chadar trek


Team Nature Knights .. count down begins to one of the Top 10 Treks in the world and also most unique trek..

In one of the mightiest mountains in the world, where most peaks are covered by snow almost round the year flows the mighty Zanskar River fed by many glaciers. The white waters of Zanskar River is famous for its gushing rapids of white waters that are popular for extreme white water rafting sport.

Zanskar river in the heart of winter freezes to form a sheet of ice or blanket and is known more popularly among adventurers world wide as "Chaddar", A journey on this remote and exquisite landscapes gives trekkers a glimpse of the world unlike any other place in the world. Its one of the top ten treks in the world.

Zanskar frozen river route (Chadar Route) was traditionally was used as a trade for locals living in Zanskar Valley who came through this route to Leh for trading during harsh winters of Ladakh.

The Chadar Trek includes 2 days in leh and 7 days trek in extreme cold conditions. It is a winter trek over a frozen river in Ladakh. Average mean temperature during the day is minus 15 and during nights temperatures fall to minus 25 and 30. The desolate trek is over the ever changing Chadar frozen river. Ice forms, breaks and changes colour on the river every few hours. At places the Chadar (or ice) does not form over the river. Trekkers have to forge a new trail climbing over snow covered steep rocky banks of the river to again descend to a spot on the river where the ice is more stable.

Trek Category: Tough

Program Schedule (Summary)

Day 1 - Fly to Leh 3524m (11,562 Feet) above mean sea level.

On arrival keep your woolens and jackets ready before getting out of the air craft.
Leh in winter is very different from what may experience during typical Leh summer; the temperatures ranges at an average of -10 degrees centigrade to -15 degree centigrade.

Transfer from airport to lodging.

It is strongly advised that you do not venture out of Hotel on day one. One need to let their body acclimatise to cold and high altitude (thin air conditions). To acclimatize rest and sleep most of the day, drink lots of water. Every thing should be done in slow motion on day one.

For those who have been to Leh before will find that most of the hustle bustle shops they found open during summer season may not be open. So don't depend to buy any major item required during the trek at Leh; you may not have enough time nor the shops open.

For those looking to hire Down Jackets; Gloves needed for extreme cold; Trekking Poles have to inform us well in advance so that we can make it available for them. 

Day 2 - Drive to Chilling (3 hrs drive) and trek to Tilad Do camp 3100m (2 km, 1hrs trek) 

For those who have been to Ladakh before may have come across sangam point; a place where Indus and Zanskar rivers meet.

We have to follow road going parallel to Zanskar river here.

Travel distance between Leh and Chilling is around 64 KM. We drive to the point where the vehicle can take us then start our Chadar trek.

First day trek is fairly easy "Tilat Campsite"  can be reached in a hours time from the time you start the trek. This campsite is located near sangam of one of the tributaries of Zanskar and main Zanskar river.

Get ready for your first night experience of staying in campsite on or near frozen river in extreme cold conditions. It recommended that you carry pocket size personal warmers that can be keep in your jackets or sleeping bags. Any kind of heat / hot soups / Warm Food / Camp Fire is welcome. Fire wood is a treasured commodity here and comes at a cost.

Day 3 – Tilad Do to Gyalpo camp 3170m (9 Km, 6 hrs trek

Mornings at Tilad Do campsite are like deep freezer; very cold direct sun light does not hit this place until noon. 

The days soon assume a familiar pattern.

Wake up time is around 7:00 am do your thing; breakfast with hot coffee or tea and you are almost ready for a day full of frozen adventure by 9:00 am. 

Our trek guides go ahead with the trekkers, followed by our porter team. It is essential always to stay with our guides. This is the only trek in the world where you can expect the trail, to vanish beneath your feet. We can, encounter times when we have to wait while our guides may have to scout the best route. We prefer to stay on the river, and you will see locals take real risks to avoid rock climbing. For this reason you must have plenty of warm layers to throw on, and of course, spare socks. The ice conditions are too varied, but there are one or two things to bear in mind. 

You will develop a sense of the safe and unsafe ice, and learn to catch yourself if you slip. Be sure to use your trekking poles if you want to sound the ice. 

The ice conditions change quickly and what takes an hour at noon can take three hours. We do not rush; but we do not dawdle! If you hear Locals calling down the valley, particularly at the corners, don't worry; they are screaming to scare away the demons who lurk in the ice.

