Chadar trek from Leh (Chiling) to Nerak Falls via Tilad Do is a high difficulty grade trek in the Himalaya – Leh (Ladakh) region of Jammu and Kashmir, India. The highest point of the trek at an altitude of 11,100 ft (3,383 m).
Chadar is also known as the Frozen River Trek because you literally walk on the ice sheet formed on the frozen river Zanskar. Since the formation of ice sheets on the river Zanskar is dependent on the weather, the only window you have is between early January to Mid-February.
Visit this trek to embark on a once-i-a-lifetime journey of walking on the beautiful Zanskar river and to feed your adventurous soul. This will be a trek of extreme wilderness with temperatures ranging from 15-25 degree celsius in the day and as low as -15 to -25 degree celsius in the night. Find all the information about the Frozen River Trek on this page.
You should go on the Chadar Trek if you..
- Want to experience walking on a frozen river for 9 days
- Want to view the wonders of nature like frozen waterfalls and natural caves
- Want to challenge yourself in the extreme temperatures falling as low as -25 Degree Celsius
Chadar Trek Itinerary:
Day 1: Reach Leh & Acclimatise
Leh airport (Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport) is one of the most beautiful airports in India. At an altitude of 3,256 m above sea level, you should not be surprised to experience a sudden drop in the temperature as you walk out of the plane. Make sure you carry your jackets and woolens (gloves, caps, etc.) in your cabin luggage.
Spend this day resting in your hotel, going on short walks to nearby markets, and consuming a lot of fluids. Avoid going to high altitude places and doing any heavy physical activities. Do not consume any alcohol.
Day 2: Acclimatization in Leh
Ladakh is popular for its beautiful monasteries and breathtaking sights. Spend your 2nd day exploring the beauty of Ladakh. You can visit Thiksey Monastery, Hemis Monastery, and Stok Village. If you have any essentials for your missing, you can utilise this day to look for those items in Leh.
As per the local government norms, you are supposed to spend at least 3 days in Leh before starting the trek so that you can acclimatize well. This is essential to avoid any altitude sickness issues during the trek.
Day 3: Medical Check-up
In order to get your permit for the trek, you need to go through a medical check-up done by the local government officials from the SNM Hospital in Leh. If you are deemed unfit as a result of this test then you will not be allowed to embark on this trek. (Some organisers provide an alternate option of giving you a tour of Ladakh for the remaining days at no extra cost)
The doctors carry tests for diabetes, BP, any other heart conditions, O2 level, etc. They even recommend medications, if they find a risk of any issue. If you clear this test, you get your medical certificate. Basis this certificate, other documents will be issued such as insurance, ALTOA NOC, wildlife permit, etc. All of these permits will cost about INR 5000 to 6000 in total.
We highly recommend doing High Intensity (HIIT) workouts 3 months prior to the trek to ensure that you have attained a high level of fitness when you visit do this trek.
Day 4: Trek from Shingra Koma to Gyalpo (Drive from Leh via Chilling and Tilad do)
(Leh > Chilling > Tilad do > Shingra Koma > Gyalpo)
Day 1 comprises of 11 km of trekking (approx 5-6 hours) and a 3-4 hour drive from Leh to Shingra Koma.
The drive will be extremely scenic as you will be driving along the Zanskar river for about 90 minutes. Before that, you can also visit other spots on the way such as Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Magnetic Hill, and the confluence point of Zanskar and Indus.
Your first day of trekking on the ice sheets will be challenging. Once you change into your gumboots, just focus on getting comfortable walking in them. Remember that you will stumble and fall a lot but so will others so do not worry. Additionally, also focus on understanding the ice patterns - which ice sheet is dependable and which isn’t. Use your trekking poles to inspect the surface before putting your foot forward.
Once you reach Gyalpo, make sure you consume a lot of fluids. Your campsite will be on a river bank. Explore the scenic beauty around you.
Even the night at Gyalpo will be challenging for you because it will be the first time during the entire journey that you will be staying in a tent in sub-zero temperature.
Day 5: Gyalpo to Tibb Caves
This is the Day 2 of your trek. You will be covering a distance of 12 kms trekking for 6-7 hours to Tibb Caves. This trek does not comprise of a lot of altitude gain and you will mostly be walking on a low gradient route (no vertical ascent). There will be sunlight on the route only after 9 AM for about an hour or two.
Make sure you carry two thermos flasks to store warm water. Get your flasks refilled before starting the trek and keep consuming the fluids as often as you can. Refill your flasks at all the stations between the trek. Consume hot tea whenever it is served by your trek team. This is really essential to keep yourself safe from any effects of altitude sickness.
You will witness nature’s wonders all through this trek - the emerald green water of the Zanskar, unique rock formations, and most importantly, a lot of frozen waterfalls (most of which are very mysterious in regards to their origin).
Enjoy your warm lunch along the way and refill your water flasks.
This will be your day of excitement and awe when you witness the true beauty of the Chadar Trek - enjoy these moments and capture them in your memory.
Chat and bond with your teammates, and get a good night’s sleep in your tents which will be setup close to Tibb Caves.
Day 6: Tibb Cave to Nerak Falls
Day 3 will involve moving through a 13 km long trail on the ice sheets and trekking for 6-7 hours. The end of this route will take you to Nerak Falls which is the most iconic frozen waterfall that you will witness during the entirety of the trek.
Once you reach the campsite,ensure that you change into clothes that prepare you for the most extreme conditions because the temperature near Nerak Falls can go down to -30 Degrees Celsius.
