Chadar Trek

Chadar trek has a totally different ambience. I wont say that this trek is easy but it doesn’t need that much fitness level, with a big but, it is a totally different trek. Here the temperature plays the game which makes it dangerous as well as exciting. Walking on the frozen river was altogether a totally different experience.

The day I landed in Leh and the first night I spent, I understood that this is going to be difficult. Visiting places like Leh in January is freaking cold. I used to shiver the whole time. I was not sure if I’ll be able to do this trek.

I never wanted to do this trek initially for the reason that I thought that this is an easy trek. After doing the Kashmir Greal Lakes trek and Everest Base Camp trek, this trek wasn’t appealing to me. I noticed that this trek neither has great altitude, nor it has some steep climbs and it doesn’t have that much distance as well. So why do it? 

But then a friend of mine Rishi, with whom I have done KGL and EBC asked me to come and I thought that lets do this and I’ll visit Leh this way. 

Trek details:

Trek LocationLeh (India)
Nearest AirportLeh
Trek length60 km
Trek duration7 days
Trek seasonJanuary-February
Difficulty levelModerate
Max. Altitude11100 feet
Fitness level neededAverage but you need to protect yourself from temperature

About the trek

This trek may not have those steep ascends and descends but it is a lot trickier to walk on ice than it looks. You have to be aware of your every step, not because everyone is gonna laugh at you if your slip but because an unbalanced fall can lead to a serious injury. This trek has its own beauty, you’ll see what routes are taken by the river in order to meet the end. The complete route is like walking through the gates of heaven.

My Journey

Day 1: Arrival at Leh : I arrived at Leh in the morning and after resting at the hotel, I decided to take a walk into the city. It was calm and freezing. People were helpful and Leh palace was amazing. I went to Shanti stupa by foot and there were no people at all. I found it amazingly silent and the view from the top was breathtaking. I went to a pizza store and the pizza was good but there were no vegetables on pizza and while discussing with one person I learned that there are no vegetables this month. Whatever vegetables are there is freezed a few months back. The restaurants are generally slow in serving people. I think that is because the locals do not want to rush things as we do in metropolitan cities. Then we went to the store and purchased gumboots for the trek.

Day 2: Medical Check up and Local sightseeing:  We went to the hospital for the Government Medical camp for a medical checkup. They checked the oxygen level and BP reading.  The trek was restricted to more than 50 people per day and there were a number of people waiting for the medical test. I got into line and waited about an hour for the test. After the test the whole day was free so along with some friends I decided to go for a trip in and around Leh.

We hired a car and travelled to Sangam, Hall of fame, Pathar Sahib gurudwara, Magnetic Hill, highest water rafting point,  ThikseyMonestaery and some other places. It was a good day. We clicked photos and the roads were empty. There were stretches where there was no vehicle till where I could see.

Day 3: The Problem: We started the journey with full enthusiasm as the trek is going to start today. There was some problem regarding the trek management from the government side as they were limiting the number of people on the trek and we did not get permission. We still decided to go till the check post and wait there if we can get the permission there. We went there, waited for 2-3 hours but didn’t get permission. We came back and stayed in a hotel. It was a tiring day and we all were upset. It’s not just because we didn’t get the permission but also because now we have one less day to complete the trek so that pressure was building on.

Day 4: Base to Tibb Cave: The day was good. We started once again with enthusiasm and got onto the bus. After 32.5 hours we reached Sangam where you can see the Indus and Zanksar River meeting and becoming one. It was an amazing view. We reached the base and after resting we started the trek. 

At first it was difficult walking on the ice, we were slipping and falling and making fun of each other. One suggested that sliding is much easier than walking so we started that and after getting tired I came to know that walking is better. Walking in gumboots was a painful exercise but if you walk for 10-15 minutes in those boots you’ll realize that the boots are getting warm and it is becoming easier with time.

Now we are a day short so we cannot make camp at the regular campsite, we had to walk further. The view was amazing. Walking in the valley with sky above ,ice at your feet, and water flowing below it. Since we were in the river valley, we could see the sun for 1-2 hours and the rest of the time we walked in the shades of the mountains. 

We made Tibb cave as the camping site and stayed there. The temperature was so low that while taking pictures I took my hands out of gloves a few times and now I noticed that my figures are becoming red and getting numb. The go pro battery died in 5 minutes, the drone battery died in 10 minutes; somehow I kept my phone and power bank deep inside the rucksack and saved them from dying out. 

It was so cold that I had to wear two jackets before getting into the sleeping bag which already had an extra fleece layer. Why have I come on this trek? I’ll die because of the cold.

Day 5: Tibb Cave to Nerak and Summit: Next way, going to the loo was a bit challenging as it was freezing cold outside. We started our journey for Nerak and reached before lunch. After resting there, we started our journey to the frozen waterfall but as we reached closer we found that the ice was broken and water was flowing through the way. It was difficult to go any further. We were about 2km away from the summit point. It was heartbreaking but we were happy that we didn’t do the trek at least. We spent the day joking and clicking pictures.

This night was much colder than the previous night. The trek guide told us that the temperature last night was -28 and I was horrified at how I was staying alive in this temperature. The trekking staff was cooking for us in this temperature, which they are making chapati in this temperature.  Respect.

Day 6: Nerak to Base, back to Leh: In the morning I discussed with Rishi and a few others that now the trek is complete then why stay one extra night in the camp on the way back. Why not complete the trek in a single day. Some of the people agreed and we discussed the same with the trek leader. He hesitated at first because no one has ever done that but he said that he’ll see how far we can reach but afternoon and depending on that he’ll decide. So now the pressure was on us to complete half way in half a day so that he can take the next decision. 

Now it was like a race and I was enjoying it. We started walking as if there was no other day. After lunch time we spread across the valley and everybody was trying as fast as possible to reach the base. Finally we reached the base at about 5pm. We reached Leh at 9pm and stayed in the hotel. There are many cheap hotels around, where we stayed, it charges us 1200 Rs a room for three people.

After the Trek: Since we completed the trek a day before, now this day was a bonus for us. So we planned to visit Khardungla Pass and some other places. 

Do not think of this as an easy trek. It may appear but walking on the ice and the temperature makes it a difficult trek.