Chadar trek/Zanskar river valley trek, Ladakh

25th JAN 2013: 11:00 AM (Disgusting cold vs lovely cold):

I have seen, even, Europeans hate the cold in Delhi as much as the Indians do. However, people love the same cold weather in Himachal or in Kashmir even when the cold is the same being swept away by the northerly winds from the Himalayas.

Weather & Location?
Leh would be much colder but much more pleasant as well. Unlike Delhi, the day would be shiny. You can see the blue sky. Light winds hanging on to trees’ yellow branches. A heap of lazy snow sleeping lazily everywhere.

What to see?
Sunset and sunrise hanging onto poplar trees; Winds leaning on cedars; Frozen rivulets and snow lying everywhere; Shanti Stupa, local market, Yurtung and magnetic valley.


DAY 2:
26th JAN 2013: (Republican Leh):
– Walking along Srinagar-Ladakh highway, Srinagar was on my mind on republic day. Though I was little apprehensive of the safety over there. 80% of the population being Buddhist was a relief for me. There was peace and calm everywhere.
– To celebrate Republic day, they had organized an ice hockey match.
– It was first time in my life, I saw an ice hockey match live, other than on a TV. Besides, I explored a few stupas and local market over there.

DAY 3:
27th JAN 2013: 14:13 hrs (Trek begins)

The word ‘Chadar’ refers to the frozen sheet of ice over frozen river. Trekkers walk over the frozen river in Zanskar valley. For Zanskaris, in winters, all the passes would be closed due to heavy snow falls and this frozen river would be the only source of medium to connect to outside world.
Discovery channel, Natgeo, BBC have made documentaries over these valley people and how Zanskaris carry foods for months through these valleys walking 100s of Kms to their home in winters.

Around magnetic valley on the way to ZanskarMagnetic hill, on the way to Zanskar

– First day trek will not last long. We walk almost for two hours and take a break for the day. It is just an intro part of the trek. The guides with us carry food for next 7 days, medication, tent and many other things. You can see thousand of colors during sunset. Red, orange, yellow, pale, dark red and many more, you can not count them.
– Temperature drops in evening below 30 degree freezing point and night turns really cold.
– We do camp fire and sit beside fire and take soup or tea before going inside our tent. Demand of tea and soup will always be high. We try to find caves, they call it ‘Bowa’ in local language or we will pitch our tent beside the river. Tonight, we are gonna pitch our tent beside the river since we could not find any cave.

DAY 4:
28 JAN 2013: 05:51 (Did not want to leave sleeping bag)

– Five layers of clothings and it would still be cold in morning. The day breaks out with hot tea which would eventually turn cold within seconds. Fully covered body from head to toe would never want to come out of sleeping bag.
– Come out of the tent. Wind is cold and stiff.
– There won’t be much fog like Delhi. High winds blowing through valley will make gushing sounds. The feeling will be mixed emotions of fear, excitement and surprises. I, generally, find sunset more colorful and enticing than sunrise. Because, in morning, sun is covered with little clouds or fogs.

camping Zanskar valley, chadar trek– Today, we walk for almost 8 hours till 14:00 in afternoon and decid to pitch our tent beside the river as few of my friends are getting exhaustive and one of us slipped over ice and his arm was dislocated and he was sent back. I am also feeling a little bit tired but till now it was exciting.
– We have got much inside into the nature. Things have began inciting me now. Green water of the river, yellow rocks with white powder of snow over them, yellowish brown vegetation, snow in the dark would appear dark blue same as we see in the TV. There is complete silence and only sound I hear is of river, wind and echo in the valley.
– Today, I am eagerly waiting for the sunset.
– I expect to see the orange sun rays illuminating the peak of the hills in orange and red like yesterday and to be more vibrant. Reflection of sun rays over white river and sheet of ice and a texture of thousand colors getting filtered and mixed with green river, orange sun, white snow and yellow reflection of hills. Before going to bed, a guide brought the whole tree and we set fire to the tree to push off the cold finally slipping inside sleeping bag.

DAY 5:
29 JAN, 2013: 05:00 hrs (Gonna cover much today)
– Yesterday, we could not cover much due to unfortunate accident but today guides say weather is clear and we can cover much distance. Yesterday, that part of river was little soft but hard enough to hold a human weight but today this part of river looks stiff. Walking on frozen river, though, is not hard but the weight and the fear of slipping off make things hard.

Zanskar valley, chadar trek– There are long cracks ranging hundreds of feet in the river. If you look inside them, sometimes you can hear the sound of river flowing beneath the frozen ice-sheet. Somewhere, sun rays would be falling on the ice and glare our eyes so we wear special glasses. I don’t feel sweat while walking. Some ice sheets are so thin that you can see the flowing river live below the sheet.
– One thing I always like is the blue sky. They will always shine. And another thing I like is the reflection of sun rays off yellow hills.
– Today, I am seeing a lot of surprising things. Deep valleys, Georges, day long sun ray show, white sheet of ice extending over miles and miles ahead. We take a break around 1300 hrs. Sitting in the sun is really pleasure. Feels like I am sitting at the roof of my home under December sun.
– We again start trekking. River is growing thin and more ferocious. Sometimes, we have to climb on the side hills/stones because the river is thin and ice sheets have been swept away in raging currents. But its always good to watch the same weather and location again and again. Eyes never get tired.

