Frozen River Trek

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Area                :  Zanskar (Ladakh)
Altitude           :  3850 mts/12628 ft
Grade              :  Moderate to tough
Duration          :  13 days
Best Season    :  Mid Jan to End Feb

Walking on Frozen river of Zanskar is an ultimate experience for adventure lovers. In fact the rewards from this trek are plenty to take. The scenery through the canyons is once in a life-time experience.  The traditional name of the trek is “Chadar trek” the frozen blanket of ice . Large sections of the river Zanskar, which is one of the mightiest rivers in Ladakh, freeze over in the dead of winter and are covered by a thick blanket of ice as used by the Zaskari people for centuries for trade and transportation, and is most reliable in February when the ice is most stable and snowfall closes many of the mountain passes and makes the few roads treacherous. The trek commences from the village of Chiling located very close to the confluence of Indus and the Zanskar River. From Chilling to the Zanskar valley the river is confined within a steep canyon. Now a days this route is also famous as winter trekking among serious adventure lovers for last several years. The coldest temperatures may shudder your bodies in the mornings when the temperatures are often at their lowest. Although pleasant on clear sunny days, the weather conditions can change abruptly, with wind temperatures known to plummet minus 20 to 30 degrees Celsius. Chiling and Lingshed are the only sizeable villages on this trek, all the rest are names of places and caves along the route.


Day 1: Report at Leh.

We leave Delhi as early as 5 am to join our morning flight to Rinpoche airport Leh, which in winter is rarely delayed. After an hour long spectacular flight over the Himalayas, we land in the past; Tashi Namgyal’s 15th century capital, Leh. As we drive to our hotel the cold air will certainly catch your throat, and you will definitely feel the altitude. After a late breakfast, we will roam around Leh, a little piece of central Asian history, with its palace dominating the old bazaar and a backdrop of snowy peaks. It is recommended to by all your necessary gears from your city and don’t leave any major shopping for Leh as the city open partly during the winter months for catering to the local needs.

Day 2 – Leh ( 3500m )- Acclimatization & Preparation

Leh is located at high altitude at 11480 ft and bitterly known as land of cold desert with hot summers and extreme winters. So it is very important to get acclimatized to avoid altitude sickness. Spend the entire day visiting the monastery in town, the Shanti Stupa and Leh’s ancient forts and gompas of the Tibetan Buddhist world and the striking Indus valley with its snowy backdrop that surrounds it.

Shey Gompa is about 15 kms from Leh. It used to be the summer palace of the kings of Ladakh. There are lots of Stupas and Gompas built around the palace. Shey palace was built by Deldan Namgyal in the beginning of 17′Th century AD. Main attraction in Shey is the 12m Shakyamuni Buddha statue inside the Dresthang Gompa.

Thiksey Gompa, close to Shey is about 17 kms from Leh. The monastery is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Ladakh and belongs to the Gelukspa order.

Hemis, about 45 kms south of Leh it is one of the most famous and largest monastery in Ladakh. It belongs to the Drukpa order and was founded in the early 17′Th century. The setting is perfect with the monastery cradled in a lovely valley, surrounded by streams and fronted by long Mani walls. Overnight stay at hotel.

Day 3 – Drive to Chilling and trek to Tilad Sumdo camp 3100m

An early three hours ( 64 Km from Leh ) drive by leaving behind the suburbs of Leh along the Indus valley to the west of city is Chilling, where the trek starts. It takes an hour or so to get into a comfortable rhythm, since this being the first day, you will need time to get used with crampons to walking on ice. You will learn to keep warm and keep the circulation going as the time progress .

The Tilad Sumdo campsite comes within an hour of your trek. Sumdo means confluence. The camp to Tilad Sumdo is on a sandy plateau to one side of the Zanskar. We will introduce you to camp routines and our warm and cozy dining tent, followed by dinner, soup and a varied meal. Evenings in the dining tent, which is the only comfortable place to spend late hours as it big enough to stretch your legs but small enough to be easily warmed. Experience your first camping night in the freezing subzero temperatures.

