As a 31-year-old professional photographer who decided to travel to Ladakh to cover the Frozen River Trek, he was offered two treks to consider: the Everest Base Camp and the Chadar Trek. The story of this trip was surprisingly random and raw compared to all the others we've heard. The travel journal showcased by his lens provided a unique look into the journey.
Sameera Nandana VS- The Lad Backing The Lenses
Travel photography sounds exciting, but it's a little risky to take your camera out on the open road. What's it like to train your body to survive temperatures as freezing as -35 degrees and to deal with frostbites every night, like it's no big deal?
This is Sameera Nandana VS, a 31-year-old professional photographer from Hyderabad who picked the Chadar frozen river trek for some of the craziest photos he's ever taken.
This artist believes in logic, lenses, and the liaison between nature's creations and the functions of photography. Sameera trained for three months before he finally walked on the frozen Zanskar river trail in Ladakh, a long-held dream of photographers and passionate trekkers and nature lovers.
No matter how appealing it sounds, entering the wilds of Chadar Trek is not easy. Likewise, following one's dreams is not easy as well.
"Finally, I had to undergo some rigorous training plans when I made the decision to take part in the Chadar Trek 2018," says Sameera, after charging his camera with oodles of adrenaline.
Capturing Chadar isn't easy; we all know that. Sameera figured it out too. During our post- trek interview with Sameera, we asked him about how he prepared for one of India's most challenging treks. We were blown away by his diet chart and exercise routine. A 3-month transformation plan got him into the best shape.
He was on top of his game from the start, from his diet charts to his working out plans. His routine included 3 km runs early in the morning, baths with running water, an egg and citrus diet, six 10k runs, and five or six climbs up and down the 6th-floor stairs.
Gang 18 Mountain Mania
Even though Sameera walked across the Chadar Trek with only his camera, little did he know that he would find a family in distant lands? In a conversation with Thrillophilia after his icy hike, Sameera nicknamed his fellow trekkers the "18-gang Mountain Mania" and called them his family.
He rendered their trek all the more memorable by snapping some of the best pictures their fellow trekkers would love to put up on their social media platforms; just to show the world how the call of the wild can be felt!
"When you travel, your voyage never ends, but keeps playing in the quietest of rooms over and over again. A trip never ends in the mind." -Pat Conroy
They say that pictures express a thousand words. A photographer may travel a thousand miles to take just one picture. It is precisely this motivation that led Sameera to initiate his journey through Ladakh's frozen terrain on the 29th of January 2018.
Some of these popular destinations are Nerak, Shingra Koma, Chilling, Tibb Caves, Tilad Do, and Gyalpo. Chadar Trekking can only be accomplished in January and February when the Zanskar River freezes due to extreme winter conditions.
"As soon as I heard the pilot's final announcement that we were about to land at Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport and no photos were permitted, I felt an adrenaline rush. The moment I got out of the aircraft, it was -8 degrees! Believe it or not, but the biting cold felt lovely." During Sameera's first day in Leh, he explains that it is beneficial to take a day off for acclimatization before taking on the challenging Chadar Trek!
"Do not use heaters during the night as it will help you acclimatize better." Sameera casually laughs and notes, "The following morning felt like hell, for the temperature reached -23 degrees."
The beauty of Ladakh was beginning to spell bound Sameera!
Passion makes everything seem vague when you are passionate about it. Those frost bites kept coming back on my feet and hands because of the -10 degree Celsius temperature on Day 2.
Following a 5-kilometre trek, the group camped at Tilad Do (via Chilling). After three hours of driving from Hotel Auspicious, where the group stayed on the first night of their Ladakh adventure, the group reached Base Camp.
India's journey to Tilad certainly provides a wonderful picture of how unexplored and beautiful it is in all its forms. The moment they set foot on the grounds, all their thoughts came true!
Sameera exclaimed, confirming that they weren't daydreaming, when the Chadar cracked loudly! The mysterious beauty of Chadar kept us moving forward each day on its icy terrain!
Sameera warns that "batteries drain faster in icy conditions" and recommends that photographers carry extra batteries and SD cards . Each day brings you unprecedented glimpses of nature, creating awe in you.
Reaching the Tibb Campsite after trekking 14 km was a significant achievement. "I was completely spent," Sameera explains. “I leaned against a rock in the TIBB camp and removed my shoes. The socks that I had on were utterly wet; unfortunately, I did not have enough socks and had to suffer frostbites on my feet."
Experts at Thrillophilia advise one must learn to walk on Chadar's ice, and Sameera agrees, adding that one should try to walk like a penguin. If you slip, rest your back for a few minutes before getting up. “Falling on your front end or sideways is painful when the icy wind blows at night.”
“A painkiller would be beneficial, as the pain would only worsen over time." He then breaks up the deep discussion with the humorous hint that one party was counting the number of falls each person made.
Upon reaching the mountain's top, the group heard the sounds of "Sir, Chai, Sir" as they cuddled on a comfortable hill. Only the yellow light emanating from the bonfire protected us from the freezing night temperatures.
The camera caught every shade of the night. Sameera does warn, though, that extreme temperatures require extra caution, especially for your instruments.
In the icy Zanskar belt, the group would dance on ice, eat their supper, and then retire to the comfort of their double-layered sleeping bags as the evening approached. Late nights were for resting your body, as each day brought with it a new hardship, a new alarm that these trekkers bravely overcame.
“After trekking 5 km uphill from the Nerak Base Camp with only a headlamp and hope, some of them broke,” Sameera describes their most notorious night at the Nerak Camp. Up to this point, no one knew that the best was yet to come.
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Check Out Sameera's Thoughts:
Chadar's capture was no easy feat, Sameera recalls. For those planning to capture Chadar, he outlines the following points.
- Carry a handheld Gimbal Stick; you can rotate 360 degrees.
- If you suffer from frostbites, the dusting powder will be your saving grace.
- Avoid carrying heavy bundles of chocolates or dry fruits. Just carry enough to keep you from feeling heavy.
- Be sure to keep extra socks and to change your wet socks frequently.
As we asked the photographer about his most cherished memories, he went silent; and we knew that his memories were anchored in the cold moonlit nights, surrounded by flowing water's soothing noise and the hushed gaze at stars. Perhaps some things no camera will ever capture!