Posted by: Rose | April 27, 2010


My friends have been in Nepal paddling the Bheri, Thuli Bheri and Karnali. I didn’t get to join them, but my consolation is that I’ve paddled the Karnali before and they’ve been stuck in Delhi due to one very inconsiderate volcano. They have gradually escaped India’s capital city over the last 10 days; the final 6 should be fleeing right now….

So it’s not entirely surprising that I’ve been reminiscing about our India trip, 2 years ago. India is a universe unto itself; the sights, the smells and the astounding levels of bureaucracy are mind blowing. I love it! Combining a trip to Mother India with kayaking was my best ever adventure. We explored long stretches of rivers in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. As the roads follow the rivers, you can just keep going and going and going. I have never been so exhausted and broken.

The final river of the trip was the Sutlej. Its headwaters are in Tibet and it is already a vast river where we joined it at Rampur; there is still a long journey ahead before the water finally joins the Indus in Pakistan. We overnighted on the river, so the sluggish laden kayaks took some getting used to on the big volume water. The river alternated between very big rapids (sufficient to make me and my kayak fully airborne) and stretches of recuperative flat water.

The finale of the river, and the entire trip, was a narrow gorge, covered with the squiggles of ductile folding, that squeezed the river through a narrow gap, creating one very big rapid. We received a final adrenaline high to complete our trip.

Leaving the gorge and entering the biggy. Photo by Mark Rainsley.

 When rocks are subjected to strain they react differently depending on the amount of strain, their depth and their composition. The end result is either faulting or folding. When a rock varies in composition, for example sedimentary beds of sand and mud, both folding and faulting can occur.

Imagine an earthquake at the surface. The rocks are cold and the strain is high and of short duration; the rocks snap apart and create fissures in the ground (a fault). In the Himalayas, two continental plates are converging to create a mountain belt. At depth, pressure and temperature is high and strain is low, but constant. The rocks become plastic and flow and fold, creating ductile folding. The gorge on the Sutlej was convered in small scale ductile folds and very pretty it was too.

Ductile folds in the Sutlej gorge. Photo by Graham Bland.

The Biggy. Photo by Mark Rainsley.

Glassy on the Sutlej. Photo by Graham Bland.



  1. Starter for Ten … what geological theory links the Karnali and the Sutlej???

    Mark R

    • Pass. Please enlighten me.

  2. Antecedent drainage, dummie.

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