Extreme Hiking / Hiking in Chadar Frozen River Trail, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir India

Skill level:
Intermediate and advanced
6 to 7 days
Maximum altitude:
10900ft / 3322m
Trail length:
Best season:
Late January and February
Would you dare to walk over frozen river ice with cold fast flowing water rushing just a few inches below your feet? If the answer is yes, then the Chadar Frozen River Trail is a once in a lifetime adventure and it takes place in the highest plateau of Kashmir state, between the Kunlun mountain range and the Great Himalayas, in India.

When all roads and passages become inaccessible by land, because of heavy snow during winter, the only way to approach the snow bound villages in Zanskar Valley is by walking onto the amazing frozen river. Chadar trail, which means “ice sheet” or “blanket” is located in the lower section of the Zanskar Gorge in Zanskar River and starts from Chilling.

Bounded within the steep canyon walls, the iced surface of the river has many variations and is, in some sections, covered with a coating of powder snow, while in other sections, it is covered with hard sparkling ice and freshly formed thin ice sheets. Once you begin your hike and enter the canyon, walking on snow is easy. However, walking on ice can be tricky and is best to practice for a while and try walking like a penguin, without lifting your feet from the ground too much.

This hiking expeditions takes six to seven days to complete and leads you through almost unreal landscapes and extreme weather conditions, until you reach the final destination in Nerak village, located at an altitude of 10900 ft/3322 m. The average temperature during the day is around 14°F/-10°C, while in nightfall, it can drop to -13°F/-25°C. After you leave the base camp, you spend the following nights in camping spots and caves along the way.

There is little to none vegetation on the way. Only rocks, high cliffs, narrow passages, frozen waterfalls and lots of ice that create an amazing breathtaking scenery, constantly changing. After a while, you will soon start to recognize from the sound of the water, where the ice is thick and where it is thin and dangerous. As you move deeper into the canyon, there is a good chance that some parts can not be crossed by walking on ice and you might have to climb on the canyon walls, in order to reach a safe spot again.

Although Chadar Frozen River Trail, is a flat hike, it is suitable for hikers that can walk for at least 6.2 mi/10 km a day and are in top physical condition, so as to comprehend with the freezing cold. It is highly advisable to book an organized tour, where experienced guides will provide all necessary gear and food and will lead you safely through this adventure. Be very well prepared in regards of clothing and hiking boots and immerse your self into an extraordinary journey that is literally beyond words. Will you dare?