Vladimir Lysenko. RAFTING DOWN K-2 (CHOGORI) IN CHINA (June of 1996)
(Chogir, Shaksgam, Yarkand Rivers)
Yet in October of 1992 Yura Skorodumov and I have undertaken attempt to have rafted in China down the second world's peak Mt.Chogori (K-2, 8,611m) on the Chogir, Shaksgam (Kyrchinbulak) and Yarkand Rivers. However as the Chogir and Shaksgam are in the frontier zone (near Pakistan), it was not allowed to us to raft on these rivers, and we rafted on the Yarkand only. But I did not leave intention to get still on the Chogir and Shaksgam and to make their first descent. Two years of correspondence with manager of Xinjiang-Uygur Branch of China Mountaineering Association and 4,600 dollars, which we have paid to him (but in 1992 we had 800 dollars only), have eventually made the business - the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomic Region and Chinese frontier leaders gave permission for our rafting. Besides it was found out, that one of sites of our route of length of 30 km on the Shaksgam River is the frontier between China and Pakistan in general.
On May 24, 1996 together with the shop-tourists of Novosibirsk-tourist club we (I and Boris Ivanov from Omsk) have taken off to Urumchi.
We have arrived to the capital of Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomic Region in the midnight. We were met by mister Du Xiao Fan, with which I during two years conducted the rather exhausting correspondence. We slept the night at hotel. In the morning by the flight of local airline have flown to Kashgar.
There we were met by our guide Akbar. We have bought the missing part of products and through town Yarkand in a jeep have reached Yecheng (Kargalyk). During a few hours we went along the edge of Takla-Makan Desert and observed for the ascending above the surface of the desert vortex. Have examined Kargalyk - the small nice township. Next morning we set out further. Have covered through settlement Kokyar, Akaz Pass (of height of 3,000 m), settlement Kudi and, at last, very high Seraz Pass (4,947 m) and at two o'clock in the afternoon have reached Mazar (Mazar Dara). During almost all time (except for last 25 km) we went on the strategic way to Tibet. Towards us there went the military columns from Tibet, and other similar columns of machines carried there petrol and different equipment. The Seraz Pass, of height of almost 5,000 meters, is rather good "looked" - it is the matter of hands of soldiers of Chinese building battalions. When the road was lowered to the upper waters of the Yarkand River and has turned to the left, we have turned to the right and went along the river up to Mazar. Farther to drive in the jeep it was impossible.
In Mazar Akbar said good-bye to us and has left back, previously transferring us to the certain comrade Islam.
Next morning we were given two camels and conductor Solak for the help, and we have set out. However, we went (along the Yarkand) only during four hours up to the place Ilik, where the Surkwat River falls into the Yarkand. We have put tent on the bank of the Surkwat River among the bushes of tamarisk. For the following day we have set out upwards along this river. The truth is, again went only for four hours (the conductor wanted so).
But the third operational day was rather heavy and, the great thing, cold. We have spent the night at height of 4,500 meters about in a small house from stones and clay.
For the fourth day of the way we have overcome Aghil Pass (4,780 m), from which 8-km-mountain Gasherbrum-1 is seen, and have come down to the Shaksgam. The level of water in the river was very low. We went on foot during two hours yet.
Next day we have reached the Chogir River, have admired the second peak of the world Mt.K-2 (Chogori). Then we have rafted on the Chogir and a little on the Shaksgam. The water-flows in them (before the falling of the Chogir into the Shaksgam) were equal about. During the rafting there were met the shoals only.
On the sixth day at first (for twenty kilometers about) the shoals only turned out to be on our way, and then there were the rapids of jet type. At first - weak, but then more and more powerful (up to of the fourth severity grade inclusive).
On June 2 we have met the powerful rapids of the fifth severity grade. One of them was very long (of kilometer about extent). We have rafted along the frontier Pakistan-China about 30 km.
