the journey

The Chadar is a winter route along the frozen surface of the River Zanskar in Ladakh - a mountainous region in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. The river freezes in early January and thaws in March.

 

The Chadar is important because in winter it is the only overland route between Leh, the capital of Ladakh, and the town of Padum and scattered rural villages and monasteries of the Zanskar valley.

Historically, walking the Chadar was a formidable undertaking, not least because of its isolation and the exigencies of the harsh Himalayan winter. Simply getting to the trailhead meant long treks across desolate country. 

 

The Chadar threads its way along the serpentine Zanskar gorge, over ice of variable thickness, with air temperatures regularly dropping to -20°C at night. Most of the Chadar is in daylong shadow, so temperatures rarely climb above zero in winter. Caves provide some shelter for the traveller at night.

 

The area's remoteness makes it one of the few remaining habitats of Ladakh’s rarest wildlife, including snow leopard, ibex, lynx and fox.

Despite its hardships, or perhaps because of them, the Chadar is a thing profound of beauty.

the travellers

Mepham is a Zanskari farmer. He’s travelled the Chadar countless times. He made his first crossing as a child with his grandfather and he can remember a time when there were no roads to shorten the journey. His son Tsering had previously travelled the Chadar just two or three times.

 

The film follows their progress early in the winter when the ice conditions are precarious and the going slow.