Big Smoky River Multiday

April 1, 2010

In mid September 2009 Jean from Grand Cache, Lothar from Smithers, Mark from Golden, and I (Jason from Terrace) did a 5 day self support kayak trip on the Big Smoky River.  Our team had done four other trips together in Northwest BC over the years.  These include, the headwaters of the Nass, Sustut into the Skeena, Muckaboo into the Nass, and Bell Irving into the Nass.  The trips were all super fun with laughs had by all.  This time however we decided it was time to do a trip in Jean’s neck of the woods.  Jean a long time resident of Grand Cache  had dreamt about doing the trip for years.  As a beginner kayaker in 1986 Jean met a group of canoeiests in Grand Cache that had just finished the Big Smoky.  The group was nice enough to give Jean a copy of their trip report which sat in Jean’s desk for the next 20 plus years waiting for the right time and crew to take on the adventure.  Jean sent us each a copy and we were all super stoked about the trip. The goal was to eat as many mokies on the smoky as possible!  The trip would start with a heli from the gravel pit near the Upper Fraser kayak run to the border of Mount Robsin BC Provincial Park and Jasper National Park.  We would then walk a few minutes over the continental divide into Jasper National Park and our put in Adolphus Lake.  Out of Adolphus Lake flows the first trickle of water that is the Big Smoky River.   The goal was to kayak, drag and portage almost due north to Grand Cache, Alberta a distance of 112 KM. 

The group met in the late afternoon at the service station at the base of Mount Robson.  The plan was a warm up run on the Upper Fraser that evening.  The rest of the crew had done it many times but it was my first time on it so I was very excited to paddle it after all I had seen and heard about it.  The level was an easy low level so we were able to read and run it all quickly.  We all portaged Overlander falls and continued on with the short lower section to the campground.  We all flipped at Terminator and Jean and Mark had a nice tea party in the recirculating left eddy below Terminator but we all came out smiling.  That night we camped and loaded ourselves with carbohydrates and protein(beer and mokys) to ready for the trip. 

The next morning we met our heli at the gravel pit and prepared for flight.  The flight cost was extremely reasonable at just over $200 per person.  Talk to Paulette at Yellowhead Helicopter for the lowdown.  For this price the heli slung our boats on the first trip and took our group of four on the second trip.  If you like tremendous amounts of exercise another option is to hike the trail with your boats up the Robson river, past Kinney and Berg Lakes, past numerous waterfalls and Mt. Robson itself.  The hike in option would be 22 Km with over 750 meters in elevation gain and probably take two to three days.  It would be spectacular for sure but we chose the chopper.  The chopper ride in was incredibaly scenic and worth every penny.  In a matter of minutes we were dropped off and the heli was gone, time to start the mission.  We walked a few minutes and crossed the continental divide, also the park boundary between BCs Mt Robsin Provincial Park and Jasper National Park.  For those that don’t know every river west of the continental divide flows to the Pacific and everything east of the continental divide flows to the Arctic or Atlantic Ocean.  This is the first river I have paddled that eventually finishes in the Arctic Ocean. 

jason crossing the divide, jean shortly behind with camera

dragging kayak to Adolphus Lake
We walked about 400 meters or so to get to our starting point Adolphus Lake.  Here we would paddle across the lake to the start of the Big Smoky river.

Jason and Mark paddling across Adolphus Lake

The start of the Big Smoky was of course not very big at all and we spent the first half of the day walking in this small volume creek in a beutiful setting.

Mark taking it all in

Don't know where I'm going but I'm on my way

 A couple of hours in we portaged our first drop which was a 30 foot tight major small volume waterfall.  As with all of the portaging we did on this trip there was a pack trail to help us get around.  Very conveniant and something I’m not used to living in Northwest BC.  In the afternoon a stream from Coleman Glacier joined the Smoky and we were finally able to paddle in our boats.  Five KMs or so of paddling in very flat braided river and we came to a small canyon.  The entrance unfortunately had some wood but we put in below paddled some boogy water finishing with a nice little boofing ledge. 

