour Operators Association (ALTOA) to be able to go for Chadar Trek.
- Green bags- Finally, all tour operators must provide a list of ration and other items that they carry for the trek. They must also deposit a security amount to the Wildlife Department. Trekkers need to collect trash in the green bags provided at the beginning of the trek. This includes all plastic material and tins. The security amount is refunded after you deposit the green bag and the Wildlife Department ascertains that you have brought all the trash back with you.
The Difficulty Level of Chadar Lake Trek
One must remember that this glorious trek is also one of the most dangerous treks of the Leh-Ladakh region.
This frozen river trek Ladakh is definitely not for the chicken-hearted.
The lengthy and laborious Chadar Trek can be very strenuous. On average, you have to walk 10-12 km per day.
Chadar Trek Ladakh is therefore recommended for trekkers with good physical and mental endurance.
The most difficult part of the trek is getting accustomed to the harsh weather conditions.
Also, one should be able to handle extreme temperatures.
However, with steely grit, a healthy body, and under the guidance of an expert guide, even beginners can embark on this trek. All this plus, the mind-blowing panorama along the way is a constant booster that gets one going.
Undoubtedly, the whole Zanskar trek is a fun feat.
Chadar Trek Best Time
Ladakh Zanskar trekking region is one of the most spectacular trekking terrains in the whole world.
You are treated to the jaw-dropping scenery of frozen waterfalls overlooking the rust-colored cliffs. The sparkling ice expanse against the background of a turquoise crystal clear sky showcases the most ethereal beauty of nature. This unbelievable art of nature casts it’s magnetic spell on you for a lifetime.
To witness the glory of Chadar Lake Trek or Frozen River Trek at its pinnacle, this trek is best done in winters.
January and February, mainly January, is the ideal month for embarking on the Chadar trek. During the other months of the year, the Zanskar River is free-flowing. Because one needs to move through the river to undertake the Chadar Trek, the trek remains inaccessible for most of the year.
So, already game for this winter trek? Just keep in mind the following tips that will ensure that your rendezvous to this winter wonderland is absolutely memorable.
Tips and Requirement for Chadar Trek
- The trek entails adequate preparation and guidance. Start preparing for the trek 30 days prior to your expedition. Start building your physical endurance by going for long brisk walks, jogging, running, and doing cardio exercises that will help build your stamina. We recommend practicing meditation and yoga to strengthen your mind because a strong and supportive mind is very important during this arduous trek.
- Health Checkup should be your top priority before embarking on this trip. Due to the changing weather conditions, people with blood sugar, high BP, and other pre-existing medical conditions are not recommended to take this trip.
- Always remember to take a high SPF sunblock, sunglasses, lip balm, and essential medicines. Headlamps are another accessory that comes in handy while navigating in the dark.
- It is recommended that you drink lots of warm liquid like hot tea, coffee, soups, and stews all through the trek. It will keep you warm during harsh weather conditions.
- Chadar Trek is a very sensitive trek. Due to the changing climatic conditions in recent years, sometimes the Zanskar river may not be completely frozen. One has to tread with caution lest it results in an accident. Always stay with your group. The climate conditions are precarious, follow the instructions of your guide carefully. Do not venture alone, the ice may just melt and shift dangerously at times.
- Wear layered clothing while trekking. You may even get sweaty while walking long distances in the daytime. You can remove extra layers when required. Along with proper clothing, you need a good pair of hiking shoes and also, gumboots. You can even hire gumboots at Leh. The trek has many stretches where you are required to navigate through icy-cold waters. Your gumboots come handy here. Waterproof gloves, socks, and warm pads are other very important items to carry as the region is prone to frostbites.
- You should remember that the region is extremely cold and your packed lunches and water can freeze. Carry food and water in a hot thermos.
To sum up, Chadar Trek is one of the most arduous yet magical expeditions in the lap of Ladakh Himalayas. Do add Chadar Trek to your bucket list of things. The winter journey to this beautiful mountain region will transform the way you look at things in life.
Author’s Bio: Shanu is a content writer at Moxtain. She is an accomplished content writer with an experience of more than 5 years. She has penned down an autobiography on her adorable pug, “Clifford The Great Indian Dog”. The book is available at Erin Mills Public Library, Mississauga, Canada. She has also penned down many short stories for the online portal storyforyou.in.