Adventure, Experience, People, Places, Travel, Travel India

Chadar Trek 2017 – An escape story

It’s January. And Chadar trek pics are all over the internet again. The pics are teasing my memory. Of course, I cannot go again this year. So here I am doing the next best thing… reminiscing about the most thrilling, adventurous and brave trip of my life. Chadar trek 2017!

What is this Chadar Trek?

 Simply put, the Zanskar river in the Zanskar valley, Ladakh, completely freezes in the harsh winters. With Leh on one side and small Zanskari villages on the other, that’s the only time villagers living on either side of the valley can go across, walking on the white blanket of ice. School children from Zanskar valley studying in Leh, traders who have come to do business in Leh walk down the treacherous route to reach their villages across the Zanskar, this one time during the year!! What used to be the only passage of commute for the Zanskari people became a sport for trekkers. When documentaries on BBC and Discovery called it the ultimate and most treacherous trek on earth, it brought down bravehearts from all over the world to trample and tame the Chadar.

With mountain peaks towering over you from a height of 7000 metres, the icy blue river is flowing in full force under the thick and thin layers of ice. Night time temperatures are known to dip to about -25, even -40 degrees! The water you throw up in air comes down as ice; the complete lack of oxygen in the air wreaks havoc in that head of yours if you are not well acclimatised.

You are laden with layers of clothes, and can walk one step a time. Sometimes you have to crawl on the ice with a prayer on your lips that the icy floor does not crack and sometimes you need to climb up cliffs because the Chadar is ‘broken’ in that part, meaning, the river is not frozen.

Looking back, on plain paper, the Chadar trip is something that anybody who is mentally prepared to brave the sub-zero temperatures dipping to -25 or even -30 can attempt. Why, we came across elderly people in the age group of 60’s and 70’s. And they were not seasoned trekkers too. Yes, there’s a seven to nine days walk on ice involved, but with the community fervour, it’s very much doable.

Then, why do I call it the bravest trip of my life? And why am I so proud of it? Because I came back alive!

The first time I heard my friend propose the trip, I called him crazy. But then the Chadar just grew in my head. However, my ever encouraging husband too for the first time said, I don’t think you should go for it. But a few sleepless nights later he relented and said if you feel you can do it, go for it!

But I was hesitating on two counts – one, I am osteo-arthritic and I was not sure how much would my knees support me. And two – the cold. I mean, how does one even imagine a -25 degrees?? Leave alone prepare for it?

Click to read some tips for preparing for Chadar

You can prepare for the known –the cold temperature, the long walks, the ‘roughing out’ in tents, the AMS, etc. But you have no idea what the unknown holds for you.

And the unknown we faced was what made my Chadar trek my ultimate achievement.

The ultimate trek, a journey into the unknown

We were a group of eight. Six women and two guys. Small groups are better. I knew only one out the group. Rest of them I just got to know when I signed up for the trek. We didn’t go for the full seven to nine days trek, but a shorter, three days one.

After two days in Leh, where we got properly acclimatised, did some sight-seeing, fitted ourselves for gum boots and got acquainted with our Ladakhi guides, on D-Day we got into the tempo traveller and started off. On the way, we first halted at the Pathar Sahib gurudwara on the Leh-Kargil road to take Guru baba’s blessings. The Gurudwara has an amazing story worth reading.

The stone has the form of the Gurubaba moulded into it.

After His blessing we embarked on the most picturesque road trip, passing little villages and pretty sights. When we came upon the confluence of the Indus river and the Zanskar, the sight took our breath away.

The Sangam of Indus and Zanskar rivers

Two icy rivers merging into one, yet each one remaining distinct to its identity. The Indus is greenish while the Zanskar is an azure blue. Even after merging the two colours are distinctly visible. Both life giving to the people they served. Both witness to many civilizations and history of our country.

As soon as the road changes hands from Indus to Zanskar, the topography of the place changes. From the Ladakh mountain ranges, we now start rubbing shoulders with the Zanskar mountain range. Big, brown and barren peaks fill the scenery.

Long and dusty winding roads, from under precariously overhanging cliffs. No tar, just mountains flattened after landslides. At one point, a landslide had reduced a ‘road’ width to a few feet and it had become a mission to get each vehicle across to safety. Traffic was stalled. Passengers from about 8 to 10 buses had to be deboarded while the drivers manoeuvred the buses to safety. Below us the Zanskar was waiting with gurgling excitement.

