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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.