On February 4, a team comprising explorers and kayakers from seven nations began a planned two-month-long expedition through the Tsangpo Gorge in southeastern Tibet. Their goal is to chart some of the still unvisited parts of the gorge and to complete the first-ever whitewater descent of the world’s deepest river canyon.
The Yarlung Tsangpo River—the highest river in the world, with an average elevation of over 13,000 feet—was flowing before the Himalayas were born. But when the Indian subcontinent slammed into Asia and began crumpling and lifting billions of tons of ocean sediment, the resulting 1,500-mile-long mountain range forced a radical realignment of the river’s course. (There is even evidence that it once flowed in the opposite direction.)