In a nutshell: Expedition to Western Tibet. Attempt to climb Gurla Mandhata peak (7694 m), first descent of the Sutlej river, pre-tibetan and tibetan cave settlements discovery on the banks of Sutlej. Tibetan pilgrimage routes around Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar.
Towering heights of the Kunlun, a huge mountain range bordering the Tibetan Plateau from the North, have down to present days remained a “blind spot” on the maps, where only very few paths have been made by very few travellers. One of the first of those, Nikolai Przhevalsky, gave Russian names to ridges and peaks in Kunlun. Major discoveries are still possible and are still made in this region even today, although it might seem that the “eyes” of observation satellites have penetrated everywhere. In 2009 the expedition lead by Otto Chkhetiani discovered a new summit, Eastern Chong-Muztag (6976 m), in the upper course of the Keriya river. A highest peak in the range that wasn’t mapped nor catched on satellite images.
Map of China. The red area highlights Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China, where the expedition took place. XUAR borders Tibet to the South, Quinghai and Gansu provinces of China to the East. Capital of XUAR is Urumqi. Along the southern border of Xinjiang stretch from the West to the East the ranges of Kunlun mountains.
From the glaciers of Kunlun, copious rivers break through the mountains on their way to Taklamakan desert, where they vanish in the immense sands. We know of only two attempts to descend these rivers. In 1990 an American team succeeded in conquering the middle and low course of the Yarkand River, the westernmost river in Kunlun. In 2007 a Russian expedition team lead by Sergey Chernik made the first descent of the upper course of the Yurunkash river, but ended by death of four members of the team on one of the most difficult stretches of the river. Read more »
Cherchen tamed us inch by inch. The banks were coming closer and closer, and the slopes grew steeper. We moved on slowly, finding it more and more difficult to scout the coming rifts and rapids. We were looking at satellite images of the river downstream of us with a growing concern: there, at the pictures, the walls were coming so close, no water could be seen from above. That’s when the term “subway” appeared to designate those river passages, and the rapid in a gorge above the first tunnel of “subway” was called “Escalator”.
Feels like a real subway escalator – big gradient drop, something powerful roars underneath, the walls, all dressed in stone, pass by.
The team succeeded in the first descent of an increadible river – Cherchen, running down from Kunlun mountains to Taklamakan desert. There was everything you could imagine: pursuits, battles, Subway rafting!
We’ll start posting stories, pictures, movies, diaries and satellite communications with mainland Russia.
And here’s the Portrait of Cherchen – to start with.
Portrait of Cherchen (the nice brownish band down there is exactly it). To grasp the scale – the river discharge is 60 cubic meters.
In a nutshell: Expedition to North-Eastern Tibet. Descent of the Yangtze River from its upper course, passing the Russian Geographic Society mountain range (name given to the range by Nikolay Przhevalsky in his Tibetan expedition), first descent of one of the two Mekong river sources. Acquaintance to Tibetan nomads of the North Tibetan Plateau.
In a nutshell: Expedition to Badakhshan – a mountainous region at the border of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Descend down the Gunt, Bartang and Obihingou Rivers, and a short descent down the boundary River Panj. Acquaintance to Pamir and the Pamiri people.
Interactive map of the expedition
The map shows all sections of the rivers Gunt, Bartang, Pyanj and Obihingou, that we covered by rafting. All of them are shown in blue, except for the Pyanj – it is drawn in red, because we had to raft along the border between Tadjikistan and Afghanistan. On the first evening of this rafting, even those of us, who had never smoked before, were bumming cigarettes from the teammates. The next day guns were pointed at us from both banks of the river. However, the Afghanian put down his gun when he heard our shouts in Russian, and the kind Tajiks were only shooting their guns in the air.
We put some pictures on the map, that seem to be good illustration for the places we moved along. If you zoom in, you’ll get more photos on the map. During our descent down the Panj river Dima Petrov took some fantastic pictures of the riverside Afghanian villages.
Key to lines and symbols on the map:
- yellow lines – moving on a motor vehicle
- green lines – trekking in jungle
- blue lines – rafting down Subansiri on catamarans
- white semitransparent lines – heave gauge transportation: airplanes, train, bus
– expedition camps
– locations of the smaller catamaran collapse and of the bigger catamaran overkeels