Zanskar is like no place in India – it remains cut off from almost beginning of November till around June beginning [around 7-8 months in a year]; as of now it gets vehicular access only when the Pensi La opens up thus making the road journey from Padum and nearby places to Kargil possible and beyond then to Leh or Srinagar. As such this region having an altitude of around 12,000 to 13,000 feet and covering an areas of 7000 sq km remain totally cut off. Zanskar river which takes it form onwards Padum after merging with its different tributaries flows in a north-easterly direction through the dramatic Zanskar gorge and merging with Indus river; the confluence being at Nimmu, just on the outskirts of Leh on the Leh-Kargil road.
As bitter winter comes up in the desolate valley, temperatures plummet and with the river mostly being in a gorge and thus having very little of direct sunlight mostly freezes over during the coldest months of mid January to mid February. Zanskaris since time immemorial, cut off during the winter months, have trekked on this river ice surface to reach Leh for their emergency supplies, education and also for the different winter religious festivals that take place in Leh.
“CHADAR” refers to the blanket or sheet as the Zanskar river transforms itself from a rapid river into a white blanket of ice during winter, a frozen spectacle awaits the trekker to be experienced of glass ice ranging from a bluish tinge to golden yellow that is seen during the few hours that sunlight reaches directly into the gorge to the milky whitish on a moonlit night – as said a trek journey like no other!
ZANSKAR: Zanskar valley lies to the south – west of Leh, surrounded by the Himalaya and Zanskar ranges, which is the most isolated of all the trans – Himalayan Valleys. Zanskar comprises of two main valleys the Stod(Doda Chu) and the Lanak (Tsarap Chu)which coverage below at Padum. The area remains inaccessible for nearly 7 months in the year. All passes close in the winter and the river freeze on the surface. Zanskaris walk along it to reach the Indus River in Nimoo (Chilling village), which is known as the Chadar (frozen blanket) Trek. The geographical isolation has resulted in the preservation of the Buddhist heritage and identity. Many ancient monastic establishments are still actively involve in religious activities some remote caves are believed to have been used by the successive Buddhist saints to sustain meditation in pursuit of knowledge and enlightenment.
After the breakfast drive until Guru Dho along with the porters, it takes two half hrs by jeep. Let the porters prepare their bag pack and start walking from the bridge point beyond Guru dho on the ice of frozen Zanskar river. After an hrs stop for hot lunch at TakmarYogma, beautiful view from the junction where Zanskar river meets with the Zara Chu..
Post lunch start to walk again for one half hrs or little more. The total walking hrsis 4-5 hrs trek. Arrive Shingra and set the camp for overnight stay.
Morning pack up the camp and start to walk on ice of the frozen Zanskar River, Chadar .before we continue towards our second camp at TipYogma. The Zanskar Valley is the most isolated of the Trans-Himalaya valleys and that true sense of remoteness will become all the more evident as we approach our camp. After walking for 3 hrs stop for hot lunch for an hour. This day there is more of zigzag crossing and the valley get narrower. Arrive Tip Yogma and set the camp for overnight stay.
As usual with the sunrise pack up the camp and start walking on the plan ice chadar.The whole view doesn’t change a lot, today we encounter some spots of hot spring and the water falls in the Zanskar by which the ice become less strong which frequently needed to be checked by the guide. If by chance the ice is broken then we may have to climb a small peak to avoid river crossing. This day we walk almost 5 – 6 hrs, Nyrek village is situated just above the cave where we plan to setup the camp. There is a small cave which can accommodate very few people. Arrive Nryakpullu and set the camp for overnight stay.
As usual we start trek after breakfast, after walking for an hrs arrive the place called omma which is considered the worse part in case of bed weather. If any part of omma ice is broken then we have to make a long way up to a hill and have to make a round to a peak closer to Skiumpatta.
By reaching Lingshed we have to make steep ascend till the village, This day we will stay in local house, relax in a heated room. Discover the winter living style of the local House.
Whole Day Rest in Lingshed village and in the Afternoon Go to visit the Lingshed Monastery, later Visit the Nunnery, Solar School of Lindshed, Run and Manage by Friends of Lingshed Austria.
After an hrs walk we cross Lingshed but this time we go up to the village and pass down from the river which also shorten the distance. Camp at Nyrakpullu.
Late afternoon we can go the visit the village and the house which has a very old Chapel with magnificent Frasco painting dating from 14th century. After visiting the village come down to the camp.
Start trek up to Tsomopaldar. There are lots of turn and crossing and this day we have to be lucky with the weather because in between this we can find lots of hot spring which broken the ice and specially with the bad weather the river start to follow over the ice so it is important to good weather and cold. Arrive and set the camp for overnight stay.
Today will be much safer and easier comparing to the other previous days, and we are almost concluding the trip except 3 hrs walk the next day. We can see the great ice fall closer to Takma on the way. Arrive and set the camp for overnight stay.
Today is the last day of our trek. 3 hrs walk until Guru Dho and we will be picked up by jeep. Drive to Leh which takes 2-3 hrs. Arrive and check in at hotel.
In the evening celebration dinner with the porters who make this trek successful. Overnight stay in hotel.