The Chadar Trek is a magical dream come true

Posted by The Wandering Pen on January 3rd, 2021

The Himalayas are always a treat to visit for someone from Mumbai! If I’m there in the Himalayas, I just have to go for a walk at any time of the day to see such spectacular terrain. But at home, I’m stuck in air-conditioned rooms in a perennial summer.

I work as a writer at a newspaper and I end up having a lot of free time while waiting for approvals from my editor. I spend most of that time browsing online for the best trekking places in India and making my travel plans. So far, I’ve covered a few treks in Himachal and Uttarakhand, but I do most of my treks in Ladakh. I just love the place!

Though not my first, my favourite has to be the Chadar trek, also known as the Zanskar trek. Unlike the regular mountain, pass and valley treks, here my family and I walked over the frozen Zanskar river in the winter. I was reminded of the scene in the movie Narnia where Peter, Susan, Lucy and the beavers run across the icy river, trying to escape the wolves. 

The first day is the hardest, because it takes a couple of hours to learn how to walk on the ice without slipping and falling every few minutes. If you lift your eyes off the ice even for a few seconds, you’ll collapse on your butt immediately. My brother managed to learn, but I took time. 

During the Zanskar trek, in the evenings, we camp on the river bank. It was just our group around a bonfire drinking up hot soup and singing old Bollywood tunes. The porters are so cool – they have such hard lives but they love to enjoy themselves when the day’s work is done! 

We slept under the star-studded sky and the world was so still and quiet around us. Everyone looked angelic, illuminated by the moonlight bouncing off the snow. Yet, the mountains loomed eerily with their snowy noses looking down at us. 

Every morning was a new sight. The ice reforms during the night, so what you saw the previous evening looks a little different in the morning. Although I’m usually grumpy in the mornings and the cold doesn’t help, I used to feel delighted just to wake up to that thin cold air and the view of the river. We walked past waterfalls frozen as though nature had taken a snapshot. We stopped at the ancient Tibb Cave with its blackened walls and drank hot butter tea with other trekkers. 

But I also loved the Chadar trek for posing such a wonderful challenge. Extreme temperatures (sometimes reaching -25ºC) make it difficult, but I was so bundled up in warm layers that I was quite comfortable, except for my nose and face that was constantly cold. But on the second day, I just pulled my scarf up and wrapped it around my face while trekking. There’s so much to see and do that you forget about the cold once you start trekking. My favourite part was seeing the river flowing beneath the ice, just under my feet. The whole experience was entirely surreal, making it one of my favourite treks ever.

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The Wandering Pen

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The Wandering Pen
Joined: December 1st, 2020
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