A frozen waterfall, chadar trek

– Today first time in my life, I saw a frozen waterfall.
– Wow! like the God had freezed the time clock for a while and the flowing water forgot to skim down the rocks and turned into statue.
– We had long and tiring day as we took final break for the day at 16:00 hrs. A walk of almost 11 hours continuous. We pitch our tent.Biggest problem is the light. Though, we put head lamp but I don’t know why everyone would put off the light and burn two candles in the dark inside tent. Stove will rage loud and candle will burn gradually with at all no sign of wind. Straight and yellow.
– When stove stops, It would feel, a long silence has suddenly taken over. I forget the miseries of the world. Nirvana!

Camping, Zanskar valley trekThese two candles will burn whole night, silent and alone

DAY 6:
30 JAN 2013: 06:00 hrs (Late beginning)
– Day began late. Sun did not come at the times, it usually used to come. This part of the valley looks swampy. Feet get stuck inside the snow. May be, this part might have experienced little snow fall last night. My feet get inside the snow for almost quarter a feet and at some places half a feet. There are tens of big cracks all where. And through the cracks, you can see the river flowing beneath the ice sheet. The river seems to be divided into two parts. Frozen and unfrozen. Half of the river is frozen on which we walk. little shift towards flowing river you find marshy snow 3-4 feet towards river and green water is making huge sound at some places.
– We move further, a whole waterfall is hanging frozen from the ridge of the valley. A frozen waterfall, Zanskar valley, chadar trekI pluck a hanging ice. Its conical. And I hit other hanging ice too. Today, we will stop late since there is more day left to walk. We are gonna stay inside a village today. Inside an abandoned house. Around quarter to six in evening. we finally halt.

Abandoned house, Chadar trek

DAY 7:
31 JAN 2013: 09:45 hrs (Leaving behind the abandoned house):
Wilderness seems to have been soothed. We were not more than 25 Kms from Padum now. And, If I look behind, I must have covered around 100 Kms. There are expectations that we would spend some night in a village and can have good food.
– Till now, we were living on boiled potato, loafs of bread, tea  and soup. Knowing that destination is not far away now, Everyone was recharged. Almost everyone of us had lost weight however the packaging that we were carrying from starting day had gone down because everyday we will utilize some eatables.
– Some greenery have begun to visit us as well. I can see little plants hanging over to ridges and beside valleys.
yeah! certainly it feels great and good.

Chadar trek, Zanskar valleyIt has been almost more than a week, I have seen a linen bed, different faces other than us or even a bird or a green tree or even heard the sound of a vehicle. I feel lost in the solace of silence and wanna be keep lost.
– This night, we spend inside a cave.

DAY 8: Final day at Karsha Village
01 FEB, 2013
My camera battery is now drained out and I am sorry I could capture any moments. But today is our last day of trek and we are gonna stay into some village and sleep on plain floor and we can remove our “regular 10 day wears” comfortably.
– There are tens of small monasteries over the top. Its peaceful village full of Buddhist and they treat you as god. A very very warm welcome they always give.
– There are around 20-30 houses with snow laden over them. They rear goat and yak who are the source of milk and wool.

Got a room to sleep, Chadar trek, Zanskar valley

DAY 9:
02 FEB 2013: 10:24 am (Reached Padum)

This place is more than a village and here you can find your basic need but of course at higher price since it is situated 120 kms off Srinagar-Leh highway. Today, after lunch, we leave for Leh.
– I have made so many friends who are potters. One of them had requested me to stay at his home in Leh for some days. When I go to his home I would stay at his home for some days, draining out the fatigue.
– Before we leave, we are gonna explore and capture as many moments as many we can.

Padum to Leh wayI reach Leh. I have planned to stay for sometime in Leh at my new earned friend. I wanna write so much about their culture; the peace with which they live; their freedom; their lifestyle; their guest warm welcome; the flora and fauna around; the kitchen; the monastery; his cute sister; their food; the wooden fence; the cloth lying under sun; the snow fields; the cold winds; almost everything but, not now…
Some times later….

A potter house in LehMy potter friend’s house

 How to reach Leh from NewDelhi?
Flight should be preferred  from New Delhi. By road, It would take more than 48 hours.

When does frozen Zanskar river valley trek start?
Mid winter (January till february), valley is frozen then only.

-30 degree to +20 degree celsius

Trek duration:
Almost 1-2 weeks

Trek Length:
Around 100 Kms ( @ height of 10,000 feet )

Trek cost:
40,000 per person (contact your trip organizer for more details)

Things to be carried:
(Better to talk with your trek organizer), woolens are available in cheap in Leh as well.

Not to be forgotten:
Extra pairs of warm socks, Gloves, Extra battery for mobile and camera and extra cash, Personal Medication

Trek route:
Delhi-> Leh (Day 1) -> Chilling (Day 2) -> Dakmar Bawo (Day 3) -> Tibbi Bawo camp (Day 4) -> Nay yakste bawo (Day 5) -> wamay bawo (Day 6) -> Zangla valley (Day 7) -> Stongde (Day 8) -> Padum (Day 9) (Capital of Zanskar)-> Leh (Day 10) -> Delhi
* Bawo: Caves in local language

What can I see there?

  • Frozen ice sheets of Indus river for miles and miles; Vivid sunrise and sunset at gorges and in deep valleys
  • Old castles and deserter valley; Austere life style of monastic nuns, Cave monasteries used for solitary meditation
  • Monasteries sitting at top and breath-taking view from there
  • Camping inside cave at night while on trek; Stay at wooden house while on trek.


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About trekkerp

Author of The Girl from the Woods and a Travel writer from India looking forward to collect quirky tales from around the world

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