India – Chadar Frozen River
Zanskar, a region in Ladakh, is famous for its stunning scenery and Tibetan-style Buddhist monasteries. It is isolated with a sparse population living in small villages that dotted the mountain range. Because of its remoteness, Zanskar has few infrastructure. There's only one dead-end road, cutting through high mountain passes of above 5000m, that links Zanskar's small capital, Padum to Leh. In winter, when the high mountain passes are covered in snow and not accessible, the villagers in Zanskar takes to the frozen Zanskar River as the alternative to reach Leh. This frozen river route, which for centuries, has been the most important trading and transportation lifeline of the Zankaris in winter, is now fast becoming a popular trek. It is attracting trekkers from around the world who want to follow the local Zanskaris’ footpath and walk the “ice sheets” (Chadar) of the frozen Zanskar River.
About The Trek
For most of its length between Chilling and the Zanzkar Valley (around 105km 1 way), the Zanskar River is confined within a steep canyon. The trekking route follows the banks of the river, in the gorge to the valleys of Nyerak and Lingshed before reaching Zanskar Valley.
Trekkers can choose to end the trek in Zanzkar Valley near Padum or midway in Nyerak or Lingshed Valley. Because the road to Zanskar is closed by snow, there’s only 1 way in and out of the trek. Trekkers have to back track the same way back to Chilling.
The trek is mostly along the river with some sections on the river itself. While the route is well trotted by both locals and trekkers, it is not a single fixed path. Some sections of the river or route that was safe to walk on before may become dangerous at the time of crossing or the trail may become blocked by thick snow such that a detour is needed to find a safe or accessible alternative. Be prepared to crawl on snow and ice, scramble on rock faces, navigate narrow river terrains with rushing freezing water a few inches below your feet, walk on icy river and sleep in cave camps in the extreme winter temperature of – 10°C in day to -20°C in the night.
We may not camp at the designated campsite for the day and may detour or alter the daily trek, depending on the ground conditions.
Ladakh is brutally cold in the winter months from November to February. The temperature often dips to minus 20 degree celsius, especially in the month of January and February. The Chadar Frozen River trek is only possible during a 2-month window from mid January to early March when the frozen Zanskar River is the most stable with solid ice.
Good to have some high altitude trekking experiences. You will be required to trek above 3500m most of the days, crawl on snow and ice, scramble on rock faces, navigate narrow river terrains with rushing freezing water a few inches below your feet, walk on icy river and camp in extreme cold winter weather.
Equipment and Gear
You will need thermal base layers, a fleece jacket, a down jacket, outer shell jacket and insulated outer shell pants. A down sleeping bag is also needed and will be provided.
A packing list will be provided to all our participants. Please refer to our Resource Centre page to learn about the layering system and choose the right gear/equipment for your trek.
- Group size: 6 - 12 people
- 2-3 people: $2800 per person / 4-5 people: $2100 per person
- You can also form a private group for this trek. For enquiry, send an email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
|Day||Itinerary||Meals||Altitude At Rest Point|
|Day 1||Arrive Leh||-/-/-||3500m|
|Day 2||Acclimatization day. Half day sightseeing. Visit places of interest like Stok Palace and Shanti Stupa etc||B/-/-||3500m|
|Day 3-6||Drive to Tilat Sumdo near Chilling to start trek. For the next few days, trek along the banks of the river, in the gorge through the valleys of Nyerak and Lingshed to Tsarak Dho (exit point depending on the condition of the river). Transfer to Karsha Village.||B/L/D||3300m - 3657m|
|Day 7||Sight-seeing day. Visit a few villages, the famous Karsha Monastery and Padum. Transfer to Zangla village. (road access to Padum and Zangla village is depended on road/snow conditions)||B/L/D||3900m|
|Day 8-11||Drive to Tsarak Dho to start trek for return journey to Tilat Sumdo. Drive to Leh||B/L/D (except dinner in Leh)||3300m - 3500m|
|Day 12||Buffer day. Free & easy in Leh if buffer day is not use on trek||On trek: B/L/D|
In Leh: B/-/-
|Day 13||Depart Leh (Programme ends here. Next day arrival on flight, if any, not reflected in itinerary )||B/-/-|
Training: Regardless of your level of fitness and physical conditions, it is advisable to train prior to embarking on a trekking or mountain climbing trip.
Pure cardiovascular fitness is NOT enough.
Focus your training effort in the following areas, assuming that you are in good health and injury-free:
- Climbing conditioning – stairs and load training.
- Cardio training - Jogging/running and interval training like CrossFit or HIIT.
- Strength training for the lower body, shoulder, back and core
- Flexibility training - eg: Yoga and stretching exercises
A good five to six months of training would be a good preparation for this trek.
A recommended training guide specific to the trek or climb will be given to you upon signing up.
Refer to our Grading chart for an overview on the technical difficulty and fitness required for this trek.
Refer to our Training Guide for tips on trekking and mountain climbing training.