The Enduring Chaddar Trek

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I am sure most of you trek lovers out there would have either heard of or put the physically and mentally gruelling chadar trek on your to do list.

Its not like your usual himalayan trek, but more a test of your physical limits and mental strength.

After completing the trek successfully, we felt a need to blog our experiences and the issues that we faced during this trek, because no matter how much we prepared via online articles, it all came down to the ground zero where we came to know that there are a lot of things that we could have done differently…
So in order to provide a guide as to how is Chadar trek and to-dos and not-to-dos here are a few points which mightily immensely help you if you are planning to go on one:

Things you should know before you signup for it

Few aspects that makes chaddar trek special and challenging at the same time:

1.You will be covering a distance varying from 7-14kms a day

2.With a backpack of 7-8.5kgs on your shoulders (This solely depends on how much stuff do u want to carry with u…personally we regretted each and every moment of packing 8 kgs of stuff in our backpack wen all the weight kept crushing our shoulders during the long walks….so unless u are a shoulder exercise junkie, we would suggest u pack wisely!!! :P)

3.On thick and slippery ice or sometimes over the mountains (if the chaddar is broken)

4.With a atmospheric temperature of around -10º c to -15º c (during the day)

So there is no doubt that you will be uncomfortable in the beginning, if you havent been through such harsh conditions before but at the same time, we can also assure you that, you can overcome that fear having experienced it ourselves

Few Other important info that we would like to share

Most of you would not be having the necessary gear/equipment required for the trek. We are sure you would be looking to buy most of the things, but we highly recommend to instead buy the gears at LEH itself. As far as we observed, you get quality products for reasonable price at LEH market. Most of the trekking organizations will have atleast 1Day of acclimatization at the guesthouse (in some cases 2). So you utilize that time.

Few important gears that you will need

Starting from very basic, for the trek itself (this is only for actual trek, mostly the 6days)

1.Track pants ( max 2) — buy the waterproof ones

2.T-shirts (max 2)

3. 2 pairs of thermals (of good quality)

4.A sweater(woolen) and a fleece jacket(probably a sweat shirt)– fleece jacket can be optional, which you might not require during the day

5.A thick down jacket(very important) — make sure you keep this of a good quality one

This is also available in the leh market

6. 2/3 pairs of woolen socks (good quality ones are available at leh market)

7. 3/4 pairs of cotton socks

You might have to get down into the water, whenever chaddar is not formed, yours socks might get wet. Extra pair of socks are necessary

8. one pair of water proof Gloves and one pair of woolen gloves

During the day, you can use the water proof gloves, which will also be considerably warm and protect your hands from getting wet

You can switch to woolen gloves at night, to protect you from biting cold

9.A woolen cap to cover your ears and face mask to cover your nose. This can be substituted with what is also known as Balaclava, depending on your comfort, because you may feel suffocation during night

So this is for the clothing and layering part

Coming to the other essentials

1.Trekking pole (mandatory) . We would recommend to carry only 1, as thats more than enough

2.Carry your normal trekking shoes

3.Buy/rent GUM boots at LEH market (remember, if possible buy one size bigger than your norm, cause later on you may feel uncomfortable with the size)

4.Carry flipflops, but this is not required during the trek, as your feet gets frozen, if you walk around with flip flops. This is only required at the guesthouse and for any other off trek purpose

5. 2 packs of wetwipes and remember to keep it warm(probably keep it stuffed between any of the clothing or keep in your sleeping bag while asleep)

6. A good quality Vacuum flask (any other bottle gets frozen)

7. Backpack/ruksack, A 50L backpack is an ideal choice

Our Journey

Day – 1 Leh 19th Jan 2018

So this is where our journey started. As soon as we landed at the LEH airport, we could feel that cold breeze and the sub-zero temperature, though we had layered clothing. Airport was beautifully located, between the mountains. More than 70% of the crowd were here for the Chaddar trek. Ruksacks, Trekking poles, down jackets and airport filled with enthusiasm, is what the sight was. We started off with hot cup of tea, available right outside the airport. There was small confusion about, how to get a cab, but eventually we figured it out. You just have to randomly ask any cab outside the airport and they will be there to guide you. We did face a minor issue in finding our guesthouse, because prepaid sim doesnt work over here and even in postpaid, only few selected networks work (like airtel and bsnl). So we had to rely on the cab driver, to find us the right place.

