Ladakh can be a difficult place to travel. The mountains are steep and in the winter snowfall closes many of the mountain passes and makes the few roads treacherous. Some villages become completely inaccessible between November and March. One method of accessing snow-bound villages during the winter trekking on top of the ice of frozen rivers. The Chadar Trek is one such route, connecting villages in the Zanskar valley (deep in the mountains) with Chilling (on the road to Leh) along the frozen Zanskar River. This route has been used for centuries for trade and transportation, and is most reliable in February when the ice is most stable.
Now, We should make it clear that the Zanskar river is big and fast-flowing. For most of its length between Chilling and the Zanskar valley the river is confined within a steep canyon. If the idea of walking over frozen river ice with a large pack on your back and very cold rushing water a few inches below your feet is terrifying, then you are not alone. People sometimes die on the Chadar trek, usually local porters who carry goods on the river for their livelihood and can’t afford to be conservative. The hike from Chilling to the Zanskar valley takes more than a week, and at night porters usually sleep in caves in the canyon walls.
This trek is considered as one of the most exciting and unique treks – a very special and an extraordinary trek on shiny ice on the bank of Tsarap River. You will be dropped by a vehicle at Chilling Sumdo (crossed road) then yourtrek leads in a narrow valley filled with breath-taking views of ice-peaks and unexpected hanging icicles that will attract your gaze for some time. You will spend the night at cave camps with the help of a born fire that will keep you warm and relaxed.
Our daily trek begins at around 9:00am and by then the sun’s up and blue skies bring cheer despite the cold temperatures. The trek goes along the Tsarap River in the region of Nyerag, Lingshed and constitutes toZanskar!
Needless to say, having a good guide is critical on the Chadar trek. Trekking on the ice was intimidating. A covering of snow made it difficult to assess its thickness. At times we had to walk along a narrow margin of ice, constrained by the canyon wall on one side and deep rushing water on the other. Slipping in or falling through would not just be cold; it could be fatal. The water was deep and fast, and you would likely be swept under the ice in seconds.
For better or worse, the Chadar trek is an endangered activity and within 5 years will cease to exist in it’s current form. A road is currently being blasted out of the rock face above the river. When completed, winter access to the Zanskar valley villages in the interior will be relatively straight-forward. The road will certainly be safe and more convenient than the river, but its completion will mark the end of an ancient local practice.
The ‘Chadar’ is a perfect example of this resourcefulness of the Ladakhis and their indomitable spirit, in the face of such daunting odds. The term ‘Chadar’ means blanket in the local language, thereby giving an indication to the nature of this whole experience. Large sections of the river Zanskar, which is one of the mightiest rivers in Ladakh, freeze over in the dead of winter and are covered by a thick blanket of ice.
This frozen blanket or ‘Chadar’ is the only way in and out for Zanskaris in winter, when the road and various other caravan routes are closed due to heavy The icy wonderland of the ‘Chadar trek’ snowfall blocking the high passes. It has been their traditional trade route in winter for Centuries. The seven to eight days walk from chilling to Padum is both challenging as well as an incomparably exiting experience. The landscape aquires a pristine grandeur in winter as the trail enters into the gorge of the Zanskar, where temperatures sometimes drop to –30 to – 35 Degree Celsius.
An experience like none other
Visit to the local market of Leh
Visit to the popular monastery of Leh- Thiksey and Hemis
Rendezvous with a local family at Stok Village
Trek on the frozen Zanskar River Overnight stay in tents and caves
Wonderful natural sights such as frozen waterfalls
Spot high-altitude animals like snow-leopard and ibex
A difficult trek to Naerak Village
Best Time After Mid January to Mid February, however it can change based on local climate.
Temperature-January to February- Day time -10C to -05C and morning/night -20C to -30C. Wind chill, freezing climate with snow fall.
Level of Trek-Zanskar Chadar trek is a difficult and trek goes to Max altitude 11,123 Ft. Proficient trekkers with high level of fitness
Batch Size and age group -In each fix departure batch there will be 10-12 trekkers including Male and female. Minimum age for the Zanskar frozen trek is 14 years and maximum depends on fitness level.
Day 01: Fly into Leh
Flying over miles and miles of heavily snowed mountains will tell you just why it’s impossible to reach Ladakh by road in the winters. The moment you land at the Leh airport, one of the highest airports in the world, you will feel the fresh and crisp air, and a drastic drop in the temperature. The town has just begun shedding off the thick winter slumber and is slowly coming to life. Taking a stroll through the Leh market, you will find that very few shops and eateries in the town are open for business; but if required, some last minute-shopping for the trek can be done here. The chill in the air will serve only as a preview of the temperatures during this winter trek. The night is spent in a cozy guest house.
