The route along the frozen and semi frozen river surface, this changes from hour to hour. It climbs high at times above broken ice, and at times you have no choice, you have to get wet feet. But we avoid this if possible! At times it seems impossible and you will not believe what the human body can do, or how a thin ledge of ice will support you. You will watch the porters do the impossible and then you follow them. This trek takes the main Chadar route, then, once in Zanskar or Up to Lingshed villages (Monastery).
Gear and the cold
It does get very cold on the Chadar, but does not seem to be. Why? Because it’s hard work, with very few moments to relax; you really do have to keep moving. Also, the complete absence of any wind to chill you, and the excellent gear you are wearing keeps you well insulated. Day temperatures average minus 10ºC and at night it drops to minus 25ºC. The only time you really feel it is packing up in the morning.
We will cover the cost from the day your trekking starts. Cost of Porters, Guide trekking gears, accommodation, food and camping materials are all included.
Note that the trekking itinerary and campsites may vary slightly depending on trail and weather conditions and the various trekkers acclimatization rate.
Day 01: (Assuming that you have acclimatized after reaching Leh).
Pickup after early breakfast from our hotel in Leh and we will Drive to Chilling (trekking point) and trek to Tilat Sumdo camp 3100m .
Note: Mornings in Leh in any season are special, with the harsh high Himalayan light softened by the dust in the air. In winter, the call to prayer from the mosque wakes you gently. Breakfast in the Omasila is the last touch of civilization. By eight we will be on the move, driving through the suburbs of Leh, then along the Indus valley. The road climbs slowly past Spitok Monastery,.
We drive on, descending to the Indus again to its confluence with the Zanskar. A dirt road from here takes us to Chilling, as far as the jeep can go. Here we have a simple lunch, then the trek begins on the ice.
It takes an hour or so to get into a comfortable rhythm, and we have found that using crampons tends to be more of a hindrance, as they are not suitable for all ice conditions. As the gear list says, good trekking poles are essential. Again, as on the gear list, you must have boots with good, new soles that stick. Luckily there are rarely any ice puzzles on this first day, except at the camp, where you ascend a frozen stream. The camp is on a sandy plateau to one side of the Zanskar, where on this first day our tents will have been erected for us. We will introduce you to camp routines and our warm and cozy dining tent, followed by dinner, soup and a good, varied vegetarian meal. Evenings in the dining tent, which is big enough to stretch your legs but small enough to be easily warmed, are very comfortable. Before bed, as as part of the daily routine, we fill your bottles with boiling water. Great to toast your toes, and is drinkable in the morning.
Day 02- Trek to Gyalpo Cave Camp 3170m
Breakfast is as much hot coffee or tea as you can drink, eggs to order (fresh while they last, then powdered the fresh baked bread, jam and honey. Departure time is normally around nine, and the days soon assume a familiar pattern. Our Guide go ahead with the trekkers, followed by our porter team. It is essential always to stay with our guides. This is the only trek inthe world where the trail, literally, vanishes, beneath your feet..
We lunch on pilaf, or Zanskari Kiu (dumpling stew) bread, cheese, jam, biscuits. Some days we can only have hot tea and an uncooked lunch. The ice conditions change quickly and what takes an hour at noon can take three hours by 3pm. We do not rush; but we do not dawdle! If you hear Zanskaris calling down the valley, particularly at the corners, don’t worry; they are screaming to scare away the demons who lurk in the ice.
Today we will pass through what the porters call Chadar Gate. A little surprise for the trekkers.
By 3-4pm we should be in camp on a plateau above the river. Today we start putting up our own tents.
Day 03 -Trek to Dib Yokoma Cave (3225m)
This is a stunningly day as the river starts to curve and you can see the uphill slope of the ice as we ascend the river into Zanskar. We pass incredible waterfalls on our left, normally frozen into aquamarine ice cliffs. The waterfall was said to have come from a river given to local people who visited Tibet centuries ago to plead for water for their barren land. They were given a box which they were told they must open only on their return home. The curious Zanskaris were nearly home when one of them opened it;. Our porters use these caves to cook and sleep in, and many of them are slowly being turned into small huts by Zanskaris recruited by the Border Roads Organization to shelter the road workers as they come through here. As we have stringent hygiene rules for our kitchen, abundant hot water, and anti-bacterial hand wash always available. Use it!
Day 04 - Trek to Neraks pullu 3390m *(Optional/Return)- Refer below
Another spectacular day. Crags seem to leap up from the frozen river surface, and ibex can usually be seen defying gravity far above. After lunch we pass the incense tree, so called because the locals use its branches to burn in their morning rituals, and the prayer flag draped tree marks the entrance to Zanskar proper
An hour later we turn a corner, and there, high above the river, is the bridge that links Zanskar with Ladakh, and Neraks village with Lingshed Monastery - in summer. Then the valley gorge opens up, and we see the small huts that mark some of the summer grazing of the Neraks villagers.
The village is far above. A trail is normally beaten through the snow to these huts, where we camp. And rum is possible!
Day 05 - Trek to Lingshed 3870m **(Optional/Return)- Refer below
We leave the river after an hour today, to follow a narrow gorge to Lingshed village. Around Neraks is probably the most dangerous area on the Chadar, but this is not the only reason we leave earlier than normal.
After up to two hours of trekking we turn off the river, and start following a side stream up a valley which shows so many ibex and blue sheep trails it seems hard to believe. There is a reason for this; traditionally all life was sacred near monasteries, so wild life naturally gravitated to where it was not threatened. Despite the fact that all hunting is banned now, a larger population of wild animals still tends to be found near the gompas. We are going higher today, and you will feel it. Add fresh snow, and it will be harder still. On arrival we are staying with friends in the village; room will be swept clean for us, and we can spread our mats out on the floor, and enjoy sitting and eating around a stove.
Day 06 -Rest day and visit Lingshed Gompa 4000m ***(Optional/Return)- Refer below
The walking is not finished as we climb the steep trail to the famous monastery spectacularly situated below a cliff face studded with old meditation caves. High to the right you can see the Morgon La, at 4100m on the summer trekking route, and as we climb, look back over your shoulder to that huge icy wall - the Hanuma La, familiar to all Zanskar summer trekkers for its brutally steep descent.
By the time we reach the monastery you will be in need of the tea the monks greet us with. Outside the main Dukang (prayer hall) there isa glassed in area to sit in and there is a thriving monastic school, along with special area upstairs where the monks create sand mandalas.
Day 07- 10th Day Trek back to Chilling via the route trekked & drive to Leh after Pickup from Chilling
You have not done the Chadar unless you walk both ways! It is four easy gently downhill days back, if the Gods are happy with us; we have a spare day to play with if not. We use different camps on the way back (usually) and it really is even more beautiful. Weather changes & light comes from different angles, illuminating different colors. And of course, the ice! The last day we have an easy three hour walk, and there are the jeeps waiting for us high above the river. Have we really been walking on water? It is a three hour drive to Leh, then that hot shower.
Day 10th – Drop to the Hotel
Today is last day we will say good bye to all Zanskari and the trekking staffs and friends who were just strangers to us before the trek began few days back.
*Trekking up to Nerak and return. Trek Duration is 7 Days (4Days onward and 3 Days Return)
**Trekking up to Lingshed and return. Trek Duration is 9 Days(5 Days onward and 4 Days Return)
***Trekking up to Lingshed and return with one day rest at Linghsed and site seeing. Trek Duration is 10 Days (5 Days onward + 1 Day sightseeing and rest + 4 Days Return) __Recommended.