The blue lady keeps you company along the snaking high paths. Slowly you see the blue along with the white. Ice sheets could be seen floating along the river. And you realise, you are nearing your start point.

Welcome to Adventureland!

The so called roads, abruptly came to an end, somewhere after the village called Chilling. What an apt name. Our guide Stanzin, who we would lovingly called all kinds of filmy names like Saajan and Stanley and what not, told us we had arrived!!

We looked around us and saw that we were still high up on a mountain. But he told us, we had to trek down the mountain to the frozen river and trek further 2 kms to our camp site at Tilat Sumdo.

Our excitement knew no bounds. We started the climb down. And realised we were not alone. We joined the dozens of trekkers going down. Touchdown, at the base! We were already on ice!!

The first steps on the ice blanket is an experience. You take each step with trepidation. The river base is very broad here. Halfway across to the other bank is covered in ice. The other half is blue water flowing away in a hurry.

 

Slowly but surely the steps get confident. Everywhere around there’s a frenzy of excitement.

The holy dip!

Our group fragmented into smaller groups of two and three per sub group. We were clearly told not venture out alone on the Chadar without a Ladakhi guiding the way. But the entire crew of our guides and cooks, etc. were busy stowing our luggage from the bus to the camps. So… no guide. But hey, this was easy.

Me, the excited photographer got trigger happy. Out came the DSLR and around my neck. Everybody was busy clicking away. Sajid, my friend and his wife Rupa were with me.  The river, in the meantime, was frozen at parts and not in other. The Chadar formation, or the ice blanket formation is a dynamic process. It is continually joining and breaking. In fact one can hear the Chadar breaking and see little icebergs floating away.

And all this while, mind you, the river under the ice sheets is in full force, making loud sounds at points, its under currents threatening to crack open the icy floors.

So, there I was, happily taking my shots. I had not ventured too far away from the bank, but still, I was on the river, Rupa called out to me, she was clicking my picture. I posed. Then she went for another one. This time I thought, a different background would look good in the pic, so I lifted one leg, just one leg, and turned slightly sideways to place the leg at another angle. And you can guess what happened! I know you already have!

Yes, the Chadar broke under me, Woh kehte hai na.. pairo tale se zameen nikal gayi 🙂

In one second flat, the worst nightmare of any Chadar trekker came true for me, on the first day, after just a few hundreds of steps!!

All I can remember is I could suddenly see blue under my feet, where only moments ago I had seen white! When I realised I was on a loose piece of ice that would be quickly floating away, I lost my balance and with a thud! I sat down on my ice-raft. I had the camera around my neck, my backpack behind me, my walking pole in one hand, and my iPhone in the other!!!! When I sat, the ice berg started moving away, one of my legs involuntarily fell in the icy water and I screamed for help. At the exact same time, Rupa who had seen the whole scene shouted out for Sajid and Sajid came running to me. And started firing at me!! “Why did you go there? Why do you have to take pictures. That is thin ice…” And I am like, HELP!!!!!

Of course, I had pulled up my leg out of the water immediately. But I remember worrying that I would catch hypothermia. First things first, I stretched out my pole so that I don’t move away. Sajid caught my pole, but soon I saw one half of the pole in his hand and the other in mine!!! The pole had given away from its extension! Now, I got really worried. I am telling him help me, and he says, I don’t know what to do!! Somehow he caught the half pole in my hand and caught my hand. But I was still on a different piece of land mass than he. I was on my own i(ce)land!

Unfortunately, not many fellow trekkers or guides were around in those horrifying moments. Then we saw a young ladakhi porter-boy passing. And we called out to him. Oh so casually, he came and reached out his hand for me. As if, he saw such sights regularly, and he pulled out floating women out of the water everyday.

I threw half the pole stick I was holding across to safety and now both my hands were in each of the boys’ hands. But I still couldn’t haul myself up from that sitting position. And then I got this brilliant idea…Since my one foot was already set up for hypothermia, I decided to put it to better use. I thought I would extend my foot to the river bed and thrust myself up. After all, we were on the bank of the river, weren’t we? How deep could it be? I put my leg in the water, but sorry, no bottom! Only water! Anyway, something worked. The force of the leg in the water actually gave me a push, and with all my surya namaskar strong core I pushed myself up on the mainland!