Once we reached our guesthouse, we were served hot cup of milk/tea and breakfast.We met our fellow travelers (we were around a group of 19) and we were briefed about the trek by our organizer, do’s and dont’s.

Then we were off to buy necessary gears and stuffs for the trek at LEH market. As we already mentioned, you get complete set of gears from the market. And most important thing to buy was Gum boots

Once you buy all the necessary stuffs, the next important thing for you to do is, off-load unnecessary luggage/items, keep it in a separate bag, get it tagged by the guesthouse officials (your name and date) . Remember this the most important thing to do. Carry only what is necessary. We hardly changed our clothes, other than for obvious reasons like few of us fell into the river stream or something like that.

The first night at LEH will give you a hard reality check, about how the nights are going to be throughout your trek.

Day – 2 Base camp/Tilad-do 20th 2018

So after the survival of our first night at the guest house, our confidence was definitely a little shaken, but at the same time our optimism, for things to get better, did a good job to level it up. we were up a little early, by 6.30am, getting our final things packed up and all geared up to the adventure. Had early breakfast and were waiting for our guide to showup. And so we boarded our bus and headed to the our destination- BASE CAMP @Tilad-do. It was a 3 hours long drive, with the last part about 1hr 30mins of bump ride.

You cross through the scenic beauty of LEH, mountains all around and narrow roads through the maintains, just like out of the movies.

Once you reach the base camp, you will be witnessing the Zanskar river and its frozen half for the first time. The base camp will be crowded, with people would be starting the expedition on the same day as you, and also with people who have successfully completed the trek. Utilize the time to appreciate the beauty around you, have some good time with your fellow companions and chillout, donot worry about anything else.

You will be provided with the Tents and sleeping bags. Tents are usually double/triple sharing, you can choose as per the availability

Temperature drops quite drastically past 5.30-6pm, people usually spend their times at tent till dinner is served or if you are comfortable(with the cold), you can stargaze, the beauty which you will never find in cities. Would definitely suggest you guys to carry playing cards, to spend some fun time (which we had forgotten and regretted it big time). On our first day at tent, we went to bed very early, @8.30pm itself, and we were literally bored and tired of sleeping.

Our group numbers were little screwed up(thats a another story), we were a group of 4, and we dint have 2 tents of 2 capacity, so we either had to split ourselves up into 3 + 1 or adjust all 4 of us in a 3 capacity tent. And for first night, we chose to go with option 2

Day – 3 Trek to Sumo camp 21st Jan 2018

As mentioned earlier, 4 of us slept in 3-capacity tent, which was quite uncomfortable but warm. So we survived our first night at camp. Today our actual trek started. We walked for about 10mins over the hill, before we descended for the first time on Chaddar, frozen river. Our guide, enlightened us with the knowledge about how to walk over the frozen river and which part of it is supposed to be the best ones to walk on (best ones in terms of durability of the ice, rather than easier ones to walk on).

And so with that amount of KT, we started off. It dint take long before we could experience the first fall. A free fall would be better, rather than you trying hard not to fall. Cause, we had lots of injuries, which we will come to in next sections. So remember, not to obstruct your fall using HANDS

You will not realize how the time flies by. Before we could even know, guide asked us to stop for lunch. Our lunch was mostly maggie for our entire stretch of the trek.

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We reached our campsite at around 3-3.30pm, cause this stretch is usally around 7kms is what we heard. The campsite was much more closer to the river and the night was comparatively colder

Day – 4 Tib cave 22nd Jan 2018

Day usually starts by 6.45-7am, with hot lemon tea server to your tents and breakfast served at 7.30-8am and trek start by 8.15-8.30am . The sooner you start, the better, but it depends on the whole crew.

The view pretty much remains the same. Dry/Snow covered mountains and thick ice. But Sometimes, either chaddar isnt yet formed or its broken, what this means is, you will not have a clear path, but to either go over the hills or through the water/river. We faced two such situations on this day, where once we crawled through the walls of the mountains (felt like spiderman) and the other, we crossed through the river.

