The Balephi Khola is one of my favourite whitewater rivers on the planet, and sadly has one, or possibly two dams being constructed along its course. This will permanently and fundamentally alter the river and the surrounding environment, having effects on wildlife ecosystems, local population farming habits, and of course, the river's kayaking potential. Love of this river is why I've chosen it for my first online river guide. In writing this, I hope to inspire as many paddlers as possible to head to Nepal to paddle Balephi, Bhote Koshi, Karnali, Trishuli and so many other beautiful rivers under threat, before its too late. Its hard to tell how quickly these dams will become active, but my advice is go as soon as possible.
There is so much to enjoy about this river. Beautiful scenic kayaking with mid-volume boulder gardens forming mostly continuous whitewater with fun to be had all the way down. At just 3 hours' drive from Kathmandu (depending on traffic), this run is also one of Nepal's easiest logistical rivers and best warm-up runs. It's very possible to do the classic Dhade section as a day hit from KTM, but I prefer to stay in a guesthouse in either Balephi or Dhade and spend a few days lapping the river. It is just that good.
There are two sections for kayaking: Dhade and Kattike (Pronounced Da-de and Ka-ti-ke), which are named after the town from which you can reach the river.
Dhade/Jalbire Section (Classic): Class 3/4 This section is the ultra-classic, paddleable for most of the Autumn and Spring season, and bound to bring joy to every face.
Kattike Section (Upper): Class 4+ A half day run with true expedition feel.
Regular local buses go from Kathmandu. From wherever you stay in KTM, tell your cab driver that you want to go to Balephi by local bus. They will then take you to the correct bus park and if they like you will also help you find your bus. Buy your ticket in advance at the counter in the corner of the bus park. Try to do any haggling for the price to put a kayak on the roof with the man at the counter, not the bus boys. The road is very good as far as Balephi, OK from Balephi to Dhade, and bad from Dhade onwards. Local buses can run you up to Dadhe, but if you want to go to the put-in for the Kattike section, you'll need to arrange a private vehicle as the road is very bad.
Guest houses are available in Balephi and Dadhe, and probably Kattike if you look hard enough. If you arrange to stay in a guesthouse, you can leave a bag there while you go kayaking with light boats!
This run is well connected to the Upper Bhote Koshi (class 4(5-)) and Lower Bhote Koshi (Class 3), so a smart paddling group will take a few days to explore these while they are here.
Kattike: The actual put-in for the Upper Section is upstream of Kattike where the road goes down to the river and you will find the makings of a hydropower intake. It is unsure how much longer we will have this beautiful section of river. From here the river will be technical class 4/5 boulder garden rapids. Expect to scout a lot and use a lot of energy. A beautiful run for a solid team. Kattike to Dhade should take around 3 hrs.
Dhade: At Dhade, the bus will ford a tributary of the Balephi. Pick a route from here through the paddy fields to the river. Here is the the start of the Balephi Classic Section. The first 2 kilometers are the steepest, so if you're unsure, why not put on at Jalbire. From Dhade to Balephi should take 2-3 hours.
Jalbire: From here, the river will be consistently interesting Class 3 whitewater all the way down to Balephi Town.
In Autumn, The Balephi will generally be high and challenging until October, and getting low by December. Kattike section works best low. In Spring this pattern will work in reverse from March to May.
Hopefully this post will inspire and enable so that a few more paddlers can come and visit this beautiful river this year.
If you're hungry for more Beta, check out the page on The Balephi on the Nepal Kayak Club website. Paddle365 is proud to work in partnership with NKC and Big Smile Nepal to provide expert coaching and guiding services in Nepal. Images by Luke Partridge, Jamie Greenhalgh and Alec Banner
Video by Luke Partridge