The Chadar Trek or the Zanskar Gorge is a winter-trail in Zaskar region of Ladakh, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Its walls are near vertical cliffs up to 600 meters high and the Zanskar River (a tributary of the Indus) is only 5 meters wide at places. The Chadar Trek is the frozen Zanskar River which provides an access route to the Zanskar Valley and is used as a trail by locals and tourists during winter.
Chadar trek is considered a difficult trek not because of anything else but the cold. It is the bone chilling cold that one has to endure. The temperatures can vary between -1 degree and -30 degrees. As long as you have made up your mind and prepared sufficiently to bear the extreme vagaries of the place, you are good to undertake the trek and enjoy it too.
How to prepare and enjoy the Chadar Trek:
1. Make up your mind that you are going to accomplish this trek. That is all it takes to survive the cold.
2. Your trekking agency will provide you with a sleeping bag, it is good to carry one of your own too for extra layering and protection.
3. The guides know it better. Look, observe and do as told. Lest you want the ice to break under your feet and experience a great fall into the water.
4. Keep your water bottle, cloths, batteries, socks and all that you want to use the next morning inside the sleeping bag. Anything left outside will freeze or be too cold for use.
5. Slipping and falling on ice is a common affair. Enjoy your fall, laugh it off and walk on.
6. Gumboots are the best thing to use while on Chadar. You may carry your running/trekking shoes along if you want to, but gumboots are cheap and they have a firm grip.
7. Buy a few exothermic pouches which will definitely help you fight the biting cold. They are available online or in sports shops. You could slip them into your socks and gloves. They are for one time use and lasts up to 10 hours.
8. The trek leader/guide will chart the route for you. Do not go on your own or wander off unless you are an expert on Chadar or you are prepared to take a dip in the sub zero temperature of the river water. Allow them to guide you.
9. The markets in Leh have a good deal of products you need for the trek. You could buy all the gear you need for Chadar or rent it from the trekking agency.
10. If in case, you want a porter to carry your bag ensure you talk to your trekking agency and engage a porter well in advance.
11. Be a responsible trekker. Do not litter. Take extreme caution to leave no trail and protect the wonder that this heavenly abode is.
Clear nights usually mean that the Chadar is going to remain intact. The nights are beautiful. Do spend a few minutes to come out of the tent and watch the night sky. It is going to be very cold, but will totally add up to the experience.
As clichéd as it may sound, there is never a dull moment on Chadar. The view and sight keeps changing and dramatically so. You will thread the same path on your return to the base. Yet the scene and Chadar appears so different that it feels like an altogether different trekking route.
The Chadar could break at times and make it difficult to walk on them. At such times, you may have to scramble up on the sloppy slippery banks or wade through the chilling cold water to get to the spot where Chadar is intact.
Rest assured, Chadar is not a dangerous trek if you have a fairly good fitness level and the will to beat the cold. This trek will fill you with a lifetime of memories to recount on cold nights with your dear ones.