Jason boofing in the first runnable canyon

Shortly after this canyon we set up camp for the night.  Wow, what a camp with awesome views and a nice sunset. 

first camp l to r Mark, Jean, Jason

Jason and Mark setting off from camp start of Day 2

Day two, in the  late morning we came across a nice boulder garden section that kind of reminded me of Kitnawakwa back home.  It was short but fun.  At around noon we came across the next canyon.  It was between a kilometer or two long.  The entrance falls was tight but doable, unfortanately just downstream there was a very nasty slot that hammered off the right wall then had most of the water pushed below the huge slab shelf rock on the left.  Lothar was thinking it would go but upon a closer look realized the consequences were to much for missing this very fine line.  As with what we found with many of the canyons on the run if you had to portage one rapid, often you had to portage many rapids to portage that one.  This was the case here and we portaged the top half of the canyon but finished the class 3 runout of the canyon. 

entrance falls of canyon

The next canyon we reached in midafternoon in had a walking bridge over the canyon.  The top drops looked great, ledgy and challenging but as the canyon narrowed each drop progessively got tighter and tighter, more and more powerful.  We decided to walk the whole whitewater section and put in the flatwater section of the canyon down below which was super tight and really cool.  Here is an assortment of pics of the canyon. 

 

    

  

 

 

Mark, holding my megarocker

Jean Jason finishing this tight canyon

After the canyon we took a break and snacked on some berries in the woods.  We continued with some braided flat water, after a few hours we could see we were dropping into another canyon.  As it was getting late we called it a day.  We set up camp and soon we had a powerful rain storm, the only one of our trip.  The next morning however we woke to blue skys and were ready for battle. 

ready for battle start of day 3

We started the day with a scout of the next canyon.  It was the usual recurring theme of the trip.  Most of the canyon was tight and slotty with lots of undercuts but runnable, unfortunately one section was just to tight undercut and risky for anyone to probe.  Because of this we had to portage the top 2\3s of the canyon as it was not possible to walk that one drop.  We put in after the crux and paddled the last class 3 runout of the canyon. 

entrance to first canyon day 3

first canyon day 3

first can day 3

After the canyon we were back in flat water.  Finally though, the flat water was not so braided and moving at a good clip.  The weather was warm and the scenary was awesome.  Loving it.  Shortly before lunch we could start to hear a deep roar.  We floated around a couple of more corners and the river dropped off the face of the earth. 

looking upstream of the big one

I wonder whats making the roar around the next corner?

roughly 50 feet high

I'll go if you go Mark

awesome views upstream of the waterfall as well

 

power lunch stop

We continued on for another hour or so before our next horizon line.  Wow this one was a huge rapid, I think it was totally runnable but boy was it big.  Started out very spread out with different channels each with its one character.   River right was a powerful fast moving river punching holes and large waves.  The middle was a bony slide and the left had about 4 or 5 ledges in a row from 6 to 10 feet.  The river dropped and funneled for a couple of hundred feet or so into a massive volume 30 + foot sloping waterfall.  After the waterfall the river again dropped over a couple of smaller but powerful sticky looking ledges.  The 30+ foot waterfall looked like it was flushing especially on the left.  There was definitely a line boofing the ledges in the left channel, then melting the 30 footer before again boofing the bottom ledges but it was a way bigger rapid than I had ever run.  The high end video boaters of the world would have loved this one though. 

funnelling down

the 30 + foot monster crux

looking back upstream at the funnel

the last sticky ledges with the big 30 in the background

 

same rapid looking upstream but from in the eddy on river right

After this portage we put back in for some of the best whitewater of the trip.  Some friendly fast 3 + wavetrains with the occasional hole to avoid.  Unfortunately though we were shortly back to flatwater. 

