So, This is part III of Ben Stookesberry most recent conquest. Part I and II can be found on www.jacksonkayak.com
. He pulled together 5 Jackson Factory Team members for what turned out to be a fantastic epic in a place that the news portrays as terrible and hate mongering toward the US. Seems that the perspective kayakers gets in their journey's are always so much more positive.
Hotel Charley IV is on it's way to being a reality for Spring 09. Seems this one will provide the always bigger then possible kayak drops/moves, but even more interesting, smiling faces of those that apparently "hate us".
I can't wait to see this flick and hope all of the kayak community comes out to show their support for those that are pushing both kayak and cultural boundries...
Pakistan Part 3: A new Bench Mark on the Indus
Monday, December 1st, 2008 - New Delhi , India
Exactly 11 days after entering the Indus at the cusp of a 3000 foot descent to the Karakoram Highway ; Ben Stookesberry
, Phil Boyer
, Darin McQuoid
, Rafael Ortiz
and Chris Korbulic
accomplish the most complete descent of the Indus 's fabled Rondu Area. Making just 11 portages the team passed through one the greatest whitewater challenges on earth with extreme care and the utmost reverence and respect for one of the greatest waterways on the planet. The success of the descent was certainly owed in part to River India founder Roland Stevenson
and his roadside support and interpretation who stayed in visual and radio contact for the full extent of the trip.
According Pakistan 's greatest climber and expeditionist Nazir Sabir (first ascent west ridge of K2 (1981) and founder Nazir Sabir Expeditions)
: "the Rhondu area of the Indus saw its first descent in 1989 with David Allardice's fabled Taming the Lion Expedition and film
. There have only been a handful of attempts ever since." This stands in contrast to reports made after two attempts on the Indus by the German Sickline crew in 2007 and 2008 who claim the first "Mastery of the River and or descent of the Rondu.
" Sabir maintains that a "full descent of the river was accomplished over a lengthy descent involving dozens of portages but was accomplished none the less by Allardice and crew in the late 80's. Certainly from our experience on the Indus, we found that the river certainly provided many points of egress and contained only one 5km gorge of truly mandatory class 5 which may or may not have been run on the Taming the Lion Epic.
Despite our groups experience and numbers, just minutes downstream of our put-in at 7200 feet above sea level, we begin to understand that we were only marginally less exposed as a team as opposed to being alone. Getting out in the middle of one of the Indus ’s major cataracts is to absolutely commit to staying in your boat in a style of self rescue often termed as “if you swim, you die.” Certainly the glacial melt itself can induce hypothermia in a matter of minutes, let alone the tectonically active 15,000 cfs of currents that could hold down a PFDs mere 15 pounds of flotation for life threatening minutes in the wrong spot.
Despite staying well attached to our 70 – 80 gallon vessels, the river would often swallow us whole finally releasing the gasping paddler 50 to 100 feet downstream. After a few days getting accustomed to this facinating albeit chilling effect of going deep under the surface turmoil of the seething Indus , Rafa uses this “sub-maneuver” to his advantage making a certain first descent of a massive 20 foot ledge falls. Rafa simply tapped into the speed and power of the mighty Indus to turn an 84 gallon Rocker into a squirt boat and flush beneath 10 feet of violent reticulation at the base of the falls. My Mexican friend never ceases to amaze and he is certainly sporting his Red Bull colors with characteristic zeal and determination.
Unfortunately the following day was Rafa’s last on the river as he was forced to make a premature exit from the Rondu in order to finish up his Mechanical Engineering semester at University in Mexico City . Despite all the grief I gave him for leaving a “once in a life time trip” early, I really respect him for sticking to his word and finishing up his semester at school.
The following day was our 5th on the river and Phil, Darin, Chris and I were confronted with the fore-mentioned mandatory vertical walled Swinging Bride box on the Rondu (the 5km mandatory section of the Indus ). On advice from Roland, we hiked out to the road just upstream of the Box to get an aerial view of the rapids. From the road Darin and Chris decided that they would skip the section and reenter the river where it opened back up several kms downstream. As some of Jackson ’s most experienced steep creek kayakers, the two felt they were slightly over their heads in the huge water of the Indus and would enjoy shooting photos and video from the road should Phil and I decide to give it a go. I was sorry to lose the two guys for the day at river level, but supported their decision to listen to their intuition and play it safe.
Since the beginning of the trip Phil Boyer had been hounding me about why I had invited him on the trip considering we hadn’t boated together in 2 years. I could not help joking with him by saying “I knew you were one of the only people that would say yes!” But all joking aside, Phil’s credentials are obvious. With 25 year’s behind the paddle, he has spent 16 year’s of combined experience in the big water environs of the Futaleufu and the Grand Canyon of the Colorado . In addition last year he chalked up a big trip to Tibet gaining precious experience on the big rivers of the Himalaya . So when he agreed to make an attempt on the Gorge with me I was really not that surprised and was really encouraged by the confidence of such an able partner.