Humla Karnali

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Humla Karnali

Post by andymilton01 »

A group of five/six of us are hoping to fly into Simikot in late November to paddle the Humla Karnali. I'm after any local knowledge anyone can give us! Has anyone out there done the river recently or know of any groups that have? Any tips on logistics for getting to Simikot, is it possible to fly in from Kathmandu or do you have to go from Neaplgunj? And does anyone know about the political situation in the far west of Nepal since the declaration of peace?

Thanks in advance,

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Post by vagabond »

Andy, a few years ago (well in 2000) I did a river called the Budhi Ganga (long story) but it was on the humla drainage, a group of scottish boater flew from nepalgunj, Im sure that is the only way to do it.

Do hope that you manage it, its been on my wish list for years, supposed to be some classy 5+ stuff. enjoy\\DAZ
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Humla Karnali

Post by shivaoutdoors »

The Humla is an ok river. End November things are getting cold. i've been down there in Spring, which is the better time for high up rivers.

Anyway, pm me regarding flights etc. You will have to fly via Nepalganj but if there are 6 of you, the possiblity of a charter is coming in.

I've been in Nepal since 10+years. So drop a line if you need details
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Post by Liam »

A group of friends went last year from here in Spain to do the Humla Karnali in November. Theres some basic info and pics here, unfortunately its all in Spanish. They flew via Nepalganj and I'm fairly sure it was a charter as they had decent sponsorship (I'll check).

Initially there was a fair bit of portaging as levels were high in some canyon sections, blasting for roads also caused a few problems for them too, and even when they got on, the holes and stoppers were enormous in the higher reaches before the commercial rafting bit. They all loved it, no-one lost kit although there were one or two dicey swims.

clickety click

I'm seeing one of the guys later this week and will ask for any more details.
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Post by Danny_Y »

Liam wrote:Theres some basic info and pics here, unfortunately its all in Spanish.

clickety click
Thanks for that link Liam, thats awesome, I have made a quick attempt to translate the salient points with and 5 year old GCSE spanish, I hope they don't mind my butchering of their trip report.


The best expedition in the world in canoe for many of the big kayakers of the world, a mixture of creek, volume and play boating in only one river. In addition to the tremendous surroundings of big mountains, big difficulty, its length (500km), the impossibility of external support and the biggest gullets, they make it only in the world. This expedition idea arose a few years ago after having visited and descended the majority of the rivers of Nepal. We decide to do this for the big attraction of these 4 rivers and for what they mean for the hindus and the Buddhists. The Humla Karnali arises across spectacular vales of old cultures, a beastly scenery with the roofs of the world around it. (the mount Saipal 7031). It is particularly nice for his big forests and his covered with snow peaks that are similar to an Alpine river. The vale of the Karnali is one of the historical steps to the Tibet and to the India.To lower one of the big rivers of the area demands a good skill and a specific preparation. In the middle of these rapids, there is your instinct and a few seconds that you have, which will help to decide the correct trajectory without making errors, since the river does not forgive. The experience accumulated by the different components of the expedition has cheered us up to confront this challenge.


It has a length of approximately 500 kilometers, flows from north to south, in the area west of the Nepal, begins in the Tibet and comes up to India; it is a tributary of the Ganges.

Difficulty in November: class 5 - 6. (the maximum grade of difficulty in brave waters is a grade 6) From Simikot (3000mt) up to Chisapani (195m)
Distancia:385 km.
Gradient: 7m/km. Volume in simikot 80m. Cubic. 600 in Chisapani.
Days of river: 14
Days of treking and acclimatization: 5
Transport and flight: 2 days


