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Walking on the Frozen river of Zanskar is an ultimate experience for adventure lovers. Zanskar is one of the oldest inhabited regions of the world with wild and solitary valleys at over 13,000 ft (4000 meters) in the Himalayas. In winter, Zanskar is isolated, and only in January and February is there a way to the rest of the world: the canyon of the Zanskar River. We trek on the so called Chadar or ice covering the river from the village of Chiling to Lingshed.
On arrival at Delhi you will be transferred to your pre booked hotel; Delhi is the national capital of India.
Overnight in Hotel
Take the morning flight for Leh. Check into the guest house and relax the whole day. This is necessary for getting acclimatized.
Overnight at the Omasiala /Oriential Hotel.
We have two days to explore the bazaars and alleyways of historic Leh, and the striking Indus valley with its snowy backdrop that surrounds it, visiting some of the most ancient forts and gompas of the Tibetan Buddhist world. A little bit of old Tibet. and there is lots to explore in this wonderful Central Asian town; the fort and palace, colorful gompas, the mosque, back alleys with steaming Muslim bread and tiny antique shops tucked away, colorful fruit and vegetable bazaars, polo fields … and of course, the regular 11 am ice hockeyOvernight Omasila /Oriental Hotel.
Drive to Chilling and trek to Tilad Do camp 3100m Mornings in Leh in any season are special, with the harsh high Himalayan light softened by the dust in the air. In winter, the call to prayer from the mosque wakes you gently. Breakfast in the Lasermo is a last touch of civilization. By eight we will be on the move, driving through the suburbs of Leh, then along the Indus valley. The road climbs slowly past Spitok Monastery, and bus loads of Ladakhi kids heading for where the Indus has been diverted into shallow pools for skating. We reach about 3700m where we normally stop to stretch our legs and take in the view behind. Leh nestles at the foot of the Ladakh range, its location dictated by the high route to China behind. From here you can really see how geography dictates history. We drive on, descending to the Indus again to its confluence with the Zanskar. A dirt road from here takes us to Chilling, as far as the jeep can go. Here we have a simple lunch, then it is on the ice. It takes an houror so to get into a comfortable rhythm, and we have found that using crampons tends to be more of a hindrance, as they are not suitable for all ice conditions. As the gear list says, good trekking poles are essential. Again, as on the gear list, you must have boots with good, new soles that ‘stick’. Luckily there are rarely any ice puzzles on this first day, except at the camp, where you ascend a frozen stream.The camp is on a sandy plateau to one side of the Zanskar, where on this first day our tents will have been erected for us. We will introduce you to camp routines and our warm and cozy dining tent, followed by dinner, soup and a good, varied vegetarian meal. Evenings in the dining tent, which is big enough to stretch your legs but small enough to be easily warmed, are very comfortable. Before bed, as part of the daily routine, we fill your bottles with boiling water. Great to toast your toes, and drinkable in the morning.
Overnight stay in Camp.
The morning cold is eased by the hot beverage of your choice that comes to your tent, and hot washing water. Breakfast call is 7.30, but your gear and tent have to be packed by then! Breakfast is as much hot coffee or tea as you can drink, eggs to order (fresh while they last, then powdered) Lobsang’s fresh baked bread, jam and honey. Departure time is normally around nine, and the days soon assume a familiar pattern. Lobsang or Stanzin go ahead with the trekkers, followed by our porter team. It is essential always to stay with our guides. This is the only trek in the world where the trail, literally, vanishes, beneath your feet. The first few days are generally problem free, but we can, and will, encounter times when we have to wait while we scout the best route. We prefer to stay on the river, and you will see Zanskaris take real risks to avoid rock climbing. For this reason you must have plenty of warm layers to throw on, and of course, dry socks. The ice conditions are too varied (and beautiful) to list, but there are one or two things to bear in mind. You will find yourself rapidly relaxing as you walk, enjoying the views; watching for wildlife. Look out particularly for snow leopard prints, Ibex on the gorge walls, and the crazy ‘Dipper’ birds that dive from ice into the river, turning over pebbles looking for edibles. You will develop a sense of the safe and unsafe ice, and learn to catch yourself if you slip. Be sure to use your poles if you want to sound the ice. Your feet are unclean, and although the gods who inhabit the ice will allow you to walk, to stamp with your foot is not acceptable to them (thus of course you never use the ice as a toilet). We lunch on pilaf, or Zanskari Kiu (dumpling stew) bread, cheese, jam, biscuits. Some days we can only have hot tea and an uncooked lunch. The ice conditions change quickly and what takes an hour at noon can take three hours by 3pm . We do not rush; but we do not dawdle! If you hear Zanskaris calling down the valley, particularly at the corners, don’t worry; they are screaming to scare away the demons who lurk in the ice. Today we will pass through what the porters call ‘Chadar Gate’. A little surprise for the trekkers. By 3-4pm we should be in camp on a plateau above the river.
This is a stunningly day as the river starts to curve and you can see the uphill slope of the ice as we ascend the river into Zanskar. We pass incredible waterfalls on our left, normally frozen into aquamarine ice cliffs. The waterfall was said to have come from a river given to local people who visited Tibet centuries ago to plead for water for their barren land. They were given a box which they were told they must open only on their return home. The curious Zanskaris were nearly home when one of them opened it; out jumped a tiny fish, and the river sprung from the ground high above here. Also today we will probably have to climb briefly above the river – on the sharp bends the speed of the current breaks up the ice. Lunch is on a rocky beach by the river, and camp is near one of the many caves that are blackened by centuries of use by the fires of locals. Our porters use these caves to cook and sleep in, and many of them are slowly being turned into small huts by Zanskaris recruited by the Border Roads Organization to shelter the road workers as they come through here. This is a popular campsite and you will notice one of our teams’ first jobs is to dig a toilet pit and clean up the rubbish left by groups. If there is no snow here the sand that blows around can contaminate your food. We have stringent hygiene rule’s for our kitchen, abundant hot water, and anti bacterial hand wash always available. Use it!
Overnight Stay in the Camp.
back trek to to chilling and back to leh.
Omasiala /Oriential Hotel
Goodbye to this tiny kingdom in the sky as we board our early morning flight to the (comparative) warmth of Delhi with the connecting International flight…