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Chadar Trek: Day 1

Today is the day! The main reason on why we are here in Ladakh during the winter time, to have a lifetime experience trekking on legendary Chadar Trek, a trek on a frozen Zanskar River which only available during January or February every year. This was widely considered as wildest trek the planet earth have to offer, hence everyone aware the dangerous and risks we might going to face throughout the trek, and we commit to obey our tour guides group to keep everyone safe throughout the journey. First of all, I have to thanks Zanskar Kaniska Expeditions for hosting our group on this amazing experience, I will share more about this excellent group on latter stage of our expedition.

Energetic group photo prior departure towards the trek of a lifetime. Photo credited to Mandy.

Everyone get ready with their packing early in the morning, mainly day pack bag which we will need to carry along with us along the trek, and another bigger bag which our porters will help us to carry. During the breakfast, we remind each other to drop a message to inform our families about the adventure as we will no longer have access to network until we back to Leh in around 9 to 10 days. Angla come pick us up with few guides from Shanti Guesthouse, and after all the stuff was loaded, we depart towards the starting point of our trek, the Lower Shingra.

We came across the path until the Confluence of Indus and Zanskar which we visited few days back again, but this time, we are heading directly along Zanskar River into the valley. The road condition was extremely bad and narrow, it was scary when two vehicles passing each other, any mistake mean rolling on the cliff direct towards the Zanskar River, but in fact the drivers here was super skillful. One minor issue we face here was a van with flat tyre was blocking the both end of the road, and while almost everyone was trying to help to recover the situation, we have the opportunity to walk around and start to be amaze with the beautiful of the frozen river. It took us around 2 hours all the way from Leh to finally reach Lower Shingra.

The narrow road in and out from Lower Shingra. Photo credited to Hybrid.

Any mistake might cause the van to fall all the way down the cliff until the river bank. Photo credited to Hybrid.

Minor stop while our tour guide helping the van at front to replace its flat tyre.

Goosebumps just to imagine we are going to walk on these frozen river later!

Angla escort us towards a big camp with a 'HOTEL' paining outside of it, to have our instant noodles as lunch and some hot tea before we depart. We start to get in touch with the two other guides that will going to escorts us throughout the journey, Chozang and Gawa. At this point of time, there was only excitement in me. We also witness few of crazy guys jumping into the icy river, it seems like they were celebrating their completion of the trek. It sounds crazy, but perhaps we might do the same thing as well once we back here later, who knows!

Maybe the only 'HOTEL' here throughout the whole trek.

CT enjoying hot tea prior to the start of the trek.

Lunch break with some Prata!

And continue with some instant noodle.

Menu of the foods and drinks available here.

The scenery around Lower Shingra, the starting point of our Chadar Trek.

Stomach full and is time to start the trek for real now!

The scenery at Lower Shingra.

Although we was already next to the river, but due to safety concern on the strength of ice in this area, our tour guides group lead us on trek of around an hour on high cliff along the river, before we descend down towards the frozen river, and finally did our first step on the ice! The feeling was unreal, you are walking on the ice while to the left, just few meters away there was still fast flowing river water, it was mixture feeling of dangerous and excitement! We spend some time to learn some basic movement on ice and also identify different surface of icy platform especially those that slippery, thick, and safe to put our steps on. This was essential and we were going to need those knowledge throughout the journey.

Bye Lower Shingra, see you again when we complete the Chadar Trek! Photo credited to Hybrid.

Fabian is getting ready for the trek.

One porter crossing the frozen river to the camp on opposite river bank.

Beautiful crack ice flowing along the river.

Stunning scenery of the nature.

After around an hour of trek on high cliff, we descend and getting closer to the river now.

First step into the frozen river, with Chozang leading the team!

Angla briefing us on how to walk properly on the icy surface.

Angla and Chozang lead the team to avoid unsafe surface of ice that might not thick enough to walk on.

