Tsangpo River
Willy Kern, Allan Ellard and Scott Lindgren watch the rest of the team enter a rapid

Tsangpo Dispatch—February 28, 2002

Tsangpo River
Allan Ellard

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Tsachu, Po Tsangpo River We have made it to Tsachu, a small village that overlooks the apex of the Great Bend of the Tsangpo, sacred Mount Abu Lashu, and both the Yarlung and Po Tsangpo Rivers.

Tsangpo River

Tsangpo River Willy Kern, Allan Ellard and Scott Lindgren watch the rest of the team enter a rapid

Our day started with a sketchy cable crossing where we expected to find a bridge crossing!

As we came over from Payi it was clear to us that our satellite photos of the gorge were taken prior to a major GLOF (glacial lake outburst flood). The riverbed is now completely different and the bridge has been washed away. The riverbank has been stripped of vegetation and loose rock, and left bare and sheer-sided with the same characteristics we observed at Payi. Landslides lay above the bedrock where dense forest used to hang—it is amazing to see the devastation caused by the GLOF!

The technique for crossing the cable was rather exciting, involving a pulley made from a car bearing and a length of sketchy rope. After the crossing we ascended on foot to Tsachu and set base camp for the next few days.

On our assent we could see downstream past the apex of the bend. The walls of the gorge continued to be sheer and flushed of any midstream rock features. This means there is only a two-mile section we have not seen between Tsachu and Payi, but we are not sure what we would find there as our satellite photos are now irrelevant.

We have two options: We can spend another week or more scouting the gorge below the apex, or we car paddle to the apex and finish our river journey there, happy that we have completed everything realistically possible.

The river in the lower gorge is truly wilder than anything we’ve seen so far due to the devastation from the GLOF. Even if we could paddle the unknown section, we would have serious problems taking out of the gorge before the Payi section and its wall-to-wall falls.