Navy Chief flags off on Chadar trek: Unveiling the mystique of Ladakh’s frozen river trek

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Admiral R Hari Kumar poses for a group photo during the flagging off ceremony of the Indian Navy Chadar Trek  expedition, at INS Shivaji in Lonavala, Maharashtra

Admiral R Hari Kumar poses for a group photo during the flagging off ceremony of the Indian Navy Chadar Trek expedition, at INS Shivaji in Lonavala, Maharashtra

New Delhi: In a mesmerizing display of adventure and cultural heritage, Admiral R Hari Kumar, the Chief of Naval Staff, recently launched the Indian Navy's Chadar trek expedition.


This unique journey traverses the frozen Zanskar River in Ladakh, a river that transforms into a long crystal highway during the winter months.

The expedition, led by Commander Navneet Malik, consists of 14 members who will scale a daunting 11,000 feet to proudly unfurl the Indian flag and Naval Ensign, showcasing the Indian Navy's spirit of adventure and resilience.

Nestled within the dramatic peaks of the Great Himalayan range, the Zanskar Valley in the Union territory of Ladakh remains one of the world's most secluded and enchanting regions.


With an average altitude of 3,600 meters and surrounded by towering naked mountains as high as 7,000 meters, this area has been largely isolated due to its challenging geography. This isolation has helped preserve the ancient Tibetan Buddhist culture that flourishes here.

Historically, the only access to this remote unique valley during the harsh winters was via the Chadar, or frozen river route. In summer, the Zanskar River is a torrent of rocky and fat flowing water, but in winter, it transforms into a serene ice passage, offering a lifeline to the isolated communities in the region.

This phenomenon creates a spectacular and demanding trekking route known as the Chadar trek, attracting adventure enthusiasts from around the world.


The Chadar trek, a journey spanning approximately 100 kilometres along the Zanskar River in Ladakh, transforms into a crucial lifeline for the remote valley's inhabitants during the harsh winter months.

Known as "Chadar," meaning blanket, this frozen river becomes the sole route for the residents of numerous villages scattered along the river's edge, which are otherwise inaccessible by road.

Undertakable only in January and February, the trek presents formidable challenges due to the unpredictable nature of the river's ice. The surface undergoes constant cycles of freezing and thawing, creating a dynamic and treacherous terrain.


Despite these obstacles, the local people of Zanskar have developed an exceptional ability to interpret the conditions of the ice.

They possess a deep understanding of its patterns and behaviour, allowing them to navigate through this formidable and ever-changing landscape with skill and confidence.

This journey is not only a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the Zanskaris but also highlights their intimate connection with the natural environment.


Their expertise in reading the ice and safely traversing the Chadar is a remarkable example of human adaptation to extreme conditions, showcasing their profound harmony with the land, and roof of the world -  they call home. The Chadar trek is also a journey through diverse and awe-inspiring landscapes.

The trek has become increasingly popular, especially with foreign tourists, leading authorities to provide more facilities and safety measures along the route.

Despite its growing popularity and the arrival of modern roads connecting Zanskar to nearby towns like Kargil and Leh, the Chadar trek remains a vital lifeline for local communities. For them, it is not just an adventurous excursion but a necessary means of transport during the winter months.


The local Zanskaris, adept at traversing this icy path, use wooden sledges to glide over the river with remarkable ease, in stark contrast to the cautious steps of visiting trekkers.

As the region grapples with the effects of increasing tourism and its impact on the delicate ecosystem and economy, the Chadar trek stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of the Zanskar Valley and its people.

It serves as a bridge between the ancient and the modern, challenging those who traverse it to appreciate the rugged beauty and cultural richness of this extraordinary part of the world.