In the late afternoon, early evening we reached the next and what we thought was the last canyon.  The entrance looked tough, class five but runnable.  Lothar liked the hole punch on the left.  I liked the steep slide on the right.  Mark and Jean liked that you could walk it and put in right below it.  We continued to scout the rest of the canyon on river left.  The large volume river continued to descend steeply through some more class four + rapids.  Everything again was locked in with no eddies and no portage, Mark and Jean were soon out.  Lothar and I were still contemplating.  We reached the end of the canyon, we were probably looking 150 feet down at the last rapid.  Again no eddies, fast lead in dropping over what looked like a big sticky ledge.  How big was the ledge, 15 feet we guessed best line was river left but we couldn’t see downstream, was it undercut on the left wall below it, not sure.  Lothar decided to many what ifs and was out.  I still wanted to run it.  We started back up to the top of the canyon, I lost my nerve along the way.  Pushing evening time, running the canyon solo in the middle of no where through powerful but shallow rapids to the end ledge which looked big and sticky.  I decided it wasn’t wise to run it.  After the portage on the right we reached the last ledge.  From river level we realized the ledge wasn’t sticky at all and wasn’t 15 feet but 8 feet.  Lothar said it best, we found our inner P**sy today!  Oh well next time.  

looking down at the entrance rapid of pussy canyon

arg we should have ran this!

Jean and Mark ready for the fun runout to the canyon.

Another great class three runout in an awesome canyon to finish a large calorie burning day three. 

another sweet camp spot for night 3

We woke relaxed and ready to chill for the last two days floats.  Looking at the trip report from the canoeist in the 80s we assumed that we had portaged and paddled all the canyons.  We set off day four at different times because of this.  I believe I left camp second or third and floated for about an hour when I heard the unmistakable roar of whitewater ahead.  I noticed other members of the crew were already out of their boats scouting.  It was a 25 or 30 foot very large volume waterfall.  As the waterfall was narrower there was way more power behind this falls than Overlander falls on the Fraser which we walked the day before our trip.  There were lines down it, melt on the left, boof in the middle a bony bump on the right but every line had a few challenges in either the lead in or the bottom and it was powerful!  Unfortunately again there was no way around it and downstream was another  powerful class 5 rapid with a very challenging eddie to get into before, to scout or walk the rapid.  We again decided to walk these two rapids in the upper canyon and run the lower class 3 runout of the canyon.  The portage proved to be the most difficult of the trip.  A trail to follow but a hot day and a fairly steep climb up and around this large canyon section.  We roped our boat down to the river after the 3 big drops.  Some pics of the last canyon. 

entry falls of last canyon big smoky

 

drop two last canyon

drop 2

We actually found that we could run the third class 5 drop if we wanted as we roped our boats down but it looked powerful and shallow, not my favorite combo so we put in just below it. 

drop 3 "p and s" powerful and shallow

The rest of the canyon was fun and pretty, the rest of the day was cruising to the confluence of the Jackpine River.  Jean and Lothar had great stories of their high water June descent of this gem years ago.  A wonderful flight in that might have been on the shady side of legal.  Awesome scenery before the river fell off a huge plateu dropping falls and slides one after another bigger and bigger with each drop.  They walked them all but on day two were treated to one of the best days of continues high water class four creeking they have ever had .  Creme da la Creme as they put it.  And there is a trail to get you to just that class four section.  I would love to do it in the future.   

Last camp at the Jackpine\Big Smoky confluence

mouth of the Jackpine, Sept low water

Day 5 was a 37 KM flatwater float to Grand Cache.  A hot day and some nice Alberta like scenary a nice finish to the trip.  Pics of Day 5 

 

Jean, definitely the man of day five

beers and the takeout!

Jean arranged for his head chef(sorry forgot your name but thank you) to come pick us up and had cold beers ready as well, awesome!  That night we were treated by Jean, who owns the best hotel in Grand Cache and probably one of the best, well run hotels I’ve stayed at, the Grand Cache hotel.   Jean treated us to an awesome dinner, drinks and a great room for the night.  Thanks again Jean 

Many thanks to Lothar for sharing all his pics with me.  I’ll buy a camera one of these days. 

The big smoky was a great trip and I would do it again for sure.  The scenery was amazing and it was nice to paddle such a different river than I have experienced in the past.  Looking back though I think that going in early August would have been a better choice.  I think that much more whitewater could have been run much safer with more water.  At September flows the upper canyons were tight and slotty with undercuts everywhere.  At higher flows I think a lot of drops would open up and have less consequences in them.  Many of the lower larger canyon drops were very powerful and very shallow at this flow.  Higher flows would make them bigger still but safer as well.  Higher water would have made the first two days more enjoyable as well as some of the braided flat was really bumpy.  Be aware this trip has very little class 4 most of it was class 3 or class 5 and up. 

