The Chadar - the amazing walk along the semi-frozen river of Zanskar
For my research trip I joined Depi's curious team, a crew of nine Zanskaris and four members
Cooking some legal Indian army Siachen rations - delicious!
We slept in caves, rather than tents; safe from stonefall and avalanches
The Zanskar River is only partly frozen; caution and experience absolutely required
The team of Zanskari porters were fantastic, and nice guys
Narrow ice; looks ok but falling in could mean death
Depi - don't fall in.
The valley sides are steep though, and groups occasionally use a rope
No way on the ice, so we climb around.
How thick is the ice - hard to tell, but luckily it is rare for people to break through
The supercooled water freezes when still.
Who was first?
Sleds work on smooth ice but often need carrying
Locals troop out in groups
The ice edge is usually strong, sometimes not
A crawl, Rinchen scouts as Depi looks on
Then we crawl; the colonel's ADC is used to crawling in the army
Another tricky spot, although there was an alternative short rock climb instead
Footprints in ice-water, later covered by clear ice
Smooth and slippery but surprisingly easy to walk on
The crew were stars
The crew wew also mostly related
The Chadar opening out.
A little bit of water can make a lot of ice
The colonel's ADC took good care of the two Indian women with us.
And Rinchen, the guide, took care of everything very well
The Zanskaris always had a smile ready.
Arthi stays wrapped up in a cave.
Here is good protection for the cold, but the crew dressed otherwise surprisingly lightly.
The Zanskar is still a real river, even if the level is significantly lower than the summer.
The classic cantilever design; luckily as the wires don't seem to be essential.
Side streams freeze entirely in the cold
This is the trekking bridge between Nerak and Yulchung
An ice eruption, and river center that is falling.
That scary black-blue water; you wouldn't want to fall in...
Oh, the steep-sided gorge!
The river is deeper than it looks, due to refraction
Those colourful Zanskar rocks.
The scale of the place is huge
Local villagers use the river for hauling construction supplies, easier than carrying over high passes
An ice eruption, and river center that is falling
An awesome Chadar gorge.
Jamie McGuinness and Depi Chaudhry
That scary black-blue water
in real cold ice crystals can grow on the surface of the ice
Nearing the end of the gorge, there is now a road under (slow) construction, that I am standing on
Padum is cut off for the winter, apart from walking the Chadar
We reached Padum after 5 days walking and a few hours drive. A GREF truck.
Padum was rather cold; also verified at -33C digitally
GREF road workers stay warm with kerosene stoves and insulated huts.
A jury-rigged medical drip to feed the stove; standard for the Indian army and other services in Ladakh but hellishly dangerous.
The Border Roads Organization (BRO), and Project Himank do an incredible job, but no rollling in winter.
Ice crystals grow like snowflakes in real cold.
Villages in the open valley near Padum
Zanskar - the cleared road is still snow covered; they drive without chains.
"Cold tea" from Bon king rum - yes, we have kept the tops
One of the road engineers who worked hard in the difficult conditions.
Returning: there are a few places critical to the Chadar, if no ice then you have to climb on iron rods.
The delightful Kunga (red) joined us for the way out.
Kunga had an extra sled, perfect for Jamie's backpack.
Depi shows where the river level was when the freeze started.
Zanskar rock colours and the gorge...
Depi checks the ice.
Chadar ice; Its crazy seeing the bottom and the river flowing underneath your feet.
We were a small team on the way back, so small caves.
Lots of smooth "skating"
The ice had changed considerably, and that light!
Note the wooden frame backpack - thanks again to the star crew! (The end)
a hole frozen over 4 days