Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Botched Homathko, Commitment Canyon, and Drive Home

Driving from Deese Lake to Williams Lake to possibly paddle the Homathko was long. Arriving in Williams Lake we found that the planes that are usually in the Butte Inlet (The takeout for the Homathko) weren’t there. That means instead of paying 700$ to fly back to the vehicle it would cost about 2,400$. We exhausted our resources finding that we could book a Helicopter for about 2,000$. Even that was more than we could afford. One option remained; four of us paddle the classic Homathko and meet the other two at Skookumchuck Tidal rapids. That would require about a 90 mile ocean paddle tagged on the end of the regular Homathko run. It was doable and the paddlers were game. Unfortunately, a forgotten license was enough to keep one shuttle driver from being willing to risk driving.
We cut our losses and decided that half the group (Daz Clarkson, Dave Thompson, and Andy Round) would go to Skookumchuck, and the kids (Me, Tristan McClaren, and Max Bechdel) would creek in whistler.
With flows low our first target was Commitment canyon of the Ashlu. The canyon starts off with a great drop named, Fifty-fifty. We decided it was named that because you could only hit your boof stroke off the second lip fifty percent of the time.
Here are a few glamour shots of max as he gets dressed before commitment canyon.

Once we were dressed we dropped into this falls. Max had to go first becuase he lost the Rock Paper Scissors competition the night before.

Here is a shot of the Falls from below

We each hiked up and ran it again because it was so much fun. After the initial drop it was nearly impossible to keep from being swallowed into the pile.

Once you make it through the falls the rapid isn't over. The current goes straight into a bad wall and we all had to fight off the wall each time.

With an incredible, fun trip behind us we all began the pilgrimage home. Daz and Dave went back to the UK and into the workforce. We dropped Andy off at his pickup truck in White Salmon, Washington where he is planning on building a self-sustaining home this winter. And the Idaho crew is back in Idaho now, Max is going on the Grand Canyon of the Colorado and Straight to Chile. Tristan and I have been cutting logs out of creeks and preparing for the spring creeking season. Plans are also underway for a trip to Asia this winter putting Tibet or Afghanistan in as possible destinations.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Grand Canyon of the Stikine River

"The Grand Canyon of the Stikine will make you stare into the abyss of your soul"
Said Olli Grau, after his trip down the Stikine.
The Stikine truly is an introspective river. Since we drove over this river a month ago, on route to the previous rivers The Susitna and Alsek, the Stikine was on my mind. When most rivers make you stare outward into the rapids and scenery, the Stikine commands an inward stare. During inspection this stare should find a sound mind with other thoughts/worrys in your life "Turned Off" for the moment.
The flow was a higher than the pictures we had recieved from previous trips. We sat in contemplation for two days hoping for the river to drop and deciding if we should put on. With the forecast predicting rain showers soon, Tristan McClaran and Myself spotted a window of opportunity and decided to go for it.

It began as a scenic float, Tristan and I both bitched at the amount of flatwater. Just kidding, but seriously, it was a long flat paddle.
Six miles later we came to entry falls which marked our first option to hike out if the river was to much for us. Here is Entry Falls from 300 feet up.

We hiked down to get a better look at it. Tristan in front of the big rock.

Tristan and I decided it looked good, so we gave it. After Entrance Falls we came on to even bigger rapids. The waves threw us around violently, the last time I was thrown around this much was trying to paddle out into huge Ocean breaks and being denied.

Before long, we came to Pass/Fail

After a few more miles we landed at the Site Zed camp. Here is a photo of the water level and our markers.

On the portage of Site Zed Rapid, the last unrun rapid of the Stikine, Tristan and I got lazy and just put on around halfway down the rapid just beside/below the biggest hole. Here is Tristan getting ready

We Ran all of the Rapid behind me, We have heard the Johny Kern put on here also.

This is looking back at the top of Site Zed, its big.

We puton together and both made it through the hole. As day two went on the cliffs came in tighter and tighter.

Here is Tristan trying to get a visual on the next few horizons of the rapid called "The Wall". "I think middle flushes", He says.

Here is a shot of "The Wall"

Shortly after the wall we made it to the Garden of the Gods Camp. It was only 1:00 Pm so we built a fire to warm up, then got back in our boats and kept going. The rapids got tougher and more stacked up. The wall two trashed us and spit us out at Scissors. I got tired and talked Tristan into camping on a ledge just above Scissors. The next day we awoke recharged and ready to go we went into scissors first thing. Sorry no pictures, but it went well for both of us.
The hole that ate Chicago was huge, we ran it down the gut. I went sub-aquatic for a long time and popped up downstream. little did we know V-drive was just around the corner, we nearly missed the scout eddy.
V-Drive was out of control, it must drop 20 to 30 feet in there and it stuffs you into the botttom of the river, wow that was a ride.
After V-Drive we found the Log in the Tanzilla gap, that was fun. In the tanzilla gap the river is only 4-6 feet wide and there was a log right at river height. Tristan tackled it and I portaged. After a few more rapids it was back to the old flatwater tour for the long paddle out.
This river was extremely challenging, dangerous and commiting. Any mistakes could have cost us big. Tristan and I both feel extremely fortunate to have been in such a beautiful, terrifying place. Please don't take this river lightly.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Turnback Canyon.

