REFLECTIONS ON THE TSANGPO RIVER:
or the “what am I doing?” and “how did I get here?” experience
by Jay Hanks
Part 1: The Tsangpo River and Me
Part 2: The Big South Fork Gorge of the Cumberland River at 4000 cfs
Part 3: Graveyard Rapids on the Spanish River during the flood of 1996
Part 4: The Wreck of the S.S. Minnow: Gilligan’s Island on the Missinaibi
Part 5: Bad Dog: High water in the Dog River Canyon – May 2001
Part 6: Day 10 on the Yellowknife River, NWT – July 2005
Part 7: Reflections at the End of the Day
Many of you may know what and where the Tsangpo River is, and many of you may not. I will tell you a little bit about it. It is in Tibet, and is considered to be the most challenging river in the world. It is called the “Mt. Everest of rivers” because of its proximity to the tallest peak in the world, and also because of its dangerous nature. Mt. Everest has been summitted many times since Sir Edmund Hillary accomplished the feat in 1953 but it still remains the pinnacle of mountaineering challenges.
The Tsangpo is similar. Explored by Europeans in the late 19th century, the Tsangpo River has remained shrouded in mystery until late in the 20th century when repeated efforts to chart its course were undertaken. Because of its extremely remote location all explorations are on foot even to this day. It is not surprising that paddlers would sometimes talk about running the river after they would find out about it.
Like me, many paddlers constantly think about new rivers to run. We all have our favorites but the thrill of the unknown is contagious and intoxicating. Since whitewater paddling has taken off as a sport in its own right, paddlers everywhere have been quick to make sure every river on the planet has been run. With technological advances and new techniques, the adventurous paddler has successfully descended even the wildest, most difficult rivers.
The Tsangpo River in Tibet began to epitomize the last, great river on earth that remained unexplored. A few paddlers from the D.C. area began seriously discussing an expedition to the river in the mid 90’s. There are two books in print on their 1998 trip towards that end: “Courting the Diamond Sow” by Wick Walker, one of the trip members, and “The Last River” by Todd Balf, an outdoor adventure writer who did not personally undertake the trip.
(to be continued…)