Asia’s Best Kayaking Is in Kyrgyzstan
Hey all you paddlers and water junkies: Imagine a river with steep, big water rapids like the Stikine in British Columbia running through deep-walled canyons like the Grand Canyon in Arizona. It’s understandably hard to visualize, but these pictures of Kyrgyzstan’s Sary-Jaz River should help. The river begins at the Inichelk Glacier—one of the largest non-polar icecaps—and descends through inescapable rapids and steep canyons that narrow to nearly one meter across in the tightest sections. That’s a description to send most people running. For others, like photographer and paddler Erik Boomer plus a team of proven international kayakers, it sounds like an invitation. Here, Boomer shares a few of his favorite images from the crew’s September expedition down one of Asia’s most difficult rivers.
Photo: Days felt short in the canyon as the sun would quickly pass and jump from one wall to the other. Here, paddler Jared Meehan flows into the shade.
Possibly the best shuttle vehicle ever. Six hours of driving over high mountain passes in an old military truck brought us to the start of the river in the Tian Shan mountain range.
Some of the crew (clockwise from left): Gerd Serrasolses, Spain; Tomass Marnics, Russia; Philip Baues, Germany; Egor Voskoboinikov, Russia.
The rest of the crew (clockwise from left): Jared Meehan, New Zealand; Thilo Schmitt, Germany; Sam Sutton, New Zealand; Ivan Kochlakov, Russia; Olaf Obsommer, Germany; Fabian Dorfler, Germany.
Paddler Sam Sutton takes a leap of faith. One of the most dangerous aspects of paddling the Sary-Jaz was moving around on shore. Landslides and unsteady rocks are common in the canyon due to the powerful river and surrounding mountains.
Videographer and paddler Olaf Obsommer takes time to document the canyon on the upper stretches of river.
Sore muscles and early mornings. Here, one of our makeshift camps as the crew wakes up.
One of the greatest joys of paddling whitewater is bombing down continuous rapids, which the Sary-Jaz provided for nearly an entire week.
The huge boulder in the center of the frame is called Manhattan Rock. The name was given to it by a brave group of Russian rafters who first descended the canyon sometime in 1990.
Paddlers Thilo Schmitt and Fabian Dorfler battle the powerful water.