Going for the Chadar Trek had been on our mind after we completed the Roopkund trek. But I had been a bit reluctant. The thought of -25 degrees was not very inviting to me, I am more of sunshine lover. But my partner in crime, Agni managed to convince me. And thank you all for liking our previous post on Chadar Trek…!!!
At the onset, Chadar Trek will seem to be a tough trek; it is indeed a daunting task to walk over the frozen ice, facing the chilly winds and cope up with the extreme cold temperatures. But actually walking over a flat bed at an altitude of around 11,000 ft is not that difficult. It is important to manage the cold. As I found out, with some preparation, you can manage the cold as well as enjoy the trek. Here are a few tips which helped us during our trek. You might find it useful too.
Acclimatization is important at Chadar Trek
Acclimatization to the height as well as to the cold is equally important. Let me share our experience here. While boarding the early morning flight from Delhi airport, we were wearing a fleece over a tee-shirt. As we arrived near the Leh airport, the air-hostess announced that the outside temperature was 12 degrees below zero! As we descended the flight, we were in for a shock – a cold shock. It was freezing cold and chilly winds blowing. We had no other woolens with us. So please carry a warm jacket with you in the flight.
Acclimatization to height is equally important for first time trekkers. Here you gain height from about 750 ft to 11,000 ft within just a span of 40 minutes. So you might be feeling uneasy and dizzy. There is nothing to worry! Go to your hotel, take rest. It is advisable to spend one full day before the star of the trek for acclimatization.
Beware of that room heater
Yes, it is very cold out there. The hotel will provide you a room heater fitted with a LPG cylinder. To keep off the cold, you turn on the heater throughout the night. But there is a word of caution. The gases from the room heater are quite harmful. If it is turned on for a long time, the gases emitted might cause nausea and adversely affect you.
We did the mistake of keeping on the heater throughout the night. And in the middle of night, I was having a splitting headache with nausea and vomiting tendency. I could not sleep well that night and had to take medicines. So before keeping the heater on throughout night, take caution. It might jeopardize your trek.
Cold is just a state of mind at Chadar Trek
As I mentioned, I was totally numbed by the cold on arrival at Leh. I was inside the hotel most of the time in the first day. But gradually, as started walking around, I adjusted to the sub zero temperatures. Cold is just a state of mind. If you think more about cold, you will no longer be able to bear it. CHADAR trek is also a test of your mental strength. It challenges your mental ability much more than your physical ability.
Layering is the mantra
How to dress up during your trek is important. Wear 1 layer of thermal, 3 layers of tee-shirt, a good quality fleece jacket under a thick windproof jacket. At night you might need an extra layer. For bottom, wear a thermal and two layers of track pants. The outer one must be waterproof. Wear two layers of thick woollen socks. And please carry enough spare socks. If your socks get wet, you need to change them immediately to prevent frostbite. Carry thick waterproof handgloves.
Balaclava and neck warmers are a must. It protects you from the chilly winds.
Gumboots are important at Chadar Trek
Gumboots will carry you through this trek. You can definitely walk with your trekking shoes, but where the CHADAR has broken and you have to wade through the chilly waters, gumboots are the only option. You can buy gum boots from Leh local market at Rs.300-350.00; and you can donate them to the locals after you complete the trek. Leh market is the best place to find all that will keep you warm.
Taking care of your camera batteries
At sub zero temperatures, the batteries get exhausted very soon. So it is advisable to carry an extra battery. Also keep the batteries in the inside pockets of your jacket. Keep them close to your heart!!!
Also be careful while taking pictures. One of our fellow trekkers got so carried away while taking pictures, that he dropped his camera in the freezing waters of the Zanskar river !!!
Don’t forget your trekking poles
Trekking poles are very important to assess the strength of the CHADAR for your next step. It also helps to balance you over the slippery CHADAR. So don’t forget to carry your poles.
Sleeping bags are the life saviours
As it gets very cold and windy at night, carry an extra sleeping bag. A liner and a thick sleeping bag is the best combination. Also keep your woollens, jackets, socks inside the sleeping bag. Anything outside the bag will turn freezing cold the next morning!
Always follow your guide
For the first timers, you have never walked on ice where cold water rushes a few inches below your feet. Walking over ice for the first time can be intimidating. So just blindly follow your guide. At places, the CHADAR can be thin and weak. The guides will be there to warn you and even show you how to walk over those patches. Just follow their instructions. You definitely don’t want to fall in freezing cold water. Trust me, it is not a very good feeling.
Hot water bags and thermos flask can save your day…as well as night
Carry hot water bags. It can be really helpful during the nights to keep you warm. Keep the hot water bag inside your sleeping bag and it will keep your feet warm.
Thermos flasks are a must. The temperature is sub-zero, but neither the entire river freeze, nor the water in your thermos flask. Also, the flask is needed to keep your water warm. So do not forget to carry hot water bags and thermos flask.
Life saving equipment – must have
Personal medicine kit – Crocin, Paracetamol, Disprin, Avomine, Norflox, Digene, Pain-Killers, ORS, Betadine / Antiseptic Cream, Band aids, Crepe Bandage, Volini spray
- Vaseline / Lip Balm, Cold cream and sun screen lotion (protects sun burn) and lots of tissue papers.
- Sunglasses – Sunglasses prevent snow blindness and it is mandatory for CHADAR So carry a UV protection sunglass which will cover your eyes well.
- LED torch / Headlamp and extra cells.
- And a small unexpected problem solving kit containing safety-pins, needle & thread.
Put the best foot forward…
Walking over ice is not that easy for us. But the locals walk on them as if it is a piece of cake for them. Walking over fresh snow is different from walking over slippery ice. On the slippery ice, you have to walk slowly in a penguin like manner. So observe your guide and the locals for the first 2 days and follow them. After 2-3 days you will be able to understand CHADAR your own way and invent your own walking style ! you have to understand the sound your pole makes on striking the CHADAR to assess the thickness of the ice. It might sound intimidating now, but believe me, after 2 days in CHADAR, you will also be a pro.
Keep it light – Backpacking tips
Keep your backpacks light. At places where the CHADAR is broken or not formed, you have to climb over the canyon walls. Also carrying a waterproof cover for your backpack will be helpful. Packing of backpacks should also be done carefully. Do not carry unnecessary things.
So here is our list of “must dos” in the Chadar Trek. Following them will help you enjoy the trek much better.
And there is one request from us – Please do not litter the place with wrappers and plastics. You don’t like to see a packet of ‘Centre Fresh’ of ‘Lays’ on a pristine white CHADAR. Bring your garbage back and dispose of them. We have to not only keep the Himalayas clean, but also entire India…
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