 Who would like this trip, anyone really who has basic class 3 river experience.  All of the canyons had trails so there was no worries for portaging.  Class 5+ paddlers looking to run the nar and get some great video would like it as well.  There was lots of big runnable stuff.  We had fun and accomplished our mission, eating many mokies on the smoky with good friends!

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klastline river into the stikine aug 2010

March 7, 2011

Trip was early Aug 2010

   Journeys begin in different ways.  Ours began something like this.  I had mentioned to paddling friend Corey Boux in May of 2010 that I was keen on paddling a river into the Stikine called the Klastline.  I had heard about the run from fellow paddling friend and whitewater pioneer Lothar Schafer.  Lothar had paddled part of it years earlier but was not able to paddle the crux section because of a weak boater in his crew.  A few months, in August 2010 Corey and a crew of world class paddlers made the earliest known trip down the famous Grand Canyon of the Stikine.  On their way they passed by the Klastline as it dumped into the Stikine.  Cory mentioned to the crew that I was interested in doing this run.  “High volume and busy” they raved, with what looked like continuous class 5 creeking. That was more than enough to grab their interest. We had our destination, we had our team.

Four of us made the long drive from Terrace to the take out at the town of Telegraph Creek along the Stikine River.http://www.hjortmedia.com/Paddling/Klastline/MG3929/1115624313_PBiG2-M.jpg  Jamie from England now living in Vancouver, Ben from Norway, both just coming off the GC of Stikine trip as well as Greg from Squamish and myself.  The long 10 hour drive to Telegraph Creek was a great chance to get to know my paddle partners.  I enjoy multiday trips with friends but doing trips with new people is a blast.  Luckily I have never had any major issues paddling with people I don’t know well.  Unless your paddling whitewater that is super tough or committing somebody thats a weaker boater can easily portage and stay with the group.  Having weak paddlers in the group was definitely not going to be a problem here though.  Knowing that Jamie and Ben had just come off one of the toughest whitewater kayak runs on the planet, the Grand Canyon of the Stikine, and that Greg was a keen, compitent paddler from whitewater mecca Squamish I knew my crew were all solid paddlers.  But except for a couple of warm up runs in the Terrace and Smithers area I had not paddled with any of them.  Luckily as I found on the drive they were all great guys.  Ben, turns out has paddled all over the world on some of the toughest runs in the world.  He has appeared in over 20 kayak videos and is well known and respected in the world kayak community.  He is in his early thirties and teaches at an outdoor education high school in Norway.  The classes he teaches are kayaking, skiing, rock climbing and wilderness camping.  Upon talking with him I realize that although Canada is a great place to live with mandatory paid lunches at work, huge amount of holiday time and paved roads to amazing whitewater Norway sounds pretty sweet as well.  The comment I remember most from the drive is that he is happiest when kayaking a new river preferabbly with a rapid under his boat.  Jamie currently living and working in Vancouver has also paddled around the world.  Easy to talk to, in fact never stops talking.  Jamie was in his late 20s and like Ben his life revolved around whitewater.  Greg a carpentar from Squamish also has kayaked in exotic places including Nepal.  In his mid 20s Greg had a great sense of humour and loved music.  We played his ipod on the drive.  I could tell he was a lot younger than I as I new about 3 of the hundreds of songs that we played on the trip.  Then theres me Jason, the only dad of the crew with a 19 year old son and 11 year old daughter.  With a shift work job at an Aluminum smelter and an understanding wife I get to paddle more than the average dad would.  Most of the rivers I paddle however are within half hour of my house.  But the joys of living in Terrace are that there is so many great world class whitewater rivers so close.  A couple times a year I’m lucky enough to sneak off on a wilderness multiday kayak adventure.  And Northern BC has a ton to choose from, from classics to never been done.  I’m living the dream!   

Once in Telegraph creek our plan was to stay overnight at the base camp cabin of  Tsayta Air and fly to  the put in lake.  Thank you to Tsayta air for the great price they gave us on the trip.  It worked out to $250 per person for the 4 of us. With our kayaks and gear it would  take two trips in this WW2 veteran beaver plane.

loading the megarocker on the beaver at Telegraph Creek

Greg and I flew out on the first flight.  It was beautiful but then became smokey as we passed by a forest fire that was burning in the area.  We had a smooth landing on the massive Buckley lake and waited for Ben and Jamie to come in on the second flight.  To our disbelieve though when the plane came in again there was no sign of Jamies boat on the side of the plane.

