Chadar trek famous as Frozen Zanskar river trek in Leh Ladakh of India


Chadar trek: the trek on the frozen river of Zanskar

What is Chadar trek

Chadar trek is a trek over frozen Zanskar river in Ladakh region of India. During winter the Zanskar river, which is a tributary of river Indus gets frozen. The surface of the river freezes to a thick sheet of Ice (Chadar means ‘Sheet’). The thickness is good enough for people to walk over it. For centuries during winter, this frozen river has been used by the local people as a lifeline to reach to the Leh, main town of Ladakh region to get the basic and critical supplies required to survive in the winter.

The river gorge is stretched through different villages of Zanskar valley and people of all the villages have been using the river in winter for century long time. Now after gaining attention from all over the world due to different documentaries the same frozen river has become famous among outsider trekkers to experience the thrill and sheer adventure by braving -30 degree temperature, inadequate oxygen level, bone freezing water.

For week long period trekkers trek on ice and reaches deep into the Zanskar valley touching different villages. Other rivers in the region also gets frozen but due to its gorge and unique ice & rock formation Chadar trek is very popular among extreme adventure seeker and trek lovers

Chadar trek in Leh Ladakh

Chadar trek: The Frozen river trek in Ladakh

Image Courtsey: Vijay Kumar (Source)
Chadar trek

Chadar trek: The Frozen river trek in Ladakh

Image courtsey: Nilanjan Ghosh Roy (Source)

Chadar trek Information

Location: Zanskar river in Ladakh
Season: January to February
Temperature: -10 to -30 degree Celsius
Base city: Leh. Trekkers from all over the world gathers at Leh
Trek start point: Tilat Sumdo. Though can be varied depending on route taken
Trek end point: Nyerak. Then return journey to Leh starts. Though can be varied depending on route taken
Restriction: Not for faint hearted or ill shaped travelers
How to reach: Reach Leh, capital city of Ladakh (Or Ladhak) by flight from Delhi or by road from manali or Srinagar

Route of Chadar trek:

Chadar  can be done via different routes as the trek is walking on the frozen river. Most famous routes for Chadar trek are

Leh – Chilling – Tilat Do – Shingra Koma – Tibb cave – Nyerak – Tibb cave – Shingra Koma – Tilat Do – Chilling – Leh

Leh – Chilling – Tilat Do – Gyalpo – Tibb cave – Nyerak – Tibb cave – Gyalpo – Tilat Do – Chilling – Leh

How to reach Leh?

Leh is the district capital of Ladakh. Ladakh is a district in Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. Ladakh is also the largest district of India with very low population density. People can reach Leh either by Road or by Air. Direct railroad till Leh is not available.

Easiest way to reach Leh is to fly down from Delhi. It takes only approx. 40 min to reach Leh by air from Delhi.

By road, either you can reach Leh from Manali in Himachal Pradesh via Manali- Leh highway. The scenic beauty that can be experienced while driving on this road has made it a famous driving destination for travelers from different parts of the world. From Manali, it will take 2 days to reach Leh

How to prepare for Chadar trek?

Chadar trek requires good amount of physical fitness i.e. people suffering from any breathing issue, blood pressure issue or weakness due to any recent medical illness may find it extremely difficult are always advised to avoid to venture into this frozen river trek in Ladakh. Before embark on this spectacular yet difficult trek you mus consult his/her physician and seek advise.

[Chadar package]

What to Carry for Chadar trek?

A common list of articles that should be carried for Chadar trek is shared below

  • You will soon learn and modify your style of trek to the “penguin walk” style as guided by the porters and guide, where you actually drag your feet instead of lifting too much. This is the only effective way of walking on Chadar of solid Ice
  • Gumboot is available in Leh market and can be purchased there before commencing for the trek. If your shoe size is 9-10, getting a pair might be tough. So start searching as soon as you land in Leh.
  • Good standard high altitude trekking (Ankle height which should cover 2-3 inches above ankle) shoes are sufficient for Chadar trek. On Chadar, which is solid ice or a slight cover of snow on slippery ice, trekkers have found to their amazement that a simple gumboot finally may become the best for Chadar.
  • Trekking shoes – Sports shoes are not at all advised for Chadar Trek. Friction is the most important thing you need during the trek to walk over ice and sports shoe generates very poor friction due to their PVC soles. Hi altitude good quality water resistant, ankle covered
  • Good Quality Backpack (60L – 65L) with durable straps and supportive frame is a must for Chadar
  • Gumboot, if not purchased from Leh.
  • Must to Carry during Chadar Trek
    • 2 pair of synthetic lightweight track pants which you may wear one over another if required due plunging temperature.
    • 2 Full sleeve tees with collar.
    • Fleece jacket (Not sweaters, those are highly discouraged)
    • A full sleeve thick jacket
    • 4 pairs of undergarments
    • 2 pairs of thermal inners
    • 2 pairs of sports socks. 2 pairs of woolen socks.
    • Woolen monkey cap/balaclava to cover the ear.
    • Woolen gloves + water proof synthetic glove. In case you don’t have synthetic gloves, get two pairs of woolen gloves and a surgical glove.
    • A woolen head-scarf or muffler.
    • Hot water bottle/Bag – available at any medical store.
    • Branded Sun glasses, with 100% UV protection. Mandatory and Must to carry, because sunglasses prevent snow blindness. Curved ones are best and will cover your eyes well.
    • People who wear spectacles, choose one of these for your preparation for Chadar Trek:
      1. Use contact lenses.
      2. Photo chromatic glasses.
  • If either of the above is not possible, wear your spectacles and carry a big sunglass that can be worn over your spectacles.
  • 2 Water bottles (1 L each). The insulated water bottles are good but even normal water bottles will suffice.
  • Cold cream and sun screen lotion (SPF 40+). While sun screen help prevent sun burns, a better option is to stay covered.
  • Lip balm is an essential for Chadar Trek
  • Light towel (should be thin, quick drying kind).
  • Trekking pole is mandatory for Chadar trek
  • Create your own Chadar Trek specific personal medicine kit containing basic medicines
  • Personal toilet kit (minimal) and toilet paper.
  • LED Torch with extra set of cells (head lamps are much more preferable).
  • Small repair kit consisting of safety pins, needle, thread and string (mandatory).
  • Camera, memory-cards, batteries etc (carry enough spare batteries. Electricity is not available)
  • While packing, use plastic bags to compartmentalize things and carry few extra plastic bags for wet clothes