We will come on the 8th of November to Kathmandu where we will do the arrangements: permissions, charter of flights, eat etc.. After three days of negotiations, we go towards Pokhara to complete a physical and psychological warm up on the MYAGDY KOLA (grade the IV), a river proceeding from the Daulaghiri. 3 days. The eighth day of expedition we will by bus to Nepalghan where we take a flight to Simikot. Actually it is a particularly light aircraft to transport the kayaks and the slightly material one that we take. Once in Simikot, we will do 4-5 days of treking and acclimatisation on the border with the Tibet and outskirts of the mount Kailash, being one the highest points in which we will be, some 5000m that help us to get acclimatised for resea with guarantees to 2800 of height. We return to Simikot and organize ourselves with the porters for the first 5-6 days of river (70 km), since they are those of major difficulty (rapids between the IVth + and the VIth) and cannot load kayaks with our baggage. As soon as the two deepest gorges were spent, we do without the carriers, load with the sleep bags, some of the clothes, first-aid kit, some meals, a few letters and continue downstream; this time we advance more rapidly due to the characteristics of the river and without carriers. We calculate to descend some 135km in 4 days up to joining with Lohore Kola where the raft companies begin the commercial expeditions of 8 days. 180 km. We will join one of these expeditions to recover forces, to eat in good conditions and to come to Chisapani. Whole of days from the arrival to Simikot is 20-22 days.

22/11/06 Traveling on the river

Already we have traveled through some 60-70 Km of river. We are finding too many "surprises" that cause prolonged portages, some short and other long and tedious since our canoes go loaded with all our belongings. The certain thing is that we have had that porters the first entire canyon, the only notes that had was that their difficulty was of V, but its not blocked (might want to check this part of translation??). Or the river carries too much water or the river bed has greatly changed since the last descent. We coincide that is a matter of steps of I SAW very severe and obliged... too much risk that to run so far from the civilization.

The parts that are being able to paddle are precious, with some spectacular landscapes and with total absence of people. Today already the porters left us, with the sensation of solitude will be accentuated from now on. We believe that we are so alone but another canyon remains already of grade 5 difficulty (we will see what we find in reality) and from there the river is opened more and becomes a river of volume of IV +. Already we will count you.

29/11/06 Of on the 24 al day 30

24 - 11 - 06

We face last gorge with fear, nevertheless the group to these heights is stronger and united than ever and we decide to descend it. We expected a gorge of some 3 Km of length and grade V of difficulty... but this is changed quickly ito approximately 8 kilometers with monstrous step rapids (?) to a SAW degree.

We go seeking routes arouns the edges, trying to do the more easy most difficult steps and trying not to put us in problems, nevertheless the problems multiply. First I I swim, but quickly recover the material. 100 meters further on Frantxis falls in an enormous, loud pourover (?) and after a long while fighting with him is yielded and leaves swimming. Al grasped his kayak but later wins the edge with a throline sent by Raúl, but the kayak and all their luggage they go down the current.

We fear the worse thing, the river continues strong and we do not see where we can stop the boat. Suddenly it appears Frantxis in the edge rt., a Nepalí has found the canoe and asks us 2000 rupees for her.

That night we camp in half of the gorge, with a smile from ear to ear.

25 - 11 - 06

After a refreshing dream we begin with more than the same thing. A lot of difficulty to the end of the gorge. Finally we manage to leave the same one and we arrive at Biratnagar where the last things one expects is a great difficulty of river. It is a matter of a drop I SAW degree that us does not seem so difficult, nevertheless we decide not to do it, there are works in the adjacent highway and continuous "controlled" explosives with dynamite which dissuade us even to try it.

26 - 11 - 06

We begin the commercial section of the Karnali, here the river smooths out a lot and in fact becomes a section commercial of whitewater rafting. We had already descended it other times, but this time is different, after the passed portages in the high section we descend enjoying and entertaining us.

29 - 11 - 06

We arrive at Chisapani one must celebrate it!

Now we are trying to recover forces around a dish of dalbat recalling all the anecdotes that have occurred to us.

Along 14 days we have descended some 400 kilometers of river. Some days in which we have lost some 5 kilograms each one and in which we have found many more difficulties than predicted, but that without doubt they have served to descend one of the difficult and most inaccessible rivers of the planet.[/b]
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Post by Slime »

I love the Spanish account - Andy you are going to have a brilliant time!

We paddled the river in 87 in great long plastic Pyranha Everests - God, how we hated and cursed those boats!