Wheres Jamies boat

Ben came off the plane but apparently Jamie had made numerous trips to the outhouse that morning and had come down with some sort of stomach bug so he pulled the plug at the last minutes.  Bummer.  Pic of our team left to right Greg, Ben, Jason.http://www.hjortmedia.com/Paddling/Klastline/MG3982/1115651375_i2Skc-M.jpg

We paddled out of the lake and into Buckley Creek.  Although Lothar had paddled the Klastline a number of years ago he and his crew had taken the upper Klastline route from highway 37.  This route added four days on top of the 3 days of paddling we were prepared for.  Unfortunately those four days were flat water and infested with beaver dams.  Lothar had recommended this was a better option.  It also meant that we could very well  be the first group down Buckley Creek.  The first few hours were flat but enough volume to paddle rather than walk.  We walked around a few beaver dams and log jams but they were fairly easy walks.  Bald headed eagles were everywhere and the smell of the forest put a smile on my face.  After a couple of hours the river braided with an island in the middle.  As I passed by the island I heard a low growl from in the bushes in the island.  Once I passed the island and thought I was far enough downstream to be safe I yelled out to Ben and Greg upstream of the growling bush to be aware.  As soon as I called out a large mother moose came sprinting out of the bush headed straight for me.  The river was still shallow and she was moving fast for me.  With my heart in my throat I paddled as hard as I could downstream.  Luckily the river became deeper and as soon as the cow hit the deep water she turned around.  I looked upstream to see why she had chased me and there was her calf who was injured and bleeding.  The calf made its way to the main shore luckily on the opposite side of where Greg and Ben where coming down stream and the cow followed.  Not a half hour later I was again leading through the flats when a calf moose jumped up out of  the grass along the shore line spooked at me passing.  I thought to myself ‘not again’ and sure enough the calfs mom came sprinting out of the forest towards the river at me. Once again  I started paddling away from the shore as fast as I could but this time the cow stopped at the rivers edge.  My nerves were now fried, my hands shaking and we hadn’t reached the first rapid yet! http://www.hjortmedia.com/Paddling/Klastline/MG3995/1115671765_HCrzK-M.jpg

 At mid afternoon we came to our first whitewater on Buckley creek.  A few minutes of read and run class 3 whitewater and soon we hit the last eddy before canyon walls enclosed us.  We walked this class 4 canyon to take a look.  Looked fun and fast but unfortunately there was a river wide log at the last corner and the water was pushing hard into it.  The line was to take an eddy river left then cross the grain threw pushy water right in front of this log with rootball to where the log was partially submerged on river right.  Missing the ferry or flipping upstream of the log could be very, very bad.  Greg and I were quick to make up our minds and walk.  While we did the 10 minute easy walk and set up safety Ben took another look and after a bowel movement ran it cleanly.http://www.hjortmedia.com/Paddling/Klastline/MG4024/1115690352_X7H6B-M.jpg 

Ben running the first canyon right above river wide wood left of picture

Pic of Greg chilling in the flats of Buckley Creek. http://www.hjortmedia.com/Paddling/Klastline/MG4001/1115678020_MQMEZ-M.jpg

Another hour of flat water and we were at the confluence of the Klastline where Lothar and his crew had floated from years ago.  The Klastline was roughly the same volume as the Buckley so we were now on double the volume making for faster progress.  With plenty of good camping around we soon decided to make camp. It was around 4. We found an island with perfect pebbles, tons of fire wood and incredibly no bugs. With days still long we had an excellent relaxing evening.  I live for evenings like this, life seems so much simpler when your in the middle of no where, good people around and a camp fire to relax by. http://www.hjortmedia.com/Paddling/Klastline/MG4026/1115709824_Hw2wt-M.jpg

