Chadar Trek

For most of us Chadar might be the once-in-a-lifetime experience and activity that we enjoyed to the core, but it is lot more than a trek to the local people of Ladakh region. The route that was discovered as a trade route between Zanskar and Ladakh by local people is more than 1,000 years old. The Zanskaris call it ‘Khado Sanglam’ in local dialect.

Chadar trek shows the exploring instinct and resourcefulness of the Zanskari people. During winters, the Pensi La, which is located at an elevation of 14,000 feet, gets closed due to heavy snow. Pensi La is the lifeline of the Zanskar valley as it is the only road which connects the region to the outside world. The road starts from Kargil and follows the Suru valley across the Pensi La till Padum. Padum is the headquarters of Zanskar. Being distant and placed high in the mountains, the Zanskar range is virtually inaccessible through any alternate route from Ladakh. So, the local inhabitants settle down for a not-so-short and highly treacherous route of about 100 km length to move in and out of the Zanskar valley.

This route is accessible during winters, i.e., in the month of January and February, when the River Zanskar freezes to form a thick and hard layer of ice for letting people walk on it. The Zanskari people use this route to reach Chilling, a place that has all-weather road connectivity to Leh.

Being part of the Silk Route, this has been a traditional route for these people for centuries. People wait for it to freeze so that they could head back to their homes when winter shuts down all access points to the cold desert. Even today this route is used by the Zanskari people to move in and out of the Zanskar valley to Leh. School children, who come to study in Leh, walk all the way back home on the frozen river during winter vacations.