The Tsangpo Gorge in southeastern Tibet has lured explorers and adventurers since its discovery. Sacred to the Buddhists, the inspiration for Shangri La, the Gorge is as steeped in legend and mystery as any spot on earth. As a river-running challenge, the remote Tsangpo is relentlessly unforgiving, more difficult than any stretch of river ever attempted. Its mysteries have withstood a century's worth of determined efforts to explore its length. The finest expedition paddlers on earth have tried. Several have died. All have failed. Until now.
In January 2002, in the heart of the Himalayan winter, a team of seven kayakers launched a meticulously planned assault of the Gorge. The paddlers were river cowboys, superstars in the universe of extreme kayaking who hop from continent to continent ready for the next death-defying pursuit. Accompanying them was author Peter Heller. A world-class kayaker in his own right, Heller has logged countless river miles and several major first descents. He joined the Tsangpo Expedition as a member of the ground support team and official expedition journalist, and was also granted the exclusive opportunity to write the book about the descent.
Hell or High Water is that book, greatly expanded from his coverage for Outside magazine. Filled with history, white-knuckle drama, and mutiny in one of the world's most storied, and remote, locations, Hell or High Water is as riveting as any of the great epic adventures throughout history.
©2004 Peter Heller; (P)2004 Tantor Media, Inc.
"Heller nimbly blends the history of the region into his gripping modern trek, as the crew lives up to the legacy of the great explorers before them. An offhand remark made to the paddlers early in the journey, that their story could be the kayaking equivalent of Into Thin Air, has come true in the best possible way." (Publishers Weekly)
I have no doubt that this is an interesting, compelling book, but I had a hard time with it in the audio format. I hope the book has pictures, because it felt incomplete without them. I know very little about kayaking and found it difficult to follow the author's descriptions of situations the kayakers were in, though I have to say that I think he did about the best he could have done. There were quite a few people involved and I had a little trouble keeping them straight. To sum it up, it couldn't hold my attention to the end, and it made me feel like I was missing out because I couldn't see any of the scenery the author described. An abridged version might have been a little better - there was just too much information to absorb during daily commutes. It's a fascinating story, but maybe not one for an audio book.
Compete to Live
I love adventure stories but this one left me a little emotionally exhausted and ready for it to end. The beautiful descriptions of the river and the paddlers' skill was overshadowed by all the bickering and threats between expedition members. Definitely not a story for aspiring leaders.
Yes. It was informative about the one-minded outdoors fanatic who is going to do extreme things like kayak an unpredictably wild river or climb the highest mountain.
I enjoyed the human interactions that were described. There could have been more concerning the challenges on the water but being written by an observer who was not in a kayak even that part was well done.
I enjoyed most the descriptions of the guys on the water in their kayaks.
No. I enjoy tasting a book over time rather than gulping in a short burst.
Peter Heller is a good writer. I will look for other books and they will not need to be an audible book.
Extreme kayaking involves huge risks. This book transmits those risks viscerally, along with the thrills that come with successfully navigating previously unpaddled rapids.
Group expeditions multiply all the talents and complications of their members. This book whisks readers along as armchair members of a quest full of larger-than-life personalities.
Tibet fascinates. This book translates that fascination well. The author understands the country, conveying its complex philosophies elegantly.
Full disclosure: This audiobook appealed to me at first because the author and I attended college together. Then I heard reader’s voice, which bears an uncanny resemblance to Peter’s. Deal sealed.
The narrative builds well toward a tense, suspenseful event near the end of the book. Then it fizzles a little. Oh, well. Life is sometimes like that.
I absolutely loved this book. It's incredibly well-written, very amusing and has a good flow. It kept me antranced and interested every second of the way. I started listening to it at the gym and couldn't wait for the next workout so started listening to it in the car. I highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys adventure novels.
This book is compelling in its description of a crazy quest to accomplish something that is ultimately not very meaningful; kayak down a wild river on the other side of the world. One is left with the feeling that the ultimate story was untold; an interesting, well meaning, and sensitive author trapped on an expedition with selfish, driven athletes. One gets hints of the real drama and resulting human dynamics of personal transformation, but too much is left unsaid. The expedition is interesting enough, but the real drama lingers as only hints in what would have otherwise been a profoundly fascinating story. Instead, it is good, but not great.
I love Peter Heller's fiction and have read all of it with great joy. However, this nonfiction story about kayaking the Tsangpo did nothing for me. It seemed like our language is simply incapable of sufficiently describing the fast-moving sport of river kayaking. The details required to help the reader picture how exciting a particular moment is become tedious, and the reader gets bogged down and loses the thrill. The narrator did not help, either. He is a good reader, but his tenor voice just cannot communicate the excitement of risking one's life on a river. I could not finish this book, and I do not recommend it.
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