Boaters discover riverside hermit caves containing offerings to Buddha.
Photo by Travis Winn.

Indus Headwaters in western Tibet, 2005

This expedition was led by Pete Winn of Earth Science Expeditions. After trekking around Mt. Kailash, the 9 member team, including Tibetan Chong Dak, loaded their inflatable kayaks on yaks and hiked or rode yaks 40 miles over a 17,500' pass (the source of the Sutlej, 31 11 10N, 81 11 49E) to the Indus headwaters, only to find that the Chinese had built a road along the river from the takeout at Bongba. However, the hikes were incredible and the upper Indus (Senge, or lion) flows through a spectacular valley.

The team floated 70 miles in 4 days, from 28 99 56N, 86 56 29E to near 32 13 05N 81 14 33E. The Class 2 river was flowing about 300 cfs at the put-in and 1500 cfs at the take-out, with an average gradient of about 15' per mile. Put-in elevation was about 16,500'. Although the team was only the second group of foreigners to visit the Dratgye Monastery, and although they only saw one vehicle on the road, this is not a good repeat run due to its remoteness and the fact that the Chinese are building a dam at the take-out. A video of the Mt. Kailash trek, the trek to the Indus and the river trip is available.

See Trekking Mt. Kailash and Kayaking the Indus and Raka Headwaters in western Tibet for details.

Geology of the Mt. Kailash and Indus Headwaters Area

Video about the Mt. Kailash trek and Indus Headwaters Float trip by Scott Sanderson

Return to First Descents of the Indus
More info about rivers in China