At the end of this site of border, before the large left tributary and turn of the Shaksgam to the right (eastward), there was the rapid of the maximum (sixth) severity grade. In it – the large stones with very narrow passes between them. The rapid was very dangerous, especially for us, as because of limited time for the rafting we passed through all rapids on the route without the previous investigation. Twice we were on the brink of turning over. For the day have passed about 45 km and in 5 km after Pakistan have spent the night on the sandy beach on the right bank.
On June 3 have passed for five hours the last part of the Shaksgam. There were at first the severe and dangerous rapids, but then (before Uprang) the river was simplified. Before its falling into the Yarkand the Shaksgam passes through the rocky gate. Above it the rope is thrown over. The water-flow of the Shaksgam was more, than in the Yarkand River (before the falling of the Shaksgam into it). During our rafting the colour of water in the river, on which we were floating, varied: in the Chogir the water was light-blue, in the Shaksgam - light-green, and in the Yarkand - brown. It is interesting, that during our rafting on the Shaksgam we have not met on the banks any person. Therefore we did not have problems neither with Pakistani, nor with Chinese frontier-guards. And we have seen the first person (with camels) on the bank of the Yarkand only. After hour of the rafting on this river the dust storm caught us - from the sky down to ground the flow of dust rushed along. But in two hours the storm has passed.
During eight hours of the rafting on the ninth day of the way we have reached the canyon after Sykbulak (this settlement was not visible from water surface). At first the river flew in the wide valley, there were many channels, then the rapids appeared, which were hereinafter complicated up to 4-5 grade, and the river has come in the deep canyon with the numerous turns and numerous rapids of 4-5 grade.
At the time of the dinner on the right river bank (yet before Sykbulak) there has approached to us... a little camel, gaunt (the both weak-willed humps hung down), hungry, obviously strayed from the mother or owner. We gave him a roll of bread. He has eaten it. As we did not see any settlements around, could not help him by anything. When we have sailed, the little camel have begun to swim for us on the channel, then has run on the bank, but nevertheless has lagged behind us. It was very sorry for him, however in this place many green bushes grew, so it was the hope, that the little camel will stay until he will be found out by the people (the trails on banks are here).
June 5. In the canyon after Sykbulak of length of 15-20 km (at its beginning we stayed the night) there were met many rapids of the fifth severity grade, one - of sixth. There were the very powerful water-throw-downs, heaving on large stones, "holes", narrow passes between large stones. Then - some calm (the river was pulled out from the canyon through twelve-meter rocky gate), wide gorge. Then - again a canyon, but in it the weak obstacles only are. And, at last, when the Yarkand has run more-less straight (not looping strongly) northward, the powerful rapids have appeared, two from them - of the sixth severity grade. Then the rapids were simplified.
For the following day there has been met a number of not very severe rapids, though sometimes the rather powerful came across. At last we have seen from water the first village Buhujilapu (more correct, two houses - the other are not seen from water). The meeting with local "aksakal" (old man) (also there presented the women and children) was short - as far as allowed my dictionary reserve of the Uygur language: "Salam aleykum" (there were the hand shakes). "Avu erde Buhujilapu?" ("Is it settlement Buhujilapu?"). The answer was affirmative: "Buhujilapu". Then "Hosh" ("Good-bye").
In ten kilometers about after Buhujilapu the river has turned eastward and has come into a gorge. The severe obstacles in it were not, and the speed of the river has fallen.
The twelfth day of the way. The obstacles as a whole became not so severe, but time from time there were the powerful rapids of 5 grade. Such one was, for example, before the brook (from the right) one hour before the ending of 25-kilometer gorge, directed south-east-east-ward. There was met the rope ferry (up to this place on the left bank there was the trail, visible from water). Then (after the right stream) the twenty-kilometer gorge, directed north-east-ward, goes (also up to the river-tributary from the right). In it there are many rapids, including of the fifth severity grade with the powerful water-throw-downs and rollers of height of 2-2.5 meters. In the place of the falling of the right tributary - the pleasant site for spending the night. But the absolutely idyllic place is in 5 km below with the stream on the left bank, where into the Yarkand the large creek falls. Higher on this creek, by all, there is the settlement. And in the last gorge before the mouth of the left tributary Tashkurgan the quiet spots alternate with the powerful rapids.
