Not many people know that a number of exhilarating adventures are also possible in India. Imagine walking over frozen river ice with a large bag on your back and freezing water rushing along just a few inches below your feet.
This is the experience offered by the 100 km Chader frozen river trek in Jammu and Kashmir, at an altitude of about 11,000 feet.
Large sections of the river Zanskar, one of the mightiest rivers in Ladakh, freezes in winter and is covered thick blankets of ice. The Zanskar trek has been the traditional trade route in winter for centuries and this frozen blanket or ‘Chadar’ is the only way in and out for Zanskaris in this season, when most routes are closed due to heavy snowfall blocking the high passes.
Ladakh can be a difficult place to travel as the mountains are steep and snowfall makes the few navigable roads treacherous. Some villages are completely inaccessible between November and March and one way of accessing snow-bound villages during winter is trekking on top of the ice of frozen rivers and this route is most reliable in February when the ice is most stable.
The Chadar trek is an endangered activity and within 5 years will cease to exist in it’s current form because a road is being blasted out of the rock face above the river. When completed, winter access to the interior villages in Zanskar valley will be relatively straight forward, when roads will be safe and more convenient than the river, but its completion will mark the end of an ancient local practice!
To reflect upon
What does the Chader trek tell you about the ingenuity and spirit of the Zanskari people?