Kayaking the Tsangpo Gorge

Seems like once something is front and center in your imagination, you find it everywhere. I finally ordered Atomic Robo (Vols. 1-3) – I opened up volume one and found myself at a Nazi installation in the Tsangpo Gorge! A few days later I was skulking around a local used bookstore when I came across The Last River, an account of the ill-fated 1998 kayak expedition that claimed Doug Gordon’s life. Like the ijit I am, I didn’t buy it immediately; when I returned a week later it was gone. Luckily, it hadn’t sold – just moved to the ‘featured used books’ shelf at the main store – I snatched it up. The Last River gets 2 1/2 out of 5 stars – in spite of (because of?) the extensive bios of the participants, I didn’t empathize with any of them. Some of it may also be my ambivalence about modern ‘extreme’ expeditioning. It was extremely useful as an overview of some of the other western personalities kicking around that part of the world: Ian Baker, Kenneth Storm, et al. and as a decent timeline of western activity in the late 90s though.

While wandering around the internet looking for info on other Tsangpo exploration, I found the video account of the 2002 expedition on Hulu. Some thoughts –

  • Anyone who does not expect to have to re-negotiate with Monpa porters when the porters feel they have the upper hand is not paying attention. It happened to Kingdon-Ward in 1924, to the 1998 kayakers and, as you’ll see below, in 2002.
  • The river volume in 2002 is low – and yet the water is still amazingly powerful and complex. Some of it has to do with the gradient and some with the fact that ‘low’ is a relative term.
  • I can’t imagine what the holes, hydraulics etc. would be like at 2 1/2 to 5 times the volume depicted below (the conditions that the 1998 group confronted). Mind = boggled.
  • If you have Google Earth installed, plugging 29°46’9.59″N, 95°11’13.33″E into the search box will fly you  (close) to the Hidden Falls.

  • The map graphics in the video confuse the heck out of me – all I can figure is that south is at the top of the map.
  • Takin.