Kayakers Attempt First Descent of Tibet’s Last Unexplored Whitewater
Loaded up with kayaks and filming equipment, the Rivers in Demand crew began making the overland journey across China this week en route to the Tibetan Plateau for the first part of their ambitious new expedition. Today (March 14) Trip Jennings (one of our 2007 Adventurers of the Year) and his teammates will begin a first descent attempt of the upper Salween, the last unexplored section of whitewater draining the Tibetan Plateau.
On its upper reaches, the crew expects to encounter severe Class V rapids with dangerous levels of commitment and exposure. The glacier-fed Salween cascades down from some of the highest mountains in the world, frothing through profound slot canyons, guarded by underwater boulders, torrential rapids, and waterfalls.
The last free-flowing major river in South Asia, the Salween flows between Myanmar and Thailand to the South China Sea, but controversial plans exist to build a Chinese-funded hydroelectric dam on its lower stretches. The group hopes to draw attention to the consequences that this development would have on the millions of people who depend on the river.
If all goes according to plan, the crew will drop in on the Salween today at an elevation of more than 11,000 feet (3,353 meters). Keep tabs on the their progress at china.riversindemand.com. The site features a bit of context for the Rivers in Demand project, along with regular audio and text reports from the crew as they descend through Tibet and China. We’ll keep you posted as they move on to the Great Bend in the Yangtze and the middle Salween.
Photograph by Travis Winn, taken on a 2007 scouting trip of the Salween
- Nat Geo Expeditions