Now, before we reached our campsite, already one guy had a broken arm, another guy had a sprain and 2 people had health issues(including one with fluctuating BP). So as we already mentioned, go for a free fall instead :p . And donot neglect any health issues that you face. Highlight the problem either with the guide or your team members

Out of 19, 4 decided to headback to base camp starting the next day. But the catch here is, there is no direct escape off the route, the only way to quit is, to walk all the way back to the base camp.

Day – 5 Naerak 23rd Jan 2018

Now, among the rest 15 of us, few of us had got somewhat used to the routine. And so we started our journey towards the last part of 1 half of the trek. This was the longest distance to cover is what we heard. Again, at 1-2 places, chaddar was broken and we had to take alternative routes and that delayed our journey by quite some time.

The main essence of the last part of the trek is to catch the glimpse of the frozen waterfall. It was quite a challenge for us because, the last 200-250mts of chaddar was not formed at all. So we had to ascend the steep hill, walk and descend the same hill from the other side, quickly click pics of the waterfall and repeat the same cycle of ascend and descend cause it was falling dark by the time we started our return journey.

Once we reached the camp, we had a small bonfire setup, cause this was the first time in 3days that we got dry wood to burn. We were more than happy, though the setup was small.

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The night was colder is what we felt. And every night our sleeping bags were to the rescue.

Day – 6 Tib cave 24th Jan 2018

It was like 50% of our trek was done and there was no looking back now. You need to go through the rest 50% if you want to get back. Few genius in our group came up with an idea of covering the entire return journey in just 2days, by stretching ourselves a bit instead of pulling it off in 3days . We just nodded and agreed to their idea, cause eventually we never fell behind them for the past 3days. And for any of such ideas to come into action, the entire team has to be on the same page. We were not much bothered about it, as we had no issues with the plan.

We started off with that plan in mind, but by lunch time, we realized that we were far behind that plan and eventually had to come back to the same point where we had previously camped. And meanwhile, another guy broke his arm along the way. So things worsened a bit, cause now it was a case of medical emergency and we all had the motive to get back to base camp as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, we also had some good time with our guides/porters.

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Day – 7 Was supposed to be Sumo camp, but we reach Base Camp instead 25th Jan 2018

The day started quite early for all of us. Tea was served to our tents by 6 and breakfast was ready by 7. We started our trek by around 8.15am, which we would start by 9am.

Surprisingly we reached our halfway mark well within the expected time, even our guides were surprised to notice that. Today’s lunch was something different, we got pulav, instead of maggie. We were taking adequate breaks while walking, cause our shoulders and legs had started to hurt pretty badly.

We reached our base camp at aroud 4.30pm

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Day – 8 Were supposed to reach Base camp today, 26th Jan 2018

We were relieved to be back to our normal life. Waking up in the bed, warm water to brush, breakfast being served at the table and wifi. Since we saved a day, we got the opportunity to explore few places at LEH. We started our local sightseeing by 12.30 and still we were able to cover 3 good places at LEH and also visit the LEH market

Our itinerary for the day was

1. Thicksay Monastery

Beautifully built. You will be able to witness the Buddhist architecture and culture, feels like straight out of the movies. Visited their places of worship and also meditated in the peaceful atmosphere.

2.Lunch

3. The Hall of fame museum

Perfect day to visit this place. 26th Jan it was. Everything our Indian army has done from the Day 1 has been documented and heroes are glorified. Though we had to rush through most of it since we were running out of time, still we were able to capture the essence of it. We also got the opportunity to walk through ‘The War memorial’ behind the museum. The names of all the martyr’s had been carved out

4. The Shanti stupa

Another beautifully located masterpiece. The view from this place is breathtaking and the Stupa itself adds to the charm

5. And finally the LEH market to buy souvenir and other stuffs

Day – 9 27th Flight back to delhi and Bengaluru

And this was the mark to an end of an amazing journey of 10days. We were taking back an enormous amount of memories from this journey. The learning and the experience is priceless.

We would also recommend you guys to check out the Summiters Adventures . Even the Chadar trek organised by them is great. They also organise mesmerising offbeat treks in South India and its definitely worth a visit

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