Chadar Trek 2017
After an unsuccessful attempt to go for Chadar Trek Ladakh expedition in 2015 (which got cancelled because of a massive landslide because of which water started to get accumulated and the trek got cancelled by the administration), I planned for Chadar Trek again in winters of 2017. This time with Delhi based adventure travel company, Wanderers.
We all met at the Delhi Airport for Chadar trek in ladakh. We were scheduled to fly out on the 25 th of January. Unfortunately, the flight could not take off because of heavy snowfall in Leh. We booked ourselves again for 26 th of Janaury (this time on Indigo as Jet doesn’t fly every day of the week. And then again, to add to our adventure, the flight on 26 th could not take off either. Luckily, we were scheduled on Jet on 28 th . This time it worked
The only good part of the whole change was that we all spent time together as a group at the Delhi Airport and Wanderers lead team was also there. We were all extremely comfortable by this time. Alternative arrangements were made for the hotels as these flight delays resulted in a lot of people stranded first and then a lot of people reaching Leh at the same time/day. We were lucky enough to get our stay in Hotel Zen. One of the finest hotels in Leh area. Wanderers local team in Leh came to meet us in the Hotel as well. Another good thing when you travel with Wanderers is that they suggest one to keep at least 2 days for acclimatization instead of one. We realized the importance of this extra day. No one from our group of 9 people fell sick. On the day 2 of acclimatization, the Wanderers Delhi team took us out for a local city sightseeing trip. We went to the local market & Thiksey Monastery. We then went to see an Ice Hockey match between two Ladakh scout teams and experienced walking on the snow as well. Post which, we went for a 6-8 kms hike to phyang monastery just to get used to trekking in cold weather conditions (a warm up).
The following day, we started early. After breakfast, we got into three different cars along with our guides and porters. We drove through the scenic highway that connects Leh to Kargil. We crossed Nimoo (also known as sangam or confluence of Zanskar and Indus). By this time one starts to get the adrenaline rush. Everything around you is white (snow covered) and gradually the road also turns to white. Reaching Tilat from Nimoo is quite a while as well so just enjoy the drive. After reaching Tilat, we trekked (pretty much just to the camping location) and by the time we reached the camping location, the porters were already there and to our surprise, the tents as well as kitchen tent were all fixed and ready. It was a bright sunny day throughout but by the time it is evening, it starts to get very cold, so one needs to be prepared with proper layers of clothes. I had inner, fleece, down jacket and an outer to be comfortable when outside of the tent. We had food around 8 and called it a night.
We were now into our Day 2 of the trek. Frankly, we weren’t used to the snow trek so far because we hardly trekked so far. But before I move ahead and share my experience being a Wanderer, I should tel you that mornings can get real cold. To go out to washroom area in the morning or anytime in the night, you need to have things like torch, 2 extra layers of clothes handy (also keep your shoes inside the tent otherwise they would be too cold for trekking the next day). Well, we got up and got some hot water for use in the morning. And after having our breakfast of pranthas (round wheat bread), butter, jam, honey and some eggs and toast, we were all set. We knew by now that getting this food to eat here is a luxury. Once again, thanks to the Wanderers team for their support. We started the trek, it was already an incredible view from Tilat and believe me, it just kept on getting better. With every step we took, it was beyond my imagination.
