Chadar Trek is one of the most fascinating yet daunting treks in the Himalayas. Period!
The answer to ‘How one should prepare for Chadar Trek lies more in the mental preparedness than physical preparedness. Chadar Trek is all about mind over matter. If you are strong-willed and unflinching, you can face all the daunting challenges that Chadar Trek throws in your way. For it is better to be prepared beforehand than to be sorry later.
One of the strategies of war is to know your enemy well. You should do the same in this case. I am not asking you consider Chadar Trek as your enemy for it is going to be the most heavenly experience of your life. But it will help you profusely to know about all the hurdles Chadar Trek has in store for you.
Reminder: This post is not to scare you off but to prepare you for the atrocities of one of the most thrilling treks in the Himalayas.
Here's How to combat the challenges of Chadar Trek:
Challenge #1: Atrocious Temperature
It is no secret that temperatures on Chadar Trek drop down to -30 degree Celsius. If that atrocious temperature can freeze the Zanskar River and the waterfall of Nerak, think of what it can do to your bones.
Thanks to human anatomy, we humans are warm-blooded creatures. Your body will try to regulate the high temperatures regardless of the external temperature.
But that’s not enough.
How to combat: You should bring your warmest of jackets on the trek to fight the bone-chilling cold. Wear layers of clothing instead of just one thick sweater. More layers mean more insulation.
Strictly adhere to the packing list for Chadar Trek. Do not leave even the smallest thing out of it.
Challenge #2: Long stretch of walking
Chadar Trek does not have much of ascents and descents like other Himalayan treks but it does sure involve walking long distances on a frozen bed of the river. Sounds like fun, no?
Each day, you will travel a distance of 14-15 km for 5-6 hours. Add the weight of your rucksack to it. There will be a few parts on the trail where you may have to climb or maneuver. There are going to be portions when the frozen bed is just 5 m wide. Time to be that circus guy walking on the rope.
If you ask me, you better start like walking if you don’t.
How to combat: Start setting a target of at least 5 km of walk every day. Even if makes you walk back from office to home, do it!
Challenge #3: Unpredictable Weather
This is one thing you should be prepared from the start of the trek.
Weather is something that humans haven’t seized control over yet, not even your trek operators. Till then, you will have to deal with whatever comes your way.
You may get untimely snowfall or rain on the trek. There will be days when you will see no sun. there will days you will be lucky to get some sun over you.
There is also a chance you may get hit with snow blizzard. Whatever it is, you gotta be prepared for the trek physically and mentally.
Whatever point you are able to reach on the trek, celebrate it as your victory.
Challenge #4: Water & food
With temperatures so low, everything freezes so quick. The water will turn ice-cold in no time. You won’t get packed lunches with you because it will freeze.
You will have to make pit stops for lunch so that the food is served warm. Due to harsh temperature conditions, the food you will be served will be simple without comprising of the nutrients which you will require to replenish your energy.
The water sources that you will find on the trek will be suitable for drinking. Your trek leader will inform you of the filling sources. But it is gonna be freaking cold.
Challenge #5: AMS
Chadar Trek is situated at the altitude of 11,200 ft which can pose issues like AMS which is why trekkers are suggested to spend a day in Leh for acclimatization. despite that, some trekkers might experience nausea, headaches, or breathlessness in the night due to low levels of oxygen on the trek.
How to combat: Spend your day well acclimatizing in Leh a day prior to the trek. Keep yourself hydrated. If you feel uneasy or any kind of issues, inform your trek leader right away.
Chadar Trek is very different compared to all other treks in the Himalayas. The challenges, the packing list, and the preparation, therefore should also be different. The purpose of acquainting you of all the challenges of Chadar Trek is not to scare you but to mentally prepare you for the trek.
If you go prepared and have the right equipment, then the lifetime experience of walking on the Frozen river of Zanskar can become much more enjoyable.