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Mugu Karnali

In March Ali Marshall , Tom Brown and Pete Scutt flew into the west of Nepal to paddle the Humla Karnali and its trib the Mugu Karnali. We didn't know much about this 30 mile lower section of the Mugu from Gamgadi to the Humla confluence. Gerry Moffat may have paddled it, a Russian Raft Team took 9 days to down it and there was an epic canyon somewhere in there?

Andy Sommer (Shiva Outdoors) , THE fixer in Nepal and top bloke organised our flights and Head Guide/Porter/Translator called Bero. Bero is a great local kayaker aswell. In this part of Nepal doing this kind of complex trip , it was massively helpful to have someone who spoke the language.

The one phrase that sticks in my mind about expedition Kayaking in Nepal is ,"Be Flexible", we were.

After road blocks, people being shot on the roads in riots, flight cancellations and our entire route being changed we finally made it to Jumla in the mountains where we could organise our porters and start our three day hike to the Mugu.

Now we didn't realise how hard this was going to be. Even though we had porters to carry our boats we still had 25kg of gear each in crappy dry bags that kill your back. On the first day when had walked from 1500m to 4100m we were all feeling a little short on breath, and after pushing the 15miles that we had planned that day we were feeling DONE IN. That night I said screw it and hired two donkeys to carry our gear cause otherwise I was going to be too broken to paddle. Two more days of slightly easier trekking and we made it to the Mugu.

Nepal was at the end of a 6 month drought which we had no idea about but we got to the river and it looked like a good flow, maybe 30 cumecs in it.

The river was quality, starting grade 3/4 and moving to 4/5. All superb boat scouting with some harder grade 5. The canyon was stunning. There was only one 100m portage in the entire 30 mile section. As we were scouting this portage Tom had this large rock fall about a foot away from his head. We looked up to find people throwing rocks at us from 500ft above. We dived into our boats and paddled for cover. As I was getting into my boat behind a boulder Tom screamed at me to stay behind the rock as the people pushed this huge landslide towards me. But I'm still alive. That put a bad taste in my mouth as I didn't expect to be visualising killing people in Nepal.

We were paddling unloaded boats and were flying way too quickly for the the porters to keep up with us, as the plan was to paddle it in two or three days. Half way down was said sod it and lets finish this. So we smashed it down to the Humla confluence in 6 hours. The only problem is that we didn't have any food or shelter. But we had money and knew the word for feed me.

We found this beautiful group of houses belonging to a family who lived a subsistence lifestyle. They kindly took us in and fed us and let us sleep in the their barn above the animals. This day was one of the most epic days of my life and an unbelievable culture shock.

After the porters finally caught us up after two long days we started the two day hike up to Lochi Karnali where the 100 miles of 4/5 Humla whitewater starts. To Simikot the normal put on to the humla was one days futher hike but there are long portages on that section so we started where we did and what followed was some of the best whitewater we have ever paddled.

Bero helping with the kayaks.

This section normally takes five days but we did it in two. Not because we wanted to rush but because we never wanted to call it a day and our group was small and fast. 50 mile days we were doing with very little flat in between the rapids. There is a 10 mile big volume grade five section which is amazing. It is rare to paddle something so steep with such volume. We did four portages on the whole 100 miles.

We didn't paddle the lower section even though it is meant to be beautiful.

All in all this is one one of the best river trips in the world and if you want an adventure then go to Nepal.

The team, Pete Scutt, Ali Marshall and Tom Brown.

Thank you very much to

Pyranha Kayaks
Dagger Palm
System X
Whitewater the Canoe Centre
Shiva Outdoors

PS The rivers are too good in Nepal to take photos


At 3:12 PM, Blogger Ryan Casey said...

In 2001 a team of four paddled the Mugu from gamgadi to the confluence. Gerry Moffat, Brett Gleason, Ram Hari Siwal and Myself Ryan Casey. Moffat had somehow gotten us on a helicopter filled with 50 kilo bags of rice for the villagers. We jumped out stuffed about two weeks of food in our boats and started the journey. The trip did not take quite that long but I think that it took us ten days to reach the take out/ put in for the regular karnali. Ram lost the stove after a swim loosened it from its place of rest in his boat, not tied in! We ended up cooking with stick for the rest of the trip eight maybe nine days. I thought the Mugu was scenic class three with one class 5+/6 gorge. I remember thinking there was a line through the gorge but it was dicey being so remote. I thought we paddled it in one day, but maybe it was two. Ram a nepali was the local knowledge but ended up not being able to converse with all but the children due to language differences. All in all the Karnali was a great journey with great water and awsome camping.


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