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Trip Highlights

Duration: 10 Days | Level: Challenging | Altitude: 3398 m | Distance: 70 km

About This Trip

Leh (Ladakh) can be a difficult place to travel during winters. Leh and its surrounding areas at this time, is almost completely covered in snow. Hence, the only way to reach Leh is through flight. The mountains here are steep and snowfall closes many of the mountain passes and makes the roads hazardous to travel. Some villages become completely inaccessible from November upto March. One method of accessing snow-bound villages during the winter is trekking on top of the ice of frozen rivers. The Chadar trek is one such route, connecting villages in the Zanskar valley (deep in the mountains) with Chilling (on the road to Leh) along the frozen Zanskar River.
The locals or Zanskaris as they are popularly known usually take a road from to the Zanskar to Nerak and further for work which mostly consists of trading goods in the summers. During winters, the road is blocked and dangerous to travel so the locals tread along the Zanskar River which is frozen at this time. This route has been used for centuries for trade and transportation, and is most reliable in January and February when the ice is most stable. The thick blanket of ice that the Zanskar river forms resemblances a white blanket which in the local language is called ‘Chadar’. Hence the trek along the frozen Zanskar River is known as the Chadar Trek.
The Chadar Trek or The Frozen River Expedition is one of the most unique and challenging treks in India. The Chadar trek across the frozen Zanskar River in Ladakh takes place during the latter part of January till end of February or sometimes even in the first week of March, depending on the weather. The 7 days walk from Tilat Do to Nearak and back, is both challenging as well as an incomparably exiting experience. The landscape aquires 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.
Imagine walking across frozen sheets of ice, with mountains enveloped by snow on one side and a stream, slowly freezing or melting right on the other, as you walk alongside it. And while that seems fascinating, look up, ahead and around; to witness surreal beauty for as far as you can see. This is the Chadar Trek, the Frozen River Trek, only multiplied a hundred-fold. Just imagine being a part of this transcendental journey. Those pics will make for great conversations and stories back home.

