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High water Pakistan. I told you so?

Three years ago I visited Pakistan on my ‘Gap Yah’ and since then I’ve been trying to convince a group of kayakers to return with me to take on the whitewater that I saw. In those three years much of the information I’ve gathered about kayaking in Pakistan is that it is not a summer destination, and that if Pakistan is to be the country of choice for kayaking, then spring and autumn is the time to go as the rivers in summer are just too high. Well, three years have passed, its the peak of the summer now, and this is what we’ve found:

High up at Shandur lake

We’ve been based in Gilgit due to its location right in the center of Northern Pakistan and for the past three weeks we’ve been exploring the catchment that feeds the Gilgit river (known upstream as the Ghizar river). The Gilgit/Ghizar is known well enough within the small groups who traveled to Pakistan in the 80s and 90s for long multi-day trips from high up down to Gilgit town. Due to levels being super high, we’ve not approached it as one long river to tackle, as much of it is broken up by absolutely ridiculous rapids, with 15 foot high holes, and pour overs that have towback of equal length that last for mile after mile. This being said, we’ve found some unbelievable short day trips, most notably the ‘Play run’ and the ‘Aint never gunna be a train station’ section, as well as the local ‘Silverback run’ that flows into Gilgit with two rapids that dwarf the late namesake in Uganda, with similar huge wave trains.

Griff scouting a chunky rapid on the 'Aint never gunna be a train station' section

Roadside fun on the Ghizar

The play run of the Gilgit

High water has meant that we’ve been able to get onto many of the tributaries of the Gilgit/Ghizar river that most groups wont have even seen, which vary from super fun blasts down eddy-less alpine style rivers, to super steep and intimidating creeks rolling over scree slopes, with everything in the middle to keep us entertained.

Endless fun on Singal nala

Super steep Bubbur nala

Along with the Silverback section we’ve found another run for evening blasts when in Gilgit, on Karga nala (which has had at least one previous descent, but on one of the steeper sections in lower water). This has got to be one of the best sections of whitewater any of us have paddled, with nice steep boof moves, hole dodging and long wave trains, all in one jam packed half hour blast.

Scouting Karga nala

Evening blast of Karga nala

So, whilst I’d say yes, high water has made Pakistan a very different destination, it is by no means without vast amounts of whitewater (so much so we’ve sacked off our plans for North India and Nepal and we’re staying till mid-September). Tomorrow we’re heading west over the Shandur pass into Khyber Pakhtunkwa, which is probably the least explored part of Pakistan in terms of rivers and tourism, but from looking at maps we should be in for an awesome adventure of much the same: huge rapids and pristine tributaries!

Whilst we’re off doing that, have a look at some of the crazy portages we’ve found along the way: