The Sutlej River Rafting Expedition
The source of the Sutlej lies in near the Mansarovar Lake at 18500 ft. in the Tibetan Plateau. The Sutlej is one of only three Trans Himalayan rivers originating in the high Tibetan Plateau that cuts across the mighty Himalayan ranges.
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Vacation Style Holiday TypeRafting
Activity Level Easy
Group Size Medium Group
The Sutlej river basin in Himachal Pradesh covers an area of about 6,553 square kilometers. To the east lies the Ngari region of Tibet; the Dhauladhar range forms its southern boundary, separating it from Uttarkashi District of Uttar Pradesh and the Shimla District of Himachal Pradesh. In the west, the Srikhand Dhar marks the boundary between Kinnaur and Kulu. Spiti is on the northern border of Kinnaur – the boundary being formed by the rivers Spiti and Pare Chu near the Indo – Tibetan border.
The source of the Sutlej lies in near the Mansarovar Lake at 18500 ft. in the Tibetan Plateau. The Sutlej is one of only three Trans Himalayan rivers originating in the high Tibetan Plateau that cuts across the mighty Himalayan ranges. The other two are the Indus and the Brahmaputra. It enters India through a fearsome gorge near the Shipki La. Thereafter, it flows through the cold tracts of Kinnaur to the hamlet of Wangtoo. It is one of the major tributaries of the Indus River system. In its passage across Kinnaur, the Sutlej River successively crosses three great mountain ranges – the Zanskar range, the Great Himalayan range and the Dhauladhar range.
To the east of the Sutlej the valleys are narrow while in the west, they are wide and open. Many tributaries join the main Sutlej River one after the other from the south. The Baspa is one of the major tributaries of the Sutlej. The valley of the Sutlej extends on both flanks of the Sutlej River – from where it enters Kinnaur to the place where it makes its exit. It is the largest valley of Kinnaur, extending in a northeast to southwest alignment for a length of about 140-km along the Sutlej River.
The northeastern part of this valley is drier and conditions become humid towards the southwest. The Sutlej River has carved a deep gorge across the main or Great Himalaya near Pshong- Tong. In the southern part of this valley, there is extensive cultivation of fruits and agricultural crops. Barring some parts, extensive vineyards, thriving crops and orchards of apricot, apples and grapes are to be found in the entire region.
Train from Delhi to Kalka
Board overnight train, the Kalka Mail from Delhi to Kalka.
Transfer to Pandowa Camp
Arrive Kalka early morning. Transfer to Pandowa Camp on the Satluj (6 hrs). Breakfast and lunch enroute. Reach by tea time. Settle into Camp, relax and overnight at camp.
Drive 1 hr to Start Point
After breakfast, drive 1 hr from Pandowa to Luhri, our starting point for the expedition. After a comprehensive safety briefing, board rafts to raft till Pandowa. (20 km, 6 hrs) This section is a great initiation to the river. We stop to portage the Patakhra rapid, usually a Class 6. After portaging the rafts around the rapid, we reach Pandowa camp for the night. Campfire dinner and overnight at camp.
Raft from Pandowa till Tattapani
After breakfast, raft from Pandowa till Tattapani. This 25 km section has som Class IV rapids and we reach Tattapani after lunch. Visit the hot water springs and overnight at Camp.
Begin the self-contained expedition
Today we begin the self-contained part of our expedition. All gear, equipment and supplies are loaded onto big drybags and lashed onto the rafts. We raft into a beautiful gorge, down a 30 km Class 4 section of the river till our camp at Kadhai Ka Fer. Set up camp, campfire dinner and overnight at Camp.
Raft a 30 km Class 3 section
Today, after breakfast, we raft a 30 km Class 3 section to our second camp in the gorge. Overnight at Camp.
Raft 20 kms down a Class 3 section to end the Expedition
After breakfast, we raft 20 kms down a Class 3 section to end our expedition at Salapper bridge. Board waiting vehicles for the (150 kms ; 4 hour) drive to Chandigarh. Board evening Shatabdi Express back to Delhi. Arrive late night. Trip ends.