Trip Itinerary

Flying over miles and miles of heavily snowed mountains will tell you just why it’s impossible to reach Ladakh by road in the winters. Don’t forget to take some beautiful pictures of the completely snowcapped mountains during flight. The moment you land at the Leh airport, which is one of the highest airports in the world, you will feel the fresh and crisp air, and a drastic drop in the temperature. Leh at this time is almost completely covered in snow. The temperature during the day is around -10 degrees and after sunset easily plummets to -15 to -17 or more.
From the airport you will need to book a cab by yourself (we can help you with the same) and after a drive of around 30 mins you reach our Guesthouse/Homestay in Leh, where warm breakfast awaits you. Your acclimatization starts here and if you can survive this cold, the trek would become a lot easier for you. After resting for few hours which is a necessary for acclimatization, we will head out to visit Leh Market towards noon. Leh city is partly closed during winters and only shops pertaining to essential items and small eateries are open for business.
It is advisable to get everything you need before arriving at Leh, but if required, some last minute-shopping for the trek can be done here. You do get excellent woollen warmers and gears, in case you missed out any. While taking a stroll through the Leh market, the chill in the air will serve only as a preview of the temperatures during this winter trek. Walk around the city a little to get used to the cold as this will help your body to acclimatize well before you step on Chadar. Be careful of slipping on the roads which may be be coated with thin sheets of ice.
The night will be spent in our cozy guest house followed by dinner.
This day is kept at your leisure, after sumptuous breakfast you can either go for sightseeing around Leh, visit monasteries around Leh township, Kargil war memorial, Ice Stupa, Leh Palace or simply rest. One can also utilize the day shopping for the forgotten essentials that are needed for the trek or as informed by the Trip leader like Gum Boots, Trekking pole, Thermo flask etc. or simply buy stuff like praying flags, dry fruits, kawa etc for family and friends in advance.
For those who have already visited leh or feel lazy to step out can simply while away their time relaxing back at the guest house, Chitchatting, watching your favorite TV programs or movies, listening to music, playing cards etc.
PS: This can be an alternative plan for Day 02
Morning free to explore the market and having the final gears in hand. Post Lunch will proceed towards Sonam Memorial Hospital, Leh for filling of Medical examination and check-up of oxygen level and Blood pressure. This will be informed to you by your trek leader a day in advance. Overnight stay at Leh Guest House after warm fresh Dinner.
You can start the morning by witnessing the sunrise from the Shanti Stupa, from where you can get a panoramic view of the entire town of Leh and its surroundings. You can also see the peak of Stok Kangri almost beckoning you to climb it. But today’s agenda includes, Medical examination of each participant to be conducted at leh at Sonam Norbu Government Hospital, after clearance we head for a very picturesque and thrilling long-drive to Tilat Do. The roller-coaster ride takes you along the Indus to the village of Nimu, where the Zanskar converges into Indus. After stopping at this confluence point to take in the view, the drive continues and the road begins descending right into the river valley. There are quite a few heart-stopping moments as the vehicle negotiates the steep hairpin bends over snow covered road. The road goes past Chilling to Tilad Do. Among these mammoth mountains, the feeling of how tiny we are will surely cross your minds.
The end of road marks the beginning of an exciting trek ahead. On reaching Tilat Do we will walk for about 30mins on road and then descend down, this is when you take your first steps on the Chadar. Do remember to take small steps on the Chadar to get a feel of the ice beneath. The surface can be many things – hard ice, freshly fallen snow, newly formed ice or something in between. It takes a while to get a hang of walking on the ice sheet. Observe the Locals, Porters and your guides over the initial days, imitate their strides and don’t digress on your own. Eventually, you’ll understand the surface below your feet.
After walking for about 5 mins we reach our first camp-site. By the time our team pitches your tents on the banks of the Zanskar, you can either spend time practicing walking on Chadar or help us in fixing your tents as this will be a new learning for many and will also keep you warm. After setting up the days campsite, hot tea/coffee with snacks will be served followed by maggi as our lunch. As the evening comes your guides will issue out thick warm sleeping bags to each and will also brief you about the do’s and dont’s about the campsite and the trek.
