The frozen river trek or the Chadar Trek, as it’s popularly known, is a trek that has been listed by numerous sites as an exotic trek that needs to be done if you are into trekking. The idea of the trek is that you go to Leh, in India, during the winters and take a ride out to the Zanskar River where you start your walk on a frozen Zanskar river. It is a very beautiful and picturesque place to be in and the cold is definitely something that adds more spice to the experience but when I got back from this trek, for the very first time, I found myself think that this is one place I would not go back to.
It is not that I did not enjoy the place or that something unpleasant happened on the trek that spoilt the experience. It was just some things that I observed that ended up becoming a bit of an irritant on an otherwise fantastic journey. You can read about my experience of the trek here.
There are too many people on the Chadar Trek
Since the Chadar Trek is supposed to be an exotic one and one that may not be around for too long (think in terms of a few years), the crowd at this trek is simply unbelievable. On our return journey, we actually managed to get stuck in a traffic jam! Who know that a traffic jam could find out at 10,000ft on a frozen river! Traffic jams are resourceful! Well to be fair, the jam had been caused by melting ice but that let us not detract from the problem of too many people.
Generally when I go for a trek, I do it to enjoy the outdoors and escape people or, at the very least, minimise my exposure to them since I get enough of them in the city. But on this trek there were simply too many people and i am not even counting the trekking group that I was with (which was not a big group actually). This poses another problem, space at the camp sites. You need to reach each campsite in good time so as to get a nice spot to pitch your tents on and you begin to feel a bit, not too much, rushed. A trek is supposed to be more leisurely than that.
There is poop everywhere!
Remember when I said that there were too many people on the Chadar Trek? Well this is the second problem they create. This was the single biggest irritant that I encountered on this trek. Due to the sheer number of people that undertake this trek, all the camp sites are like potty centrals. At most of the campsites, if you wander away from the river you will see remnants of crap all over the place.
Some of them are old and some of them rather fresh and when I say all over the place I do mean ALL OVER. At camp sites, there are designated areas where people, and trekking groups, pitch their tents and everything that is not a part of this area is a poop zone.
At one of the camp sites, we chose the bank of the river to pitch our tents on and guess what, digging just a few inches into the sand revealed a small pile of really old poop (at least I hope it was old… it was all dry and hard and no I did not pick it up for a forensic analysis of the poop). Having pitched my tent, I just told the other trekkers that if they value their peace of mind then it would best to refrain from digging in the sand under the tents. I believe that pretty soon this trek will be known as the Frozen Poop Trek!
There is garbage in the ice!
The treks popularity seems to be its own downfall, to a certain extent. Even though trekking groups are, for the most part, careful about their trash, there is still some that get thrown around. This is especially noticeable at the camp sites and the saddest part is that sometimes you will see things like chocolate wrappers and other trash frozen in the ice. It’s not even near the surface, it’s actually a few inches below the surface ice but still very visible. Oh and remember potty central? Well that place is just covered in tissue paper and wet wipes!
The Chadar trek is an awesome experience with the cold (-30 degrees Celsius) and the frozen river but something is spoiling it and I believe it’s us. While I agree that limiting the number of people will be difficult and not really practical but if you are going on this trek then I have just a few words for you, “POOP TENTS AND TRASH BAGS! CARRY THEM! USE THEM!”