The sun tried to rise through the thick clouds and fog that surrounded us as we awoke adjacent of the Tweedsmuir glacier. It was a dark, dreary morning and the reality of our situation began to set in. we were in the middle of nowhere. we all decided without a doubt that this is the most remote, desolate ground we had ever walked on. And we planned on plunging into a committing class five canyon in this place! We all had thoughts of home that morning, we thought of our family, freinds, loved ones and the real life we left to pursue these canyons. It can be a constant battle dealing with these thoughts, especialy when you are choosing to risk a dangerous river.
At the arrival and initial scout of turnback two members of our party decided to portage. The decision was a dificult to swallow for everyone, but the decision was made and I/we supported it, even though that meant leaving two friends to fend for themselves on an arduous portage and going two men short into turnback.

Looking into the entry of turnback gorge

Looking upstream at the alsek before the six mile constriction created by the tweedsmuir glacier, known as Turnback Canyon.

Saying goodbye to Andy and Dave was a somber moment that would haunt us for two days untill we saw them again. With the group splitting one crew will chance turnback canyon, while the other two will portage 70 pound kayaks across dangerous glacial merange 6 miles.

As we set into Turnback it turned into a completely different river. The river became tight and unnatural, it felt like paddling a river in complete flood. the boils and eddys surging sometimes five to six feet pounded into the walls of the inecscapable rapids. We did not scout as much as we should have, consequently we do not have many photos. And like always we did not take pictures of the biggest rapids.
In this photo you can see the power of the river as Max Bechdel unintentionaly performs a mystery move in a very benign looking feature as he is entering a big rapid. He is paddling a LiquidLogic Gus and he is usualy floating quite high in the water. look for his head on the middle left side of the picture

While we charged through the canyon, Dave and Andy were in an adventure of their own. since the glacier has resceeded it has left loose rock and a very dramatic landscape that was rarely flat. We named this area to Morodor from the movie "Lord of The Rings."

Andy and Dave continued to portage untill nightfall and sore muscles set in. They were so tired they literaly set camp within 50 yards of seeing a curious bear.
Nice Camp Eh.

We sat in wait at our camp below turnback hoping/waiting for them to show up. we waited for two full days, while writing messages in the sand and setting up rocks to lead them back.
here was our camp.

once reunited we had a hundred miles left to paddle out and we paddled through more of the amazing St. Elias Mountain Range.

Eventualy we literaly paddled into the ocean at Dry bay and had to portage back upstream to the airstrip. At this point we were all very tired and worn out, physicaly and mentaly.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Alsek Days 1-3(Glaciers and Icebergs)

Ok everyone, internet access got a little shaky and i couldn't update this page. I will be updating this page in installments for the next week or so. be sure to keep checking for full coverage of the Alsek and the Stikine.

Packing my seemingly small creekboat for twelve days of total self-support living was not easy. Kayaking 200 miles through turbulent canyons deep within the largest icefeilds in the northern hemisphere was a daunting undertaking. I can say that is definatley the most remote, beautiful and wild place I have ever been. In short, the Alsek was an incredible trip.

Here is Daz Clarkson at the putin.

Shortly after launching the wind began to howl. These waves are not from gradient. The wind is rolling the waves upstream. Pretty slow going.

Here is Max Bechdel in camp one.

Day two was long. Our spirits were boosted as we paddled into Lowell lake our 2nd camp.

Here is our camp. As a side note. We learned later that a major calving occured on the glacier which sent all these icebergs into the lake and most likely a gigantic tsunami wave over our camping spot. I was wondering why it was so wet.

We awoke to a great day and we spent the day strolling around the lake soaking in all the sights.

Here is a final photo from the goatherd mountain vantage point. Keep in mind the glacier is about 50 Kilometers long! Somewhere on the bottom right side of the photo is our camp.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Road Trip+Susitna

here is our car courtesy of Gentry Motors in Ontario Oregon.

Soon we made it to B.C. and Paddled Ashlu Creek and Tatlow Creek.

After that we put some miles on and made it to talkeetna. Then we flew into the Susitna River and Hiked in. The river was 25,000 C.f.s and very huge. Boxed in Canyons made scouting difficult.