Unbelievable thrill of walking on ice during Chadar trek
January 19, 2020
My second visit to India a few weeks back was quite different. In the previous year, I took a week off work, visited the beautiful coastal areas in South India and basked in the sun long enough to come close to a sunburn. However, this time, I was well prepared to explore the snowy regions of this mesmerising country, where the landscapes are as diverse and interesting as the people.

The unending adrenaline rush and conquering the vast expanse of ice in Ladakh on foot were enough to sate my travelling appetite.This trekking expedition is widely known as Chadar trek and it is among the most difficult ones in the country. Even my friends back home in Barcelona were sceptical, as we have had little-to-no experience of hiking in snow or indulging in any frost-related adventures before. This was solely the reason why I mustered some courage to embark on this trek.

All the way, up to Leh

The trek begins in Leh, and from Delhi, I boarded a flight to Leh Airport. Although I wanted to embark on a road journey, I was informed that was not possible due to the harsh weather conditions that were causing several roadblocks.

Gazing at the massive snow-clad peaks around the Leh Airport through my window was quite thrilling and a fine visual delight. I just couldn’t help but feel the abrupt drop in temperature upon reaching. I took out the sweaters and gloves immediately to make myself warm. Unlike my former trip, I had to carry proper trekking gear along with a tent also. Moreover, as Leh lies over 3000m above sea level, I had to acclimatise in this high-altitude region for three days. To my surprise, my altitude sickness was milder than what I thought. Gradually, I got accustomed to the surroundings after taking enough rest and keeping my tummy full.

Embracing the biting cold

There were a few more factors to keep in mind before embarking on this 10-day excursion. I had to shop a little. I bought a pair of gumboots and quite a lot of exothermic pouches to keep them inside my gloves and socks. Purchasing cheap water purification pills was necessary. I was wary enough to buy a pack of protein bars as well. There is also a mandatory medical check-up for everyone embarking on this trek at Leh’s Tourist Reception Center. Fortunately, I was physically fit for it.

Getting on with the Chadar trek

During winters, especially around January and February, a thick blanket of ice covers the Zanskar River. It is the perfect time to enjoy the trek along the river, as the ice sheet remains stable. We (the group of other adventurers and the guide I was going with) hopped on the delightful four-hour road journey from Leh to Shingra Koma. Driving past the iconic landmarks including Gurudwara Pathar Sahib and Magnetic Hill, I could see the awe and wonder in everyone’s eyes.

Walking towards Tsomo Paldar

We all headed slowly to Tsomo Paldar on foot and reached there in about three hours. As we were sporting gumboots, the terrain felt a little slippery. But our guide consoled us, informing that this happens to everybody and we could protect ourselves with those backpacks we were wearing. We all spent the night at this chilly yet picturesque campsite.

Tsomo Paldar to Tibb Cave – the actual trek begins

The following morning, the sunrise woke us up from our deep, comfortable slumbers in our separate tents. We all shared a heavy breakfast and sipped hot cups of tea before starting our 15-kilometre-long excursion to Tibb Cave. I could feel the chill on my bones each time I stopped walking. The only respite from it was to not stop, but it was hard as the gorges and ravines in view made us stop to appreciate their natural beauty.

Naerak Camp from Tibb Cave

The six-hour trek to Naerak Camp was even more thrilling than on the last day and the distance we covered was slightly shorter. Among the most unusual and equally remarkable natural attractions were the frozen waterfalls transforming into large icicles that didn’teven touch the grounds. I don’t remember the amount of snapshots I had taken from my phone. Our guide told us that this campsite is the coldest one and there was a high chance of temperatures dropping down to -30°C during nights. Thankfully, two hot cups of butter tea in the morning, the heavy breakfast and the light lunch kept us moving to our final destination.

The way back

We took the same route on the way back. Our guide had good knowledge of the unpredictable weather and boy, he was right! It is the ice on Zanskar River that keeps changing from time to time.The landscape looked quite different from what I had encountered just a few days back. We had to cross Gyalpo to reach Shingra Koma. Here, we all got to see some pugmarks of snow leopards on the snow. To my delight, I also could spot a few rare birds while coming back.

This trek in the snow-covered landscape of Ladakh has been a life-changing experience for me, to say the least. Not only could I overcome my fear of difficult terrains in the harshest weather but also I could enjoy every second of exploring the pristine outdoors.