Indus River through the Rondu Gorge
Northern Territories, Pakistan V+
Rain started to drizzle down. Was it late in the night, or early
in the morning? Either way it didn't matter, I had gone light and had
no shelter. During the evening I had scouted out an alcove in the
boulders, and was glad I had scoped it out. Under the dim light of my
headlamp I squeezed through the entrance and went back to sleep safe
up in the morning, this certainly isn't was I expected the day to greet
us with; beautiful blue skies!
a strong desire to make the confluence, we wasted no time putting on.
Brief calm water led us to an extended scout over sculpted bedrock.
The rapid was tempting, but any mistake, or simply having
a wave break at the wrong time, would land the paddler in a pocket
where the situation would turn dire. Having made it safely so many
kilometers we deemed it prudent to make quick work of it and portage.
Boyer with a scenic portage route.
bottom of the bedrock section had a nice early morning delight, enjoyed
by Ben Stookesberry.
During the portage we had made contact with Roland via
radio, and he warned of us of a very long rapid downstream. This perked
our interest, at this point we knew that a rapid called "very long"
must indeed fulfill that description. From the top it was indeed long,
and Ben led the group down a half kilometer class III lead in. Once out
of our boats we were all in awe at the length of the rapid. Including
the lead in, it was a true kilometer long beast.
Extensive scouting revealed several entrance moves,
followed by, surprise surprise, a large hole. I was daunted by simply
the challenge of memorizing the amount of moves needed to even get the
hole, let alone the drive left needed to skirt the Goliath of
hydraulics. Along with the rest of the group, I opted to sneak down the
left side of the rapid, staying in my boat and making easy progress.
Living up to the legend, Ben decided he would mainline the lengthy
Stookesberry riding a big boil about halfway down the cataract.
ready to get left of the hole.
behind the lens it's generally pretty hard to tell what is happening,
but in this circumstance it was obvious things were not looking good.
we were stunned as Ben started the largest hole surf we had ever seen...
Quickly surfing to the right side of the hole, Ben
proceeded to throw down with a quick succession of ends. Often he
wasn't visible, but we could tell he was getting air, then he
resurfaced on top of the pile and drove back into the pit and
disappeared, resurfacing downstream of the boil.
emerges in his boat after surfing the Haleeb of holes.
Amazed by what we had seen, but numb from so many days of
hard whitewater, we returned to our boats, the river, and beautiful
Korbulic and Ben Stookesberry, blue skies and gorgeous vistas.
One or two quick rapids and we were out for one more long
walk. A rowdy lead in and a few big wave holes, but nothing too sticky.
If we had all been wishing for a finale worthy of scouting but good to
go, we couldn't have dreamed anything better.
author enjoys a fun rapid. Chris
Korbulic approaches the exploding wave...
With yet another large rapid behind us, we pushed
downstream expecting more scouts and possibly a portage or two. As the
Indus neared confluence with the Gilgit, gradient tapered off and we
were able to stay in our boats, run some big wave trains and soak in
what we had just accomplished.
As we paddled through splashy wave trains we were all
relieved to have one-hundred kilometers of big water class V behind us.
Emerging with no swims and the most complete descent of the Indus
behind us, we were in awe of the river's power and might. Certainly
nothing had been tamed, and we felt fortunate to have survived the
dynamic force of the Indus, and reveled a the splendid glory of its
sights. Respect to all those who came first to the Lion River.
to political unfriendliness downstream, our police escort advised
taking our above the next town, so we took out at an abandoned bridge a
kilometer below the confluence.
group at take-out, with Naga Parbat in the background. From left to
right: Ben Stookesberry, Phil Boyer, Chris Korbulic, Roland Stevenson
and Darin McQuoid.
Our return tickets left us flying out in a few days, and
weighing our options we decided to make the relatively short drive to
Kunjareb Pass, the Worlds highest international border.
(4877m) at the China/Pakistan border and really cold. In
all directions the Himalayan views are epic.
While a recentTime Magazinecalled Pakistan "The most
dangerous place in the world" our experience was the opposite. Like
anywhere in the world, Pakistan has dangerous areas. So does the United
States and every other country in the world. Traveling with a good
guide and using common sense, the most dangerous part of Pakistan is
the driving. Get a good driver, it's well worth the money. We used