It is the cradle of Shangri-la and one of the deepest river canyons on earth. It is a fortress guarding sacred waterfalls and a cauldron of wild whitewater and impassable rapids. It is a Himalayan gorge so shrouded in mystery and danger that a legendary waterfall in its depths, sought by explorers for more than a hundred years, was not even photographed until the end of the 20th century. And it is a place like Everest, shimmering with mythic lore and menacing superlatives. By some standards, it is the deepest river gorge in the world – three times deeper, with a river drop eight times steeper than the Grand Canyon.
The Yarlung Tsangpo, which runs nearly a thousand miles from west to east across Tibet at about 10,000 feet above sea level, enters the gorge and loses almost all of its elevation in a thunderous 150 miles. Along the way, it cuts a deep channel between the great peaks of Namcha Barwa and Gyala Pelri, only 13 miles apart.
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