Saturday, Jun 03, 2023

Ken Storm

Ken Storm

The adventurer-explorer on his recent expedition to the Tsangpo Gorge in Tibet

Why this passion for exploring river gorges?
Each bend in the river takes you to something unknown. That is what sparks my imagination.

You are a businessman by profession. How do you reconcile business with your spirit of adventure?
For me, the journey outside is a means to an inner journey. My explorations rejuvenate me for business.

How do you prepare yourself for these journeys?
I read journals and accounts of ancient explorers. I try to recreate their journeys, see through their eyes.

What's pioneering about the Tsangpo expedition?
The gorge has been a great riddle of geography. We were the first ones to close the gap on the five-mile unexplored stretch of the river to discover the magnificent waterfall.

How did the expedition happen?
The area had been closed till '93, when they allowed an expedition of which I was also a member. Since then, I've gone every year to finally sight the waterfall.

What made it so unique?
For Buddhists the river gorge is hidden land, they call it the body of the goddess. So going there is like entering the body of the goddess.

How did you manage to convince the Tibetans to undertake the journey?
We went there with a willingness to learn their world. We didn't impose ourselves on them; acknowledged that they knew best. We didn't go there with an aim to conquer.

You say it's been a transforming experience for you. How?
The West's idea of an exploration is to go to an area and extract things from it to take back as trophies. This was virtually a pilgrimage: a combination of the western notion of desire and Tibetan mysticism.

Did you ever fear you may not be able to spot the waterfall finally?
That danger is always there but one has to dismiss it and never lose focus.

What's been the role of National Geographic in this enterprise?
It is important to document the stories of such an expedition. National Geographic has been the vehicle for that apart from funding the whole enterprise.