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By Darin McQuoid

Now that we were approaching the Haramosh Valley on the river, we knew it
was time for our anticipated visit to the school. Roland and Chris had
visited the previous day and read two English books owned by the school, but
our whole group was warmly welcomed by the principle.

School was just starting as we arrived, so they went through morning
assembly, including a beautiful rendition of the Pakistan National Anthem.
Most Shiite schools in Pakistan teach girls and boys, unfortunately in the
more conservative Sunni districts, woman’s education is uncommon.

Three Cups of Tea covers Pakistan’s
education problems in depth, and is a wonderful read. Peace Through

We were only too glad to give a little time to the school, and I personally
felt hypocritical while talking about the importance of a multilingual
education, something still overlooked in the United States, at least where I
grew up.

On the river we were welcomed with a large rapid to start the day off.
Phil Boyer opted to go first and probe the beast, and although he wasn’t
able to make the move to the left as planned he went big down the middle and
sorted it out with no problems.
From the scout I had liked the left line, a little more technical to start
out with, but a gimmie once the top move was made.

Hiking back up I took plenty of time to scout my entrance move, noting a
wave hole that would serve as a marker for me to start my drive left, and
once in my boat I quickly peeled out. Coming down the initial wave train I
was glad for time spent scouting this move in depth. Visibility was limited
due to wave height, but as I passed the wave hole I put the heat on and
scurried left of the rock; whew, glad the hard move was past.

Now just to finish up down the left Now where exactly was I going?
Dismissing the bottom move I had made a large mistake, in a river of this
size small holes are larger than named holes than most rivers. I came down
the left side not really sure where I wanted to be, semi-confident that it
didn’t really matter. As I dropped over a wide but seemingly benign hole, I
back endered into it and started getting my surf on.

No big deal I told myself, it didn’t look too bad so I should flush pretty
quickly. I rolled up only to still be in it, and proceeded to get a few ends
and surf more, starting to get short on breath and more than a little
concerned about the situation. An attempted blast out the side got me
nowhere, and I was pulled back into the maw to flip again. I decided to wait
upside down a little longer this time to make sure I would flush, and as I
felt the current get less chaotic I rolled up, confident that I would be
moving downstream.

My concern about the situation skyrocketed once I had rolled up and the hole
pulled me back in from over a boat length away. I couldn’t help but think
that this might not end well as the hole pulled me back into the meat and a
quick series of enders. Rolling up again, I was very surprised to be clear
of the hole and still in my boat, not really sure how I had gotten away with
that one.

Insult to injury followed with another brief surf in a downstream hole, then
I was clear of the rapid, glad to have that one behind me.

Ben followed, cleaning it with no problems down the center too, and we
pushed on to a true monster.

It had looked big on the drive up, but someone in the team and proclaimed
that it would get run. Standing at the lip we weren’t so sure about that

The lead in was a stout enough rapid on its own, but the final plunge into
the hole was something that I am not articulate enough to give justice to.
My stomach turned over just contemplating the power.

Suffice to say if it was a warm sunny day, and you were as fired up as can
be, then just maybe you would consider running it. Or, if it’s just above
freezing, you’re in a third world country half-way around the world from
home, hours from any kind of help and you name is Ben Stookesberry, you’d
fire it up. Not that Ben was reckless in his attempt, he gave it a thorough
scout from both sides of the river before giving the nod. I believe the
photographs of the hole speak for themselves…but let me say we all held
our breath as Ben dropped into the gut of the hole, and exhaled in relief as
he resurfaced and rolled up clear of the backwash.

Several more large rapids followed and then the sun went over the ridge.
Grouped in an eddy we conversed about camp options. On a plateau there were
a few sandy spots mixed into a boulder field, or we could gamble and push
downstream further. The deciding factor was an abundant supply of driftwood,
we couldn’t turn down a campfire opportunity as the temperatures dropped

As we warmed up by the fire, the topic of discussion was both our previous
ten days on the river, and the following. Surly this was one, if not the
best river any of us had ever been on. Consistent rapids every day, class V
almost all day, every day. What loomed even larger was the promise of making
to the confluence the next day. I for one always look forward to take out;
warm cloths, plenty of food, external heat and rest, and that’s after just
one day on the river! After ten days of cold, challenging whitewater, I
hoped the confluence would be attainable in one more day.

Look for this trip in Clear H2O Film’s upcoming release: Hotel
Charley IV


Darin McQuoid

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