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By Ben Stookesberry

Monday, November 10, 2008 – Skardu, Northern Pakistan
7 days after arriving in Pakistan we are finally on the verge of our planned descent through the fabled Rondu Gorge of the Indus. As many of you are aware these are dangerous times on the far western flank of the Indian sub-continent and the distil end of the mighty Himalayan massive. Ultra-orthodox Taliban fighters are being pushed into the valley of the Indus by a joint Pakistani, US, and NATO effort, while tensions to the east with India have never quite been quelled between these two nuclear armed adversaries. Standing at the far end of the massive, sand swept Skardu Valley Roland Stevenson, Darin McQuoid, Phil Boyer, Chris Korbulic, Rafael Ortiz, and I strain to hear the distant rumble of these conflicts that could be coming from either side.
Just as we completed packing our boats and our ready for a half mile hike down to the mighty Indus, the Pakistani police force arrives on the scene to prevent us from entering the river. After an hours worth of negotiations, Roland has convinced the “worked-up” official to arrange a meeting between our group and the Deputy Commissioner of Skardu for this morning. Thus it is worth noting that without the guidance of River India’s founder and Urdu speaking Roland Stevenson this trip would have probably come to a screeching halt right there.
As it turns out, the deadliest summer ever on the nearby massive of K2 has not been without its consequences. Where as in year’s past, the handful of groups to attempt the Rondu have done so unofficially, the heightened state of concern by Northern Pakistani officials over the proliferation of haphazard mountaineering expeditions has led them to further restrict all potentially hazardous activities in the area. Luckily with our extremely well traveled and well documented expeditions from year’s past, Roland is able to expertly communicate not only the overwhelming experience of our team, but also our track record of caution before bravado.
As it turn out, we deal with an extremely well spoken (English speaking) Assistant to the DC who expedites the first official permit to attempt the Rondu in a short two hour process that makes any of the US river permitting processes seem archaic by comparison. As a side note, a permit for 6 climbers on K2 is currently $3000, while our permit to officially run the Rondu is a good faith permit free of charge implying only that we are well aware of the risks that we will be taking.
Tomorrow Tuesday, November 11th, 2008 the stage is set for the 4th or 5th attempt ever on the 170km long Rondu Gorge of the Indus. From what we saw from the road, the Indus is all about 30 – 50 huge rapids interspersed through less daunting but still impressive whitewater. Our flow estimates range from 10 to 15 thousand cfs of turquoise glacial melt. As far as we could tell there are no mandatory sections of water, only the chance to run the biggest whitewater any of us has ever scene.
Ben Stookesberry