Chadar Trek

The Chadar Trek is a winter trail in the Zanskar region of Ladakh, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Traditionally, it was the only means of travel in the area during the harsh winter months, when the roads are closed due to heavy snowfall. This trail has become popular with national as well as international adventure tourists.
Usually, if a person can walk an average of 5 to 6 km without a problem, then they can go for this trek. As such anyone with good average fitness can do this trek and any kind of exercise which gets you fitter before this trip is advisable, as it will enable you to enjoy the region more. Overall, Chadar trek is a moderately difficult trek but temperature wise it is cold; though after the first couple of nights on the Chadar, trekkers become much more adjusted to the bitter cold!
During the day time, temperature is -5 to -10 degrees and during the night it falls down to -25 to -30 degrees. While on the trek, the activity itself gives the body some warmth.
The entire crew consists of very experienced guides and cooking staff (along with Zanskari porters), who prepare the meals for the days and nights of camping out. The entire crew moves together in a totally self-contained manner like a tight knit unit. Some of the porters go ahead and set up the camps and the kitchen tent before the trekkers reach the designated camping area for that day.
Trekkers soon learn and modify their trek to the ‘penguin walk’ style after observing the porters and guides. It is a kind of walk in which you drag your feet instead of lifting it much.
The first and the foremost requirement for Chadar Trek is physical fitness. One has to make sure that they can go for this trek only when one is in good health. Since the trek is arduous and entails walking on ice for 5 to 7 hours each day, it is advised that trekkers have some sort of prior experience.
While interacting with Jigmet Dorjay from Zanskar, he said, “it is really very harsh to travel to Leh in the winter. We, Zanskari usually travel through frozen ice, and for this, most importantly one must be physically sound. There are normally two routes, one through the mountain and the second through frozen ice. But frozen ice is risky so the short cut but from the mountain is quite difficult but safe. In order to decide whether to travel by mountain or ice, it is important to check the weather. If the weather is not good, there is the chance of avalanche so it is very important to observe the weather.”
While talking to us, Ajaz Ahmed Sotopa, ‘General Manager, Altitude Adventure and Organiser of Chadar Trek’ said, “Chadar trek is popular among the foreigners since 2009-2010 and it has become popular among the Indian tourists since 2-3 years. Some of the trekkers go till Neyrak, which is for 7 days and some go ahead where there is a waterfall, and this is for 8 days. Earlier Chadar trek was considered one of the most expensive treks, but now, due to the bulk of trekkers it has become cheaper.”
He added that Chadar trek is one of the hardest treks in India. The longest trek is for 12-14 days from Tilatsumdo to Padum (Zanskar); 8 days from Tilatsumdo to Lingshad; and 7 days from Tilatsumdo to Neyrak. Earlier this trek used to start from Chilling village, but now it starts from Tilatsumdo village.
He further informed, “first we check the Medical certificate, fitness etc. of the trekkers and only after that we select them for the trek. As usual, this year also Chadar trek will start from first week of January to mid February. Estimated number of trekkers for one season is around 1100 to 1200 persons.”
He appealed to the local government to kindly provide medical facilities as well as satellite phones for this trek, so that it is easy for the trekkers as well as the crew in case some trekker gets injured or falls ill. He also added that Chadar trek is also a substantial source of employment for the people of Ladakh in winter.
One of the most unique and magnificent treks in the world, Chadar Trek has been hugely popular for many years. The word ‘Chadar’ (cover) signifies the frozen sheet of ice that is formed on the raging Zanskar River due to the extremely low temperatures as well as due to the low amount of direct sunlight since the river flows through a narrow gorge. Solid ice is best around the time that the Chadar trek takes place, which is from the 2nd week of January to the 2nd week of February. During this time the coldness is at its maximum during the winter months. Hence, this is the best time for this trek across the beautiful Zanskar River.