Idahoans With Whitewater Running Through Their Veins
(page 4 of 8)
Hometown: Ketchum, ID
Favorite Descent: Raughat Khola in the Himalayas
In the fall of 2002, Sean Glaccum trudged up a side creek that fed the Modi Kola, a raging river that drains Annapurna, one of 10 peaks more than 26,000-feet high in the Himalaya. Accompanied by a porter and German friend, Andy Sommer, the group climbed above a beautiful series of runnable waterfalls, the crucible a 40-footer that spat out at an odd angle toward a vertical granite wall. The waterfall didn’t crash into the rock but it was darned close. A dicey landing zone for sure.
But Glaccum saw a line. So the 6’4” paddler, with long blonde hair wrapped in a ponytail, slipped into his plastic “creek” boat–which seemed small considering the drop he was about to run–pulled the neoprene skirt over his cockpit to seal out the water and pushed off the bank into the eddy. A couple of strokes and he was plunging over the falls, doing his best to tuck forward and protect himself. He landed violently in the aerated water below, his boat slamming against the wall. But he easily rolled up and his hoots and hollering could be heard echoing off the tight canyon walls.
The modern era has seen many great paddling explorers, some have run tougher whitewater, but none have become as adept at navigating the Himalayan river scene as Glaccum, 33, a Wood River High alum who has spent over a decade paddling in Nepal and northern India each fall, first as a raft guide, then on his soulful mission to try and paddle the rivers draining those 10 monstrous peaks. He’s completed eight so far, including an epic trip below Everest that was a first descent of the rowdy Cho Oyu Bode Kosi. His attempts to run rivers off K2 and Nanga Parbat in Pakistan were thwarted by the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York.
These days, Glaccum has turned his attention back to rafting (he and wife Ginger own the Payette River Company on the South Fork of the Payette), and completing as many first descents as possible. “I guess first descents aren’t the most important thing,” he says. “But rafting is a good way to push the envelope because there’s still a lot of things that haven’t been done in them.” Glaccum and his paddle rafting team plan to return to Nepal this year for an expedition on the Dudh Kosi, the main river draining Everest. Maravia, a Boise-based raft company, has sponsored the expedition with a custom raft.
Glaccum’s yearly missions have always included trips to local orphanages, where he brings supplies and money donated by sponsors. “But I wasn’t always sure the money was going to the kids,” Glaccum says. So this year, his team will work on the cholera epidemic. “Basically, people die from diarrhea,” he says. “They’re likely to survive if they simply rehydrate. So we’ll be transporting rehydration salts out to the boonies.” He might not be running any big drops this trip. But he hopes to be a big help to the local people of Nepal he’s come to love.
Aside from paddling, Glaccum recently released Idaho’s newest guidebook, The Idaho Paddler: Whitewater Gems, and is working on a new guide to Himalayan rivers.