Is Chadar Trek the only option for trek to enjoy winters in Ladakh

"By Wanderers India"

Is Chadar Trek the only option for trek to enjoy winters in Ladakh

leh markha valley

Surprisingly the answer to that question is NO! You can trek to Markha Valley and back and enjoy the magical winters in Ladakh. While hordes of trekkers will go for Chadar trek and come back with breathtaking pictures of transparent ice lit up by the setting sun and all the trekkers walking on it, there is another hidden gem and only a few trekkers venture every winter. That’s Markha Valley Trek.

During the summers, the trek is longer one, where one starts from Leh via taxi to Chilling and then trek to Skiu to Markha to Thachungtse to Nimaling to Shang Sumdo to Leh. (You can read the detailed itinerary for Markha Valley – Summer here) However, during the winters, you can only go to the Markha valley and then trace your steps back. This smaller version is a fantastic trek and in winters it would be nothing less than magical! It has all the ingredients of perfect high-altitude winter trek, yet you don’t have to go through the harsh cold nights in tents. Surprise! This trek has home stay all through the route. Which means that you sleep inside dorms which are warm in itself (than a tent) and have a fully functioning bukkhari (wood-burning stove). Along with this you have access traditional washrooms& hot water for a shower (you must be really brave to attempt, though). Also, this trek is shorter in duration and can be done in a week overall. You can be in and out of Leh in 7 days flat including the 2 days of acclimatization. Which means less leaves. This can be done throughJan and Feb and is not dependent on the weather to a certain extent. When we say that its not dependent on weather to a certain extent, we mean that unlike the CHADAR TREK you are not dependent on the river freezing for the trek. However, in case of bad weather, it can be called off too (rare).

markha valley trek ladakh

Here is how the itinerary would look like - 2 days acclimatization in Leh, third day we take a taxi to Chilling and then trek to Skiu (about 4 hours trek). Next day from Skiu we go to Markha where we spend one night (about 4 hours trek again). During the day we would visit the Markha Monastery. Next day we get back to Skiu and spend the night there. From Skiu we walk to chilling the next day, where our taxies will be waiting for us. From Chilling we get back to Leh and next day we can fly out. (You can read the detailed itinerary for Markha Valley – Winter here)

Pros of Markha Valley Winter Trek over Chadar Trek.

1. First and foremost – you sleep and spend most of your camping time inside teahouse dormitories. So, you don’t have to face the -30C and lower during the night and all the chilling wind blowing over the semi frozen river.
2. Since you will be inside dormitories, there will be bukhari which will keep you warm. You won’t be dependent on the porters for campfire at night.
3. Traditional Indian washrooms are available at the teahouses. You won’thave to go in the open in odd hours to relive yourselves.
4. Skiu and Markha village heads have a fixed line phone in their house. 99% of the times it is working in winters too. You can call home, for a small charge.
5. Overall this trip can be done in 7 days, so all you need 5 days of leaves.
6. It is an easy trek so everyone can attempt it, you can bare the cold. It still would be -6C to -10C in the day during the peak winters.However, when you trek, it feels much warmer as the body is constantly burning calories. And there would be snow all the way.
7. Not only would you cross some frozen rivers that come in between, you would also cross some beautiful landscape which would not be monotonous with ice.
8. On clear days some well known peaks are clearly visible. They are a delight.

All these reasons and the magical views of Ladakh in winters make it a wonderful trek to be undertaken in winters.

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