Project Description

Zanskar River Expedition: the Grand Canyon of Asia

with  Jock Montgomery

  • August 27–September 7, 2016


Asia’s Grand Canyon!

Recently, I have become reacquainted with Ladakh. Our photography tour In Search of Snow Leopards  was a reminder of how much I enjoy these open landscapes and vast panoramas. A few winters ago, I trekked the frozen Zanskar River, an experience shared by the locals since hiking across the vast ice sheet of the river is their primary means of transportation.

I first paddled the Zanskar, along with one of its tributaries the Tsarap Chu, in 1994. At this time, rivers in this area were barely known to the boating community and I was fortunate enough to be one of the first Westerners to experience this spectacular place. This summer, I am very excited to be returning to the Zanskar to lead a whitewater trip.

This adventure is inspired by the recent birthday of a good friend, who is also a well-known expeditioner and author of numerous whitewater guidebooks, Peter Knowles. I met Peter in 1983. We arrived a few weeks apart in Katmandu, both of us young, in search of adventure, and hungry to explore the world. We will have the opportunity to spend time in Leh with Peter collectively share our stories.

Enough nostalgia! Come boating with me this summer. We will start in Leh where you will acclimate and have the opportunity to visit some remarkable monasteries. We will have a one-day practice run on a section of the Indus before beginning our spectacular three-day drive to put-in on the Zanskar. Along the way, we will visit the beautiful gompa at Lamayuru, see the ‘moonlands’ of Ladakh, traverse across high passes with views of vast meadows, hanging glaciers, and towering snowcapped peaks. We then begin our six-day, self-contained whitewater trip through what many have called the Grand Canyon of Asia.

The trip is open to all experience levels. If you would like more information, please contact me.

Trip Highlights

  • A spectacular flight over the Indian Himalayas
  • Visit Leh Palace, a 17th-century structure modeled after the Potala Palace in Lhasa
  • Tour the temples and villages of the Lakakh valley that lie near the headwaters of the Indus River
  • Paddle big waves on the headwaters of the Indus River
  • Drive across five spectacular passes over 11,000 feet on the way to the Zanskar River
  • Paddle the clear waters of the Stod River
  • Spend six days paddling the pristine Zanskar River canyons in the heart of the Himalayas
  • Enjoy hikes up spectacular side streams and beside cliff faces
  • Experience people living traditional lives, many of whom trek the frozen Zanskar in the winter
  • Meet Peter Knowles, well known expedition leader and author of numerous river running guide books to Asia and Europe

Sheer canyon walls of the Zanskar.

A wooden cantilever bridge across a narrows in the river

Paddle forward!

Paddle forward!