Comical, theatrical relief!!

Everything happened so fast, I am still wondering what would I do had I fallen in the water?

Quick thinking on my friend Rupa’s part, she asked me get out of my gum boots without wasting a moments time… I did and I even tore out my soaking pants from knees down. Of course my thermals were wet. My butt was wet. But that would have to wait. Too much fat there for the cold to pass on, anyway 🙂

Cautiously we made it to the campsite. By now the rest of our group had heard about the adventure. And they were already whispering, this was too scary. I think Kavita will head back to Leh.

When I saw Stanzin, I excitedly told him, Mai paani me gir gayi. And he was so cool about it. Accha?! Chalo, ab aapka Chadar trek sahi shuru hua!

And true enough, I felt I had now rightfully earned my Chadar trek. When I look back at this episode, I don’t remember me panicking for even a minute. Of course, when I first realised that the Chadar had broken under me, I thought, I am finished. The unthinkable has happened. But that was just for a moment. After that, I was just concentrating on what can I do? I don’t want to get into the water. How will I make it back on the other side? I was quite collected. Had I panicked I would have really rocked my boat. Or my island.

To Rupa and Sajid’s credit, Sajid too was constantly solutioning. And Rupa, she knew that I would love to have these moments captured!!! So she was clicking my pics. Friends!!!

Funny thing is, Sajid’s Go Pro video recording too was on, and it had captured me rescued and back on the mainland. But later when I saw the video, I could not see the separated ice piece. It was all one piece! That’s when I realised that this was a big escape. Because just as ice breaks and separates it also joins back or latches back in place. Which means, had I fallen into the water and say the ice pieces joined up as they did, would I be trapped under water?!

No point imagining what never happened. But that’s it. This is the first face of unknown I got introduced to.

I did not let this episode deter me or scare me in anyway. There’s an old Ladakhi saying. Not everybody has a right to passage in the Great Himalayas. First the mountain Gods test you. And then they protect you. With the mountain God’s blessings I was on my track.

The real deal – the icy walk

The whole day went in awe! We practiced walking on the ice. Explored the area around the campsite. Piled up flat river stones atop each other. The river bank was an awesome collection of round white stones. The campsite was so beautiful. Colorful tents dotted the bank of the river. And the river, half frozen was a combination of blue and white. And looming large in front of us was a huge peak. Above the tree line so it was all yellow ochre and brown.

Back from the kitchen tent, our team cook spoiled us crazy with rounds of tea, coffee, maggi, soups.

I spent a lot of time drying my wet clothes in the lucky sun break. The sun soon went down, and we started getting a sample of the minus degrees of cold.

One of our group friends caught the AMS real bad. She was breathless and almost fainted. She spent a really tough night. But Stanzin and his team took great care of her. And so did we, of course. She was given oxygen practically all through the night. And somehow she made it through the night.

Somewhere she and some of us wondered if she can continue with the trek, but our hero Stanzin would have none of it. He reassured her that he won’t let anything happen to her and she would be fine. We were all relieved and happy to have a great group leader.

This was the day of the trek. We were all geared up. Started out at 8 a.m. The plan was to walk till the next camp site and return. The day was bright. But not sunny as the day before.

We started the trek. Walking on ice takes some getting used to. There are slips and falls, but soon you get a hang of it. I had the best time taking awesome pictures. The chadar is such a wonder of nature… you can keep marvelling at the little pools of half frozen chunks of ice, the lovely patterns they make in the process of freezing and defreezing. The amazing contrasts they throw combining with the blue flowing river and the stark mountains. I am at a loss explaining in words the visuals my eyes feasted on.

As beautiful as the Chadar is, it is equally unpredictable too. There may be long stretches of opaque milky white ice and suddenly there may come a stretch where you feel you are walking on a glass bottom. With crystal clarity you can count the stones you see on the river bed. You may think that it is just ankle deep, but it is many feet deeper (as I had already learned at first hand experience). The sounds your feet make while walking on these transparent stretches are so creaky, like the sound of  hollowness, they rebound, making you wonder, did you just crack the ice?

The Chadar also plays hide and seek. It disappears from ahead of you and you are faced with gushing water to cross across. The guides know where to take you from. Sometimes they take you through the water if they feel its just ankle deep, or you need to crawl under some rock along the edges where there may be less than a foot of Chadar remaining. Or, you may have to detour and climb high peaks to navigate across. So, there! If you thought that Chadar is just a straight walk across the ice bed, you are in for a surprise. We had to climb over cliffs twice. The first one was a straight perpendicular climb. Looking at that, one of our group mates decided to call it quits. But all of us motivated her and our guide made sure she didn’t give up.

 

Must mention here, the Ladakhi people are like mountain goats. With so much of our luggage, the kitchen goods, our tents etc. laden on their backs they climbed mountains like they were on a Sunday stroll.

 

There are such pretty sights along the way. Small and big frozen waterfalls give you a sense of timelessness. You feel as if the world has stopped moving, and you are given this chance to soak in these beautiful experiences, while the others are in a deep slumber. You don’t remember anyone back home. There’s no pending work you can think of, no bills to be paid, no chores to be completed. This is a different world. Nothing from your world is relevant here. It’s just you and the mountains and the river and these people, some you may know, and most others are strangers. But strangely enough, you are bound to them by this awesome place. And more strangely, they are your family here.

There were several pit stops along the way. For hot piping maggi, soup, coffee… the works. And then we came to the place from where we were to head back to the camp. The air was very nippy. I realised that we had not seen the sun at all. In fact, I felt some powdery white on my hands and I asked, is it snowing?

The spot was awesome. The Chadar stretched from one bank to another. Ahead of us we saw the longest stretch of white, and rising from the horizon a perfect V formed by two mountains. We took so many pictures there. Sleeping on the Chadar, posing on the Chadar. And to literally add the icing on the cake, it started snowing!!!

 

My first snowfall! Flakes on my face, my hands, I could see everyone turning white! And all I could think of was… Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!!

We were so overwhelmed by our trek, we had done the Chadar!! It seemed the most opportune time to pay homage to our motherland.

We were just two days away from Republic Day. Interestingly, Sajid and I both had brought along the Tiranga for this moment. We held the Tiranga high and sang Jana Gana Mana, with tears in our eyes. And then we just hugged each other. That moment bonded us for life. I am sure each one in our group can remember that moment as clearly as I can and feels as strongly about it as I do.

We were a very mixed bag group. Hardly any of us would qualify as a ‘fit’ person. I had my knee problem, Rupa had just recovered from a serious bout of illness, Smitha was having difficulties coping with AMS and Manali had a fear of heights. We had all in some way decided to take our demons by the horns, and we had come through!

Happily and incident free we trekked back to our tents. It was snowing heavily by now. I could see our guides getting tense. But, for us, we felt blessed. In one day, we saw two scenes of the same place. Where there were rugged brown mountains looming large in front of us, we saw them sprinkled with white fluff. The stones and pebbles along the way were now these little white balls. A look around us and everything appeared in soft focus.

Soon, we too started getting the gravity of the situation we might be facing. As the sun had played hooky the whole day, it was getting colder as time passed. Very cold. Didn’t check the temperature but surely it had dipped below comfort zones.

The kitchen crew did their best to keep us warm. Rounds of hot tea and coffee, delicious 5 course dinner, complete with dessert.

Night fell and we retired into our snug tents and sleeping bags. It was till snowing. Quite heavily too.

We could even feel it through the tents. With snow piling up on our tents, its walls started closing in. the roof was threatening to touch the ground. Stanzin told us to keep our shoes and bags in the middle and cover ourselves well.

Despite the bad weather, most of us slept well that night, except Smitha, who again needed help with the oxygen. But she’s a brave girl!

Next morning, Smitha, who was up most of the night, did a cock-a-doodle-doo by screaming, Guys!! You need to see this!! Get up! Come out and see this.

When we did, it was easily the most beautiful sight. White was the only colour around. It was like we were transported to some other place overnight. We couldn’t recognise the mountains we had called home just the other day. And it was still snowing!! Very heavily. When I stepped out of our tent, my foot sank in about 8 inches!

Never again would we get to see this spectacle, so out came our shutterbugs. Between breakfast, clicking pictures and snowball fights, our guides were literally scolding us to hurry up. They could see what we couldn’t. But we understood nothing at the time.

