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A dramatic narrative tour of 10 of the world’s most incredible whitewater adventures—spanning 5 continents and 40 years—guided by a legendary whitewater trailblazer
This fascinating history of daring whitewater explorers stands alongside classic works on mountaineering, outdoor survival, and extreme sports
Perfect for fans of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Candice Millard’s River of the Gods
In 10 thrilling real-life adventure stories, pioneering whitewater explorer Wick Walker examines what lured a generation of incredibly daring pioneers into some of Earth’s most wondrous yet forbidding river canyons:
- below Victoria Falls on the Zambezi,
- the Great Bend of the Tsangpo in Tibet,
- Tiger Leaping Gorge on the Yangtze,
- the flanks of Mount Everest, and more
Loaded with great moments and personal stories, Wick details what these adventurers found there, and within themselves. The extraordinary characters, driven by different motives and visions, but united by their compulsion to seek the unknown and the pulse of free-flowing water, are as remarkable as the daunting geography and conditions they confront.
Whitewater sport today stands side-by-side with mountaineering in participation and public attention, yet it has lagged in generating its own literature. Torrents As Yet Unknown will help fill that gap for readers interested in human drama played out against great natural challenges.
Mountaineering history is deep and its literature rich, but whitewater adventurers approach and experience the same forbidding terrain from a different vantage, between the steep walls of their canyons and atop powerful torrents of cascading water.
About the Author
Wickliffe W. Walker represented the United States in three whitewater canoe and kayak world championships and in the 1972 Olympics at Munich. Following his competitive career, he mounted expeditions in Bhutan, Pakistan, Mexico, and elsewhere, including to the Tsangpo River of Tibet that is the subject of his previous book Courting the Diamond Sow. He is a National Geographic Explorer and Author, and a Fellow of The Explorers Club, and he presently lives and writes in the Blue Ridge of Southwestern Virginia. He studied at Dartmouth College, the John F. Kennedy School for Special Warfare, and the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. He served 21 years in the United States Army as an Engineer, Military Intelligence, and Special Forces officer, retiring in the rank of lieutenant colonel after overseas service in Vietnam, Thailand, and Germany.
“Page-turning adventure tales from an experienced, knowledgeable guide.”
"Tension and uncertainty are palpable throughout. The book covers the risks of getting to remote locations and scouting upcoming rapids; threats from bears, alligators, and unknown depths; and interference from hostile locals. Walker’s descriptions are visceral, depicting the crushing power of whitewater, the heady atmosphere of adrenaline and nervous anticipation, and photogenic surroundings in turn. There are maps, illustrations, diary excerpts, and quotes to complement this work."
“Wick has served up a series of first-rate adventure tales covering the major whitewater explorations of the late 20th Century. Running the rapids is a concrete and straightforward task, although rarely as simple and easy. While following the paddlers downriver, we also explore their thoughts and emotions.”
“Walker gives well-researched histories of the expeditions as well as stories of the people on them, from extensive interviews with those involved on some and his firsthand experience on two of them. It's an impressive cast of characters, including some of the great whitewater adventurers of the 20th century, whose names should be familiar to those who admire their accomplishments and daring.”
--Canoe Cruisers Association
“A river is a liquid mountain, though you may have never thought of them this way, until reading Walker’s dramatic, highly-researched homage to venturing into the unknown. Like Into Thin Air, this book takes you to places from which there may be no return. The shock for those who’ve never paddled a stream will be that rivers are so alive, voice-filled, dangerous, and welcoming. Rivers are places, Walker writes, where the current 'flows but one direction — into the future.' Walker’s experiences as an elite paddler, meditative and enormously dramatic, will have river veterans nodding in agreement and surprise. I loved the journey."
--Doug Stanton, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Horse Soldiers
"It's not often that an all-time great explorer, paddling pioneer, and expedition leader writes an all-time great book on his life's obsession. But Wick Walker has done it and it's a doozy. This compendium of whitewater first descents is a must-read for every adventure-lover -- you don't need to be a kayaker or raft guide to feel the power of these stories."
--Brian Castner, author of Disappointment River: Finding and Losing the Northwest Passage
"Superbly written and very, very gripping . . . Torrents As Yet Unknown brought back to me rich memories, especially of Mike Jones, one of the great adventurers of our time."
--Sir Chris Bonington, CVO, CBE, DL, mountaineer and author of more than a dozen books about his adventures, including Annapurna South Face
"Wickliffe Walker’s Torrents As Yet Unknown is an important contribution to the literature of exploration and the history of whitewater river running. But it is also a fascinating study of character — of the irrepressible imagination and sheer audacity of those who seek out the wildest places, who make a life of honing the skills needed to navigate the unknown at the extreme limit of human survivability. As I read, I found myself repeatedly murmuring, 'You can’t make this stuff up.' From kayakers trying to maneuver on the Blue Nile while shooting attacking crocodiles with a pistol, to paddlers attempting to kayak from just below Everest’s Base Camp, to Chinese scholars sealing themselves in closed capsules and asking to be shoved off into the ferocious cataclysm of the Yangtze River’s Tiger Leaping Gorge. Walker knows the territory: he’s a soldier and explorer who has led expeditions into Tibet’s mythic Tsangpo Gorge, and singlehandedly paddled the first descents of many of Pakistan’s whitewater rivers. His book had my pulse racing. And I kept thinking, 'That’s why we love rivers, and that’s why the greatest push the limits.'"
--Peter Heller, author of The Dog Stars, The River, and The Guide.