The Himalayas offer a host of unique, adventurous experiences for seasoned trekkers — one amongst them is the Chadar trek. The word ‘chadar’ stands for the sheet of ice that forms over the Zanskar River in Ladakh.
To reach the Zanskar Valley, trekkers have to walk over the ice, set up their camps in the caves, and survive in the inhospitable conditions for 5-6 days. The temperatures are extreme: close to minus 10 degrees during the day, and dropping to a bone-chilling minus 20 degrees at night!
Yep, this trek is not for the faint-hearted, but the experience is surreal.
Walking on a frozen river is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The trek also offers majestic views of the stunning Zanskar region.
The ice sheet changes colour every few hours, breaking and forming again, as the trekkers continue to trudge forward looking for newer, safer trails. No other trek in India can give you such a thrill.
Then there’s a mammoth ice structure in the form of a frozen waterfall, which is sure to take your breath away.
What’s more, you also get a glimpse of the Zanskari culture, as you meet the monks walking on the same route from monasteries in Leh as well as the locals accompanying their kids to school.
Last but not least, setting up tents under the caves and sipping on a cup of butter-tea in the chilly weather only adds to the charm.
The trek falls under the difficult category. Travellers can reach Leh by taking a flight to Leh airport; it is the preferred mode of transport, as the roads leading to Leh remain closed during the winter season.
From there, hire a private cab and continue your journey to Tilad Do via Chilling. This will take you to the starting point of your trek.
The New Regulations
Now, this adventure comes at a cost — the inevitable danger and risk, that is.
With more and more trekkers wanting to tick Chadar off their bucket list, this fragile region is witnessing a change. The ice sheet now remains sturdy for shorter periods of time. So the trail is usually open only during the winter months of Jan to March.
To carry on with a physically exhausting and risky trek in sub-zero temperatures requires the trekkers to be acclimatised to the conditions before they move forward. Unfortunately, many of them try to skip the necessary formalities, thus posing a threat to themselves.
As per an order issued by the Deputy Commissioner of Leh last month, all tour operators have now been advised to get their tourists medically examined at SNM Hospital, Leh, to see if they’re fit for the trek.
This is for the tourists’ safety, of course. While the order is implemented as an advisory this time around, next year it will be mandatory. Anyone who fails to abide by it will not be issued a permit to embark on the journey.
Indian tourists will be issued a medical certificate after they undergo an examination at the hospital, which will be checked at the wildlife post in Chilling. Foreign tourists will also have to carry a valid health/medical insurance proof, and will have to produce it while applying for the Inner Line Permit (ILP).
So get your fit on, and plan a trip to the beautiful frigid land.
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