We packed up our stuff and wore all the layers we had with us. And topped it with a rain poncho. With a quick backward glance, I said goodbye to beloved Chadar with a promise to return and experience it in its fully glory on a full trek. Very soon.

With a two km trek back and a steep climb on a mountain we did not recognise anymore, here was the second unknown we were embarking upon…

Our guides and the support staff had to carry back a lot of stuff to our vehicle that was parked on top of the mountain. With the weather getting worse by the minute, Stanzin told us sternly not to stop anywhere on the way and follow them up the course. But it was very difficult to keep pace with the mountain goats that they are.

To add to that, all of us in the group had different speeds of climbing. Very soon, our guides, every one of them, went out of sight and we were left guessing our paths. We were barely at the base, and a glance up showed a rising deep white blanket. None of the mountain trails we had used to come down the other day were visible. Soon, because of the difference in our speeds, our group too fragmented. There was Smitha, Jay and Manali trailing behind, Vandana being the group lead was with them, Rupa and Sajid were somewhere in the midpoint, Avani and I were ahead. We were all lost. We had no clue, which direction were we supposed to take.

Then we came across a few tents. Their occupants too were packing up to leave. They pointed out a direction and said they saw our guides go that way. I started walking. Then, one of us from below said, let’s stay together. So, we stopped again. But I could see a faint trail that the guides who had carried our things must have made. And I said, I will follow this trail. If we wait, the trail will get snowed over and none of us will know how to get out of here. And, anyway I had worn a fluorescent poncho, which made me stand out like a beacon. I decided to keep following the trail till I could see it.

There was so much snow. I had never been on so much snow before, leave alone climbing a snow mountain. But, I was so pleasantly surprised by my energy. I was not tired, nor was I worried.

I tried to never look up. Because when I looked up I could only see a vast mountain to climb. I could not see another soul, or a line to mark a road. And I also thought if I lose sight of the trail, I will lose the way as well, for me and my entire group which was following the fresh trails I was making. With a sense of purpose I kept climbing. When I got thirsty, I took some ice and ate it. It was tasty!

And then I heard a rumble. A BIG thunder. And echoes of that rumbling thunder. So loud, that it sent a scary chill past my spine. And I looked up. At 12 o’clock, I saw what I thought then to be a big chunk of the earth breaking right in front of my eyes!!

 

I saw the mountain which was staring at me breaking loose and come down at me in big boulders. At a distance of 10 feet! It was a landslide!! I knew stark fear in that moment. When I looked down, I saw there were huge balls of stone and rock heading down at the camps. I could hear people from the camp screaming and warning and probably running for their lives. I could not see any of my friends. And they could not see me.

I screamed at the top of my voice, Sajid, Rupa, but nobody heard me. When I looked up again, I could see a stampede of rocks and boulders and small stones and debris mostly following a trajectory, but where the stones landed, they just flung anywhere in the orbit. Fearing the loose stray stone that could be flung my way, I decided to put maximum distance between me and their chosen path. I tried to walk as fast as I could and went and stood under an overhanging rock, all the time screaming out names. I remember thinking, if I get buried under some falling rocks, my friends should at least know where to look out for me.

And then, I heard some male voices. One spoke in urgent Hindi, jaldi bhaago. Uss taraf se nikal jaao. And I saw an army many at a distance talking to me. He must have heard my screams and come rushing in my direction. He told me this is a massive landslide and it was very dangerous to be anywhere around. If even a small stone strikes at me at that speed, that would be the end of me. I panicked. I told him I am trying to get to the road but cannot make out the way. And he showed me the direction. I took a breath of relief, I was very close to it. But now I had to make a dash for it.

Soon, I could hear voices of my friends but I was out of visibility range from them. Without stopping another moment, I rushed up as fast as I could. And soon in a few minutes I hit the road!!

But my heart was pounding at an unbelievable rate. It was as if I was heaving with the rocks on my chest. I had climbed up almost the entire mountain without any sense of breathlessness. But the anxious sprint of a few minutes had me gasping for air. And water. I had water in my backpack, but I didn’t have the energy to take it out. Then I saw an army camp, probably the camp the soldier who helped me was from. I asked him for water. He didn’t have any in his canter. So he picked up some ice and quickly melted it in a pan over some fire burning and gave it to me. I felt I will live again.

