I am writing this one, for those who would like to visit Chadar Trek in the future. These points will help you plan, and get you ready for the trek.
Here are some helpful Informative tips if you are planning to visit Chadar:
Table of Contents
Understanding the conditions on Chadar trek:
The trek is almost 5-6 days long trail, where you have to walk almost 12-15 Km per day and you will find absolutely no civilization along it.
The climate here varies between -15 Degrees in day time and could fall up to -40 Degrees in the night. There could also be chances of snow fall if you get lucky.
There are no walls around when you sleep, you have to sleep in cold tents, and wake up to the snow on your face fallen from the frozen inners of your tent.
There are no beds, just an uneven surface and sleeping bags and sleeping mattresses.
There are toilet tents, but may not necessarily be clean every time.
As weather here can change any minute, there can be cases of emergency evacuation if there are ice or landslides. Also, sometimes you could get stranded and have to wait for hours to be able to cross a patch where ice has not formed, hence book your tickets at least keeping a day at spare.
If the weather isn’t suitable you may sometimes have to do a shorter trek, sometimes, can be prolonged by a day depending on the ice formation of the river and the safety to cross it.
How I prepared myself for Chadar Trek
I had already read about the perseverance needed to sustain this change in the climate for the body. Also I had read that the Chadar is very unpredictable, I had 4 months in hand to get myself prepared for this adventure.
1. Learnt to control my mind
This is the first thing I started with. I don’t know if this is a trait of being a Capricorn, or just me, that my mind is trained in looking into potholes- what could go wrong in any given situation- I started meditation to increase my concentration, which helped me to keep these negative thoughts at bay and not let me those thought affect my life.
2. Changed my thought process to a solution based one
I tried to train myself to stop cribbing over situations which i have no control over, and started thinking about a way out of the problem. This soon became a habit.
3. Started exercising
To bear the extreme climates, I needed to increase the metabolism of my body. I started walking and running, as I am not a Gym person at all, I started with 3 km, increasing a kilometer every day until I reached up to 10 KM/day. I recorded this activity on an app called Runastic. This app also notes the pace-time needed to cover 1 KM. Then I focused on the reducing the pace, which in turn means I transited from walking to jogging to running. On my last day of running, I noted a pace of 6.29min/KM.
4. Taking care of oneself
To ease the stress on legs caused by walking 10 KM/day, I started dipping my feet for 10 mins in warm water with a slice of lemon in it. I started to have multivitamin tablets to increase my immunity. As it was already winter here, I made it a point to leave jackets at home to get accustomed to the cold.
Shopping and what to carry
I kept it minimal. As I knew I had to carry all these stuffs myself. And walking carrying so much of weight is really not easy. Of course there are coolies who charge 500/bag per day but the only time you see them is on the start of the day or near your tenting site, they walk way ahead of us to find a suitable camping spot, so you have to carry your essentials in your backpack.
Try combining your essential stuff with fellow companions. As I said we became 9 of us, we carried all small backpacks, and we had 1 bag among 9 given to the potters which contained extra pairs of clothes and extra food, rest all, we had left behind at the hotel.
Lets start with some main stuff now.
-Thermal inner wear- I bought Jockey, the local ones are not as warm.
-Hand gloves: I bought a water proof leather gloves from Decathlon, any cloth glove would make it wet in the ice.
-Socks: ankle length and full socks- a lots of them (one pair at least for each day)
– A woolen cap covering your head and ears: I already had one bought from local garment shop.
-Jackets: I would not suggest going in for the double layered ones we get at sports stores upto over 7000Rs, this is really not needed. I bought 2 local road side snow jackets from FC road for 500 Rs each, which were enough. Or you could also rent gears on Bragpackers. The trick is to layer up, and not carry a fancy expensive jacket.
-Pants: I had carried full leggings, trek pants, and a think pant also brought from the local garment shop.
-Head Torch- It will be very useful while you have to search things in your tent, and most useful when you got to poop and pee at nights.
-Tissues- a whole packet.
– Oil: Mustard oil is preferable, as it gives your skin maximum moisturization and also is easily available or even kokam bars.
-Moisturizer: mixed with Rose water and glycerin for face, as oil could cause pimples.
-Lip Balm: Even if you do not care much for your lips in your day to day life, you may have painful cuts in your lips due to the cold dry weather here.
– Doctors brandy: optional for any cold syrup and a great alcohol that keeps you warm
-Pocket powder: used inside socks to suck the moisture and make the socks smell go away.
-Listerine/toothpaste: I never felt like brushing with the fear of taking ice cold water into my mouth early morning, I only used to gargle with Listerine.
-Dry snacks: I preferred dry fruit lados, and chocolates over nutrition bars. Chocolate eases headaches upto an extent. Had asked my mom to make some ladus for me
-Battery bank: your phone wouldn’t catch any range there, so better to put it on flight mode, but of course you would need to save battery for photography.
-Extra pair of clothes: incase you slip off in the ice cold water, on Zanskar, nothing dries. NOTHING!!
