The last stop on our Ladakh kayaking tour was an overnighter on the Upper Indus River. This is the river that India was named after and the valley has a rich history of ancient civilizations dating back to 3300 BC.
For this trip it was necessary for us to apply for visitor permits and travel far upstream near the border of Tibetan China. It is a remote region with a strong military presence and we passed by many base camps on our way to the put-in. As we drove further and further from Leh up the dusty road, I was again relieved to have such a great group to travel with. We were joined by a long lost paddling friend, Polly Green, and a local paddler named Biru.
Hindus consider all rivers in India to be sacred and with one look at the Upper Indus I could see why. The landscape was completely different from the Zanskar and resembled the red rock canyons of the Colorado River. The river was roadside for the most part. On our way to the put-in we were able to scout some rapids from the truck, but there were way too many to remember. The only thing we knew was that somewhere there was a surprise sticky hole that was responsible for a lot of swims.
This section of the Indus had continuous class IV to IV+ read and run rapids, my favorite kind of kayaking! From the moment we launched there was nonstop whitewater through a scenic canyon. We all jumped in line and were making good progress until we got to the legendary hole. It was sure a sneaky one and we didn't see it coming until a couple people had already taken some pretty good beat downs. Fortunately no one swam and everyone was okay physically, but mentally it presented some challenges for the group.
Jacob running a big boulder drop rapid on the Upper Indus
The next morning we continued downstream with Polly leading the charge, but Susan was gradually falling behind. The rest of us were somewhere in between, but as the day went on, the gap started getting bigger. There was talk of splitting up the group to make sure we could catch our ride at the takeout, but I fully supported taking time to scout/portage a few things and wait for everyone to catch up. The problem with being in the middle of nowhere India is that you don't really have the option of walking off the river alone if you're having a bad day. My peace of mind relied heavily on the “safety in numbers” rationale so I felt strongly that we should stick together and keep an eye on each other.
After some negotiation we were able to pull it together as a team and find patience as others were overcoming mental struggles. Eventually the rapids became smaller as we approached a smelly bridge that marked our takeout at the Upshi truck stop. We parked ourselves and our pile of kayaks at a roadside diner and waited for our ride, but the adventure continued when the shuttle vehicle never showed up. As evening set in, we had all given up hope of being rescued and jumped on a massive bus to Leh that coincidently had just enough room for the nine of us and our kayaks.
Upshi truck stop
On our last day in Leh I was not ready to leave and tried without luck to strategize a way to stay longer. That night Monica, Ty, Susan, and I hiked up to the Shanti Stupa overlooking the city and reflected back on the last couple weeks. The people, places, and rivers of Ladakh had made quite an impression on me. The simplicity, happiness, and raw beauty of that area is something I will never forget. Jacob, Susan, Adam, and I said our goodbyes and headed to the airport early the next morning. I was sad to leave Ladakh but so grateful for the experience. It definitely gave me a new perspective on the world and what I value in life.
I had a chance to try the Mamba 8.6 Creeker this spring and it is quickly becoming my favorite kayak for self-supports!
At first I was questioning if the 8.6 would be too much boat for me (I'm 5'11", 140 lbs), but the edges offer a lot of control while zipping in and out of eddies. Even when the Mamba is fully loaded for a multi-day trip, it rides high on the water which makes it easier to handle than a smaller boat. I especially like how well the 8.6 resurfaces and soars out of a boof!
All the extra knee space makes this boat really comfortable for long days on the river, but my favorite part of the new design is all that extra volume in the stern. It makes the boat very stable, even in swirly, big water eddy lines. Packing for a long trip is so much easier with all the added space. I'm definitely looking forward to spending a lot of quality time with the Mamba this paddling season. I think it's going to be a great summer!
Great job Dagger!
Test run down Devil's Canyon of the Middle Feather, CA
About 4 years ago in Oct. 2008, I was putting on the Green Truss section of the White Salmon River with a group of friends and a guy walked up and asked if he could join us. He mentioned that he had just moved to the area from Ohio and had never paddled any of the runs around Hood River.
I am all about meeting new people to paddle with, but not so excited about putting on a Class IV-V waterfall run with a complete stranger. I could tell by the awkward silence that the rest of the group was also feeling hesitant, especially since we were all bundled up in drysuits and he was wearing board shorts, a torn up dry top, and some duct-taped tennies. FYI, the White Salmon River is freezing cold year-round, especially in mid-October, but Andy Maser spoke up and told the guy he was welcome to join us and that we would show him down the river.
Well here's a great lesson in not judging a paddler by his appearance! This guy, Drew Eastman, turned out to be an awesome boater and it was great to have him along on the trip. About halfway down the run I flipped over in Upper Zigzag, got pinned up against the wall, swam, and lost my paddle. Drew helped in the effort to recover my paddle and we all ended up having a great day on the river. I got his number at the takeout and throughout the next year he became one of my favorite people to paddle with. We did some memorable trips to the Clendenning River in British Columbia, the Feather Festival in California, and the Tieton in Washington. He eventually asked me out on a date but I was pretty nervous because I didn't want to screw up one of the coolest paddling relationships I'd ever had. Luckily, the first date was awesome and before I knew what hit me, I had a really fun boyfriend!
Then last summer we were paddling the Little White Salmon and we got out to take pictures of people running Spirit Falls. Drew knelt down to get his camera out of his dry box and when he turned around he was holding a ring, and he proposed right at the lip of Spirit! Well I was completely caught off guard, but of course I said “YES!” and all our friends were cheering from the pool below. It was definitely my favorite days on the Little White ever! So, I'm sure glad that Drew decided to join us that day on the Green Truss, and I've got to say, it's great to be with someone who understands that sometimes it's important to drop everything last minute because a river just came in and you have to go kayaking :)