And then I saw our van. And our guides. When they saw me, they said they feared for our lives. They saw the landslide and were worried sick whether we would survive that. To bring home his point, Stanzin repeated what the soldier told me, ek chota sa pathar bhi lag jata toh aap nahi bachte.

Soon, one by one the rest of our group too joined in. And we all exchanged our stories of the landslide and thanked God that all were safe.

 

 

A few other trekkers too came along. They looked for their van but our crew informed them that there were massive landslides along the way. Especially one few kilometres away just after Chilling had completely blocked out out the route. The trekkers asked us if they could join us in our van up to Chilling.  Some other Ladakhi people too joined in.

Meanwhile, Stanzin and his people were putting iron chains around the tyres, so that it would not slip in the snow. However, they just had one pair enough just for two tyres. To make matters worse, the van had run cold in the bad weather and it would not start. After several attempts, it finally did and we all packed into the van, happy to be moving out towards Leh, towards civilization.

Little did we know, adventures were not ready to leave us yet.

When the van got enroute, we saw the devastation wreaked by the snowstorm and landslides. There was hardly any road left. After going a few kilometres, the van suddenly stopped and the driver asked us all to slowly get down one after the other. We did. When Jay and the other trekkers who had joined us got off, their eyes told us what they saw. The landslides had eroded half the roads and where the van stopped, the outside two tyres of the van were suspended in air, hanging over a cliff. This, passengers sitting at the rear window side had seen and when they told us, we all said a prayer, God please let us reach home safely. The dangers are far from over.

Somehow, the expert driver and Stanzin and other Ladakhis who were used to such situations managed to drive the van to a safer broader stretch ahead and we all piled in again. We must have hardly gone a little further, when the van stopped again. This time it was permanent.

What we saw ahead was huge mountain piled up on the road. This was the landslide that had cut off all other vehicles from coming across. No wonder the fellow trekkers who had joined in didn’t find their van waiting for them at the stop.

The arrow shows the landslide we were supposed to cross over. With the soil loose and a few inches of footspace, the fall would be vertically into the river below.

The landslide was huge. The debris was moist and loose soil. And right below it was a sharp fall straight into the blue and turbulent Zanskar river!!

On the other side of the landslide we could see a long line up of buses and vans and dozens and dozens of stranded trekkers.

Stanzin told us we had climb through the landslide onto the other side. That there was no other way. When we looked at what he wanted us to do, we had our hearts in our mouths. There was just enough place to keep one foot, a slight slip and there was nothing and no one to stop our fall into the waiting icy blue river.

But then help came in from the other side. A young fellow trekker came half way up and stretched out his hand. Smitha was the first to go. Mid-way there and she lost her nerve. The young guy reassured her and told her not to look down. Very very slowly she inched across and finally the boy pulled her across. Then it was my turn, I used my pole stick on the right side, just to be have something between the fall and myself. I was shaking with imbalance. Again the boy reached out and I too was safely on the other side. One by one this was we all got across. And looked behind to see what he had crossed. Nobody had any words remaining in them.

Now, we were all on this side, but our van was on the other. How would we reach Leh? All other vans were coming for the Chadar. So many were stranded on the roads. We saw so many trekkers cross across and go ahead to the Chadar. They were all warned that the weather was going from bad to worse. In fact, our cook said that he had served as a cook on the Chadar for eight years and it never snowed. In his eight years he had never seen such a snow storm, such landlides. This coming from a true blue Ladakhi!

The trekkers who had joined us said good bye to us from there and said they would walk to Chilling and see if they could arrange for a van to reach Leh. Meanwhile, our guides turned out to be quite resourceful. They struck a deal with another van fellow they knew to ferry across his van passengers to the Chadar, while he take us in his van to Leh. So that way, we got into another van and went onward to Leh. All our fingers were crossed praying for a peaceful return to Leh. Our group leader, Vandana was sitting next to the driver. He told Vandana to watch out for small landslides and to warn him if she sees one. Before the driver completed his sentence, Vandana had already screamed STOP! As we saw stones hurtling down towards our van from the loose mountain to our left. But it was too late a warning. By the time the brakes were applied a few stones came at high speed and struck right under my seat and a few others missed the van and we could see them creating huge splash in the river below.

