In winter snow cuts off Zanskar’s tenuous road links altogether. But in February it is possible to walk in from Chilling following an ancient seasonal trade trail that essentially follows the frozen Zanskar River – often on the ice, crossing side streams on precarious snow bridges and camping in caves en route. This hazardous ‘Chadar Trek’ was once seen as an 'ultimate adventure', but, while it remains hazardous, increased popularity with Indian domestic tourists means that of late the trek can feel oddly overcrowded. Over 3000 Indian trekkers currently walk the route within a 40-day period.
If you attempt the trek, allow around six days each way, and when selecting a support company don't seek out the cheapest (which often have too few guides and porters per client). Climate change has made the ice less stable than in previous decades, so it's essential to have an experienced local guide who can ‘read’ the ice. Camping en route is in caves or riverside ledges, so you need excellent four-season gear. Carrying easy-to-access spare socks and a towel is essential; if you do put a foot through the ice you'll have to react fast to prevent frostbite. Indian trekkers need a medical certificate from Leh before they are allowed to undertake the trek.