Hope to catch you in Kathmandu,

Good paddling. Slime.
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Post by shivaoutdoors »

The Humla is an Ok river. I would not rate it as a great river, as it definately (no matter the water level) will await you with 2/3 longer portages right away. Means while your boats are loaded and full. The rest of the river we (2) kayaked with one single portage. It was then great fun. Do not expect a continous river but more sections of 5-8km with harder whitewater (IV-V) and then relaxed floating. The one portage we had was in the grade III section of the guide book. A landslide changed the riverbed and created a bad undercut double drop with death waiting for the blind. Luckily i was wearing glasses.

Anyway, normal flights (in a group of six difficult to get!) will go from Nepalganj. Its a short hike from Simikot (2hrs) to the river. From there mainly grade III until the first obvious portage, again grade III, again portage, again grade III again portage. Then the fun (there´s a bigger creek coming in from the left) starts once the river is heading south. Can´t remember how long the first gorge was. It definately showed some logs in it (we ran all) which means this can/could/will be choked. A longer flatish stretch followed (maybe 2-3hours). The next gorge came in, a "long" 8km of fun ww with big lines. After that there were only single bigger rapids (pool drop). I did take out at the put in for the Karnali Rafting section due to Maoist and Time restraint (it was in 03).

I remember it took us 7 days KTM/KTM (all flights) kind a like in and out action. Obviously you can take your time and have a 20+days expedition. But the amount of food youd be carrying for so many days will be heavy on your shoulders on the first 2 days (or maybe 6 days if you are in for the long expedition)...

But, no matter what the scenery, area, people and the whitewater after the portages are excellent fun and awesome.

Slimes book is fully correct on his account/directions and a great one to carry with you, but be aware that rivers there do change big style!.
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Post by shanebenedict »

Slimes notes were perfect for us as well.
The trip I was on was in 94 I think.
It is one of my favorite adventures that I have done.
Be ready for some good portaging. Some great rapids.
Mile after mile of fantastic rapids. There were definitely times
when we felt like we were mice trying to cross the highway.
Scampering about trying not to get hit by a big hole, truck, whatever.

My one piece of advice would be... don't try to stash food at the put in of the commercial section. We were down to our last food and the stash was gone. We had to paddle down to the next village (junglegot maybe?) and live on a case of YY for the last day and a half.

The other thing that we were lucky to be ready for was the higher altitude. The first couple days we focused on taking our time and not paddling into big rapids out of breath. It is a factor and I remember getting to the bottom of the first intense section thinking I was glad we acclimatized for a couple days.

It is an amazing trip.
Thanks again for the advice Slime
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Humla Karnali

Post by shivaoutdoors »

1. Best is to send the boats via bus to Nepalganj
2. Fly from Kathmandu to Nepalganj once the boats are there.

Reason is, that the Terai at the moment does see (especially the west) regular road blocks and strikes, thus there could be a delay. Better let the boats wait and enjoy some boating (with rentals) for a few days on the upper bothe koshi/tamba koshi for warm up.

3. Other option is to fly 2 with 2 boats. there are two airlines which can fit the boats into their luaggage hatch (but only two). So you should be able to assemble within 2-3 days in Nepalganj (take beer for the first lot to arrive there. it´s a boring place).

4. The flight up to Simikot from Nepalganj is not necessarily free for 5 of you but should be possible. This is best to be checked well (now) in advance, otherwise you might have to wait a week inbetween flights to assemble the group up there. As mentioned, i can believe that you will be able to get a flight for all of you (no worries, you wont have to pay the price of a charter) if you book it in advance.

5. Up in Simikot there are still some groups which might ask you for "donations". This should not happen and you should be able to get away without paying but...there´s no better arguement point then a gun or socket bombs...;) the usual "fee" was 100$ for seven days in the upper simikot area (the same as the governement charged for the upper simikot area) but you are in the lower area...keep discussing if you get stopped. The river for most of the time will let you "cruise" but the first few portages are a good catching point.

6. As mentioned before, the river does change and ever group will have a different experience. The upper (once the river turns south on the map) gorge will/can have trees in it, process slowly. After that it was all (for us) cruising with nice medium volume fun. Be aware (again) that landslides etc are an obvious sign that even in a grade III section things might have changed.

