Running through the southwest corner of Tibet, the Tsangpo River is the last and most dangerous uncharted whitewater passage. It is also a place of extraordinary beauty, coursing through snow capped mountain ranges and ripping through verdant jungle. It is no wonder that local legend has this place as the sacred site of Shangri-La. And according ...
Running through the southwest corner of Tibet, the Tsangpo River is the last and most dangerous uncharted whitewater passage. It is also a place of extraordinary beauty, coursing through snow capped mountain ranges and ripping through verdant jungle. It is no wonder that local legend has this place as the sacred site of Shangri-La. And according to kayaking legend, the Tsanpo Gorge is the Holy Grail of rafting. In October 1998, a team sponsored by National Geographic set out to conquer it. En Route, they found that NG had also sponsored another team whose descent was timed just after their own. The chance of success was slim, but the race was officially on...This is a breathtaking story of trial and tragedy, which simultaneously gives inspiring insight into the self-illumination and growth experienced by people who match their skill, strength, stamina and inner resources against the most formidable of obstacles. "With his riveting account of the trip, Balf has supplied a smart introduction to the daredevil lifestyle of river runners". ("Fortune").
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If you have kayakers in your midst, their particular brand of thrill seeking may seem strange and inaccessible to a non-paddler. The Last River brings this mysterious cabal into stark relief, in a band of adventurous characters that form a tight team, at once superhuman in their ambitions, and strikingly pedestrian in their lifestyles. The story weaves together the land and the people so well, that even an avowed terrestrial can imagine and appreciate the draw of the whitewater rush. The tragedy does get infused with cause and meaning more biological and psychological than philosophical in nature, but no less intense for its concrete origin.
Apr 10, 2007
Hyped to the teeth as a worthy addition to the body of man-against-nature literature, this book has invited comparisons to Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air" and Sebastian Junger's "Perfect Storm." And while Balf, a former editor for Outside magazine, writes in a style quite similar to Krakauer's, he never manages to penetrate to the nuanced, deeper meanings inherent in the events demonstrated with such mastery by Krakauer and Junger. This is not to say the book is not interesting or highly entertaining (it is), and it is compelling in the way that most books about tragic events are. The book is rather heavy on detailed information about kayaking, hydrodynamics, and Tibetan geography, but this info is woven effectively into the narrative such that it never becomes tedious. Definitely of interest to paddle sports enthusiasts and those who love adrenaline-fueled adventure stories.
Publishers Weekly, 2000-07-31 In 1998 a team of world-class whitewater kayakers arrived in Tibet to confront a Himalayan river so remote and unexplored that they relied on satellite imagery to map out their planned descent. Somewhere along its uncharted stretch were magnificent waterfallsDthe source, according to Balf, of the legend of Shangri-la, a utopian land of incredible beauty. This was a river whose width matched the Mississippi in some spots and that ran through the deepest gorge on the planet. The inherent challenges of the Tsangpo's wild and bouldered rapids were compounded by a record monsoon season that had morphed the river into an unnavigable menace, forcing the team to do most of their exploring via intense overland portaging. Balf's account of this journey surges with superlatives, often defying the reader's imagination: river rocks the size of buildings, cliffs rising 25,000 feet, 30-foot standing waves, and a group of highly trained, intelligent men attempting to kayak the monster, weighed down with $6,000 worth of gear. Balf, who writes for Outside and Men's Journal, is to be congratulated on his sensitive fusion of adventure and sports writing. In his telling, the Tsangpo is alternately "a huge hydraulic event," "a brawling river that drops out of the sky," and, tragically, for one of the bolder paddlers, a place to meet "God and... be with him for all eternity." His account is a well-balanced tale in which the technicalities of exploring and paddling share space with ruminations on man's spiritual quest and mortality. It may be the only book to offer both a glossary of kayaking terms and a short history of the legend of Shangri-la. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly, 2000-11-06 Boutsikaris does a fine job of matching Balf's (a former editor of Outside magazine) comfortable, plainspoken style, ringing true in all instances except the few where he is called upon to simulate foreign accents, an area that is clearly not his forte. Balf spends a considerable amount of time characterizing the trip's participants and describing the years of preparation that have gone into the journey, and he manages to give just enough insight and background to make the story more palpable instead of bogging it down. Listeners will have a real sense of loss when, nearly two weeks into the exploration of the Tibetan river Tsangpo, one of the members flips over an eight-foot waterfall and is never seen again. Perhaps, though, the fact that Balf was not actually a participant in the trip itself is what accounts for the lack of the immediate, cinematic narration that has made other books in this genre, particularly Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, so successful. Balf reconstructs events through interviews with the members of the party and attempts to raise the excitement through a dated, sequential telling, but he still just doesn't manage to bring the drama home in a way that a story of this nature demands. Simultaneous release with the Crown hardcover (Forecasts, July 31). (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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