Upper Sutlej (Xianquan) in Tibet, 2004
The Sutlej becomes the largest tribuary to the Indus and is one of the four rivers that drain the sacred Mt. Kailash area (source near 31.186935°, 81.198908°). This expedition was led by Bruno Bauman (www.bruno-baumann.de), Munich Germany. It contains spectacular Canyons between their put-in (31.071593°, 80.556932°) downstream from Tirtapuri Hot Springs and their take-out at the bridge to Tsada (31.485426°, 79.790296°) The town is also known as Zanda and is the historic center of the Guge Kingdom. There is one canyon only a few meters wide (see photo above). Bauman produced a video of the expedition. The desert scenery is comparable to Bryce Canyon National Park in the USA, and the ancient Guge Kingdom ruins and lost city of Tsaraparang are a great place to visit. Baumann has since returned and written a book, The Silver Palace of Garuda, exploring the possibility that Buddhism arrived in Tibet via the Guge Kingdom of the Sutlej valley.
The put-in elevation for the 100 km (60 mile) Class 3 stretch was about 13,400' (4100m). The average gradient is about 18' per mile (3.5m/km) and the flow increased from about 10 cms (300 cfs) to 30 cms (900 cfs). It is such a small river that the best craft is inflatable kayaks. This stretch was run by a Russian team about a month later, which continued to Sibgyi near the border with India (see 2004b), and by Wind Horse Expeditions in 2006. It is a great repeat run except that it is a six day backbreaking drive from the nearest airport (Lhasa, each way).