A perilous access
During the short summer season (from June to September), access to Zanskar is possible either by the caravan paths which are more than 5’000 m high (16’400 ft) at their highest point, or by a trail linking the valleys to the Cachemire valley or to nearby Ladakh.
In the depth of winter, the access to Zanskar is only possible by walking up the Tchadar (the Frozen River, made famous by the photographer Olivier Föllmi), which means walking for several days along the canyon made by the river. This is a perilous journey passable only during the coldest periods of winter, in January or February.
Thus, the boldest venture on along the Tchadar to meet up some friends or family, to devote themselves to a small business and to bring back the mail. The extreme temperatures, the long walks and the grueling camps make this canyon inhospitable and dangerous. Hitting the ice with a stick, the climbers test the frozen ground and listen to the sound it makes to put rhythm into the walk and find the safer way.
As soon as the snow melts, access through the pass is possible and the Zanskarpas cross the mountainous belt with their caravans of yaks or small horses to go to the South, to Manali in the Himachal Pradesh or to the North to Leh or Ladakh. Then, they walk at least one week to reach the first roads.