Winter lifeline of the Zanskaris

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 centuries 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.


We cover two routes – 1. Chilling to Karsha; & 2. Chilling to Lingshed

Duration: Route 1. Chilling to Karsha – 20 Days
Duration: Route 2. Chilling to Lingshed – 15 days
Best time: mid January to mid February
Focus: Ice Trek, Ladakh’s winter life, local culture, monks, & monasteries
Physical challenge: some trekking days long & harsh; extreme cold weather; demanding walk on slippery ice
Highest point: Leh (3500m/11,500 ft)
Climate: usually sunny days but dry chilly winds; temperatures drop 25o-30o Celsius below zero
Accommodation: while on the trek we will make use of caves / local homes for night shelter

Popularly known as “the last Shangri-La, “the Broken Moon” and by many other epithets Ladakh is bound by two of the world’s highest mountain ranges – the Karakoram and the Himalayas. The Leh region varies between 2743m/9000ft to 7672m/25,170ft above sea level; it is a land of ancient and medieval monasteries, fluttering prayer flags, high plateaus, mountain deserts, snowy peaks and lofty passes.

We shall make excursions to places of tourist interest viz. the gompas (monasteries), villages and the surrounding countryside, in the vicinity of Leh town.

The most isolated of all Trans-Himalayan valleys, the vale of Zanskar lies to the southwest of Leh surrounded by the Himalayan and Zanskar ranges. Zanskar comprises of two main valleys the Stod (Doda Chu) and the Lanak (Tsarap Chu) which converge at Padum. The valley has an area of about 5000 sq km and an average elevation of 4010m/13,154ft; this area remains inaccessible for nearly 7 months in the year. All passes get choked with snow in winter and the rivers freeze over. The inhabitants walk along and over river Zanskar to reach the Indus River in Nimu (Chilling) village; this walk over the frozen river is known as the Chadar (blanket) Trek!

The geographical isolation has helped to preserve the Buddhist heritage and identity of Zanskar. Many ancient monastic establishments are still actively involved in religious activities and some remote caves are believed to have been used by successive Buddhist saints for deep meditation, in pursuit of knowledge and enlightenment.

OPTION 1 - Chilling to Karsha

DAY 01, Arrive Delhi:
Welcomed and greeted by our representative who will transfer you to your pre-booked hotel. Overnight in hotel.

DAY 02, Delhi – Leh:
Early morning transfer to domestic airport for the 1-hour spectacular flight over mighty Himalayas. Arrive and transfer to hotel. Rest of the day free for acclimatisation. Overnight in hotel.

DAY 03, Leh (sightseeing):
After breakfast proceed for sightseeing to the Indus Valley. Visit three important gompas – Shey, Thiksey and Hemis OR Spituk Festival. Overnight in hotel.

DAY 04, Leh – Chilling:
Morning drive to Chilling (about 4hrs), one of the famous villages in Ladakh, known for craftsmanship especially metal works. In the afternoon meet your trekking crew and prepare for the mission ahead. Overnight in local home/camp.

DAY 05, Chilling – Tilat Sumdo:
After breakfast start trekking towards Tilat Sumdo (3180m) along the iced up Zanskar river. This trek along frozen river is the only route into Zanskar region, as heavy snow on high passes blocks all other approach routes in to this remote valley. Trek: 5-6hrs; overnight in cave.

DAY 06, Tilat Sumdo – Paldar Sumdo:
After breakfast trek to Paldar Sumdo (3220m). The trek is along the edges of the frozen river, through a narrow mountain gorge. Dwarfed by the mountains around us and mesmerised by the awesome scenery we carefully trek along the river. Trek: 6-7hrs; overnight in cave.

DAY 07, Paldar Sumdo – Nerak Pullu:
Walk through sheer canyons, inaccessible in any other season, to Nerak (3300m). If lucky we may catch sight of a rare Red Fox on the high mountain ridges as we trek along the river valley. Trek: 5-6hrs; overnight in cave.

DAY 08, Nerak Pullu – Hanumur:
After breakfast trek to Hanumur (3380m) the first village on the trail and inhabited most likely by the first people we shall see since setting out from Chilling. Trekking: 5-6hrs; overnight in cave.

DAY 09, Hanumur – Pishu:
Today trek along a well established path to the village of Pishu (3470m), which is larger than Hanumur. Trek: 5-6hrs; overnight in local home/camp.

DAY 10, Pishu – Karsha:
After breakfast trek to Karsha (3600m), along the banks of Zanskar. Arrive at Rinam village and then ascend gradually to Karsha village, with its 15th Century Karsha Gompa – the largest monastery in Zanskar region. The monastery is perched on a hill side overlooking the valley. Trek: 5-6hrs; overnight in local home/camp.

DAY 11, Explore Karsha:
Today go to this charming village and observe the local way of Life; and also visit the splendid Karsha Monastery, dating back to about 11th century and belonging to the Gelukpa order. Perched on a hill it is a large white complex housing over 100 monks; there is also a 500 year old nunnery nearby. Overnight in local home/camp.

DAY 12, Karsha – Pishu:
After breakfast trek to Pishu. Overnight in local home/camp.

DAY 13, Pishu – Hanumur:
Today we trek to Hanumur, through the frozen Zanskar. Overnight in cave.

DAY 14, Hanumur – Nerak Pullu:
Trek to Nerak Pullu. Overnight in cave.

DAY 15, Nerak Pullu – Paldar Sumdo:
Trek to Paldar Sumdo. Overnight in cave.

DAY 16, Paldar Sumdo – Tilat Sumdo:
Trek to Tilat Sumdo. Overnight in cave.

DAY 17, Tilat Sumdo – Chilling – Leh:
Trek to Chilling village and then drive back to Leh. Overnight in hotel.

DAY 18, Leh:
A day free to relax or visit monasteries / festival at Likir. Overnight in hotel.

DAY 19, Leh – Delhi:
After breakfast transfer to airport for flight back to Delhi. Arrive and transfer to hotel. Afternoon free for individual activities. Overnight in hotel.

DAY 20, Delhi (sightseeing) / late evening departure:
After breakfast a full days guided tour of Old and New Delhi, visiting Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Gandhi Samadhi, India gate, Qutub Minar and the Lotus Temple. (your rooms are reserved till 1800hrs/Day rooms). After dinner transfer to International airport for return flight to home country.



OPTION 2 - Chilling to Lingshed (this option is more scenic)

DAY 1-5:
Same as above programme (Chilling to Karsha)

DAY 6:
Trek on frozen river to Markalak. Trek: 5-6hrs; overnight in cave/camp.

DAY 7:
Trek to Dip Yoma. Trek: 5hrs; overnight in cave/camp.

DAY 8:
Trek about 3hrs on frozen river, and then on a village path for few more hours to the charming village of Lingshed. Overnight in local home.

DAY 9:
Explore this charming village and its small monastery. Overnight in local home.

DAY 10-13:
Retrace the steps over the frozen river. Overnight in caves.

DAY 14:
Visit to the monasteries or attend the festival at Likir. Overnight in hotel.

DAY 15:
Fly back to Delhi. Arrive and transfer to hotel. Afternoon free. Late night transfer to the international airport for return flight.