Tawang Chu River Expedition

Posted on November 24, 2009 by Lisa There have been 1 comment(s)

Team Kokatat is our group of sponsored whitewater and sea kayaking athletes, with backgrounds and stories as mixed as their skill sets. These athletes travel the globe competing and exploring, trusting their safety and comfort to a mix of Kokatat products and apparel. Here Ben Stookesberry gives us a glimpse at his Tawang Chu River documentary...

The five part series documents Ben and Kokatat Ambassador Chris Korbulic's first descent of the Tawang Chu River through India and Bhutan in December of 2008. Ben shares this never before seen footage presented in full HD from one of his biggest adventures.

....Two kayakers, Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic, arrive in a remote corner of Arunachal Pradesh, India to attempt a complete descent of the Twang Chu River. With limited permitting options and only a few extremely remote access points along the way, the pair prepares for a two week long self support mission into 130 miles of unknown river.


In part one we join them just as they are entering the Tawang Valley from the 13,700 foot Se La or Sky Pass. The Tawang valley is world famous for its colorful enclaves of Buddhist followers that have all gravitated to the world's second largest Monastery perched high on the canyon wall at over 10,000 feet of elevation.

This episode covers the first two days of boating on the river with plenty of big, steep, boulder choked rapids booked marked by long portages and hemmed in by the remote populous that have probably never seen westerners before, let alone the sport of whitewater kayaking.

Day 2 on the water (and part one of this series) ends in a significant section of rapids exposed to road-building 2500 feet over head. Luckily workers from the road descend to the river to offer the team food and a place to stay for the cold wet night to come. After enjoying some local food, the village head man put's the far flung American's up in the village Stupa for the nights rest.

Enter Tawang Chu Part: 1 from Ben Stookesberry on Vimeo.

Pick up the action in Part two of this series, as Ben and Chris plug ever deeper into the Tawang Chu, and closer to the forbidden and extremely remote border with Bhutan.

Day 3 begins as suddenly as it had ended at the small Buddhist enclave of Trilung Gompa. The caretaker, who fed Ben and Chris, rouses the pair early with a piercing Buddhist horn. The whole community comes out to see the pair off as they embark on yet another day of NF Payette type whitewater, still carrying more than two weeks worth of food.

Half-way through the day a steep walled canyon appears on the horizon, sending the pair scrambling for a better look. Just a year ago Ben ran into Mike Abbot and Allan Ellard after their attempt on the same section of river. Supposedly their attempt had ended at a shear walled gorge that sent them hiking out of the Canyon 10 km short of the Bhutan Border.

After the extended scout, Ben and Chris deem the gorge manageable at the river level and proceed cautiously to the night 3 camp, still 15 - 20 km from the Bhutan Border.

Enter Tawang Chu Part 2: Day3 from Ben Stookesberry on Vimeo.

From camp 3, Ben and Chris push off into the Heart of Tawang Chu, having little idea about what was in store for them. Over 10 grueling hours on the river, the pair makes an exhaustive push for the border with Bhutan. With the last of the light fading, they catch a glimpse of what they think is the confluence and make a hasty camp among boulders and tall wet grass.

The next morning they take their visual proximity to the border to mean that the day will be a short one, wanting to wait until early the following morning to actually cross the border. To their chagrin, just 1 km downstream of this night 4 camp is a class 5+ cascade leading into a steep walled gorge. On top of this, an Indian army outpost is perched right at the brink of the gorge and threatens Ben and Chris's hopes to cross the border under the cover of the river.

Enter Tawang Chu Part 3: The Heart of Tawang Chu from Ben Stookesberry on Vimeo.

More info on the GORE-TEX Meridian dry suit with relief zipper and socks here (click for link).

This post was posted in Expeditions, Ambassadors, Team Kokatat and was tagged with Ben Stookesberry, Chris Korbulic

1 Response to Tawang Chu River Expedition

  • Daily Ocean Rowing, Kayaking and Water Expeditions News Roundup Fri 27 Nov says:

    [...] Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic attempt a complete self supported kayaking descent of the Twang Chu River in a remote area of India. This fantastic article includes over 40 minutes of high definition video footage of this extreme kayaking expedition. [...]

    Posted on November 27, 2009 at 12:07 am