Day 02: Drive to Tilad Do via Chilling
You can start the morning by witnessing the sunrise from the Shanti Stupa, from where you can get a panoramic view of the entire town of Leh and its surroundings. You can also see the peak of Stok Kangri almost beckoning you to climb it.
But today’s agenda includes a very picturesque and thrilling long-drive to Chilling. The roller-coaster ride takes you along the Indus to the village of Nimu, where the Zanskar converges into Indus. After stopping at this confluence point to take in the view, the drive continues and the road begins descending right into the river valley. There are quite a few heart-stopping moments as the vehicle negotiates the steep hairpin bends over snow covered road. The road goes past Chilling to Tilad Do. Among these mammoth mountains, the feeling of insignificance of one’s being does not escape anyone. To reach the camp-site, you have to cross the frozen Zanskar; and this is when you take your first steps on the Chadar. It takes a while to get a hang of walking on the ice sheet. As the evening comes, the TTH team pitches tents on the banks of the Zanskar, and hands out thick warm sleeping bags. To get some exercise and keep warm, you can climb up the nearby mountains and get a good look at the frozen river. As the sun sets, it drags the temperature down with it, and the sleeping bags in the tents look quite inviting.
Day 03: Tilad Do to Gyalpo
The biggest challenge of this day, and all the remaining days, is to get out of the warm toasty sleeping bags and go out into the giant freezer outside; but the steaming cups of tea being served provide ample motivation.
Today is a long walking session, about 12 km, on the Chadar. The trek leaders from TTH give a briefing about the day, and give tips on how to walk on the Chadar. Depending on the weather, the Chadar can assume various forms. It can be a cold and hard surface of slippery ice, or it can have a dusting of snow over it, providing a good grip. The ice can be thick or thin, and its best to keep closely following the guide. The locals, it appears, have a sixth sense as to where exactly to step on the Chadar. At places, it might be necessary to wade through ankle deep water, or climb on the cliffs at the side of the river. Eventually you get used to walking on the Chadar, which looks like a cross between gliding and skating. Mid way to Gyalpo, the porter-cum-cooks prepare hot bowlfuls of soupy noodles for lunch. It is important to keep up a decent level of fluid intake. Nothing makes you adapt to the conditions faster than nicely circulating blood in your system. After passing Shingra Koma, you reach the camp-site for the day at Gyalpo, where the tents have already been pitched by the porters. The Gyalpo campsite is at a bend in the river, surrounded by high peaks and walls of rock-faces which almost look man-made. All that is left to do is to soak in the views, have an early dinner and call it a day.
Day 04: Gyalpo to Tibb Cave
This day follows the same early morning routine: bed tea at 7, breakfast at 8, and quick-march at 8:30. Have a good breakfast, as today is the longest walk of the day – almost 14 km. But that is nothing to worry about, all the walking keeps you incredibly warm.
Today’s walk through the deep ravines of the Zanskar is stunning. The sublime walls of the mountains on either sides of the river keep the sunlight away from the Chadar for most part of the day. There are numerous caves in these mountains, big and small. Today is the day when you can see frozen waterfalls, some higher than the others. As the fable goes, centuries ago the local villagers faced a dearth of water and went to Tibet to plead for water. They were given a box which they were to open once they reached the village, and not any time sooner. But curiosity got the better out of them, and when they opened the box, two fishes jumped out of it, creating two huge waterfalls. One of those waterfalls, miraculously, is not iced-up even in such freezing cold. The rocks below this waterfall are covered with moss, and this is the only greenery you’ll see on this trek. At Tibb, there is a big cave. This cave is the dwelling of all the porters, and they welcome you warm-heartedly in here. The highlight of the day is to share a cup of butter-tea with them!
Day 05: Tibb Cave to Naerak
Today is the most spectacular of all days on this trek. Walking on the river you cross deep gorges and reach a point where Juniper trees are covered with prayer flags. The porters give you a twig of this tree tied with a piece of prayer flag as a badge of good-luck and good-health. A few steps away stands the mother-of-all frozen waterfalls – a huge instance of suspended animation several feet tall and equally wide. You can see dozens of colors in this enormous ice structure as sunlight plays off its surface. Right next to the waterfall is a bridge across the river which is a part of the summer-time road from Zanskar to Leh.
