Leo Dickinson is one of the outstanding action sports filmmakers in the field today. He has made over 50 films of his own and helped on many others. Leo entertained us at Rohantime 09 Dunster earlier in the year. Today, on Rohantime, he shares some memories with us of the first canoe decent of Dudh Kosi – Relentless River of Everest. Watch out for other posts on Rohantime by Leo. The most recent Skydiving in the Shadow of Everest and yes he did have Rohan clothing with him. In Leo’s words “Skydive next to the highest piece of real estate on the planet”.
Memories are strange things – they lie – they exaggerate – they bring tears and joy depending upon what emotions are recalled. Above all they are selective. It’s almost as if we have an inbuilt firewall protecting us against the realities of what we went through.
Dudh Kosi – Relentless River of Everest was the first canoe descent of The River of Milk that flows down from the highest place on earth. Dr Mike Jones and Mick Hopkinson arrived with a canoe on the roof rack. Just as Mike started to explain how experienced his team was, I noticed that the front 18 inches of the canoe was missing. The memory stayed with me.
On the first day’s canoeing Dave Manby hit a rapid, got stuck, rolled over and fell out. As he and his boat parted company my cameras showed that the front 18 inches was missing !
Over the next three weeks Mike’s team showed exactly how experienced they were but also how vulnerable when things went wrong and wrong they did go. By now the river was quite big, very cold and fast flowing. There was this bend that took the water away from my steep cliff where I had set up my movie cameras.
As was our want the canoeists would brief me on the line they would take. Like English weather forecasts it was not an exact science but it gave me an idea. Suddenly there was a shout Mick Hopkinson “Hoppy” was in the water out of his canoe.
My memory tells me that two things happened. Dr Mike launched his canoe from the bank and I ran up the steep buff to where my cameras were waiting to run.
Distinctly out of breath I reached for the on switch and aimed my cameras. I had attached two side by side, one with a wide angle the other a zoom. It had been a piece of prescient foresight.
I assumed – wrongly – that Hoppy would be rescued quickly. Dr Mike was trying to steer his boat so as to give Hoppy something to grab but the rocks on the river bottom caused the waves to dissipate in a haphazard manner. There was nothing to grab and I remember starting to feel distinctly uneasy. It was starting to dawn on me that Hoppy was drowning and there was nothing anyone could do…
My film showed Hoppy and Mike being swept around the far corner and mercifully out of sight.
Now a new dilemma flashed and stayed in my consciousness till the present day – I had just filmed someone dying.
If Hoppy had drowned then my film would join him…. I wasn’t in the business of making snuff films. For an hour I ran down the bank looking and hoping. Suddenly to my eternal delight I spotted Hoppy & Mike both drinking tea. It was a happy memory.
If you want to see Leo’s re-digitised, re-edited and re-mastered version of Dudh Kosi then a DVD is available from his website . The original HTV film of the 1976 British expedition to kayak down the Dudh Kosi River that flows from Everest was filmed by Leo and HTV. It was originally shown in Britain at prime time on Boxing Day 1976. The film went on to win over 50 international awards and was sold for broadcast in more than 25 countries.