Expedition kayaker Scott Lindgren has made a career out of
attempting the unattempted. In little more than a decade he has
made more than 60 first descents on rivers all over the world.
His most famous drop came in 2002, when he led a seven-man team
down the Tsangpo in Tibet, a 115-mile run through Himalayan
whitewater. "In kayaking, the 14 8,000-meter peaks haven't been
found yet," he says, alluding to climbing's classic challenge.
"Nothing's been defined. That's the cool thing about it."
Lindgren's next challenge will be closer to home. This spring he
will embark on an attempt to descend all seven of the main river
drainages in California's Sierra Nevada range. While not as steep
or dangerous as the Tsangpo, the seven runs (the Royal Gorge
section of the North Fork American, the Fantasy Falls section of
the North Fork Mokelumne, the Upper Cherry Creek, the Grand
Canyon section of the Tuolumne, the Middle Fork of the Kings, the
Middle Fork of the San Joaquin and the Upper Middle Fork of the
Kaweah) are plenty daunting. Consider that it took the world's
best paddlers 20 years to complete first descents of all seven
and that part of one run, on the Kaweah, has yet to be kayaked.
"California has some of the most radical remote rivers in the
world," says Lindgren, who lives in the northern Sierra town of
Auburn. "For gradient, accessibility, runability and exposure,
they have everything it takes. People come from all over to ride
The biggest obstacle Lindgren will face is the time limit he has
placed on the expedition. "These rivers all flow within the same
three-month period," he says. "Each one has only a four-to-10-day
window for us to ride them, and some of their flows overlap. In
some cases we'll be on rivers at flows a lot higher than we'd
prefer. It definitely makes it more dangerous."
Lindgren, 31, an Emmy-winning adventure filmmaker, has made
movies about most of his major descents; he hauls a 21-pound
Bolex 16-mm camera with him wherever he goes. While he has yet to
name his team for the Sierra challenge, he plans to choose four
kayakers to help him film and post daily updates on his website,
www.slproductions.tv. Once that project is in the can, he will
head to Pakistan for his final goal of 2004: riding the Indus
River. "I want to descend the four most powerful rivers in the
Himalayas," he says. "I've done three. After that it's wide open.
Exploration in whitewater kayaking is like [that of] outer space.
It's in its infancy." --Mark Beech