For the thirteenth day the river is steady (without stops) flowed southward with the average speed about 7 km/hour. There were met the separate powerful rapids of 5 grade. But the open stones in the river already were a little. The basic obstacles - the rollers of 2-2.5 m height. Up to the Tashkurgan River we rafted for 7 hours. There appeared the people - in the morning they made a trail on the rocky left bank. We have rafted past the large settlement on the right bank. Three hours before the mouth of the Tashkurgan River the trail on the left bank has turned in the narrow (one-row) motor-road, on it the automobiles became to go. In hour about after the mouth of the Tashkurgan on the Yarkand there were two the most powerful rapids of 5 sg with the water-throw-downs and rollers of height up to 2.5 m. The first one is especially dangerous - in it, apart from everything else, the splinters of large cliffs in the channel and strong water heaving onto them. At the night there was the thunder-storm: the rain, strongest wind, contiguous lightnings and thunder. In general, the strong wind is the local peculiarity.
The fourteenth day of the way. There were met the powerful rapids (of up to 5 sg) with high (of up to 2.5 m) chaotic roller. After Izak the obstacles became more simple, but the river ran still in gorge. And only after a few hours, passing by huge boulders (original gate), the river has run out on the plain. There appeared the numerous channels. The mountains have receded.
June 10. After three hours of the rafting we have appeared in Kochum. A hour and a half before it on the river there are the ferry for motor vehicles. The river raced with speed of 10-12 km/hour. All islands were under water. The water-flow was huge (a few hundreds cubic meters per a second). In several places the width of the flow reached 200-250 m. Water in the river was 5-10 times as much as in October 1992, and the speed is higher twice. We have stopped before the dam in Kochum. Directly before the power station the river is artificially divided into three channels. And after the hydrostation the Yarkand water is distributed on channels, and the large its part is used for irrigation (the same as, for example, it occurs with the Soh River in Middle Asia). The left part of water is gradually lost in desert Takla-Makan.
After our arrival to Kochum there began the pilgrimage of the local inhabitants to our camp. "Everyone has visited here". In basic - with kind intentions, though it has not done without petty stealing. However, one thick activist had reported on us to the local police. And the police has arrived almost in a body (five officers). But our documents were in order, and the police has quickly left. And we became to wait the jeep, which the Alpinist Association should send next day.
June 11. During all day waited the jeep, and towards evening it has still arrived. But it happened only after that as I went to the post-office and have rung up to Kashgar (have informed, that we have arrived). To the point, in China it is possible to call, only showing the passport (and your surname is written down). We have arrived to Kashgar next day at 4.30 a.m. When we went along the edge of Takla-Makan Desert, have seen the turning over machine. Its passengers have just now been taken to hospital.
On June 12 we roved through Kashgar, bought the souvenirs. The town is quite a good, bright.
June 13. The excursion on the historical places of Kashgar has taken a half-day. We have visited at first the Islamist complex Apa Huja with grave (it is more than 350 years old), and then - the similar complex (mosque, minaret, etc.) Haitgar, which is more than 550 years old. Both in the first, and in the second places - the working mosques, and in Haitgar, besides, at the medrese the students (as our seminary-students) are educated. They constantly live in Haitgar (we looked in at their "cells": double plank beds, closely) and devote the basic time to study the Koran (it was so at us).
In the evening we have flied to Urumchi, have spent the night at hotel, and in the morning on June 14, by flight of Chinese aircompany, have arrived to Novosibirsk.
Thus our expedition was finished. It was rather successful. For the first time the 360-kilometer, of the highest severity grade, water route down from the second world's peak Chogori (K-2) on the Chogir, Shaksgam and Yarkand Rivers with difference of height of almost three kilometers was passed. The rafting began at height of about 4,000 m. It has been overcome more than two hundred rapids of different severity grade, moreover in an absolutely autonomous mode (we have met the people practically at the end of the rafting only).
But in my head there are the new plans already: rafting down Mt.Everest in Tibet. I begin to prepare for the new expedition.