The rapid after the Tila confluence is the "last" of the bigger one. From there its a long flat cruise to the rafting put in. The river again picks up a bit on the rafting good to change into playboats or arrange a possible joining with a rafting group (if you plan it well it could work out) at the put in, so that you wont have to WaiWai it out. it´llb e great to have some good food after camping for a few days.

i still say that you could paddle from Simikot to the Rafting Put in in 5/6 days. Moving and cruising. No long discussing but do or don´t paddeling. If you take photos/time/short days, add another 3 days.

For the journey back, i´d do the same. Get via bus (from Chisapani) to Nepalganj, send the boats via bus back and take a nice flight to Kathmandu. It definately beats to hang out and eat boring food for another 2 days after a long trip. Additionally, it could be worked out that my Expedition truck be picking you up at the take out? Might actually be cheaper then flying. But definately be more expensive then the local bus with the goats on the roof...;)
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Post by Simon_B »

shanebenedict wrote: The other thing that we were lucky to be ready for was the higher altitude. The first couple days we focused on taking our time and not paddling into big rapids out of breath. It is a factor and I remember getting to the bottom of the first intense section thinking I was glad we acclimatized for a couple days.
What is the elevation at the put it? I think I saw 3000m somewhere, but wasn't sure how rough an estimate this was. Sounds like an awesome run though.

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Put In

Post by shivaoutdoors »

You will land at 2800m which is Simikot Airport. To the put in it is roughly two hours downhill. Never really bothered to look at the map or so but i guess the put in will be at 1400-1600m. Just a guess though. It definately had a very different climate in the river gorge than up on the hill of Simikot.

The flight in is great with a scary no return landing. You´ll hear the stalling signal while approaching the landing strip..
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Post by Dave Manby »

From my book "Many Rivers to Run". (The photo on the book cover is from Francesco's the walk in to the Humla Kanarli.)


by Francesco Salvato
translated by Carla Decker.

The aeroplane jerks on the landing strip lifting a huge cloud of dust and then, buzzing like a big blow fly, leans right and becomes a small dot while it flies towards Nepalganj and the Indian plain.
We are in Simikot, a small village in North-Western Nepal, centre of the Jumla district in the heart of the Himalaya. This massive chain, 2500 kms. long, with its perpetual snows and heights standing out as far as the eye can see, is considered by its folks as the house of the gods.
For Hindus, it was the creating god Brahma who drew up the “great wall” of mountains and here he made the holy rivers flow. The spiritual centre is Mount Kailas which Vishnu settled in the middle of the universe as a pillar between the sky and the earth while Shiva chose it to raise his throne.
According to Buddhism, that made Tibet its reign, Mount Kailas represents the altar of the Buddha. Stuppas, Buddhist temples, with their shape, imitate the features of the mountain. From the four sides of Mount Kailas rise the holy rivers: Indus, Brahmaputra, Suttlej and Kanarli.
We remain in Simikot three days waiting for our kayaks which can be brought only one at a time by the small aeroplane. The village leans on the bare slope of the hill; the houses are on different floors linked with stairs carved in logs and on the roof stand yellow sheaves of straw ready for the forth upcoming winter. Walking in this maze of terraces and courtyards is like being in a timeless magical world.
Women have a proud glance and faces covered with ornaments that clash with their poverty while men, with an absent look, smoke “sulba” or spin wool using gestures centuries old. The children look like elf, mysteriously appearing and disappearing with bodies naked or wrapped in rags and with faces covered with dust and dirt which has become part of their lives.

