Last Descents and the Epicocity Crew completed the first stage of their Rivers in Demand Project in China by documenting the descent of a 200-mile stretch of the Mekong River within the burgeoning conflict region of Tibet.
The crew looks forward to moving past the political unrest and returning to their focus of raising awareness to the value of free-flowing rivers in southwestern China.
On March 13th, days before the escalation of the conflict in Lhasa, Tibet the team was forced to changed course to the Mekong River after a police checkpoint in Tibet blockaded the crew from continuing to the put-in of their originally planned first descent on the upper Salween River.
By March 14, the crew had began paddling 200 miles of Class V whitewater while the long-held question of Tibetan sovereignty had again surfaced as violent protest across Tibet and the surrounding provinces. The crew first learned of the conflict via satellite phone while in a river canyon lined by 20,000 foot peaks. The Chinese government had closed the region to both foreign and domestic travel.
Their trouble entering the Salween drainage made sense. They began to fear discovery by authorities could result in detainment and confiscation of media produced from the expedition. After 140 miles of isolated whitewater, they reached their first possible take-out only to watch a military convoy of 30 troop transports roll past.
Their Chinese drivers had been searched dozens of times by officials and they waved the crew downstream into another 70 miles of undocumented whitewater with a dwindling food supply. The new plan was to take-out at the safe-zone on the border of Tibet and the Yunnan province.
Get the background on the Rivers in Demand Project.
After three more days of the hardest and most spectacular whitewater of the expedition, the crew reached the relative safety of the border. They climbed into the jeeps and headed away from the conflicted region.
They are now gearing up for a last descent of the Great Bend of the Yangtze.
For additional information and satellite updates from the field visit riversindemand.com.