Chadar Trek

Ladakh is the exciting and adventurous place to travel considering the terrane and the scenic beauty. 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 is trekking on top of the ice of frozen rivers. One such route is Chadar Trek.

The term ‘Chadar’ means blanket in the local language, thereby giving an indication of 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 known as ‘Chadar’.

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 snowfall. The seven to eight days walk from chilling to Padum is both challenging as well as an incomparably exciting experience. The landscape acquires 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.

With multiple layers and sensible trekking, the Chadar trek is not a very difficult trek. But what sets it apart is its exceptional experience. Everything about it is unique: the scenery, temperature, atmosphere, the frozen river, sleds, unusual campsites, caves and the ever changing Chadar. So unique that it has to be experienced.


Day 1

Fly into Leh.
Experience mesmerizing beauty while flying over the heavily snowed mountains spread across miles. The moment you land at the Leh airport, one of the highest airports in the world, you will feel the freshness in air, and an atmospheric drop in the temperature. You may witness that the town has just begun cast off the thick winter inertia and is slowly coming to life. During this time, you may find that very few shops and eateries in the town are open for business; but some last minute-shopping for the trek can be done locally. Spend the night in cozy guest house with amazing chill in the air.

Day 2

Drive to Tilad Do via Chilling.
You can start the morning by witnessing panoramic view of Leh and its surrounding following the sunrise from the Shanti Stupa. From here you can also see Stok Kangri peak almost inviting you to climb it.

But today’s agenda includes a very picturesque and thrilling long-drive to Chilling. The naturistic roller-coaster ride will take us along the Indus river to the village of Nimu, where the Zanskar unites into Indus. After stopping at this confluence point to breathe in the view, we will continue and the road starts descending right into the river valley. There are quite a few heart-stopping exciting turns and twists as the vehicle moves through the steep hairpin bends over snow covered road. The road goes past Chilling to Tilad Do. Among these mammoth mountains, the thought of admiring nature and being insignificance does not escape anyone.

To take the first step on the Chadar and to reach the camp-site, we will cross the frozen Zanskar; It takes a while to get a hang of walking on the ice sheet. In the evening, our team will fix tents on the banks of the Zanskar, and hands out thick warm sleeping bags. You can climb up the nearby mountains to explore and exercise and keep yourself warm and to 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 appealing.

Day 3

Tilad Do to Shingra Koma.
It may be challenging to get out of toasty sleeping bags and go out into the giant freezer outside; but temptation to explore and the steaming cups of tea/coffee will bring ample motivation.

Today is a long walking session, about 12 km, on the Chadar. The trek leader will give briefing about the day, and share tips on how to walk on the Chadar. Depending on the weather, the Chadar can adopt 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 locals, it appears, have a sixth sense as to where exactly to step on the Chadar. The ice can be thick or thin, and its best to keep closely following the guide. 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, we will 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 like man-made. Will soak in the views, have an early dinner and call it a day.

Day 4

Shingra Koma to Tibb Cave.
Have a good heavy breakfast early, as today is the longest walk of the day – almost 14 km. But that is nothing to worry about, all the walking will keep you incredibly warm.

Today will walk through the deep ravines of the Zanskar which we are sure will be 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 legend 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 5

Tibb cave to Naerak camp.
The most spectacular of all days on this trek. Walking on the river we will cross deep gorges and reach a point where Juniper trees are covered with prayer flags. A few steps away stands the mother-of-all frozen waterfalls – a huge instance of suspended animation several feet tall and equally wide. You will 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 will be set up close to the river.

Day 6

Naerak to Tibb Cave.
Today we will 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 7

Tibb Cave to Shingra Koma.
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 8

Shingra Koma to Tilad Do and drive to Leh.
This will be the last day of trading on the Chadar – the last chance to immerse in the pristine beauty of the frozen river. Once you reach Tilad Do, it will be time to say good-bye to the Zanskar and the Zanskaries. Our team will take good care of you and make this trek one of the most memorable experiences for you. Tonight you will get to sleep in a warm guesthouse again.

Day 9

Return 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.

  • 2017 Trip Dates
    To be determined – please contact us for details! (min 4 people)

  • For Cost

  • Season
    Sept 15-June 30