– Your photography equipment’s wrapped in warm pouches: this could be your lens, camera drones, etc. I had a One plus 6 Phone, so I didn’t carry any of it.
-Raw camphor: this is very essential as camphor emits oxygen, knowing the altitude and the cold weather, also exertion, sometimes may make you feel out of breath, take a camphor in your muffler/handkerchief so as to inhale the camphor smell. This will help your breathlessness a lot.
-Last but not the least, a Thermas is a must: the water you carry freezes within no time, also there is no boiling water source apart from the stove they use to make your food. Fill your bottle with warm water which the chefs make at every interval possible.
Though Diamox medicine, which is easily available over the counter in any medical shop, is advisable, I had carried few but I did not use any of it, never felt the need as I was adequate on water intake.
Also loads of people would scare you into buying chemical body warmers, but here also I did not even carry, nor use any (it’s a personal choice)
Things to buy in Leh market
- Woolen Gloves: I got these very cute colorful woolen gloves, whose upper portion if tipped off, exposed half of my figures. These are made of Yak wool, hence very warm. These wont work in ice, but will keep your hands warm at night (150 Rs approx.)
- Woolen Socks: These are thick socks, so I didn’t wear it in my gum boots. I wore it only while sleeping (100 Rs approx.)
- Woolen Cap and muffler set: you need to keep your head covered as your body emits heat from the head. If head is covered, it help the heat to stay within the body to keep warm (300/set).
- A Ice Pant: I got an amazing pant which is ice resistant (not water proof but resists the dampness of the ice) and furred inside to keep you warm (1400 Rs approx.)
- Gum Boots: Remember you have to buy Gum boots of company Diamond or Columbia. Any other brand is not useful and you keep tripping again and again, no other gum boots please.
- Trekking Stick: You can get one in Decathlon also, but the local market has it much more cheaper.
Acclimatize yourself, get set to go
Before Chadar trek it is compulsory to at least acclimatize for 3-4 days, these days are given for your body to match up the falling temperatures.
When you reach Leh airport, head back straight to your hotel, fresh up if you must and sleep off for the day, only go to the hotel common area for dinner, Strictly relax the whole day with minimum physical activity.
I would advise do not shower, no one bothers of course, but if you must, take proper measures to dry yourself, as warm water turns your body temperatures warm, an when warm it is the easiest to catch a frost bite, hence only dry clean if you can.
On the second day, you can get yourselves walking down the Leh market, or a visit to Shanti Stupa, or Leh palace. Or maybe just enjoy your time eating Maggie or momos (which aren’t very tasty here) watching the ice hockey matches, If your want to go to the Pangong and Khardungla pass, you have to visit the permit office near to Leh Market. This office closes at 4PM, so plan accordingly.
Also, if you are a foodie, do not miss to eat gulabjamuns and Dahi Bhalla at Neha Café in Leh.
Next day which could be the 3rd day, you could hire bikes/cars to visit Pangong and Khardung La. The Magnetic hill and Baba Pathar Sahib Gurudwara are also near by.
The last day you have to go in for the government medical insurance where they check your oxygen levels in the body and your blood pressure, apart from a normal check up with some question answer round to judge if you are fit enough for the trek. After the medical certificate only, every trekker is permitted NOC and ALTOA, All this costs are upto 4500-5000 Rs extra and have to be paid directly.S
Things to remember while on Chadar Trek
These are going to be the most memorable days of your life, hence try to make the most of it.
Do not try to be overconfident by ignoring to what your guides tell you, they warn you because they have experienced some horrible things in the past and you would never want to know those.
Be compassionate to fellow companions, all are in the same boots as you for the next few days, so try keeping your selfishness aside.
Spend some time talking and mingling with your guides, chefs, porters, they feel valued and it is the only entertainment they have in their life, also you can learn a lot of their culture.
DO NOT LITTER, Chadar trek is known to be the UNTOUCHED beauty, don’t spoil it by littering. Food wrappers, cigarette butts once off, tissues, could be carried for some time more in your pocket until you put them in a dustbin at your camping site. The locals take care of the waste.
Do not go near water unless you are monitored by a local, you never know you may skid and fall off the slippery ice.
Drink lots of water to keep the oxygen levels of your body intact.
Pick up littered plastics if you can along the way which helps keep the Chadar clean. We had picked up lot many cigarette butts.
After the trek, donate your stuff like the gum boots, you probably are never going to use again, if yes, you could as well afford them again, you could donate your gloves and socks and mufflers too which you wouldn’t need in your home town, these help the local trekkers a lot as they are daily wage workers and do not make enough money to buy stuff they need so often.
Finally, yet importantly, be compassionate towards nature. For some time, keep aside your cameras, shut the songs off, step aside from your friends and fellows, sit down on a rock and enjoy the sound of nature, just breathe, relax, and soak the surroundings from your eyes, into your memory, through your heart, and you will see a mirror reflection of a better version of you here, choose to be the version of what you see yourself as, not what you currently are.
Safe travelling!!! Keep Inspiring!!