Jaakho raakhe saaiyan maar sake naa koi… The stones had no power against the will of the mountain Gods that were guarding me and the rest of us from what sounded like nothing less than a death knell.

We escaped without a scratch. With a broad smile on our faces. Knowing we had cheated death not once, but time and again.

We reached Leh in high spirits and the next day, 26th January, we attended the Republic Day celebrations in the Parade Grounds with an elevated sense of pride, for ourselves, for our Ladkahi friends and our countrymen.

The next day, on schedule, we flew out of Leh, without any more mishap. While hundreds of people who were booked on Air India were stranded there for weeks. I know many friends who had reached Leh with great excitement could not make it to the Chadar. Later, we came to know that the snowstorm was one of the worst. It had snowed some 1 ½ feet of snow. For straight 72 hours. Trekkers who must have been stranded on the Chadar must have had horrific tales to tell. On the flight my fellow passenger told us how his team mate had slipped on the ice and broke his back. In an instant. There were so many strories of injuries, of falling into the water, permanent damages, falls from cliffs… we were unbelievably lucky to have escaped unscathed. Want to know why?

I believe that we invite our outcomes. Never once, when the Chadar cracked in the first hour of my trek, or when the landslide missed me by 10 feet, or when we crossed across the landslide, etc., did it ever cross my mind that I could die today. Nor did I see any pessimism in any of my friends. All along I remember thinking positively, sneakily, I even remember thinking, Wow! What a story I have to tell.

I think that it is the attitude that carried us through all the mishaps. And the Gods that guard the Chadar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23 thoughts on “Chadar Trek 2017 – An escape story”

  1. Superb blog.. It’s a virtual trip… It’s Sad Chadar is now at such a state. To much pressure on Chadar and in coming years it will be only a story.. As forming Chadar will stop.

  2. Great spirit of venture. I have crossed Zanskar and Panzila twice…. have seen snowfalls…. but never experienced such thrill…… …. A big Salute to iron lady 🙏🙏🙏🙏

  3. So very well written. Almost feel like I am there with you.

    It is for sure the most dangerous trek. And u make it sound so exciting.
    Some day…

  4. Wow Kavita. What a story! What an adventure! The entire time I was reading the story , in fact, I was actually visualising it. It was full of thrill n adventure. I so very wanted to be there imagining all the beautiful sites n scenes u mentioned. Kudos to ur courage n hope u rub some on my too. 😘

  5. Wow as usual superb write up I wish to go there once after reading ur blog Great adventure & attitude. Mountains are most unpredictable Its a different world with its own rules It commands respect. Next on my bucket list .

  6. I really don’t need to mention that you are an awesome takes-me-right-there author and a badass! But what I really dread to think is how in the world you have such an elephants damn memory! In such vivid detail that too.! Your hubbie is always welcome to sob over my hubbie’s shoulder okay?!

  7. Wow! What an adventurous trip! I’ve always been a huge fan of your style of narration, & your energy. You really took me to Chadar with you! Keep traveling and blogging, dear Kavita

  8. Superb Kavita.. penning down each and every feeling into words is an art..which you have mastered big-time.. what an adventure.. Can’t say whether you find it or adventure finds you.. hats off.. now this is one in my bucket list..thanks to you.. keep it up..

  9. Kavita ,salute your never give up attitude. At a few places I could actually visualise what you must have gone thru, specially when you mentioned that the ice under you broke. I was like what next. I love reading your blog. It’s so real. Keep up the spirit and last but not the least , the good work. Love you.

  10. Omg what an experience & what a narration! I could almost feel the thrill & the chill. We had been posted in Leh for a year & half & have survived the snow & low oxygen & seen the landslides closely.. so can imagine your plight at this treacherous trek. The pictures are amazingly beautiful. Your story took me along with you at the Chadar. Loved the touchy moment where you sang the anthem holding our flag. Keep traveling & blogging. Also keep up the “never give up” attitude!

  11. Wow… What a story. Some adventure u had. KavitaGiaMom.. Can be made into a movie in fact…Felt I was reading some suspense thriller. Very well articulated

  12. Kav beautifully written! Thank you for sharing this adventure with us all. I loved the pictures too, especially the one with the Indian Flag!

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