Later to get some exercise and keep yourself warm, you can climb up the nearby mountains and get a good look at the frozen river. As the sun sets, it drags the temperature down with it, it’s time to move to the dinning tent and interact with your new friends and share experiences over soup. Hot Dinner will be served after which we retire to our tents. The sleeping bags will keep you warm for the night.
Mornings at the Chadar trek are quite cold. Though the sun is up by 7am, it’ll be noon till you get any direct sunlight. The biggest challenge of this day, and all the remaining days, is to get out of the warm cozy sleeping bags and go out into the giant freezer outside; but the steaming cups of tea being served will provide ample motivation.
Today will be a comparatively long walking session, about 12.5 – 13kms, on the Chadar which will take roughly 6-7 hours. The trek leaders will give you a briefing about the day at Breakfast and will also give tips on how to walk on the Chadar. Depending on the weather, the Chadar can assume 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 ice can be thick or thin, and its best to keep closely following the guides.
As you trek along, observe the sounds of the ice underneath you. With a little attention and practice you’ll understand the thickness of the ice sheet and differentiate when it’s a few days old and when it’s just freshly formed.
At places, it might be necessary to wade through ankle deep water, or climb on the cliffs at the side of the river. Eventually you get used to walking on the Chadar, which looks like a cross between gliding and skating. Mid way to Tsomo i.e. Gyalpo, the cook will prepare hot lunch. Don’t forget to thank him. Always remember to regularly have is a decent level of fluid intake. Fill your bottles each day with hot water before the start of the trek and at lunch points. Nothing makes you adapt to the conditions faster than nicely circulating blood in your system. After passing Gyalpo, you reach the camp-site for the day at Tsomo, where the tents have already been pitched by the porters. This is a beautiful camp site, you’ll reach early evening to watch the sunset over the mountains. This campsite is at a bend in the river, surrounded by high peaks and walls of rock-faces which almost look man-made. All that is left to do is to soak in the views, have an early dinner and call it a day.
This day follows the same early morning routine: bed tea at 6;30am, breakfast at 7:30am, and quick-march by 8am. Have a good breakfast, as today is one of the longest walk of the Chadar Trek and also most beautiful. The distance would be almost 15 km, which can be covered in roughly 7-8 hours. But that is nothing to worry about, all the walking will keep you incredibly warm.
Today’s walk through the deep ravines of the Zanskar is stunning. The sublime walls of the mountains on either side 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. You’ll come across several instances of little waterfalls frozen into dangling icicles. Midway through the day, you’ll come across a big waterfall which is not entirely frozen and small prayer flags on the trees around mark this place. It is said that Nerak once ran out of water and a holy man went to Kailash to pray for water for his people. On his way back he was carrying a pot of water with two fishes with the instructions of not keeping it down anywhere along the way. But he happened to put it at this spot and two fishes jumped right out to create this large waterfall. Legend has it, that this waterfall traces its origin back to Kailash. This waterfall, miraculously, is not completely 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.
A couple of hours more and you arrive at today’s campsite, Tibb. Tibb is a large camping area with caves alongside large enough to fit 7-9 people. The cave here is the dwelling place of all the porters, and they welcome you warm-heartedly in here to have a look inside. The highlight of the day is to share a cup of butter-tea with them! After a tiring day we have dinner and retire to our tents. Tomorrow is the much - awaited day for all, Nearak Waterfalls it will be. Goodnight
Today is the most spectacular of all days on this trek. From Tibb to Nerak, there is a walk of 7-8 hours covering about 12.5kms. Walking on the frozen river you 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 can see dozens of colors in this enormous ice structure as sunlight plays off its surface. A little ahead from the massive waterfall is the Nerak pull or bridge. It’s an old wooden bridge that can hold atleast 4 people at a time. You get a better view of the waterfall from here.
About 20mins ahead, you’ll reach the Nerak campsite. The Nerak village is 2000ft higher, while the camping site is 200 ft higher than the river bed. Nerak is known for its cold nights and shivering winds. This would be your coldest night on the frozen river trek, with temperatures possibly dropping to -25 or even lower. We can visit the local shops near the campsite as enjoy our time chatting and sharing experiences so far. Congratulations to all! You have made it to your destination and completed Half the trek.
Today you start the return journey and go back to the Tibb cave or Hotang another new and beautiful campsite for you. To reach Hotang we need to walk a little more and the walk will be of around 8-9hrs but it’s totally worth it.

