Trekking through snow is a task as fraught with fun as it is with peril. In winter, several such treks happen across mountainous regions and windy gorges. Here’s a look at two upcoming annual events.
Considered one of the toughest treks, this 104km-long trek involves walking on the frozen Zanskar river. The word ‘chadar’ translates to ‘sheet’ in English. Trekkers must walk on a large sheet of ice with the river rushing beneath them, hence the name.
“We prepare our trekkers well,” said Pramod Bhandari, a veteran trekker and guide who leads treks for different organisations. “The only thing they need to handle is the drop in temperatures, which can go down to -18 and -20 degrees Celsius, making it hard to navigate the trail.”
Who Can Participate: The trek usually takes place in January and February, and should ideally be undertaken by people with some prior experience in high altitude trekking.
Duration: It is done over a period of about a week, with three to four hours of trekking daily.
Pangong Lake Marathon
The Pangong Tso Lake is one of the most frequented attractions in Ladakh. You can also run a marathon on the icy surface as a first-of-its-kind marathon is launched in February.
“My friend is one of the people involved in the marathon and had asked me to go. It seems like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I think I will be registering to take part,” said Prashant Jha, an avid trekker.
The Pangong Lake marathon will commence this February. Situated at an altitude of nearly 14,000 ft, this will officially be the world’s highest frozen lake marathon.
Participants can add this achievement to their list and stand a chance to make a world record.
The Adventure Sports Foundation of Ladakh (ASFL) is organising this race to highlight the adverse effects of climate change on the Himalayan glaciers.
Who Can Participate: Only a limited number of people who have had prior experience with high-altitude sports are eligible to register. The applicants will then go through a screening process.
Duration: The entire course of the lake is 21 km, and every 5 km, there will be a medical expert to tend to the needs of the runners.
The Ecological Viewpoint
The bleak reality of the climate crisis will soon make parts of the lake inaccessible for a race like this. Even with the Chadar Trek, many trekkers have voiced their apprehension about the infliction of ecological damage to the Zanskar river. “I have never done the Chadar Trek, nor do I intend to in the future,” said Jatin Shah, co-founder of The Vertical Tribe, a company that prepares customised itineraries for travellers and plans treks in the mountains. “The river is important to many people who live there, and tourism is polluting the river. It is just an unnecessary thing to do. Many people might disagree with me, but I’d never do that; I know it pollutes the river.”