"The notorious Chadar Trip is India's toughest trek and one of the world's most spiritually illuminating destinations. That was too good to pass up!"
Krishna Deepak Maniyar, a freelance product designer, is a raw, eager, and uncomplicated guy who never wants to stop discovering. Maniar's list of activities includes sailing the Arabian Sea, deep diving in Costa Brava, skydiving in Seville, hitchhiking throughout Europe, skiing in Bardonecchia, riding across the country, and, most recently, summiting the Chadar Trek.
"It all started with an email outlining the facts regarding Chadar Trek and posing the question, ‘Is Chadar Trek Challenging Enough?’ I watched a few videos online and saw people falling through manhole-sized holes in frozen ice over a river, crossing vertical cliffs, sliding through the ice with barely enough room to sleep, flaunting frost bites and shivering through their necks, but none of them stopped, none of them accepted defeat, and they all kept going. I had a want to see what this emotion was like, a yearning to experience this craziness, so I signed up, paid the price, and reassured myself that I was going to ace the Chadar Trek," Krishna recalls the epic journey's beginning.
Krishna understood that what lay ahead was something he had never imagined coming from the country of beaches, Goa, where the temperature ranged from 22 degrees to -14 degrees in Leh. Krishna arrived at Leh a day sooner than the others due to a lack of phone service, and was greeted by a man wearing his nameplate. He sat in the cab that carried him to the guest house, where he was greeted warmly.
He met players from the National Ice Hockey Team who were seen playing on the World's Highest Ice Skating Rink, on his first day, explored Shanti Stupa, gorged on Thukpa, local Tibetan cuisine, and witnessed the Spituk Gustor Festival before meeting the rest of the team in the evening, who were to travel to the base camp at Tilad the next day.
"We arrived in Tilad after experiencing lots of dust clouds and near misses on the stone-cut road that runs along to the Zanskar River," Krishna says. The gorgeous drive had taken us to a great camping place, a sandy coast in the endlessly beautiful Zanskar valley gorges. The skies gradually grew dark purple, and soon there was nothing but a never-ending shower of stars as far as the eye could see.
“The sky was lighted like I'd never seen it before, with shooting stars and constellations just above my head and numbness in my feet. When I took off my shoes, I discovered that the sweat had frozen into ice, so I quickly changed into a fresh pair. I began to reflect on how much I had yet to see in my life, despite the fact that it was only my first day in Chadar. This was the coldest night I'd ever known."
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The troop set out for Thomu, walking on thin ice sheets while calculating their movements and avoiding slipping. The path featured crystal clear water running along to the ice sheets, high rise mountains composed of sedimentary rock layers, and breathtaking scenery. The initial step toward Thomu was completed quickly.
The Chadar Trek was the most surprising since it was damaged at several points, and you may see yourself up waist-deep in a pit with ice cold water chilling your legs. The Tibb Cave, the distinctive rugged landscape with a beach built of a bed of pebbles, was the next destination, with sleeping space for a party of 30 adults. Krishna saw something unusual while watching the water flow: a green rain. "It was only when I looked up that I noticed a flock of hundreds of birds pooping in unison. That was the day I felt like bathing," Krishna chuckles.
Because of the stretched distance and eccentricity of the Chadar formation, the last stretch to the Nerak Waterfall is considered the most difficult of all the pathways. A few travellers Krishna encountered along the road warned him that while trekking to the waterfall might not be difficult, surviving the night could be dangerous. Krishna and the group marched slowly to the last camp, full of expectation and anxiety. The scene ahead was a living example of the phrase "stuck in time."
"Beyond the waterfall, 3 kilometres up the mountain, there was a settlement with a dozen residents. They had satellite phone service, a wine that was extraordinarily well fermented, and rock-hard bread. Only five of us went to the village to phone our families and inform them of our safe journey thus far."
After making calls home, he was knee deep in snow at the summit of Nerak Village, looking at the starlit sky and being surrounded by snow-covered mountains, thinking to himself that he had made it.
The troop opted to return to Tilad camp in half the time and at twice the speed, arriving in two days instead of three. Krishna had one last task to complete, so he dove into the bone-chilling cold water of the Zanskar River without hesitation. "To say the water was frigid would be an understatement; the water froze everything," he says of his experience. I had gone in as someone who was afraid of death and out as someone who simply loved life. It was when I wasn't dying but was actually alive! I let go of everything, embracing the sun and smiling at the breezes, breathing the skies and living in the moment!"
Things to Consider
- According to Krishna, his journey to Chadar taught him valuable insights that he could pass on to fellow travellers preparing for the accomplishment.
- Because your feet will sweat, make sure to change your socks after each day's travel goals, as frozen socks will hurt and can cause frost bites.
- Allow enough time to acclimate, so arrive a few days early.
- Be in shape and test yourself on tiny hikes at least a month before you go since if you're travelling in a group, your inability shouldn't leave others stranded, and vice versa.
- Be aware that you will not be offered a magnificent fine dining lunch; nonetheless, the food served will be wholesome and nutritious.
- Don't stuff your bag with unneeded items.
- Purchase the ideal gum boots in Leh.
- Arrive in Leh early to buy or rent anything that you may have forgotten for the walk. Bring a good pair of sunglasses, sun screen lotion, and a hat if you have a tendency to get sunburned.
- Invest in a high-quality down jacket.
- Avoid putting on too many clothes because you only need two layers (bottom) and three layers (top) during the day and as needed at night.
Word For The Readers
"I've never been so energised by a journey before. If one has the opportunity to travel this path, one should take it without hesitation. Live while you still have the chance. Chadar gradually unveils your actual self to you. 'Enjoy the last of what you are now, for when you return, you will be a different man,' a coworker advised me after learning about my recent journey to Chadar. Although his statements perplexed me at the time, it was only when I returned that I comprehended what he really meant."