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By Todd Balf

The final River: The Tragic Race for Shangri-la is a panoramic account of the ill-fated October 1998 excursion of an American whitewater kayaking crew who traveled deep into the Tsangpo Gorge in Tibet to run the Yarlung Tsangpo, identified in paddling circles because the "Everest of rivers." For Wick Walker and Tom McEwan, severe whitewater pioneers, most sensible neighbors, and journey leaders, the Tsangpo event was once the fruits of a twenty-five-year quest for glory. but the team's brilliant goals crumbled while their ace paddler used to be swept over a thunderous eight-foot waterfall, by no means to be visible again.

Here is an interesting exploration of either the seething giant water and threatening terrain of the mythical Shangri-la, and the boys who dared problem the livid rapids that raced via this 140-mile-long canyon. The final River invitations us to view the Himalayas from a unconditionally new standpoint -- on a historical river so distant that simply the main hardy and romantic souls try and unencumber its mysteries.

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As Walker might patiently clarify to non-river-running acquaintances, a primary descent didn’t truly suggest doing an end-to-end run at the water. at the Tsangpo (as on a variety of different rivers starting from steep creeks to big-volume classics just like the Indus, which flows from Kailash via Pakistan), that may be very unlikely; the ability of a few of the rapids and waterfalls might bury even the main ambitious paddler. Even the most current—what boaters name the “action” line—is too speedy and strong at convinced water degrees. (A big-volume river, hurtling alongside at as much as twenty miles consistent with hour in locations, can simply snap a paddle in like a sprig. ) To specialists like Walker, what a primary descent on a deep canyon river really ability is to make the preliminary end-to-end foray via paddling as a lot of the river as attainable and portaging the remainder, utilizing specialist hiking and hiking abilities. As next runs are made (and wisdom concerning the river’s profile is disseminated), the variety of portages continuously lessens. whereas any other significant whitewater river on the earth were tackled during this demeanour, the Tsangpo hadn’t. no longer approximately. whilst Walker drilled down farther, he started to greater comprehend why. by way of either paddling and portaging, the Tsangpo used to be monstrously tough. River rapids are rated on a scale of I to VI, with type I categorised as relocating water with riffles and sophistication VI being the periphery of what’s thoroughly runnable by way of the world’s top paddlers. On big-volume rivers the size isn’t extraordinarily beneficial, even though, given the various additional risks and complexity of the water. The vintage stretch of Colorado River whitewater flowing throughout the Grand Canyon has its personal “Deseret Scale,” a one to 10 grading method that greater fits the vast stock of fast kinds. The components of the Tsangpo that have been believed to be runnable awarded a doubtless endless number of unique wild-water phenomena, from classification VI-plus to channel-clotting, house-sized boulders to status waves twenty-five ft excessive. The few who had paddled parts of the river (amounting to not more than ten miles of the gorge’s simplest, such a lot obtainable stretches) stated the present used to be deceptively complicated to learn, the surging major channel way more treacherous than it seemed from shore. Even eddies, the calm restoration spots in the back of rocks and alongside banks the place the most present rushes prior and paddlers can seize a breather, have been fiercely unstable and absurdly robust. Crosscurrents sloped off the exploding mess within the center and surged crazily into the banks. within the narrowest 90-degree chutes, the river slammed headlong into cliffs and reared up steeply on its finish. Walker’s crew may run a fast, then locate themselves in a spot the place they couldn’t pass ahead, couldn’t return, and couldn’t move slowly out. those so-called no-return zones will require a kamikaze descent into the void, a video game of whitewater roulette during which the potential for surviving was once narrow at top. as the gorge was once so pinched in spots, the river observed minimum solar.

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