Food during day, packed food is not recommended during day on a trek like Chadar. As it can become frozen. So our cooks can quickly pack local favorite Maggi Mugi with vegetables, local soup thukpa etc. Drink plenty of warm liquid stew along with your food. Great for acclimatization and cold.

Carry you personal munchies (Dry Fruits to keep your immunity high "Walnut, Almonds, Raisins, Dehydrated Apricots, Cashew etc). Protein bars to replenish from daily endurance of treks, You can carry chocolate bars to replenish carbohydrates.) this will help to balance ones diet with the regular food had during the treks.
You will find yourself rapidly relaxing as you walk, enjoying the views; watching for wildlife. Look out particularly for snow leopard pugmarks, Ibex on the gorge walls, and few occasional birds flying and few even dive from ice into the river, turning over pebbles looking for edibles.

Today we will pass through what the porters call 'Chadar Gate'. A little surprise for the trekkers.

Day 4 – Gyalpo camp to Dib Cave 3225m (14 km, 8 hrs trek

Today is full of surprises and fantastic landscapes, the river starts to curve and you can see the uphill slope of the ice as we ascend the river into Zanskar. We will pass incredible waterfalls on our left, normally frozen into aquamarine ice cliffs. The waterfalls were 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; out jumped a tiny fish, and the river sprung from the ground high above here. Also today we will probably have to climb briefly above the river - on the sharp bends the speed of the current breaks up the ice.

Lunch will be on rocky beaches by the river, and camp is near one of the many caves that are blackened by centuries of use by the fires of locals. Our porters use these caves to cook and sleep in, and many of them are slowly being turned into small huts by Zanskaris. This is a popular campsite.

As a camping etiquette  our teams' first jobs is to dig a toilet pit and clean up the rubbish left by groups. If there is no snow here the sand that blows around can contaminate your food. We have stringent hygiene rules for our kitchen, anti-bacterial hand wash always available. Use it!

Day 5 – Dib cave to Naerak camp 3390m (10.5 km, 7 hrs trek

Look forward to one more 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. The porters will normally take a few twigs from the tree, then tear a small piece of prayer flag to wrap it in, and present it to you. Welcome to Zanskar!

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 6 -  Naerak to Tibb.

Today we start our return journey and go back towards 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 to Shingra Koma.

Day 8 -  Shingra Koma to Chilling and drive to Leh.

Day 9 -  Return from Leh.


Most of us are staying back one day extra and going back on Monday.. Its always good to come back after a trek into a local town and have just enough time to stretch your legs, celebrate and chill out. This will be optional day 10..


Local transport (Point to Point), Sleeping bag during trek, Tent (3 person in each tent), Kitchen tent, food, toilet tent, mattress, utensils, crampon, trek leader, local guide, cook, helper and, porters for the group equipment. We allow to carry 7-8kg weight in your backpack (only your personal stuff), Our porter carry the central equipment like sleeping bag, cooking utensils, camping gear etc.

 If you need personal porter to carry your backpack so you have to pay extra Rs.660/ per day per bag. Trek will be lead by our trek leader.

You have to bring only your personal clothing, backpack and any trekking/sports shoes and Gum boots for day hike. You can easily buy the Gum boots from Leh at the cost Rs. 350 to Rs. 400/-

What kind of attire do I wear to endure the extreme Chadar Trek winter cold?

Always wear clothes in layers.
Layer 1 - Starting with inner thermals
Layer 2 - full sleeves t-shirt and track pants; Woolen Socks (One double woven woolen socks with one warm nylon or normal woolen socks inside). Carry enough spare socks and other undergarments.
Layer 3 -  Woolen Sweater or Fleece Jacket. 
Good thick Woolen Monkey Cap or Balaclava with woolen Muffler
Layer 4 - Wind Proof / Water Proof Jacket
Two Pair of gloves (Thin Woolen inside and outside Wind Proof / Waterproof Snow Gloves). 
Good Pair of Sun Glasses with Good UV Protection. 
Layer 5 - for really extreme cold (You may only need this in mornings or nights after sun down). Down Jackets. 

Those who are too sensitive to cold can also carry personal pocket size warmers. Available on most adventure sport gear shops.

Note: A Good Trekking shoe is mandatory and also carry Gum Boots (Buy locally at Leh or bring one from home). 

