Running through the soutwest corner of Tibet is the Tsangpo River, a dangerous unchartered whitewater passage. It is also a place of beauty, coursing through snowcapped mountain ranges and ripping through verdant jungle. Local legend calls this place the sacred site of Shangri-La. According to kayaking legend, the Tsangpo Gorge is the Holy Grail of rafting. In October 1998, a team sponsored by National Geographic set out to conquer it. En route they discovered that National Georgraphic had also sponsored another team whose descent was timed just after their own. The chances of success were slim, but the race was officially on.
Todd Balf, a former senior editor for Outside magazine, writes for Men's Journal, Fast Company and many other publications. His cover story in Men's Journal on the Tsangpo and the Walker-McEwan expedition appeared in March 1999 and was the basis for The Last River, which is his first book. He lives in Beverly, Massachusetts with his wife and two children.