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Chadar Photo Guide

How to trek the Chadar

Why climb the multiple passes to get out of Zanskar when you can trek the frozen river in winter?
Sounds easy but really isn't. Go trekking alone in the Everest region in Nepal but do NOT trek the Chadar alone,
it is a very dangerous trek, far edgier than you would expect. And far more fun too!

We will be trekking the route again - see Our treks.

The beauty of the Chadar

Glorious light, it is an utterly stunning trek, walking on ice - Jamie

Leh in winter

Start in Leh (IXL airport code), which is in winter is cut off from the rest of India for 6 months and is only accessible by flight (from Delhi).
Most hotels and restaurants are closed but a few near the main market stay open.
There is around 4 hours of electricity a day, so heating is by gas, and NEVER sleep with a gas heater on.

You could arrange a trip on arrival in Leh but it is much better to book in advance, either with a western travel company
or a local Leh trekking company. Any India/Delhi travel agency will simply sub-contract the trip to a Leh agency.

Chadar ice/water

We have trekked it many times, but the first time we failed due to tough conditions and not having the right boots.
Normal good trekking boots are not good enough, you absolutely need special insulated gumboots sometimes available in Leh.
Here Klara wades through water over the top of ice, just in the very first few minutes; road construction just beyond Chilling in the background.
A road is being built but will take many, many years before it is finished - photo by Jamie

Cave camping on the Chadar

Cave camping; it is normal to stay in caves, and if you do camp, NEVER camp on the ice.
Our Zanskari porters collected drift wood and cooked up a storm then we slept here - Jamie

Thin ice on the Chadar

Narrow ice; fall in and it is quite possible to die, care and experience needed, use local guides, I can't stress that enough - Jamie
It is around a four day walk in and then two or three days out BUT sometimes you have to wait a day or two for conditions to improve.
ALWAYS allow extra time. The minimum trip part way through to Neraks and back is 12 days Delhi to Delhi.
A real Chadar expedition, trekking to the Zanskar valley and back should take at least two weeks, and close to three weeks is better.

Klara climbs around

The river is not entirely frozen so sometimes climbing around is needed; another tricky section around impassable ice - Jamie

a tricky chadar section

Crawling sometimes works though - Jamie

Part way through is this narrow gorge, the most critical section to being able to walk the Chadar as there is no way around - Jamie

Surprisingly the ice is never static, here a section is breaking up; it floods too, water over the top of the ice - Jamie

Breathtaking - some sections are entirely iced over and straightforward walking - Jamie

Breaking out of the gorge, here are the villages in the large Zanskar Valley who live with snow like this for the whole winter - Jamie
There is only one normal way in and out in the winter, the Chadar, so everybody returns the same way.


With clear ice you can see the river flowing underneath and the bottom of the river - Jamie

Zanskari crew

Note the wooden frame for a pack.
A BIG THANKS to the crews that have accompanied our Chadar treks, they really have been the best! - Jamie

See Our treks and trek the Chadar with us!

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