Day 4 – Tilad Sumdo to Shingra Koma camp 3170m

The morning cold is eased by the hot drinks. It is always recommended to take as much liquid as one can throughout the trek . Breakfast will served with maggy , eggs with fresh baked bread, jam and honey along with as much hot coffee or tea as you can drink. Departure time is normally around nine, and the days soon assume a familiar pattern. The feeling of stepping on the frozen river Zanskar is a little unsettling at first, but we soon get into a rhythm and follow our local Zanskari guides and our porter team. It is essential always to stay with our guides. This is the only trek in the world where the trail, literally, vanishes beneath your feet. Shingra Koma is almost 10kms away from Tilat Sumdo. Shingra Koma gets its name due to the abundance of a plant called as Shingra.Which may  covered in about 6 to 7 hours.

We lunch on pilaf, or Zanskari Kiu. Since the success of the entire trek is completely depending on snow condition it is advisable not to waste too much time during lunch as ice conditions change quickly and what takes an hour at noon can take three hours by 3pm. Our today’s camping site is on a plateau above the river. As soon as you reached to the camp arena the porters gather firewood, and soon the tea is ready.

Day 5 – Shingra Koma to Tib Yokma Cave 3225m

The morning walk on the Chadar may feel like a walk inside a deep freezer. Your face should be the only exposed skin but its enough to give the deep freeze feeling. Dibcave is almost  15 km from Shingra Koma which takes almost 7-8 hrs. It is also one of the most beautiful days of the trek as the river starts to curve and you can see the uphill slope of  ice as we ascend the river into Zanskar. En route we will pass incredible waterfalls on our left, normally frozen into aquamarine ice cliffs.  At times we had to walk along a narrow margin of ice, constrained by the canyon wall on one side and deep rushing water on the other.

Lunch under the overhang of rock by the river . The trail from the lunch point to the camp site is on eof the most beautiful part of the trek as it passes through narrow gorges where the width of the river is wide enough to walk side by side . Our camp is near one of the many caves that are blackened by centuries of use by the fires of locals. Our porters use these caves to cook and sleep in, and many of them are slowly being turned into small huts .

Day 6 -Tib Yokma Cave  to Neraks camp 3390m

Another spectacular day. Tib Yokma to Nerak is 12 kms long. The trail is beautiful as to going through the cliffs and gorges and valleys of Chadar. After lunch and covering almost 9 kms we pass the ‘incense tree’, so called because the locals use its branches to burn in their morning rituals, and the prayer flag draped tree marks the entrance to Zanskar. As we turn to the corner, you will observe the first glimpse of the bridge high above the river that links Zanskar with Ladakh, and Neraks village with Lingshed Monastery. Then the valley gorge opens up, and we see the small huts that mark some of the summer grazing of the Neraks villagers.

Day 7: Neraks Camp to Lingshed  

After breakfast follow the river for some distance. At many places the gorge is very narrow and rises steeply right from river bank. After walking for an hr, leave the main river and start trekking following a side stream towards Lingshed Monastery. The climb to Lingshed (3875 mt) is little steep . From here we walk another 30-45 min (steep uphill walk) till spectacularly situated Lingshed Monastery (4000 mt). There are many meditation caves in the cliff below the monastery. From here you can see Mangan La and Hanumil La (en route to famous Lamayuru – Padum Zanskar trek). After spending some time at Monastery, return back to camp for well deserved rest

Day 8-12 Return from Lingshed to Chilling – Same route

By return leg we will back to Chilling via same route. But in reality you will observe a complete new route to open as old Chadar breaks and new ones form where there was none earlier, texture of the Chadar changes and so on. The dynamics of the Chadar can make the whole place look and feel different as the Chadar changes by the minute, and the colors and perspectives all change . Altough it will bw quicker through  downhill amd we may camp in different places,  if conditions allow.

Day 13: Leh – Delhi :

After an very early breakfast transfer to airport to board flight to Leh. On arrival at New Delhi airport  meet our representative who will transfer you to hotel. In the afternoon proceed for sightseeing tour of capital city. Visit includes Red Fort, Raj Ghat and Rickshaw Ride in old Delhi. Overnight stay in hotel.


Tour and Services Ends.

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