We were now in deep snow. On some places one can see Zanskar moving beneath the thick sheet of ice which is further covered with fresh snow. By now, we also knew how Chadar forms itself on the mighty Zanskar. Check the ice forming above the flowing water in patches. As they get to the sides, because of low or no current on the sides, it gets clubbed forming the sheet of ice. Once this Ice is firm (and because of the low temperatures, as low as -10 during the day and -25 during the night), it keeps it that way. So if you are lucky you will not only see Chadar changing at the time of your return but also chadar forming while you are on your trek. Our stop for today was Shingra Koma. By now (after slipping/tripping a few times in Snow or Ice formation) we were confident or walking on Chadar Trek. We reached Shingra Koma and once again our tents were ready. We were in time so we got time to relax and chat. Some of us wanted to have a drink so it was in fact a night full of music, chat and good spirit Next day, we were heading to Tibb Cave. I would like to mention, it just only gets better by every passing day. The river is now only visible in patches. We now were confident in trekking and knew where Chadar is firm or where it is not. One of our batch mates fell in the river as he was walking on a thin sheet behind us. Although the river was shallow there but it was a whole lot of a task to change on the way. So be very careful, that your shoes, socks etc don’t get wet. It might take a very long time for your shoes to dry up and gumboots aren’t that comfortable for one to replace the regular trekking boots. We reached Tibb and after a long and tiring trek, happy to be at Tibb. It is a beautiful location (although rocky) to camp. The good part with our trek and Wanderers was that we were the only group along with may be 2 or 3 more groups trekking Chadar at this time. Because of flight delays and bad weather (and a landslide) a lot of other groups and organizers cancelled the trek. We had Rice, Dal chapatti and mix veg for dinner at Tibb along with music on the Bluetooth speakers so it felt great plus our body needed those carbs after the trek today. Trekking on snow isn’t easy and basically, it is only the snow and weather conditions that make Chadar trek in ladakh an expedition. It snowed at Shingra as well as Tibb. We were all used to that kind of morning by now.
The next day after the regular morning to-dos (while they are different than the regular city to-dos because it just gets too cold to even wash one’s face), we were all set for the trek to Nyerak. We were all very excited to experience the frozen waterfall and the nyerak village. For me, it was also about making a call back home from Nyerak. Ali and Stanzin (our guides from Wanderers) used to brief us every day and another highlight of going with Wanderers is that they were all connected with Walkies. It really helped a lot wherever we needed support, a message could be relayed. We reached the frozen waterfall and it was a sight I will always remember, it was just incredible to see how low temperatures of Zanskar valley freeze the waterfall of this magnitude. We took a break here and were served Qahwa (a local Kashmiri hot drink). Believe me; it gives one an instant energy to carry on. It was early evening by the time we reached the Nyerak village. We had arrangements here so we got hot wheat snack (with cheese cubes) served. Nyerak village was out last point and it was a feeling of luxury a home stay. There was a heater (bukhari) in a common room where we were sleeping. So now you know what luxury is After spending 4 nights out there in tents (and cold) it sure qualifies for luxury. We all wanted to relax that night and so we had drinks in warm water, with music and some dance as well. We also had the owner singing Ladakhi folk songs for us. It was a great night. And Nyerak was an incredible experience to say the list.
We started back for Tilat from Nyerak. With snow falling almost every night, it change the whole trek back to Tibb (and further as well). It didn’t feel the same. In fact, without the guides, one cannot retrace the steps back. Fresh snow is the best thing that can happen on the way back. We reached Tibb carefully following the instructions of our guides and it was yet another fun filled night. It started to snow in the evening at Tibb and continued till the next morning. But with such nights and low temperatures when you wake up to a bright sunny day, there is nothing like it. We had a bright sunny morning and it stayed that way so it was a great day to trek to Shingra.
Our last day from Shingra to Tilat Do was a very cold day. We kept our watch outside to check the temperatures and it recorded -17 during the day time. So to keep ourselves warm, we continued to trek back to Tilat. Well, while on chadar you see, every sight is a good sight. Sun or no sun, it continues to charm you. From Tilat, we got inside our scorpios and drove back to Leh. It took more than 3 hours (if I remember correctly) and we were all looking forward to a hot bath (no one could think of bathing while on Chadar).
We stopped on our way back at the Gurudwara (temple for Sikhs) Pathar Sahib which is maintained and managed by the forces and to our surprise we were also served hot Langar (Food) there. It is just simply amazing how they manage to do that in that temperature and throughout the year. Finally, we made it to our hotel in the evening and got in out rooms. Everyone was extremely happy getting into a hotel, with beds and hot shower facility and a dinner buffet. One has to do Chadar trek ladakh expedition to understand what that means
We thanked the Wanderers team for whatever they dis for us (well, they never said no to anything). It was because of them we just have fond memories of our trip and everyone was still fit and fine.
Till my next!!