Photo from the China Youth Travel Service Expedition
Yang Yong and Wan Lin, Summer 1998
YARLUNG TSANGPO (UPPER BRAMAPUTRA)
This 1998 expedition was a major success for Chinese rafters. In spite of the highest flows in 40 years, there were no drownings, a big concern after the twenty deaths in 1986-87 on the Yangtzte and Yellow Rivers. Videos of the expedition were shown on Chinese national TV. The team portaged Kanglai Gorge (29 11 36N, 86 15 57E to 29 12 58N, 86 23 57E), the short canyon above Lhasa that Dan Dixon kayaked in 1986 (29 18 26N, 90 21 03E) and Gyatze Gorge, a fifty mile stretch of Class 5 below Sangri that was run in 2007 by a team organized by Windhorse Adventures (see Yarlung first descent links).
The Chinese team ended their expedition near Pei (29 44 47N, 94 56 09E) before the major rapids of the Great Bend of the Tsangpo and hiked the Great Bend weeks before the Walker team made a disasterous attempt to kayak the flood (see 1998c). The Chinese team also claimed to have photographed Hidden Falls in the lower Great Bend several weeks before a US hiking team was led to the falls by local hunters.
The source is near 18,300', take-out about 10,000', total distance about 1000 miles, average gradient about 8' per mile. Flow near the source was less than 1000 cfs in June, increasing to over 40,000 cfs at Pei in late August. The middle section, from Lhatze to Lhasa, was run by Burns and Dixon in 1996. The only remaining roadless sections are the yet to be run Class 4-5 Kanglai Gorge (about 10 miles below Saga), the Class 2-3 Renqinding Gorge (about 30 miles above Lhatze) and Gyatze Gorge (run in 2007, see links). Earth Science Expeditions ran a second descent of Renqingding Gorge at low water in 2002. The put-in near Dobe (see links) is hard to access, but the stretch is worth repeating.
The Chinese expedition took over 40,000 pictures and 100 hours of video. Yang Yong and Wan Lin, the trip leaders, published several research studies from information gathered on the expedition. Yang Yong and one of the other paddle raft captains, Feng Chun, were also on the 1986 Yangzte first descent. Yang Yong still runs exploratory trips in China.