We believe that along with the privilege of adventure in the Himalaya comes a serious responsibility, the responsibility to protect and contribute to its ecology, cultures and its tremendous beauty. The “Leave No Trace” philosophy is followed to the letter and we work to minimize the environmental impact of our trips. We are scrupulous in our camping, cooking and sanitation practices; we limit the number of trekkers we allow to join us on our trips and the number of trips we lead in a given area.
In wilderness, commercial agreements between service provider and client require a depth of understanding that is more than what is routinely attached to similar agreements elsewhere. In the outdoors, we have to balance pursuit of stated objective and risk. We try to overcome risk and deliver the objective promised in the agreement between client and service provider. But that does not mean that we ignore risk altogether to chase an objective. We wish you to be informed on what makes a trip safe for you and everyone else.
Please take a few minutes to read the following:
The nature of wilderness
By definition wilderness implies remoteness. It means that response to any accident or mishap takes time. Timely intervention is a life saver. Working back from this, it becomes imperative that any commercial adventure in wilderness be conservative in terms of the risk it courts. Yet adventure means there will be risk. The way out is to manage the risk involved in such a fashion that a safe experience is provided. There are a few things that the client can do.
Prepare in advance
Commercial expeditions entail strain even if others are carrying your load and doing the team’s work. Prior physical conditioning – particularly of the cardiovascular sort contributing to improved endurance – helps. Please invest time and effort for that before embarking on the trip. It will help you in the field.
Be honest, speak up
We encourage clients to be honest about how they are feeling on expedition days; voice any personal difficulties they may be experiencing. This helps the team make relevant decisions for clients’ well being, something crucial when venturing into altitude. Not all of us are meant for altitude. If your physiology rebels, there is nothing to be ashamed of it. Speak up. Make sure that your disclosures about self are not biased by an objective you are feverishly trying to achieve like getting to the summit of a peak or crossing a high pass at any cost. Don’t let summit fever and similar instances of extreme personal ambition, consume you. It puts you and your support team at risk. Stay with the team’s assessment of risk. Go with the resultant decisions. If you think you have a point to make by all means do so. We will hear you out. But risk assessment and decisions, will be by the team leaders as the onus of a safe expedition primarily rests with them.
Let the leaders work
You may be familiar with rivers, mountains and altitude. We don’t wish to question that. But there are reasons why many of us choose to go as clients. One of them is that our primary vocation is something else, while those working in the mountains as guides have chosen to make that their primary vocation or at the very least, dedicate time to it. More than us, they are in the mountains. They are alive to it. That’s why we entrust our passage to them. So, please let them work free of interference. Please don’t influence their judgement. Your expedition needs their best work and best judgement. In any expedition, leadership style will vary with the risk being tackled in a given situation. There will be times when we can travel easy in a very consultative fashion. There will be times when that is not advisable and a more directive style may be adopted by your guides. Please comply.
Be open to alternatives
We can set up the best safety systems possible, checking and double checking to make sure that nothing is left to chance. But we don’t control or totally overcome variables like weather and terrain / river conditions. They impact expedition’s progress. If team leaders review / alter plan citing concerns on any front, we request that it be respected and not viewed as money’s worth denied even if it dims prospects for achieving an expedition’s original goal. Such challenges are frequent in the outdoors. Seasoned trekkers and climbers, when they realize that a particular objective does not seem achievable on a given trip, learn to be happy with other pursuits to compensate – like staying camped and enjoying the mountain environment or attempting more doable hikes from wherever they are. We request you to stay aware of these possibilities. Be open to them. Decades ago when exploration and first ascents were happening in the Himalaya, the explorers / mountaineers / hikers devoted months to their work. Committed outdoorsmen still do. They wait out unfavourable circumstances by having a lot of time and patience. Time is what the modern world does not have even as the mountains remain the same, posing the same challenges; the same risk, the same unpredictable circumstances. An exceptionally lucky circumstance may deliver success. But luck isn’t commonplace. We should be mentally prepared for the above mentioned alternatives.