Day 2 was a big one.  We started early, definitely not the crack of noon starts I’m used to from past adventures.   After a little bit of class 3 we hit our first major canyon of the day.  It started with an ugly looking falls, then a big, but flushing hole down stream.  After easing off for a bit the canyon narrowed again for one last river wide ledge.  Along the canyon was a well worn prospectors trail and bridge.http://www.hjortmedia.com/Paddling/Klastline/MG4046/1115737666_JdRh7-M.jpg

looking upstream at prospectors canyon Day 2

greg on the prospectors bridge

The top falls didn’t look nice so once again Greg and I choice to walk and put in halfway through the canyon upstream of the final ledge.  Ben decided to give it a go.  He went left off the waterfall but being so shallow at the lip couldn’t get a boof and melted it deep.  He popped up hard and fast banging upside down against the right canyon wall.  A quick roll and spin with his boat and he was paddling hard to punch the next hole which he did with ease.  Unfortunately at some point under the water of the first falls he put a gash in his hand but otherwise was OK.http://www.hjortmedia.com/Paddling/Klastline/MG4060/1115749993_b7hkf-M.jpg    http://www.hjortmedia.com/Paddling/Klastline/MG4068/1115761279_oKA3o-M.jpg

Ben somewhere below the surface of the entry falls

 

We all ran the remainder of the canyon and the river opened up once again.http://www.hjortmedia.com/Paddling/Klastline/MG4076/1115786590_2oXPX-M.jpg   http://www.hjortmedia.com/Paddling/Klastline/MG4085/1115806997_GntnR-M.jpg 

We started getting into somemore class 3 when canyon walls and a horizon line appeared again.  We got out to take a look, the entry falls looked dooable but continued on into a vertical wall canyon.  A few drops in and a few canyon wide logs later we realized no one would be running this canyon, not at this water level anyways.

One of the highlights of canyon 2 day 2 a 20 footer in a vertical walled gorge

 After a hot hour+ portage around this canyon we were back on the water for some more class three.  Smoke was in the air and eventually we saw why as we passed a forest fire that was smoldering right beside the river.

forest fire by the river

Late afternoon we started to get into the most fun whitewater of the trip.  Steep slide style rapids, fast slot canyons and some other good stuff.  We reached a 10 foot clean falls and thought we might be coming to the crux.  Lothar had specifically said there were two large falls that they had portaged. Was this the first one?  We were not sure.  We all ran this fun falls on the right.  Ben took a nice pic of me at the lip.http://www.hjortmedia.com/Paddling/Klastline/MG4097/1115824572_5mpgh-M.jpg  Soon we were at the horizon line of a massive falls.  As it was getting close to dinner Greg and I started pestering Ben that we should camp at the  next good spot we found.  Ben, however,  thought that we should push for the Stikine  where camping would be better. This time we let Ben win. The falls was approx 60 feet and landed onto rocks.  Definitely a power spot.  

greg portaging around a canyon wall at the lip of a 60 footer

The portage around the falls was short but steep and required team work and rope work but took less than an hour.  Lothar’s group had had one paddler who had a swim early in the trip.  With his confidence down the group decide for safety that they would walk up high around both falls and the whitewater after it.  We thought that we had passed both falls and were ready to tackle the last stretch of whitewater before the Stikine.  We put on and wow, steep, powerful and pushy whitewater.  After 10 minutes or so we came to some large whitewater.  We stopped to take a look and below the rapid was another large horizon line.  We walked down to take a look and sure enough it was another 60-80 foot falls.  Ben thought it might be runnable but was definitely high on the scale and it was 6pm at night on a multiday with as Lothar informed us, challenging class 5 to come.  Again with rope work we all walked.

some of the whitewater between the two falls

just before the second large falls

It was now near 7pm and we were about to put on some of the toughest whitewater I had ever done.  Whitewater that had never seen a kayak floating through it.  Steep, large volume creeking boulder gardens.  Ben led the way and was in his element.  With every large section we paddled Ben was waiting in an eddy at the bottom with a large smile on his face.  I thought of his comment on the drive to Telegraph Creek.  “Im happiest on a new river preferrably with a rapid under my boat”  With his world class skill he was able to boat scout almost everything.  For those that have paddled in BC it felt like Kitnawakwa creek in Terrace or maybe sections of the upper Clenndenning.  Ben and I hit one hole half way through a particular large rapid that almost flipped both of us.  I was bracing for all it was worth.  With what seemed like endless steep continuous whitewater it was not a spot either of us wanted to be upside down. 

