Huge rapids weren’t named and the ones that were, were clearly the biggest ones on the river. The beginning of the fifth and final day, we made it to Ben Stookesberry’s rapid. As far as we know, only Stookesberry, Benny Marr, and Sven Lammler had run the rapid before us. Johnny had been talking about running this rapid since India, saying that it was his rapid because all you had to do was route down the middle and plug the huge hole.
We got out to scout, and from the get go, I wasn’t convinced. Evan, Johnny, and Dane were talking about a “line” where you could plug the hole and that it let you out the other side. I thought it was about a 50/50 chance of making it through. But before we went, we all decided we felt good about the consequences of getting beat down because if you swam, all the water would push you into the eddy at the bottom. I headed to that eddy to set safety and watched Johnny go first, blast up on a huge curler, fall in to the hole sideways and backwards, then roll up at the bottom and paddle over to me. Dane went next and had a similar line to Johnny, but didn’t get as lucky. He got absolutely hammered in the hole and swam. Evan went next, somehow got swallowed by the curler above the hole, went underwater and seemed like he just hopped on the underwater subway and popped up at the bottom. I got in my boat, had a great line, plugged straight down the center of the hole, immediately had my paddle ripped out of my hands, got beat in the boils, and swam…50/50.
Check out a little video of our time at Stookesberry’s rapid at the bottom of the story.
Other highlights from the last two days include scouting a rapid from the road on our drive to put in, not scouting from the river, and it being about four times as big as we thought it was going to be…turns out we still hadn’t learned our lesson about everything being bigger than you thought. All four of us fired up a rapid called Temple of the Ben’s that had only seen a few previous descents. Lastly, we witnessed Dane become the first person to only have a single portage on the Indus. The only rapid he walked around is a terrible looking siphon rapid where most of the water goes under a boulder the size of a house. Johnny, Evan, and I finished off our trip with only four portages. We saw a few massive road work explosions that were a little close for comfort. When they pushed the debris off the road and in to the river, we had a hectic few minutes of refrigerator sized rocks falling near us.
Most groups take around seven days to paddle the 80 or so miles and 3,000 vertical feet from Skardu to the confluence of the Gilgit river. With our good teamwork and fast pace on the water, we were able to make it in about four and a half days. There is literally no way to describe the how we felt when we completed that section of river. It was some of the absolute biggest stuff we had ever seen or paddled. There is always a sense of accomplishment at the end of a big river trip, but there will never be anything like the feeling at the bottom of the Indus. Trip of a lifetime is certainly an understatement.