As we lay our head on the pillow after a long summer day work, sometimes all we want to do is descend within the bed and come out on the other side with a view of white mountains, feel of chill weather, friends by our side and a cup of hot soup or coffee to keep ourselves warm in the natures lap. Over the top fantasy, you say? Maybe not.
Every trekking enthusiast knows many places in India that offer an experience beyond the normal. At the same time, we commoners know that Ladakh is the answer to all the wishes and dreams for a serene affair! Beyond Ladakh offering natural hypnosis; what it hides is a gem, a gem in the form of a frozen lake.
Chadar trek, also know as frozen Zanskar river trek is an otherworldly location, uncovered in the Zanskar region of Ladakh at an altitude of 3850 meters. Though the Chadar trail is not hiked by many, the trail will leave your adventurous soul satisfied. Since it is an offbeat trail, it will certainly fulfil your sense of conquest and pleasure at the end of the trekking trail.
The Chadar Trek or Zanskar river trek freezes in the winters and the maximum temperature around the trekking area remains at a bone-chilling - 15 degrees Celsius. It remains in the icy form from December to February, flowing through the Nerak waterfall. Therefore, the name 'Chadar' was given to this icy river; as Chadar means a sheet or a blanket. So, it would be advisable to pack and carry heavy winter gear and essentials before even considering defying the full force of nature.
Although the view is beautiful and equally de-stressing, the Chader trek has the reputation of being one of the most challenging and most onerous trekking courses. The total distance of this trek (one way) is about 105 km and is a five day-long trek. The journey starts with a hike from Tilat Sumdo to Bakula Bawo which is around 11 km long trek and takes about 4-5 hours to complete. One has to follow a specific and distinct form of walking called 'Ladakhi Shuffle', to roam the insubstantial and treacherous frozen Zanskar River trail.
It takes some time to get acclimated to this way of walking. However, once you do, you will know why. It is a straightforward walk (compared to what lies in store later on) until you ascend a frozen streamlet to camp at Tipkyeak Bawo. On the way, the trail passes through Tsemodo. The ice sheets in this particular section tend to melt more readily, and you may at times have to walk the steep rocks due to the melting ice.
Once you arrive at Bakula Bawo; a camp is set up to relax for the night and build up the energy to take on the perilous trails of the frozen Zanskar river. The next part of trekking starts in the morning, which takes you through the ice-laden landscape spotted with surreal icy waterfalls which look like ice precipices. At the end of the trekking day, the goal is to reach the stunning location at Tipkyeak Bawo and base there during the night. On the morning of the third day, the trekking starts from Tipkyeak Bawo to reach a point called Markala.
Frozen waterfall on the last day of the trek, the most challenging part of the course and the most taxing of the trekking lies in wait. From Markala, the trekking party's aim is to reach Tilat Sumdo. This part of the trek usually takes the most out of trekkers. The entire frozen chadar (river) will be too delicate, and adding to the woes you may encounter landslides that may make ascending the mountain a Herculean grind.
However, if you are one of those adventure junkies or tenacious individual, you can do it. And once you do tame the mountains and beat the trails, you can expect a victory beverage in the form of hot soup at the finishing point; where you can sit among the other triumphant trekkers and live the dream that you were only thinking of as an exaggerated fantasy.