After an hour and a half and feeling pretty exhausted I saw Ben and Greg catch an eddy just below a ledge hole.  I went to boof the hole but didn’t quite get the boof I wanted.  I had a big back ender (rare in my massive megarocker kayak) rolled up and spun around to run the last steep section of the Klastline into the Stikine.  With hoots and hollors of joy we were through.  Thanks to Ben, if I tried to run that section myself it would have taken twice as long.  Unfortunately there was no picture as we were in such a rush to get through before darkness.   

After 20 minutes or so in the Stikine canyon we found a perfect sandy beach, with lots of wood and canyon walls 100s of feet above us.  That night we gorged ourselves and slept fitfully under the stars in our sleeping bags beside the fire.  Amazingly once again not a single mosquito.  What a day!  What a night.  Living the dream!   Pic of camp on the Stikine http://www.hjortmedia.com/Paddling/Klastline/MG4130/1115883062_a7xm4-M.jpg

The third day was about scenary and relaxation with some big volume class 3 rapids on the stikine.http://www.hjortmedia.com/Paddling/Klastline/MG4108/1115875207_SbzW2-M.jpg

We arrived in Telegraph Creek at about noon. 

http://www.hjortmedia.com/Paddling/Klastline/MG4163/1116288316_yCwto-M.jpg All in all the Klastline proofed to be a great trip.  Good whitewater, good scenary, wildlife, and camping.  A lower water trip might make the biggest canyon runnable but would also make the flat water a lot more of a pain and the class 5 boulder gardens at the bottom more pinny and dangerous.  Overall the medium flow we caught it at seemed to be perfect for the trip as a whole.  A few more portages than I would have liked but no portage was terribly hard.  If you want to see the Stikine canyon at river level without having to run the Grand Canyon of the Stikine this is one of your few options.  Check it out. 

Pic of the Stikinehttp://www.hjortmedia.com/Paddling/Klastline/MG4175/1115926300_Yts9s-M.jpg

Big Smoky multiday 2009

April 14, 2010

In mid September 2009 Jean from Grand Cache, Lothar from Smithers, Mark from Golden, and I (Jason from Terrace) did a 5 day self support kayak trip on the Big Smoky River.  Our team had done four other trips together in Northwest BC over the years.  These include, the headwaters of the Nass, Sustut into the Skeena, Muckaboo into the Nass, and Bell Irving into the Nass.  The trips were all super fun with laughs had by all.  This time however we decided it was time to do a trip in Jean’s neck of the woods.  Jean a long time resident of Grand Cache  had dreamt about doing the trip for years.  As a beginner kayaker in 1986 Jean met a group of canoeiests in Grand Cache that had just finished the Big Smoky.  The group was nice enough to give Jean a copy of their trip report which sat in Jean’s desk for the next 20 plus years waiting for the right time and crew to take on the adventure.  Jean sent us each a copy and we were all super stoked about the trip. The goal was to eat as many mokies on the smoky as possible!  The trip would start with a heli from the gravel pit near the Upper Fraser kayak run to the border of Mount Robsin BC Provincial Park and Jasper National Park.  We would then walk a few minutes over the continental divide into Jasper National Park and our put in Adolphus Lake.  Out of Adolphus Lake flows the first trickle of water that is the Big Smoky River.   The goal was to kayak, drag and portage almost due north to Grand Cache, Alberta a distance of 112 KM. 

The group met in the late afternoon at the service station at the base of Mount Robson.  The plan was a warm up run on the Upper Fraser that evening.  The rest of the crew had done it many times but it was my first time on it so I was very excited to paddle it after all I had seen and heard about it.  The level was an easy low level so we were able to read and run it all quickly.  We all portaged Overlander falls and continued on with the short lower section to the campground.  We all flipped at Terminator and Jean and Mark had a nice tea party in the recirculating left eddy below Terminator but we all came out smiling.  That night we camped and loaded ourselves with carbohydrates and protein(beer and mokys) to ready for the trip. 