[Trekking to Chadar in Leh Ladakh]

Is safety is a concern during Chadar trek?

Chadar is a hard trek trek that involves strenuous efforts. Mostly in all cases if you are going with a professional organizing body, you have to sign in declaration before embarking on the trek. Also, you may need to produce medical certificate from registered medical practitioner which proves that you are physically fit to trek in high altitude and extreme condition

Some incredible images of Chadar trek

Chadar trek famous as Frozen Zanskar river trek in Leh Ladakh of India

Guiding through: Chadar trek the frozen Zanskar river trek

Chadar trek famous as Frozen Zanskar river trek in Leh Ladakh of India

The moment: Chadar trek the frozen Zanskar river trek

Chadar trek famous as Frozen Zanskar river trek in Leh Ladakh of India

Proof of the elusive Snow leopard: Chadar trek the frozen Zanskar river trek

Chadar trek famous as Frozen Zanskar river trek in Leh Ladakh of India

Crossing the bend: Chadar trek the frozen Zanskar river trek

Chadar trek famous as Frozen Zanskar river trek in Leh Ladakh of India

Walk of a lifetime: Chadar trek the frozen Zanskar river trek

Chadar trek famous as Frozen Zanskar river trek in Leh Ladakh of India

All white: Chadar trek the frozen Zanskar river trek


Impact of Chadar on local community life

Chadar trek has opened up a great revenue generating option for local communities. The region bask into activities which influence lives of many local people. Local villagers supply ration for trekking groups, work as guides/ porters, rent out mules, provides homestays, local transportation to different foreigner and Indian travelers etc.

Future of Chadar trek

Future of Chadar trek is obviously uncertain. With increasing political tension at borders government started to build a road through Zanskar valley to establish better connection to far fetched areas which are hard to monitor. Also, different documentaries showing the hardship of local villagers who are forced to use the frozen river as a road due to non availability of proper road. Once this road which is already under construction

[Homestay Chadar trek: Trek to Chadar in an offbeat and local style]

Some common question for Chadar trek

Do trekkers take bath during Chadar trek?

While in Leh you will experience sub zero or near zero temperature mostly all the time. Many a times water pipes in guest houses or hotels gets block due to extreme temperature. And during trekking temperature drops till -20 degree centigrade. So, generally there is very little requirement/chance/scope of taking bath during the trek

Is there any medical team assist the trekkers during the trek?

Generally medical facilities are available in Leh. During trek, the trekkers rely on the first aid and knowledge of guide. Do not expect any doctor or dedicated medical team as they are rarely available in the extreme region.

Is accommodation easily available in Leh during Chadar trek?

The peak tourist season in Ladakh is from June to September. November onward the entire region faces drastic drop in temperature. During January- February when Chadar trek commences only a handful of hotels remain operational in Leh. Most of the hotels shut down their operations as no tourist visit Leh in winter.

What are the options of evacuation facility?

Unlike Everest Base camp trek, this trek on frozen zanskar is much less well evolved and less commercialized till now. So in case of any emergency, the best option of evacuation is getting help from Indian Army generally. Otherwise, extensively costly evacuation facilities are sometimes available in Leh.

What is the best price of Chadar trek package?

Chadar trek package cost vary with different organization and different parameters. No. of days, group size, trekking style (Luxury or budget etc.) etc. contribute to the price of Chadar trek package.

What is normal Chadar trek rate that you can expect?

Normally a trekker can expect a rate of INR 20k per person for a short Chadar trek.

See the Chadar trek documentary by Discovery channel that made the trek famous to the world

See the video



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