The Last Descents Film Crew Checks in From the Field

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Editor’s Note: Scott Ligare and his crew of paddling buddies are on a worldwide escapade to kayak Earth’s whitewater gems that are about to be dammed. Following is the latest from Nepal’s Marsyangdi River.

Marsyangdi means “raging river” in the local dialect and it lived up to its name. The run is known worldwide for its exquisite scenery, beautiful glacial blue water and long, continuous rapids.

We took a bus to Besisahar with some UK paddlers and spent two days running sections below Besisahar which includes the stretches above and below the dam that is under construction. Below Besisahar the river is Class IV with some really fun lines and big holes. We encountered many local farmers, kids playing near the river and a very large construction project. We were told by other boaters that if you paddle right up to the dam, where the water goes into the tunnel the workers will give you a ride up the hill and around it. We took their advice and paddled past the beginning of the construction and ignored the whistles and screams from the soldiers above the project. We continued downriver to the dam site and took out just before the tunnel. There were several workers frustrated that we had not begun our portage earlier but they still gave us a lift.

The evening Erick arrived we decided to hire a taxi from Besisahar to drive us to Bhulbhuli, the normal raft put in. From Bhulbhuli we loaded our gear and boats on our back, strapped our headlamps on and began hiking in the dark up to Nagdi. In the dark the hike took us about two hours until we reached the first guest house. Because this route is along the Annapurna Circuit Trek, the most popular trekking route in the world, there are many tea houses to eat at and stay the night in. Many of them let you stay in a nice room with clean sheets for free if you eat at their restaurant.

We decided to hike up seven hours the next day with kayaks to the town of Syanje. I, being weary of the whitewater further up and without any type of carrying system, decided to leave my boat in Nagdi and be a free gear porter for Scott and Erick. I hiked into many points along the river to shoot them paddling down the giant rapids of the Marsyangdi’s upper stretch.

The upper section is steep with long continuous Class IV and V rapids. The river averages about 140 ft/mi for 10 miles with an estimated 2000 cfs. Both Scott and Erick raved about how it was “one of the best stretches of whitewater that they had ever done,” and how the perfect run was complete with river-side hot springs.

From Nagdi to Besisahar the river’s style changes. It remains continuous but is less steep. There are many fun Class IV and IV+ rapids. The back drop of the giant Himalayas make this run absolutely magical. I was so busy looking back at the snow capped peaks glistening in the sun that it was hard for me to pay attention to the whitewater ahead of me. I don’t think there are words to describe the beauty that lies in the Marsyangdi Canyon. It is a powerful experience being so close to the greatest wonders of Mother Nature. I wish more people could recognize the importance of our connection to her.

We arrived back in Besisahar after two days of kayaking and two days of hiking. The last thing we wanted to do was lug our kayaks up a steep hill to our hotel.

The next morning I caught a bus to Katmandu to attend the Peak UK Challenge River Festival on the Bhote Kosi and Scott and Erick headed all the way back up to Syanje for a second run down their new favorite river.

When we left the Marsyangdi valley we felt sad to leave such an amazing place, the kind, simple, welcoming people, the huge mountains, and of course the river that I will dream about for the rest of my life. Someday I will no doubt tell my grandkids about the place. Unfortunately, our film may be the only way to actually see it.

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