Frozen River Trek


Experience the thrill of walking on the frozen Zanskar - a Himalayan river in the windswept highlands of the Buddhist kingdom of Ladakh, where subzero temperatures chill the blood in the veins; very strictly for the very firm and fit only. This route has been used for Frozen river trekcenturies as a trade link by the inhabitants of this region. On the way you will also have the opportunity to stay with the native Zanskaris and visit some of the ancient monasteries behind ice walls, wedged between the mighty Karakoram and the Great Himalayan ranges.

IMPORTANT: THIS IS A VERY STRENUOUS PHYSICALLY TAXING EXPEDITION THEREFORE BOTH PHYSICAL FITNESS & MENTAL ENDURANCE ARE REQUIRED.

We cover two routes :

1. Chilling - Lingshed - Chilling 2. Chilling - Karsha - Chilling

1) CHILLING - LINGSHED - CHILLING TREK

Duration : 15 Nights / 16 Days
Destination Covered : Delhi - Leh - Ladakh - Tibetan Camp - Leh - Phyang - Alchi - Ridzong - Lamayuru - Likir - Leh - Khardong La - Hundar - Leh - Delhi

Day 01 : Arrive Delhi; Afternoon city tour

After arrival in Delhi early morning, Company Representatives will assist you to transfer to the hotel. Have some relaxation and get back to normal from overnight flight exhaustion. After that, take a half-day sightseeing tour of the city. Delhi is basically divided in two parts, the Old Delhi and the New Delhi. The Old City was the capital of Mughal Domain for a long period. New City was declared the capital of India after India got independence from british rule in 1947. This is the city where one can experience the amazing combination of past and present. The city tours cover ancient monuments, narrow streets and busy bazaars, the vast Red Fort(built in 1648), the Jama Masjid(the greatest mosque in India), and the Raj Ghat(the simple memorial to Mahatma Gandhi). the governments buildings, the India gate, the President House, the Qutub Minar, the Humayun Tomb, the Chandani.chowk, the Laxmi Narayan Temple(popularly known as Birla Mandir) and so on.

Day 02 : Morning flight to Leh

Familiarization day. Take an early flight for over the rain shadow of the Himalaya to a lush valley, just to the north of the mighty Indus River, where towering peaks of ice and snow govern the surrounding landscape. Nestle amongst this fabulous panorama is the town of Leh, the largest in the region and once an important commercial centre for goods traveling across Central Asia on the Silk Route from China. A small, pleasing town of about 8,000 people, Leh lies at 3500m, making it the perfect place to begin to adjust for the forthcoming trek and the rest of the day is free to walk around at your leisure. The people of this harsh land are Mongoloid/Tibetan and have maintained their strong sense of tradition, a feature that will become more obvious as your journey progresses. The town is dominated by the 9 storey Namgyal Palace that sits on top of a hill to the north. Once the home of the Ladakhi royal family, until their exile in the 1830s, the now partially ruined palace has been likened to a mini version of the Potala Palace in Lhasa. Your tour leader may be able to organise a gentle orientation walk today, taking in the narrow alleys and markets of this most engaging of towns and perhaps visiting the Shanker monastery, a small but interesting gompa housing an impressive Dukar figure (Avalokitesvara), complete with 11 heads and 1000 arms, all holding weapons. It is also possible to walk up to the Shanti stupa, from where there are some eye-catching views of the surrounding countryside.

Day 03 : Half-day tour of Phyang and Spituk Monasteries

The predominant faith of the local residents here is the Lamaistic form of Buddhism of Tibet. This is seen clearly in the monastery (gompa) architecture and by the extraordinary number of gods and demons that order the daily life of the community. This morning we will get a chance to witness this for ourselves,when we visit the nearby monasteries of Phyang and Spituk, built in the 15th and 16th centuries. Phyang monastery is located on a hillside that overshadows a valley some 16km to the west of Leh. Belonging to the Red Hat Kagyupa sect, the monastery was built in the 16th century, during the reign of King Jamyang Namgyal. Phyang contains an interesting collection of statues and Kashmiri bronzes and its temple walls are covered in vivid images based on the eight emblems of happiness. This is the setting for the Buddhist festival of Tseruk, a spectacular display of masked dancing that takes place during July. Our second visit today is to the Gompa of Spituk, again located on a hill top high above the valley floor. Built in the 15th century the monastery belongs to the Gelukpa order (the yellow hats), a reformist order of monks of whom the Dalai Lama himself is the head.The monastery is a series of tiered buildings and courtyards that contain a magnificent collection of Jelbagh masks, as well as icons and weaponary from the Potala Palace. After our visit we will return back to prepare for the coming trek.

Day 04 : Drive to Chilling (3350m); village visit

This morning we begin our trek with a drive by jeep to the village of Chilling, lying on the banks of the Zanskar River. The village itself is famed for its handicrafts and it is reputed that the artisans of Chilling are the only ones to work with traditional metals, such as copper, tin and silver. These craftsmen today are the descendants of the artists who arrived in Ladakh from Nepal some 600 years ago to create the 7.5m golden statue of the Shakyamuni Buddha of Shey, once the old capital of Ladakh. We have time to explore something of the village and witness for ourselves the skill of these artisans, before meeting up with our porters for the forthcoming trek. Then we settle down beneath a mantle of stars as we prepare ourselves for the days ahead, the river's frozen flow pointing the way for our coming journey.

Day 05 : Trek to Darbau (3400m) via Tilat Sumdo

Today we begin our trek in earnest, with a 5-6 hours walk following the course of the river south. Over the next few days we will traverse a landscape of frozen waterfalls where the harsh winters have preserved the traditions and cultures of the local people in a frozen Shangri-La. We stop for lunch at Tilat Sumdo at the confluence of the Tsarap Chhu, before we continue towards our second camp at Darbau, located next to a cave. The Zanskar Valley is the most isolated of the Trans-Himalaya valleys and that true sense of remoteness will become all the more evident as we approach our camp. As evening falls we sit down to a well-earned and much needed dinner in our comfortable dining tent. Trekking distance 5/6hours.