The Naerak village lies several feet above the river, a vigorous hour-long trek can take you to the village if you want to see the life of a Zanskari. The camp is set up close to the river.
Day 06: Naerak to Tibb
Today you start the return journey and go back to the Tibb cave. And if you thought that it was just a matter of retracing your steps back to Chilling, you can think again. The Zanskar River reacts to the slightest change of temperature, and constantly keeps repackaging itself. The Chadar would have assumed a completely new form, and will it will almost be impossible to say whether you have been here before. On the way, you can meet a lot of locals wearing their traditional woolen Gonchas – some of them monks who are hiking from the Lingshed Monastery to Leh, some of them young students accompanied by their parents returning to their schools in Leh after the winter vacation. Watching the locals negotiate the Chadar is a fascinating sight. They are suitably adept to the climate and seem very much at home in the sub-zero temperature and the biting cold winds. Nothing wipes the smiles off their faces and dampens the warmth of their spirit.
Day 07: Tibb to Gyalpo
Starting from Tibb, go up to Gyalpo today. The high walls of mountains rising from the sides of the river almost look like castle walls. You can see several trails of pug-marks all along the trek – footprints belonging to foxes, ibex or snow-leopards. You would be lucky to view a snow-leopard; but you can almost be sure that you are being watched by one all the time.
Day 08: Gyalpo to Tilad Do, and drive to Leh
This is the last day of treading on the Chadar – the last chance to immerse in the pristine beauty of the frozen river. Once you reach Tilad Do, it is time to say good-bye to the Zanskar and the Zanskaries. TTH team and our porters will take good care of you and make this trek one of the most memorable experiences for you. Tonight you get to sleep in a warm guest-house again.
Day 09: Depart from Leh
As this unforgettable journey gets over, you depart from Leh having a newfound respect for the Zanskaries who brave all odds and survive with style in their beloved land. This trek also leaves behind a tremendous feeling of accomplishment – one of having undertaken and endured an extraordinary and challenging trek. The Chadar trek will be a cherished memory for life.
DAY 01: Leh – Arrive
Complete Rest in Leh for acclimatization and Evening hang around main market and Shanti Stupa
DAY 02: Local sightseeing
Visit to various monasteries like Shey ,Thiksey Hemis monasteries, over night in Hotel.
Day 03: Leh- Chilling
Morning after breakfast. Drive to chilling in taxi on the way visit of Phyang gonpa and offer prayer to start with visit of chilling famous for traditional handicraft. We will meet here our local porters and kitchen staff to make sure all things in order
DAY 04: Trek chilling- Darbau
On this day here we start our chadar trek, virtually after breakfast start walking with day pack. Lunch stop overat tilat sumdo, the confluence of chharap river. After the lunch walk till to camp, where parties have already busy with salting up of the camp near the small cave, this day you will experience we the different of the chard trek and the normal trek. Over night campsite.
DAY 05: Darbau- Tip yokma
today we will come across a waterfall called chhumchar, coming out of rock. Here we assemble for lunch stop over may see wildlife in herd of groups. Here we will camp in a natural cave. Which can be accommodation more then 40 peoples, the biggest one on way in chadar caves. Overnight Campsite.
DAY 06: Trek Tip yokma- Nyrak Pollu
Today we come across a juniper tree before Nyrak villages. And yulchung nalla. After short walk from juniper tree one most beautiful ice fall which is quite picturesque. In this area we see nyrak village’s upper top of camp and across bridge. Which made local wood overnight camp Nyrak pullo.
DAY 07: Trek Nyrak pollu- lingshed
Morning after the breakfast walk along Zanskar River till lingshedsumdo, from lingshed sumdo we leave zanskar river chadar ice route enter in the lingshed Nalla, lunch stop and walk till lingshed villages from the villages very nice view of gonpa. Which is famous in the area for panting as well. Overnight in the local family house.
DAY 08 : Trek lingshed- Hamlung
Morning after the breaks fast visit the monasteries at the top of the villages. And we walk base down to the river bank side, lingshed do keep continue on the chadar trek. Here lunch near lingshed sumdo over night camp on sand beach at Hamlung.
DAY 09 : Trek Hamlung- Hanamil village
Today we come across a under river spring, which is supposed to be one in heddle in chadar trek, here the river appeases some time , then one has to take. Peoples ask whether there the ice some time softer its hold and water appear on the ice over night in local family house. The first village’s zanskar on the chadar trek route.
DAY 10: Trek Hanamil- pishu
We are in zanskar valley now further here we either take the land route or the river route. The area remain mostly remain cover with heavy snow so take the guided route only. Explore the villages. Overnight family local house.
