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From The CriticsIn Kathmandu, where wilderness guides and suppliers do a booming business, one whitewater outfitter frankly denies "responsibility for the diminished career opportunities, and relationship problems that accompany the slow but undeviating downward spiral into the dark underworld of professional whitewater trash." It's a disconcerting bit of promotion, and one that the heroes of this book would understand. Their "whitewater addiction" led them to the Tsangpo River, considered by experts the Everest of whitewater challenges. The comparison is misleading in one respect: Everest's summit is now reached on a regular basis, and its ascent is mapped in great detail. The Tsangpo, which plunges ten thousand vertical feet in the course of one hundred and forty miles through the deepest gorge on the planet, has never been explored from source to confluence. Compounding its allure, the Tsangpo is believed to be the source of the legendary "Falls of the Brahmaputra," first cited in 1880 but not located since. In 1998 a team of four U.S. kayakers flew to Kathmandu to attempt a "first descent" and found an already-treacherous river swollen to levels barring navigation. Nevertheless, they pressed on. One month later, and less one team-member, the embattled group trudged out of "Shangri-La" to meet a chorus of criticism—had their brash confidence, determination and investment led them down a "slow but undeviating spiral" and cost a world-class athlete his life? Balf's riveting tale is a sophisticated fusion of adventure and sport history, and a celebration of human endeavor.