3rd December. We start to descend the 1000 metre gradient that will lead us from Simikot to the river, 50 kms from the source of the Kanarli in the still very bounded Tibet. The copper-coloured sides of the mountains stand out on the crystal blue painted sky which is also a background for the tapering profiles of the cedars.
We leave Simikot with three porters who will take care of our kayaks and, while we walk out, the whole village stands on the side of the road to see us go away. After a few hundred metres we get to a fork on a ridge, the porters stop and start to discuss. We understand that the subject is the direction to take so we wait for them to make a decision. The time runs but no agreement seems close so we intervene trying to make them understand where our destination is. Communicating is a hard job and with an Anglo-Italian-Nepalese conversation close to the grotesque, we get to the conclusion that the shortest way cuts down the slope on the right. The descent is so steep it seems it hangs over the river which meanders twinkling through the valley. At the beginning the track looks in good condition but it gets steeper and unstable as we walk down. We understand that we have gone the wrong way but it is now too late to go back.
Suddenly we hear a deafening sound breaking the Himalayan silence: Giorgio’s kayak is bouncing down the slope like a tennis ball, the porter has slipped and has let the kayak go. Giorgio can’t move and stares at the point where his kayak disappeared thinking, as we all did, that the boat must be destroyed after the 400m high drop.
The slope gets even steeper, I scream Giorgio to run down as far as he can to get the boat while Gianluca and I start to let our kayaks down using ropes. It is hard to stand, and so, not to slip, we are forced to get hold of some branches covered with resin that sticks everywhere. Our kayaks are filled with gear and supplies we need for the 10 days’ descent of the Kanarli and it is not easy to get them down in this situation. The porters look at us manoeuvring the ropes and carabinas, curious and fascinated, it is all so strange to them that they must be thinking that we must be using some kind of magical art.
On the steepest stretch of the track Gianluca and I are leaning on a big tree, the two kayaks are under our feet and the porters are holding on to our legs; this is when one of the two Nepalese boys asks “Sir, where is your country?”. Gianluca and I share an astonished look and then start to laugh so hard we can’t stop, thinking how lucky they are with their deep faith in destiny.
After a couple of hours we reach the bank of the river and find Giorgio seated with his kayak that has a 30 cms. cut behind the cockpit and a broken dry bag.
After a few minutes of discouragement we inaugurate the repair kit but not long after I cut my hand deeply with the knife. We have to leave the repair kit and open the first aid kit and after having stitched both the kayak and the hand we feel self-satisfied thinking we have everything we need for a river trip!
We decide to put on, the shadows are already long on the sides of the mountains. It is late but our need of paddling the Kanarli is too strong, and the boats slide into the water moved by our first, shy strokes. We do not forget, anyway to ask the river god for his assent to paddle in his reign.
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Post by Dave Manby »

Ben Bedingham
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Post by Ben Bedingham »

Well were safely back from our Humla trip, an excellent and memorable run but definitely more of an expedition than a holiday!

Thanks for the advice given here, much appreciated and special thanks to Slime (as always) and Andy Sommers (shivaoutdoors).

Andy did an excellent job of organising our internal flights and getting the boats to Simikot. We intially tried to organise the flights ourselves but Andy has some very useful contacts with the airlines so we left it to him. I think he also organised Mike Moxon's groups flight to the Thuli Bheri, definitely the guy to get in contact with if your planning to do a fly in, in Nepal.

Keep an eye-out for a magazine article at some point.
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Pics of 1st Descent Karnali £500,000

Post by swagstaff »

Pictures of Karanali 1 st Descent for sale offers over £500,000, comes with free hostel and holiday cottages in Sunny Weem, aberfeldy (voted best place to live in the UK).
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Nice one Dave

Post by shivaoutdoors »

Nice Account of the Humla Karnali. Pretty much a story that fits for most of the fly/long trek in rivers in Nepal (possibly in the world).

I read that book some ages ago in 98. It really is an eye opener for Expedition Boating and the fun to be had out there.


great one to hear. I am sure next year a few people will come out to aim it. I think we also agree, that a (possible) better time could be Spring (March/April) for the Humla Karnali to enjoy some good boating with more comfortable temperatures and longer days. Did you have any problems with "maoists" while in the area?
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Re: Pics of 1st Descent Karnali £500,000

Post by TheKrikkitWars »

swagstaff wrote:Pictures of Karanali 1 st Descent for sale offers over £500,000, comes with free hostel and holiday cottages in Sunny Weem, aberfeldy (voted best place to live in the UK).
Tempting, I'll give you a fiver for the free hostel ;)

Joshua Kelly
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