What to carry for Chadar Trek?
Ladakh is the home to numerous natural wonders, but the most precious gift bestowed upon this magical land is the Chadar Trek. The ultimate thrill of walking upon the frozen waters of the Zanskar river in extremely low temperatures sets this trek apart in the list of extreme adventures. Passing through the deep valley, the frozen river is bounded by huge walls of mountains on both sides, making a person feel like walking amidst high castle walls. Frozen Waterfalls, flowing green river, and the warm smiles of the local Ladakhis are the elements that make the Chadar Lake and in fact, all of Ladakh a beautiful paradise to visit.
Tips for Chadar Trek:
1) Prepare your mind first: This is a difficult trek that comes with a lot of extremities. From the weather to physical requirements. Train your mind to expect and accept the sub-zero level. Do bear in mind that there is a life that exists there as well; for centuries Chadar is used as the only way to commute to Leh during winters. Your mental strength will signal your body to withstand the cold climb.
2) Be warm: Next is to keep oneself warm as the temperature falls severely on this trek. To keep going and not be deterred by the weather conditions, use 4 layers for the Torso that includes a jacket and a wind sheeter which is waterproof and has a fleece lining. For the bottom, a base layer, thermal underpants and waterproof pants with a fleece lining should suffice. Make sure your fleece and jackets have zips down the front so that you can unzip them as the day grows progressively warmer.
3) Keep a woolen cap and gloves (a must): Essentially you need to sleep well during the night to keep you fresh for the next day of the trek. Keep an insulating water bottle to keep your sleeping bag warm during the night. Use Silk liner inside your bags to keep them warm enough.
4) Footwear: Hiking shoes + Gumboots On occasions, trekking on the Chadar involves wading through knee-deep cold water. Though hiking shoes are highly recommended, gumboots help keep your shoes and feet secure from the icy cold water. It is practically impossible to dry anything at Zanskar trek in Ladakh, so gumboots are a compulsory and crucial addition to footwear.
5) Expect sweet pain: The Chadar is a glossy, slippery sheet of ice and will never let you walk carelessly. But no matter how careful one is, everyone falls and slips more than once on the Chadar. If you fall, just get back up by rolling on your knees and keep walking with confidence. Gumboots might give you shoe bites, but you’ll get used to it as you walk.
6) Observe and keep moving: The locals can give you firsthand training on how to cross the lake on your foot. On closer observation, you would notice that they walk fast and take Penguin-like strides on the ice. As you watch them, you will learn their ways of maneuvering around on the ice blanket and learn when it is wiser to wait than to carry on or the reverse.
7) Keep your electronics warm: Extreme cold climate can ruin electronics. Hence keep them warm by keeping them safe by tucking them into your pockets closer to your body it will keep them warm and long-lasting.
8) Protect your fingers and toes: In sub-zero temperatures, fingers and toes are the most exposed and can be frozen resulting in bad pain when camping. Carry waterproof woolen socks and gloves. An extra pair of socks would help as they gather moisture while wearing gumboots.
9) Warming pads: Warming pads are very helpful for those who feel cold sooner than others. These are exothermic pads to be slipped in your gloves and socks. They release heat and keep you warm for up to 10 hours.
Chadar Trek Clothing Essentials
To embrace the negative temperature of the piercing Himalayan winters, you must ensure that none of your skin is exposed to the chilling winds to feast. Do not let stress beads gather over your brows as we have commemorated the most basic clothing essentials for the plain-dwelling, budding adventure junkies.
Are you acquainted with the concept of layering? Layering is a strategy of wearing clothes one above the other so as to curate a heat-retaining system. Keeping in mind the insulating properties of air, the idea behind layering is to trap and keep the body heat intact within the layers.
For surviving the ultracold Chadar Trek, you must assure that you have four-five layers of clothing all through the journey. Taking up right from the head to the toes of clothing, let’s get started!
Headcover: As per studies, 60% heat of the body is lost from the head, so, it is necessary to cover the head properly to let no heat escape.
Balaclava: Exposing only the eyes and mouth, a balaclava ensures that your face is protected completely.
Muffler: Make sure you wrap a muffler around your neck and feel the warmth against your neck.