Day 06 : Trek to Tip Yokma (3400m) via Na Chhumchhar waterfall

Camp life will begin to take on its own routine, with a hot drink to cut through the morning chill and a nourishing breakfast to set you up for the day. Continuing through this breathtaking landscape we follow the meandering course of the river as it turns west, towards the waterfall of Na Chhumchhar. This harsh environment might seem a desolate wilderness, but life is very much in evidence as we trek through the valley. Wildlife has adapted to the conditions of this frozen desert and the valley is reputedly home to bears,wolves, yak and various species of goats and sheep, including Ibex, Nyan and Urial. After lunch we continue on to tonight's most unique of camps, a large natural cave at Tip Yokma, where we can shelter together from the biting icy winds and enjoy the prospect of camping outdoors, indoors! Trekking distance 6/7 hours





Day 07 : Trek to Lingshed Do (3700m)Frozen River trek

From Tip Yokma we continue west, passing an ice-fall and forests of juniper trees enroute to the small settlement of Yulchung, on the border of the Leh and Kargil districts of Jammu and Kashmir. Continuing through plunging canyons, normally inaccessible, but for the frozen river, we take lunch in the lea of a juniper forest. Sometimes you can hear locals calling down into the valley, a local custom, designed to scare away the spirits that haunt the ice. Above us the craggy cliffs rise to precipitous heights, their slopes sometimes inhabited by fearless ibex and, as we near our camp, we see a bridge high above. This links Zanskar with Ladakh during the summer months, when the river is impassable. Our camp is close now, located below the village of Nyrak near to the summer grazing lands of its people. Trekking distance 5/6 hours.

Day 08 : Trek to Lingshed Village (3800m)

Departing from the Chadar route today we enter into the Lingshed Nallah. The trek to Lingshed takes us through the passes of the Netuke La and Khyupa La and, as we traverse the undulating landscape, we are afforded some spectacular views of the valley below. Following a small stream we climb higher, across ground criss-crossed by trails used by ibex and blue sheep, their natural instinct taking them towards the gompas of the highlands where life is sacred and hunting banned. As we ascend the altitude will begin to take affect, so it is important that you take it easy today, a task made all the more unhurried by the breathtaking views as we continue to climb. Stopping for lunch we then take a walk up to a locally renowned gompa, majestically located in the shadow of a high cliff, its walls pitted with meditation caves. The monastery and its adjoining school presents us with an exhilarating visit and as we head for our nighstop, in local houses, we will doubtless have much to discuss over dinner this evening. Trekking distance 4/5 hours.

Day 09 : Lingshed Village

Today has been left free to relax from yesterday's trek and explore some more of these most scenic of surroundings. In the distance you may catch a glimpse of Morgon La (4100m) and the massive ice wall of Hanuma La, part of Zanskar's summer trekking route. Lingshed is somewhat unique,not only for its splendid isolation, but also for its remarkable 'Solar School', where the local children are afforded the luxury of year round education by the merits of their solar powered classroom. A stroll through the village will also reveal the villagers green houses, what appear to be abandoned homes, that are actually covered in plastic sheeting in the summer and used to grow vegetables. Lingshed will prove to be a most enlightening and spectacular setting in which to recharge our batteries for the journey back.

Days 10 to 13 : Trek back to Chilling; drive to Leh

The next 4 days will see us retracing our steps as we journey back towards Chilling. Averaging 5-6 hours walking a day we enjoy the spectacular scenery, frozen waterfalls and isolated wilderness of this awe inspiring landscape. Superlatives seem to pale into insignificance before the natural wonders we encounter. But all good things must come to an end and eventually the river brings us full circle back to Chilling. From here we return to Leh by vehicle.

Day 14 : Leh

Today we have another opportunity to explore Leh and its environs. The yak caravans that once plied their trade through the Karakoram Pass, into Central Asia and onto the markets of Kashgar are now a distant memory. Today Leh's importance lies in its strategic position, at the juncture of India's borders with China and Pakistan. Although the caravan and pilgrim routes are no longer in use the town still retains a frontier feel and the markets buzz with the sounds and smells of trade. You may wish to spend your day strolling through its vibrant streets, or perhaps to a walk up to the palace. Built on a granite rock meant to represent an elephant's head this was considered such a masterpiece in its day that the king ordered the chief mason's right hand be cut off to prevent him building another. It was eventually destroyed during the Dogra war of the 19th century, when the royal family was exiled to Stok.

Day 15 : Fly Leh to Delhi

Morning transfer to the airport this morning we take an early flight back to Delhi. After checking into our hotel the rest of the day is free to explore a little more of Delhi's bustling streets and markets. You may wish to discover some more of the city's architectural gems, or perhaps use the time to do some last minute shopping. Old Delhi contains many of the city's most impressive Muslim and Moghul monuments, such as the magnificent Jama Masji (The Friday Mosque), the largest of its kind in India and a spectacular collection of minarets and domes in sandstone and marble. Then of course there is the Chandni Chowk Bazaar, a jamboree of deafening noise and colour, where bartering is the order of the day and a bargain is sure to be had. Delhi provides a marked contrast to the solitude of the past few days and its noise and clamour can be somewhat disconcerting after our days of splendid isolation, but the Indian capital is perhaps the perfect finishing point for our journey, emphasizing the uniqueness of our odyssey into Zanskar's frozen wilderness.

Day 16 : Delhi-Onwards Destination

Transfer to International Airport for onwards Journey.