Friday, October 19, 2007

Sutlej River, 2007


One of the Gujar(local cattleman) along the banks of the river. These Cattlemen spend 6 months in the valley with there family before heading on a 15 day trek back into the hills during the summer.

Working with Aquaterra this year has been a great experience. I have been able to get out on a number of different trips. This year we did the 2nd commercial descent of the Sutlej river from Rampur, the 1st descent was back in 2001 by Steve Currey.
This is a beautiful river in Himachal Pradesh, the run is great with 80 odd rapids in the grade 2-3+ range, a couple of grade 4's and one portage within the 116kms of river that we ran. The trip was part of a groups quest on running four of the sacred rivers that run off Mt. Kailash in Tibet. So far they they have done the Siang in Northeastern India, the Karnali in Nepal, and the Sutlej in Himachal Pradesh. Next on the list is the Indus.

We started the trip with a couple of high water days on the Ganges before making a drive through four river valleys to the Tons river. Early the next morning we rafted a short section on this river. Going from 30,000cfs on the Ganges to 2,000cfs on the Tons was a good change. From there we made the drive up the Pabar river valley and over to Shimla, the capital of Himachal, where we stayed at the Woodville Palace. There is lots of history from the Raj period here. From there we drove over the famous ski hill of Narkanda and down to the Sutlej valley ending our drive at Rampur. From here we would be on the river for the next six days.

The team consisted of guys from India, Wales, Ireland, and England.

The first few days where very nice grade three and some grade four, all read and running with one scout. After that the river mellowed out a bit on our way down to Tattapani. This was nice to spend the afternoon with a sulphur soak in the tubs of one of the guest houses here.

Day 5 we dropped into the gorge section of the river for the next two days. So we loaded all the gear onto the cataraft and gear boat and headed downstream. A great section with rapids on almost every corner and towering canyon walls surrounding us.

We arrived at the last camp on the river fairly shortly after lunch which made for another relaxing afternoon of playing cards, book reading and chilling out. We had received info the day before that the dam being built downstream had progressed further than we had thought. As was such, our trip would be shortened by about 9kms. Vaibhav coaxed the dam officials to give us permission to get out there and arranged porters for the takeout.

The Dam pushes the Sutlej through two tunnels and has blocked off 4kms of the river which we drove through after loading the gear. This dam will flood almost the whole section that we rafted, almost to Lahuri. Leaving just 30kms of good river left. This will probably happen within the next five years. Check out Aquaterra to see about the availability of this trip before it is under water.

Enjoy the photos.

Floating down the Sutlej, Vaibhav and Rajiv lead the way.

Local Gujar family along the banks of the river.

Camp on the banks of the Sutlej.

Kanhan Singh playing it up in a hole.

Local Gujar boys in the Sutlej valley.

Simon ripping it up on the Sutlej. Photo by Mark Corti.

Vaibhav and Rajiv coming through a big one. Photo by Mark Corti.

Airborne. Photo by Mark Corti.

Checking out downstream, watching out for the cave on river right. Photo by Mark Corti.

Kanhan taking the sneak line on the portage. Photo by Bob Person.

Rajiv back on the water, with author looking on after portage.
Photo by Bob Person.

Kanhan and myself R2 after the portage. Photo by Daniel Geoghan.

In one of the beautiful canyons on Day 5.

Photos by David Prothero.
For other great photos by Mark Corti, check out


Anonymous said...


River Rafting said...

Many thanks to the blogger who made this post is very nice! Information is very well organized! Thank you!

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Anonymous said...

Nice article though the first descent of the Sutlej was in 1986, please confirm with owners, Ajeet Bajaj of Snow Leopard(India), and Yousuf Zaheer of Himalayan River Runners(India). MD