Saturday, February 10, 2007

Mekong Valley

These are a random photos from the Mekong valley. The 3rd one is Joel Kowalski leaning into the wind on a bridge over the Mekong. The last one is Polk Dieters making Yak butter at a guesthouse in Xidang, a small, Tibetan riverside village.

The Mekong (Lancang Jiang), Moon Gorge

Photo #1: Put-in for the Moon Gorge
Photo #2: Buddhist Temples at the take-out for the Moon Gorge
Photo #3: Sweden going for a big one at a nice wave on the Moon Gorge section

Felai si

We stayed here the night before we put on the Moon Gorge of the Mekong. This is the site of a shrine built in honor of those who died trying to climb the 22, 700 ft. Kawa Karpo Mountain in the early 90's. Much of this region is inhabited by Tibetan people. Kawa Karpo is a sacred Tibetan peak, and it is now illegal to climb there. These photos were taken just before sunrise.

The first bend of the Yangtze

We also stopped by the "first" bend of the Yangtze on our way to Deqin.

Winter in Shangri La

Formerly known as Zhongdian, Shangri La was a stop on our way to Deqin and the Mekong River valley. There was too much snow on the Baima Pass for our busses, so we settled in for a few days of class and a couple of nights of dancing at the local disco. The 2nd and 3rd shots are from the 14,200 ft. Baima pass.

Baoshan "The Stone Town"

We took a day to trek up to the small town of Baoshan on our way down the Great Bend. We hiked up and stayed the night in a guesthouse there. This town is almost entirely Naxi, a minority group indigenous to Yunnan.

Class on the Great Bend

This is a nice classroom...

More Great Bend

Photo 1: Billy Boylan @ "Drop Shot"
Photo 2: Family Approval at a random playspot
Photo 3: Sweden getting big air at the random playspot
Photo 4: Joel Kowalski snapping a nice blunt at a big wave on the way
Photo 5: Group Photo

Great Bend of the Yangtze (Jinsha Jiang)

These are just a few shots that I picked out of many. I hope you get an idea of just how fun it is to spend a couple of weeks floating downstream through one of the great river canyons of the world. This section is also under threat of dam projects. There are several underway right now. Big thanks to Travis Winn, Tashi, Chen Hao, and Adam Elliott with Last Descents for helping us get down there. Also thanks to whoever let us borrow those rafts!

Tiger Leaping Gorge

The Tiger Leaping Gorge is a very special place on this earth. Unfortunately, there is a dam being built upstream of the gorge that would essentially de-water this incredible place. We were stoked to see such a powerful section of whitewater running through such a narrow and deep crack in the earth. We stopped here on the way to the put-in for the Great Bend.


Lijiang is a popular tourist destination in Yunnan. Check out the difference between "Old Town" and "New Town" in the last photo. We stayed here and purchased supplies before our trip down the Great Bend of the Yangtze. Old Town is basically a gigantic artisan market, full of local Naxi handcrafts and touristy-type shops. The coolest part about Old Town Lijiang is its antiquity in architecture and layout. It is basically a maze of stone streets and buildings, some dating back nearly 1000 years.

Flying to China!

Friday, February 09, 2007

A few words from China

I have been running around China with the World Class Kayak Academy for the last 3.5 weeks. We started the semester off with an amazing multi-day raft support trip on the Great Bend of the Yangtze (Jinsha Jiang) in Yunnan. We held classes in the mornings, boated downstream in the afternoons, and crashed on sandy beaches each night. Scott Doherty, Polk Dieters, Tashi from Shangri La, Chen Hao, Travis Winn and Adam Elliott rowed the rafts and organized meals.

Right now, we are wrapping up our visit to the Mekong River valley. We paddled two quality sections of the Mekong (Lancan Jiang): the "Moon Gorge" and the "section above the Moon Gorge." Both sections contain fun and challenging rapids and ridiculous scenery. The Meili-Snow Mountain (Kawa Karpo) stands at 22,700 ft above sea level, a dramatic addition to the view from the shuttle road from Deqin. Deqin is our homebase for the moment. It is a few thousand feet above the river, and cold enough that I have been sleeping in my down jacket. Fortunately it is much warmer down in the valley, but the cold water and harsh winds necessitate drysuits, lots of layers and mittens or pogies.

Next stop - Salween (Nu Jiang). The Salween is famous for its easy access to huge rapids and world class surfing waves. Travis Winn, Adam Elliott and Chen Hao are our logistical coordinators from Last Descents, China's newest river guide service. They have kept us safe, fed, and wet thus far, and they are very excited about the paddling and cultural experiences that await us in the Salween Valley.

I wish I had more time to write a more detailed account of this experience, but I have come to grips with the fact that I will never be able to do this trip justice in words and photos.

For more updates about the trip, go to: (newsletter)

photos coming soon!