DAY 11 : Trek Pishu- Karsha
Morning after breakfast proceed towards karsha in the left. We will see Zangla palace and villages where royal family still resident and we pass small villages Rinam, stop for lunch on arrival at Karsha we explore the area, as we are in the main town and on the other side of the river we can see Padum two night in local house in Karsha.
DAY 12 : Karsha and Rest
Morning after the breakfast visit the Karsha monasteries and after noon free for personal activities, Over night in local house in Karsha.
DAY 13 : Trek Karsha – Tongday
This is the day of return journey we proceed towards via pipiting guru visit, after lunch trek to tong day. Overnight in local family house .there we can visit tongday gonpa.
Day 14: Trek Zangla – Tsarakdo.
This day we will be again in chadar after Pidmo village. On the chadar trek return journey till chilling by the same route skipping as we are trekking down words it will hers time to get campsite.
Day 15: Trek Tsarakdo- Nyrak Pullo.
After breakfast continue trek to Nyrak Pullo, Over night in camping
Day 16: Trek Nyrak pullo- Padartsomo
Trek up to Tsomopaldar. Dinner and overnight stay in cave
Day 17: Trek Padartsomo- Tilat sumdo
This is the day of return journey we proceed towards via pipiting guru visit, after lunch trek to tong day. Overnight in local family house .there we can visit tong day gonpa.
Day 18: Tilat sumdo- Chilling
today we will trek up to chilling and from here return back to Leh by jeep. Dinner and overnight stay at hotel.
Day 19: Leisure in Leh
Free for the personal activity and shopping, over night at Hotel
Day 20: Leh to Delhi flight
Morning transfers to airport and with sweet memory of ladakh.
1. Accommodation. (Camping) and Leh guest house (Day 1, and Day 8/20 according to Itinerary)
2. Meals while on trek (Veg.)
3. Trek equipments.
5. First aid medical kits and oxygen cylinder.
6. Qualified & experienced trek Leader, Guide and Support staff to help trekkers.
7. Transport from leh to Road head and return.
1. Food / Meal in Leh.
2. Any kind of personal expenses.
4. Porter to carry personal luggage.
5. Anything not specifically mentioned under the head price Includes.
Normally PWR expect to carry your personal luggage on your own, if you don’t want to carry your backpack so you can give it to porter, but you have to inform us in advance and have to pay Rs. 800/- extra per day per bag.
To book a Trek/ adventure program please use our online booking form or, alternatively, you can call us on the given for confirmation of tour you have to wire a deposit and initial deposit.
Paying the Trek/ Adventure activity fee:
The fee can be paid by online transfer/check deposit/ demand draft. Instruction for payment will be forwarded along with your confirmation email. When your transfer is done, please e-mail us a confirmation mail with your transfer details, so that we can follow up your reservation efficiently.
Risk & Response
High Altitude Treks: Risk and Response A high altitude trek calls for an adventurous attitude, but embarking on an adventurous trip without calculating the risks is utter stupidity. That’s why we have listed a few risks and the response planned by TTH to minimise or address the risks in the best possible way.
Risk: Altitude Before you start the trek, it is important to understand the implications of high altitude on your body. Be aware of symptoms of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) like mild headache, nausea and general discomfort.
Response: If you feel any of these symptoms, inform the trek leader on priority and follow his instructions. Every campsite has as stretcher, fully equipped first aid kit, oxygen cylinders to address the situation.
Risk: Weather Weather is unpredictable in the Himalayas. Though we are always observant about the changing weather, no one can guarantee a snowfall, rain or Sun. Do understand that your security is of utmost importance to us and we will not proceed any further from the campsite if the weather is not favourable.
Response: The decision of the Trek Leaders and Guides to proceed or wait for the weather to get better will be final.
Risk: Injuries Often, while trekking over difficult terrains, you might have minor injuries like leg sprain, bruises etc. Serious injuries like fractures or major cuts are very rare.
Response: All our Trek Leaders are Certified Wilderness First Aid responders. They are trained to handle emergencies and can tackle minor injuries with a well-equipped first aid kit. In case of serious injuries, the patient is carried on a stretcher to the nearest road-head and is led to nearest medical centre.
Risk: Lack of communication devices In the remote areas of the Himalayas, mobile networks do not reach. On a trek, one is cut off from the world of calls, SMSs or watsapps.
Response: We rely on walkie-talkies and runners to communicate between the campsites and the base camps.
Cost for Indian nationals: Contact us for pricing.