Tights: The closest layer to the skin, just as the upper body innerwear you must ensure that they are breathable and do not soak sweat. You would not like to invite any fungal infection or irritation during the trek.
Wool fleece: The second layer will provide you with enough warmth so that you can survive the negative temperatures.
Waterproof/ winter cheater pants: During the Chadar trek, there will be moments when you walk through water. In such scenarios, your winter cheater pants will be a boon for you as they will not let water seep in and dry quickly even if they get wet.
Quick-dry socks: Make sure you keep 6 pairs of quick-dry socks so as to change whenever they get wet.
Trekking shoes: Trekking shoes give you the right grip and help you climb the rocky and muddy areas. You must ensure that your shoes fit you right because they are the ones who can make you trip or break it!
Gum boots: You cannot think of going for the Chadar Trek without gum boots. Covering up to the knees, these save your shoes and socks from getting wet. You can also add microspikes to make your penguin walk easy.
Though maintaining hygiene during the Chadar Trek is a daunting task but with the right things in hand you can accomplish it easily.
Brush/ Toothpaste: The most necessary yet the most missed out essential out of the list! Make sure you carry only the required quantity of toothpaste along.
Tissue papers: Away from the luxury of running taps and toilet seats, there are only dry washrooms placed in the campsites in Chadar. Make sure you carry tissues to maintain your hygiene.
Sunscreen: The chilling winds and the direct rays of the Sun make it essential to apply sunscreen at least twice a day for the protection of your skin.
Moisturiser & Lip Balm: Chapped lips and dry skin are common in winters. Keep moisturiser and lip balm handy to keep your skin hydrated against the harsh negative temperatures.
Sanitizer: The thought of dipping fingers in the freezing water brings chills down the spine. Packing along a sanitizer would definitely bring you in a win-win situation - clean hands without water.
Pantyliners or Tampons: Even if you’re just over with your periods, it is advisable to carry pantyliners, tampons, or pads as the high altitudes trigger your hormones sometimes. It is better to keep them handy to be prepared for the situation. Assure that they are disposed off responsibly.
Trekking poles: Though carrying trekking poles is not mandatory, it eases the pressure on the joints making the descend a little easier.
Sleeping bags: If you rent a sleeping bag, then do make sure you buy a fresh sleep liner for the inner layer. The inner helps keeping you warm and also including the hygiene issues.
Rucksack: A well fitted 6L - 9L rucksack bag will be enough for the Chadar Trek. Check the straps and grip over your shoulder while buying.
Day pack: You will need a small day pack to keep a set of clothes and snacks while you wander around.
Medicines: This trek is not easy at all. It is necessary to keep few medicines handy because bruises, cuts, and mountain sickness is very common. Make sure you carry general medicines for headaches, the common cold, and upset stomach and Diamox for AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) after proper medical advice.
Remember to carry pain-relieving gels and antiseptic ointments for cuts and bruises. It is also advisable to keep ORS handy, in order to regain energy if you ever fall short.
Electronics: Carry at least two power banks and a lot of batteries for your camera so that you can capture the moments without any problem.
Headlight: Counting as one of the obvious things to carry, make sure you do not forget it in haste.
Pee funnel: An essential for women, it helps to maintain hygiene as well.
What not to carry for Chadar Trek?
You can use spectacles underneath the UV protected sunglasses used to protect you from snow blindness.
The Zanskar river freezes due to the extreme temperature drop ranging from -10 to -30 degree Celsius. You definitely cannot expect the water in your plastic water bottle to stay in its regular state in such weather conditions.
These bulky sweaters take up a lot of space in your runsack and work against the concept of layering. Why not keep them for the post Chadar Trek celebration party!
Alcohol should not even be the last thing in your backpack. It brings down the temperature of your body, giving you the wrong impression of the warmth due to the increased rate of adrenaline.
Make sure you do not fall into the myth pit as the consequences include dehydration and hypothermia. It could cost you the enthralling trek experience and maybe your life!
Exclude the uncomfortable denims from you clothing to enrich the enthralling experience in your comfortable quick-dry trousers.
Denims are heavy, require longer duration to get dry, and make you feel uneasy anyway. Feeling uneasy because of the clothes is the last thing you should experience!
With everything freezing around, your frozen wet wipes will definitely not be something that you will use during the Chadar Trek.