It was so quiet.
The only sound was the wind, rippling and snapping the prayer flags that ran down the riverbank, freezing the paddlers’ hands as they zipped into drysuits. It came from upstream, from flat across the Tibetan Plateau, and it drove dry snowflakes onto the beach and darkened the jade-green water with patterns like woven fabric.
The kayakers moved quickly—pulling on life vests, helmets—and didn’t speak. After ten years of planning, there wasn’t much to say. They were seven of the best expedition paddlers in the world. Led by Scott Lindgren of Auburn, California, the young men represented the vanguard of river exploration, and they had come to Tibet to attempt the first whitewater descent of the Tsangpo Gorge, arguably the last great adventure prize on earth..