Day 2 started with us heading to our base camp for the trek. It was in a village called Chilling (aptly named). Here, we had our first experience of walking on ice (the Eureka moment!!).This marked the beginning of a wonderful trek with me being oblivious of the fact that it'll become the experience of lifetime! Walking on land is different....but here you walk on frozen river and ice-sheet might break at times if the thickness is not apt with Zanskar river carrying you in her gargantuan lap :P. That's why Jan is considered to be the best time as Chadar is well formed and thickness is sufficient enough to even allow a truck to roll over it.We had a wonderful guide named Tunduk who helped us tremendously and empathised with us whenever we slipped :P. Slipping was pretty common on first two days after which one becomes accustomed to walking on ice :) Though, locals prefer gumboots to walk, I used forclaz 600 which ultimately turned out to be a good choice :) . A typical morning will begin with his wake-up call and bed tea(it was a blessing in disguise at temperature of -15 deg C.) followed by breakfast, trek, lunch at 12pm, reaching next camp by 3pm, having evening tea and snacks followed by some relaxation in our cozy tents and then dinner at 7pm (and obviously some great talks :) during that time).
Tilat Sumdo via ChillingWhile we got used to the subzero temperatures and higher altitude, we also got in touch with the other team members who had registered for the trek through adventure nation. Next morning, a Tempo Traveler came and picked 23 of us from Leh and transported us to the starting point of our trek called Tilat Sumdo via chillimg.It was an amazingly scary yet exciting journey of almost 4 hours from Leh to Tilat Sumdo that descends into the Zanskar valley and reaches where Zanskar meets river Indus at a place called Nimmu. Well we made our own gang on the ride itself which lasted for the rest of the trek. A fun filled group of over-the-top-expressive-abusive-energetic bunch of chaps and the list goes like vidhaan aman and shantanu. The bus driver was more of a dirt rally driver than of an actual. One WRONG TURN and it could be dead end deep into beautiful valley. Couple of site seeing spots enchanted us with the serene beauty and silence around. We clicked few pictures at shantistupa and at the confluence of Indus and Zanskar (Point Nimmu ;) enslaving the memoirs forever. Camping spot is on an elevated level field at the junction of the confluence and thus began our much awaited journey on Chadar- the frozen Zanskar river.We made almost 45 degree steep descent into the valley to lay our first steps on the frozen Zanskar and started walking like penguins. For my wife it was the first sight of ice in any form apart from refrigerator and whisky glass ☺ We started taking small walks near the camp site and were excited to see different forms of chadar. The first few steps were scary but in a short while we got a hang of it and started skating like pros! Not much before I knew what was coming, established in our camp 1 tents we were ready to watch a game of footy on the ice sheet right next to our camp. I couldn't resist but to skate with my wife for some time and participated in a so called footy with the group mates and had flat fall on ice while trying to save a stupid goal????. Baammm was the sound and next I saw was my head bleeding and the blood drops falling on the white ice sheet was making me crazy, nonetheless I just managed to save my eye,got away with a big scar (making it a memoir later) just above right eye. Quick action taken by my personal paramedics (my wife☺) helped me Dodge further damage.It was a spectacular sight to behold of milky way right above our tents and some of us started spotting constellations in the night sky.We went back into our tent and slowly slipped in to our two good sleeping bags provided to protect ourselves from dying cold. Alas! Useless they were to protect us from cold, somehow we managed to hit the sack out of sheer tiredness oozing of literally every part of our body.
And we began our bus journey from Leh which took us approximately 3 hours to the starting point which is Chilling (yes, you heard it right!). Here's where our 64km trek was about to start. I was confident that my first walk on the Chadar would be a cakewalk. After all, good judgement was needed to differentiate between old hardened slabs of ice and fresh slushy ice. I had many days to fall and I didn't want to fall right at the beginning. So walking like a penguin was a must, and having a wide grin was an absolute necessity. Did I mention that everyone had a camera to capture your every move?
Our day started early, bundling into the bus with our bag packs and making our way to Chilling, which is around 3 hours away from Leh. We passed the confluence of the Zanskar and the Indus on our way and took our first round of group pics.Woohoo! A lot of bollywood an ladakhi songs were sung, quite vociferously, too! On reaching there, we took a dirt road and then descended (sliding very gracefully on our butts, rather) to the Chadar and trekked to Tilat Sumdo, our first camp. Our first experience of the Penguin walk, trying to figure out what works the best, and the first set of slipping and falling too! It had begun!
The Zanskar River is a north-flowing tributary of the Indus. In its upper reaches, the Zanskar has two main branches. First of these, the Doda, has its source near the Pensi-la 4,400 m (14,400 ft) mountain-pass and flows south-eastwards along the main Zanskar valley leading towards Padum, the capital of Zanskar. The second branch is formed by two main tributaries known as Kargyag river, with its source near the Shingo La 5,091 m (16,703 ft), and Tsarap river, with its source near the Baralacha-La. These two rivers unite below the village of Purne to form the Lungnak river (also known as the Lingti or Tsarap). The Lungnak river then flows north-westwards along a narrow gorge towards Zanskar's central valley (known locally as gzhung khor), where it unites with the Doda river to form the main Zanskar river.