Chadar Trek Memories
A little article of mine about the Chadar trek :
As I leave the warm and cozy confines of the terminal at Kushok Bakula Rinpoche Airport, and step onto the tarmac and into the frigid, biting wind of Leh, my legs are willing but my mind isn’t. As I slowly, reluctantly trudge towards the metal bird that will whisk me away from this winter Wonderland, a question won’t leave my mind. It’s a question which a lot of my friends, colleages and family will excitedly ask over the course of the next few days. “How was your trek?!”
How was my trek? There is a host of clichéd adjectives that I’ll use to describe my fortnight in Leh. Amazing, wonderful, glorious, exhilarating, and stunning come to mind. I’ll be frank, these are meaningless words for they don’t come close to conveying what you feel once you embark on the Chadar Trek.
I won’t go into descriptions of what the Chadar trek is, you have all sorts of travel blogs and Google for that but I’ll go into what the trek REALLY was to me.
People will say it’s a dangerous trek and it’s life-threatening. I disagree. It’s a trek with certain treacherous moments but none perilous enough to worry your mortality. It’s a stupendously beautiful trek, it’s an array of wondrous winter Vistas, it’s a long and seemingly unending walk on a mighty frozen river but like our crampons on ice, this description is just merely scraping the surface. There’s a lot more to it.
The wonderful thing about being a prepaid Sim card holder in Ladakh is that there is absolutely no chance you will ever get network. It’s a feeling that adds to the isolation you feel at certain occasions on this seventy km trek. I’ve done high altitude mountain treks and you always happen to come across fellow trekkers at various twists and turns up the trail to the summit. Chadar is the one trek I found that, giving yourself a sufficient gap to the group ahead and behind you, you can have kilometers and hours of trekking time to yourself and not meet a soul. You’re walking through a valley, a once raging river besides you, the frozen monster on which you walk, tall jagged peaks on either side of you and the little, yellow rays of sunlight that try desperately to enter the canyon you walk in but must satisfy themselves by basking the mountain peaks in a scenic,molten golden glory. And amidst all this, you walk alone. Never a moment went by when I didn’t feel like I was being watched. Bears, snow Leopards, goats. No one knows what the caves high up on the mountain walls hold, but you know you’re being watched every bit of the way. And yet you walk alone. No network, no city life, no worries from the life you’ve left behind, no work or commitments, no expectations and you just walk and walk. It’s not a feeling you can describe in words. It’s not a feeling you can portray through the latest iPhone or a supremely expensive DSLR, it’s a memory that’s an experience and an experience that can’t be penned down and shared.
So when people ask me how my trek was, I don’t know what to say. I can never answer it well enough for there isn’t an answer that would do justice to what you actually feel when you set off on the journey of a lifetime. This was my modest attempt to answer all those who asked me how my trek was and I couldn’t answer adequately.
So while I sit and reminisce about what was, all I can do is recommend this trek to anyone who happens to read this. The Ladakhi winter is harsh, the Ladakhi winter tames a ferocious beast of a river, the Ladakhi winter tests your body to the limit but in this Ladakhi winter you’ll find a friend who’ll give you the greatest joy in isolation and beauty. The Chadar trek won’t be around forever, go for it while you still can so you too can return and ask yourself the same question you ask me, “How was my trek?”
Thanks for reading!
PS : a special shoutout to the incredible guides and trek leaders and the entire TTH team.