Superman that shock us when we cross-path with him, as he only put on one short pant on this freezing environment! Salute!

Thick and slippery surface.

The ice here thinner as you can see the bottom of the river from the surface, and quite some cracking around it. Avoid heavy stomp passing here.

Safest way was to walk in a line.

Under the shade was very cold, it was nice knowing we are going to get some sunlight soon.

We walked slowly while enjoying the superb 360 degrees view around us until we have a minor stop at a spot called Bakula Cave. We just find a spot with sunlight to feel warmer and have a seat, while Hybrid play with his drone shot here. When we continue the walk, Angla realize that my condition seem not that good, and it was true that even with slow walk, I feel my heart beat beating super fast and it make me feel tired very quickly. Perhaps it was due to altitude sickness, or my friends start to think that Ginkyo pill that I took since few weeks back might not be suitable for me when it further boost my blood circulation in this situation. At this point, I have no answer yet to that yet. Angla was kind enough to offer his help to carry my day pack with him, and even invite me to sit on the sledge while he pull it on the icy surface, it was fun!

Slowly, I am getting better and getting ready to walk on my own again. There was many instance in which I almost slipped but manage to stay balance to prevent the fall, and we start to set target for each other, not to fall throughout the journey! Well, let's see!

It was more comfortable to walk under the bright hot sun here, believe me!

The ice might looked thin from the photo, but in fact it is quite safe. Thin or thick seem not the only factor to determine if it is safe to walk on it.

Minion on the frozen river! Photo credited to Hybrid.

Gawa keep an eyes on our safety along the trek from behind.

The flow of the river water was super fast here, hence we have to walk carefully to avoid the slip into it at all cost!

Very narrow path ahead at this point.

Good practice to keep everyone motivated to keep going by having frequent regroup along the trek.

Weird formation of the icy surface.

Turn around and love the view so much!

Is time to get some rest and rejuvenate our-self both physically and mentally.

Have a rest here at a spot called Bakula Cave.

Great friendship between Andy and Mandy.

Angla and Chozang resting while Hybrid prepare to fly his drone.

Drone shot via Bakula Cave. Photo credited to Hybrid.

A small frozen waterfall!

Su Jin pulling Angla using the sledge, and thanks for helping me to carry my day pack.

Cracking surface, but again this is safe to walk on.

Start to feel the fatigue and slowly I am faded off from the group, trying my best to catch up the speed.

It feels good to be back with the team formation!

Keep the team visible but yet maintaining the pace based on individual fitness level seem was a good practice.

Finally we can see some camps on the river bank, here we are in Upper Shingra!

We finally reach our campsite for the first night, Upper Shingra after 9 KM of walk today. Our porters with group of 17 kind gentlemen, already have the main camp, dining camp, toilet camp, and our sleeping camps ready, as well as camp fire for us to warm up our self. Basically, it was too cold here hence don't ever think about having a bath here, at most only to wipe yourself with some wet tissues. Oh yeah, not to forget to keep the wet tissues close to your body, or else it will get frozen as well!

Our tour guide groups guide us on how to unpack our down feather sleeping bag, and subsequently we gather at the dining camp chit chatting, while waiting for our dinner. The night approaching and surprisingly we somehow still manage to cope with the outdoor temperature, but just a while before everyone squeeze into each of their sleeping bags when the wind slowly getting stronger. Before we say goodnight, our porters fill our hot bag with hot water to warm us up during our sleep throughout the night, just to highlight the night temperature here might be down to -30C!

We are going to camp here tonight!

One of our porter, Kaka at Upper Shingra. He lose his ability to speak since childhood, but he was extremely helpful, caring, and cheerful!

Day 1 success, well done team! Where is Su Jin?

Our sleeping camps place next to each other, and the one on the upper right was the temporary toilet.

Mandy and Angla via Upper Shingra.

Some folks still continue the trek further before resting for the night.

Chadar Trek - India

January 2018

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