If you don’t achieve your objective it isn’t the end of the world. Be patient, another chance will emerge. There is a simple reminder, climbers often tell their colleagues leaving for a summit: “ the mountain will always be there; make sure you are there.’’
In other words – be safe.
Our expedition trips are designed for energetic and flexible people who have the spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. Previous experience in the outdoors and camping helps, though is not a must. These trips are participatory in nature, and everyone is expected to pitch in, set up and break down their own tent, clean their own dishes. Look up our trip grading before you sign up.
Grading of Trips
We have graded our trips in four different categories and you should choose one that suits you the most. Grading of each trip has been done keeping in mind a lot of factors like the trip duration, the altitude, the terrain, the no. of hours of activity everyday, temperatures and conditions encountered, and the level of fitness needed. Any kind of exercise which gets you fitter before this trip is advisable, as it will enable you to enjoy the region more.
- Easy : Most of our camp based trips, with easy activities, that are optional and involve fairly easy travel. Trips may include short hikes of two to three hours or optional walks at low elevations. Includes less demanding whitewater trips with easy support and myriad options.
- Moderate : Active trips involving hiking over reasonable terrain, within vehicular access, upto elevations less than 4000 meters, or trips with long walking days, multiple rafting days, wilderness camping. Includes more demanding whitewater trips with Class III rapids.
- Demanding : Hiking and trekking to elevations exceeding 4000-5000 meters, away from vehicular access, over multiple days. Encompasses demanding whitewater with Class IV rapids.
- Challenging : Our most demanding trips include climbing at high elevations in excess of 5000 meters, in remote and extreme conditions with no access to roads; trips to remote, extreme wilderness; mountaineering trips, and demanding whitewater trips with Class IV-V rapids.
The Next Step
Ready to go? Email us at [email protected] to book your place and we will guide you through the booking process. Please sign and scan/email us your booking form and inform us about the status of your payments at the time of confirming the trip (Booking form and Payment details below).
Why travel with Aquaterra Adventures?
We are a pioneer in active adventure travel, and run the most number of rivers in India, having opened them up over the past several years. We set the standard and have a strong reputation for excellence. We have a lot to live up to and we ensure we provide the safest, quality trips for our guests.
Should you wish to contact any of our past guests for a trip reference, write to us.
In remote regions, we often use local suppliers who provide services that may include vehicles for transportation, equipment, logistical support, hotels, guest houses etc. We do not own or operate these independent services or suppliers. We work with them as they share our commitment to service and quality.
Booking conditions: All bookings are subject to availability of space at Camp. We book space on a 100% advance. All payments by wire transfer, cash or cheque/draft in favor of “Aquaterra Adventures (I) Pvt. Ltd.”
Tips & Gratuities: Our recommendation is a minimum 5-10% of your trip cost for tips to be distributed amongst the team that makes your adventure safe and successful. This includes drivers, guides, cook, kitchen team, porters and horsemen. Of course, this remains a personal choice.
If it becomes necessary to cancel your tour, you must notify Aquaterra Adventures India Pvt. Ltd. immediately in writing. Once we receive your notice, cancellation will take effect. Please note that the following charges will apply on cancellation:
- if cancellation takes place more than 45 days prior to departure, your full deposit
- will be returned except a processing charge of Rs. 5000 or US$ 77 ; (60 days for Brahmaputra trip)
- if cancellation takes place between 45 and 30 days prior to departure, 50% of the
- tour price will be forfeited (between 60 and 30 days for Brahmaputra trip); and
- if cancellation takes place less than 30 days prior to departure, 100% of the tour price will be forfeited.
Some trips attract a minimum processing charge – please check.
The tour price is quoted as a package. No partial refunds or credit will be given for services not used. We recommend that you obtain travel insurance upon booking.