Nerak village is the first village that you will see during this trek and if the entire group makes it to the Nerak Falls well in time, you might also get a chance to visit Nerak Village.
Day 7: Nerak Falls to Tibb Cave
Day 4 of the trek - 13 kms of trekking for 7-8 hours. Chadar trek is not a place where you just go by one route and come back by the same (although technically this is how it happens). The layer of ice, the Chadar, on the Zanskar river is very volatile and keeps changing every day as per the slightest of changes in the weather.
On your return journey, you might witness this incredible phenomenon and at many points might feel that you haven’t even walked the same road before.
You will also come across the locals who also use this route to go to Leh from Nerak Village as well as Lingshed Monastery. This will be a diverse group of local people as well as monks who will be very adept at traversing through this terrain in their traditional clothing. You will find them all happy and bubbly even through the bone-chilling winds of Zanskar.
Day 8: Tibb Cave to Gyalpo
Day 5 of the trek - 12 kms of trekking for 6-7 hours. As mentioned earlier, the journey back through the same path won’t look the same at all. You will come across a lot of trekkers from the opposite direction and we hope that you will have fun sharing your experiences with them.
Day 9: Gyalpo to Shingra Koma to Leh
Day 6 of the trek - 11 kms of trekking for 5-6 hours. This is the last day of the trek. Once you reach Shingra Koma, you will be moved back to Leh from the same route that you came from. This will be the time to bid adieu to your fellow teammates with whom you bonded in the last 9 days. Stay in the hotel, check-out next day 10 AM.
How to Reach Chadar Trek Base:
Although the base point for Chadar trek is Chilling, your organisers will usually arrange transport for you from your Hotel in Leh.
The best way to reach Leh is through flight because the roads are closed due to snow in winters. Flights for the Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport (Leh Airport) are available from Delhi Airport almost every day. Book your flight well in advance to get your ticket at a cheaper rate.
Availability of Resources Enroute
There is nothing available naturally on the entire route that you can consume right off the bat. It is advisable to carry your food, tents, and gas supplies for the entire duration of the trek.
Flowing water from Zanskar river can only be consumed after boiling it properly.
Food will be made available by your trekking organizers but there are no permanent food shacks along the way.
Accommodation will be in tents camped on the banks of the river. Accommodation in the Tibb Caves might be possible.
Best Time to Visit Chadar and Why:
January to Mid-February:
The chadar or the layer of ice formed on the river Zanskar is strongest during the peak of winter and hence this trek is open for tourists only during a 5-7 weeks window. There is a limit of 60 trekkers per day who can start this trek so make sure you get your bookings done well in advance.
Things to Pack for Chadar Trek
High-Altitude Winter Preparation:
- 2x Thermos Flasks of 1 litre each
- 1x Pair of thermal inners
- 2x Full Sleeve T-shirt
- 1x Fleece T-shirt or Jacket
- 1x Down Feather or Synthetic Jacket (-30 Degree Celsius Rating)
- 1x Pair of Wind and Waterproof clothing (Jacket and Pants)
- 2x Synthetic Trekking Pants
- 1x Waterproof Synthetic gloves or Mittens
- 3x Pairs of woollen socks
- 1x Neck Gaiter or Buff or Balaclava
- 1x Woollen Cap or Beanie
- 1x Lip Balm
- 1x Moisturiser
- 1x Sunscreen
- 1x Pair of sturdy, waterproof, high-ankle trekking shoes
- 1x Pair of Gum Boots (Check with your organizer if they will be providing this)
- 1x Pair of slippers or floaters or flip-flops
- 1x Pair of Gaiters (Check with your organizer if they will be providing this)
Food, Nutrition, & Medicines:
- 5x Energy bars
- 5x Electral/ORS/Enerzal packets (Avoid Glucose Powders)
- 1x Pack of dry fruits
- 1x First aid kit for personal medications (if any- as per suggestions by family doctor or the doctors from SNM Hospital, Leh)
- 1x 60 Litre+ Rucksack with raincover
- 1x Head Torch
- 2x Sets of extra batteries
- 1x Sun cap
- 1x UV Protected Sun Glasses
- 1x SPF 30+ Sunscreen
- 1x Towel
- 1x Toothbrush
- 1x Toothpaste
- 1x Mouthwash
- 1x Anti-fungal powder
- 1x Hand sanitizer
- 1x Wet wipes/toilet paper
- Sanitary pads (as per requirement)
How to Prepare for Chadar Trek:
Chadar trek is not an easy trek and requires some amount of mental and physical preparation. Here are some tips to prepare for this trek:
- Run 5 kms for 5 days in a week for 2 months before the trek (Aim to finish this under 30 minutes, eventually)
- Download an HIIT Training app and do HIIT training for 15 minutes for 5 days in a week for 2 months before the trek
- If possible, go for short weekend hikes around your city wearing the hiking shoes that you will be using on the Chadar trek and carrying a backpack with 10 kg dummy load
If you are suffering from any issues related to breathing or any other heart-related ailments, consult your doctor before signing up for the trek. Embrace a healthy lifestyle and reduce or stop consumption of any intoxicants.
Additionally, you can get into a habit of getting cold showers 1-2 months before the trek to make your body habituated to a little discomfort. This will help you train mentally for this hike because mostly you will be dealing with extreme temperatures.
You don’t need to be in extreme athletic shape to enjoy this trek (although it helps), but a basic fitness regime will ensure that you do not face any big fitness-related issues during the trek.