Personal Hygiene

Complete bath during the trek will be a luxury and too tough for most people to even think about. But its very important to maintain personal hygiene.

Here are few tips.
1) Always carry personal pocket size hand sanitizers.
2) Two or at-least pack of Candid Anti-Bacteria Powder.
3) Wet and Dry Moisturizing Wipes 
4) Small Hand Towels ( Always handy for hot water sponging).
5) Mouth wash; Mouth freshers; Chewing Gums that helps in cleaning teeth besides Tooth Paste and Tooth Powder.
6) Moisturizing Cold Cream
7) Sun Screen
8) Deo Sprays. Anti Bacteria sprays are also available

Secret to a good night sleep in freezing temperatures during Chadar trek?
Its very simple; have good sleeping bags and if you can get / purchase a bottle of hot water that you can slip inside your sleeping bag before you sleep. It keeps the sleeping bag warm enough for the night.

If you do not have a very good sleeping bag try to get two normal ones :)

Do not wear too many layers while sleeping if you have a good sleeping bag. Let your body free for the night so that it can replenish and be fresh for the next days trek.

FAQs for Chadar trek

1) Is it freezing Cold during the day time when are trekking?

As the day progresses the temperature is fairly bearable; One does not require layers like down jackets. It is quite OK.

2) Few of my friends who have done EBC trek asked me during winter season asked me how is this trek in comparison to EBC in terms of toughness and endurance.

If compared to EBC Winter Trek; this is a fairly easy; 
lesser altitude (so less altitude sickness problems as compared to EBC)
Distances covered in a day; climbs and descends is less compared to EBC
No of days covered are obviously less. 
Bigger Challlenges here are stay is in tents
Its a totally different type of trek as compared to EBC.

3) How fit should one be to do this trek?

Any one with good average fitness can do this trek. 
Some basic preparation helps.
Go for few practice trek
Few Jogs and Walks with small backpack on your back (4 Days a week).
If a person is a physically on good shape he/she will enjoy this trek; else you may end-up enduring it.

Checklist for Chadar Trek?

(Mandatory Items)

1. Back pack (60 ltr -70ltr)- with comfortable shoulder straps, frame, and back pack cover (line the bag with polythene)
2. Any trekking / sports shoes + Gum Boots (Easily available in Leh at low cost)
3. 2 wind and waterproof Track Pants (do not bring shorts, tight jeans, Capris)
4. T-shirts - 2 full sleeve
5. 1 Fleece T-shirt and; 1 Fleece jacket; a woollen sweater would be an alternative.
6. 1 Wind proof jacket.
7. 1 Heavy/ Down/Feather jacket.
8. Thermal inners 2 Pair
9. 4 pairs cotton shocks and 3pairs woollen socks.
10. 2 pair water proof hand gloves and 2 Pair woolen Gloves.
11. 1 Liter water bottle. (Grade One Plastic Bottle).
12. Woolen cap/ Balaclava. 

 13. Sun Cap or Hat
14. Sun glasses – Dark with side cover, it should be U/V protected. (Mandatory)
People who were spectacles-
  Avoid contact lenses, use photo chromatic glasses
15. Head Torch with extra batteries.
16. Sun protection cream and; Lip Balm / cold cream.
17. Toilet kit/ toilet Paper.
18. Quick dry Towel- It should be light / thin.
19. Personal Medical Kit
20- Walking Stick (Trekking Poles)

Some additional nice to have items one any high altitude treks (will share soon).

Of all the treks in India, Chadar is one of the most expensive trek you will do.

Following reasons:

1) You have only one option to reach Leh during winter, i.e. fly to and fro all other route are blocked due to extreme winter.

2) Expensive labour, Porter rates are more than double in winter. You can imagine why.

3) Rentals of all equipments and gear are very high during this season.

4) All food has to be flown in so obviously is very expensive.

5) Fuel since it is very limited is very expensive, it takes almost twice the amount of fuel to cook the food than in normal conditions.

6) It is not advisable to have a very large group of trekkers on a single party.

For those venturing out to the Chadar on the Nature Knights exploratory trek, our only advice is to prepare for the trek and not to treat it as any other trek. The rewards from this trek are plenty to take – the white winter scenery in the Chadar canyons is once in a life-time experience. Experiencing this marvel is something people travel all over the world to witness. I hate to admit, but Chadar is actually a very glamorous trek to do.

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