Also, 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. This is one of the uniqueness of this frozen river trek, old chadar breaks, there are snowfalls and new chadar forms constantly. 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 adapted 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. Today if we reach Hotang and spend our night at this beautiful campsite, do not forget to set up your Tripods & cameras to click some amazing night sky full of stars.
Starting from Tibb/ Hotang, we go up to Gyalpo or Shingra Yokma 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. We have almost completed our beautiful yet challenging trek. It’s time for all of us to party and congratulate each other for this accomplishment. The Chadar trek is absolutely as unique as it sounds and by now you the reason why? It is a far more fascinating and enriching experience that you can imagine.
This is the last day of treading on the Chadar – the last chance to immerse in the pristine beauty of the frozen river. Once you reach Tilad Do, it is time to say good-bye to the Zanskar and the Zanskaries. Our team and our porters will take good care of you and make this trek one of the most memorable experiences for you. Don’t forget to thank them before you say the final goodbye.
We drive back to Leh at our Guesthouse and take a dry bath to wipe out all the dust. Tonight, you get to sleep in a warm Guesthouse again.
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.
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Cost Details

• Accommodation: On triple sharing at Leh (Guesthouse) on Day 1, Day2 & Day 9, And on double sharing basis (During camping) from Day 3 up to Day 8. • Good Quality camping arrangements; we focus on your safety, basic comforts and the environment while camping. Fresh and clean double layered sleeping bags of good quality (Sleeping bag to sustain temperature up to -40°C) Good quality Camping Mattresses, Mess Tent, Toilet tents. • All vegetarian Meals while on trek and Breakfast & Dinner at Leh Guesthouse. Meals would be simple, nourishing, & vegetarian Basic • First aid medical kits and oxygen cylinder. • Qualified & experienced trek Leader, Guide (Ratio, 8 Trekkers: 1 Guide for better safety) and Support staff like cook, helpers to help trekkers • Transport: Transfers from Leh Guesthouse to Road head/ Base Camp and return back to Guesthouse on Day 09 • Porter charges for carrying camping equipment & rations
• Cost for Airfare. • Lunch at Leh Guesthouse on Day 1 and Day 2. • The proposed Wildlife Fees, Environmental Fees and other fees as being put forward by LAHDC and ALTOA or any other organization. Fees: Environmental fee & wild life fee : INR 2200/- per person for Indian nationals & INR 2500/- per person for Foreign nationals as per actuals in 2017 ALTOA (All Ladakh Tour Operator Association) fee: INR300/- per person as per actuals Environment tax that has been newly introduced in 2017. The same will be payable at actuals on the spot at prevalent rate • Inner-line permits fee • Additional accommodation and food expenses if trek gets delayed due to weather, health or any other reason • Expenses for evacuation and rescue operations due to natural calamity, mishaps, injury or any health problem. • Any kind of personal expenses like bottled water, alcohol, soft drinks. • Porter to carry personal luggage. • Anything not specifically mentioned under the head price Includes. • Any cost arising out of unforeseen circumstances like landslides, road blocks, bad weather, expenses incurred on account of sickness etc. Extra cost incurred due to an illness, accident, hospitalization or any Individual unforeseen cost incurring incidence. Personal and Medical Insurance. *SPECIAL NOTE: Due to any natural calamities or poor ice layer formation on the Zanskar River for the Chadar, no refund will be made, but the company could organize a substitute tour in Leh around only GST
The standard administrative charge of 10% of the cost of the total trip – Not refundable any point of time • Between 60 - 30 days: 25% of the total Trip Cost • Between 29 - 20 days: 50% of the total Trip Cost • Between 19 - 10 days: 75% of the total Trip Cost • Less than 9 days from the date of departure: 100% of the total Trip Cost

Other information

• Things to carry on a short winter Himalayan trek Trekkers Essential OM Please check BMI here to know your fitness level. The apt BMI is 17 to 28. • It is mandatory to carry the following documents along with you. Document 2 needs to be downloaded, filled in duly signed and handed over to the Trip Leader at the Base camp. 1. Original and photocopy of government photo identity card- (driving license, voters ID, etc.) 2. Indemnity form to be filled by the traveller Indemnity Bond OM
• It is utmost important to notify Outdoor Monks with any pertaining medical and health conditions before booking of the trip. • Outdoor Monks strongly prohibit the intake of alcohol and smoking while on the trip. • Outdoor Monks strongly insists all our fellow traveller to consider minimum and maximum age limit of each trip. Not doing so will result in cancellation of the trip. • Outdoor Monks remains stiff upon all information presented for a trip. Please read all the documents relating to the itinerary, inclusions, exclusions, cancellation policy, trip essentials, terms, and conditions.
• If the trip gets cancelled at the last moment due to natural calamity/unforeseen circumstances. Outdoor Monks will issue a voucher for the full trip cost which can be redeemed for the same or any other trip during a period of next six months. • Outdoor Monks does not hold the liability for any loss/damage of personal belonging while on the trip. • 30% Advance to be deposited at the time of booking confirmation (non-refundable). • Full payment before 12 days from the date of starting the Tour (non-refundable). • While on the trip. Outdoor Monks strictly prohibits any kind of miss conduct • Outdoor Monks under utmost priority maintains the dignity of fellow travelers, locals, and team. Any kind of misconduct while on the trip will not be tolerated, found doing so will result in cancellation of your participation forthright.

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