The Last River: The Tragic Race for Shangri-la

Todd Balf

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 060980801X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The Last River: The Tragic Race for Shangri-la is a breathtaking account of the ill-fated October 1998 expedition of an American whitewater kayaking team who traveled deep into the Tsangpo Gorge in Tibet to run the Yarlung Tsangpo, known in paddling circles as the "Everest of rivers." For Wick Walker and Tom McEwan, extreme whitewater pioneers, best friends, and trip leaders, the Tsangpo adventure was the culmination of a twenty-five-year quest for glory. Yet the team's magnificent dreams crumbled when their ace paddler was swept over a thunderous eight-foot waterfall, never to be seen again.

Here is a fascinating exploration of both the seething big water and perilous terrain of the legendary Shangri-la, and the men who dared challenge the furious rapids that raced through this 140-mile-long canyon. The Last River invites us to view the Himalayas from a totally new perspective -- on a historic river so remote that only the most hardy and romantic souls attempt to unlock its mysteries.

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gain entry to the Tsangpo—his latest Chinese contact called, saying, “Show up in nine days with $8,000 in your pocket and you can go.” On that solo recon trip he not only saw a canyon unlike any he’d ever seen, but, more important, he gained permission to come back. Offering himself as a westerner who could help promote the region for tourism and who wouldn’t do anything to embarrass the Chinese, he used his canyon savvyness to advance both his agenda and that of the Chinese. His order of

Walker. He had, in fact, gained permission to run the entire gorge right down to the Indian border, an achievement the table marveled over. Blücher said he had tried to correspond with the Americans months ago, but had received a rather brusque E-mail from Wick or Tom. The team apologized, explaining that they wanted to keep a low profile as the trip drew near. Blücher nodded vigorously, understanding their desire to steer clear of the ruthlessness that seemed to be overtaking everyone. In early

to advise them to put their gear in the barn and come back next year and tell their sponsors that they’d called it off before they spent too much. In retrospect I don’t know whether I should have said something directly or not. Sometimes I feel it was right not to say, because they got the message anyway.” Roger Zbel in particular heard the message. The rush to stay on schedule seemed to miss the point. The river was plainly unrunnable. Why not scrap the itinerary, suggested Zbel, and map out

threadbare sleeping bag fit for a junior camper. “How come the older I get, the more I accumulate?” a client once asked, “and the older Tom gets, the less he accumulates?” Just last winter, so the story goes, Tom was leading a group of clients on a river trip in Mexico. They came up to a waterfall where the plan was to rope up and rappel into their boats below, something that in and of itself isn’t an everyday occurrence on a commercial trip. Instead, Tom took a stroll out of sight of his

Peter Miller told him he’d relinquished his rights to the story for Old Yellow and relegated them to the start-up. Originally, Jamie had intended to write a book about the trip. But after Doug’s death, he passed on it and Wick decided to take on the project. Telling the story, he decided, had a certain challenging appeal. He could set the record straight, but, maybe more important, he could place them on the Tsangpo’s historical map. Didn’t his intrepid pal Tommy remind anyone else of Kintup?

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