The next morning we met our heli at the gravel pit and prepared for flight.  The flight cost was extremely reasonable at just over $200 per person.  Talk to Paulette at Yellowhead Helicopter for the lowdown.  For this price the heli slung our boats on the first trip and took our group of four on the second trip.  If you like tremendous amounts of exercise another option is to hike the trail with your boats up the Robson river, past Kinney and Berg Lakes, past numerous waterfalls and Mt. Robson itself.  The hike in option would be 22 Km with over 750 meters in elevation gain and probably take two to three days.  It would be spectacular for sure but we chose the chopper.  The chopper ride in was incredibaly scenic and worth every penny.  In a matter of minutes we were dropped off and the heli was gone, time to start the mission.  We walked a few minutes and crossed the continental divide, also the park boundary between BCs Mt Robsin Provincial Park and Jasper National Park.  For those that don’t know every river west of the continental divide flows to the Pacific and everything east of the continental divide flows to the Arctic or Atlantic Ocean.  This is the first river I have paddled that eventually finishes in the Arctic Ocean. 

jason crossing the divide, jean shortly behind with camera

 

dragging kayak to Adolphus Lake
We walked about 400 meters or so to get to our starting point Adolphus Lake.  Here we would paddle across the lake to the start of the Big Smoky river.
Jason and Mark paddling across Adolphus Lake
The start of the Big Smoky was of course not very big at all and we spent the first half of the day walking in this small volume creek in a beutiful setting.
Mark taking it all in
Don’t know where I’m going but I’m on my way

 A couple of hours in we portaged our first drop which was a 30 foot tight major small volume waterfall.  As with all of the portaging we did on this trip there was a pack trail to help us get around.  Very conveniant and something I’m not used to living in Northwest BC.  In the afternoon a stream from Coleman Glacier joined the Smoky and we were finally able to paddle in our boats.  Five KMs or so of paddling in very flat braided river and we came to a small canyon.  The entrance unfortunately had some wood but we put in below paddled some boogy water finishing with a nice little boofing ledge. 

Jason boofing in the first runnable canyon

Shortly after this canyon we set up camp for the night.  Wow, what a camp with awesome views and a nice sunset. 

first camp l to r Mark, Jean, Jason
Jason and Mark setting off from camp start of Day 2

Day two, in the  late morning we came across a nice boulder garden section that kind of reminded me of Kitnawakwa back home.  It was short but fun.  At around noon we came across the next canyon.  It was between a kilometer or two long.  The entrance falls was tight but doable, unfortanately just downstream there was a very nasty slot that hammered off the right wall then had most of the water pushed below the huge slab shelf rock on the left.  Lothar was thinking it would go but upon a closer look realized the consequences were to much for missing this very fine line.  As with what we found with many of the canyons on the run if you had to portage one rapid, often you had to portage many rapids to portage that one.  This was the case here and we portaged the top half of the canyon but finished the class 3 runout of the canyon. 

entrance falls of canyon

The next canyon we reached in midafternoon in had a walking bridge over the canyon.  The top drops looked great, ledgy and challenging but as the canyon narrowed each drop progessively got tighter and tighter, more and more powerful.  We decided to walk the whole whitewater section and put in the flatwater section of the canyon down below which was super tight and really cool.  Here is an assortment of pics of the canyon. 

 

    

  

 

 

Mark, holding my megarocker
Jean Jason finishing this tight canyon

After the canyon we took a break and snacked on some berries in the woods.  We continued with some braided flat water, after a few hours we could see we were dropping into another canyon.  As it was getting late we called it a day.  We set up camp and soon we had a powerful rain storm, the only one of our trip.  The next morning however we woke to blue skys and were ready for battle. 

ready for battle start of day 3

We started the day with a scout of the next canyon.  It was the usual recurring theme of the trip.  Most of the canyon was tight and slotty with lots of undercuts but runnable, unfortunately one section was just to tight undercut and risky for anyone to probe.  Because of this we had to portage the top 2\3s of the canyon as it was not possible to walk that one drop.  We put in after the crux and paddled the last class 3 runout of the canyon. 

entrance to first canyon day 3
first canyon day 3
first can day 3

After the canyon we were back in flat water.  Finally though, the flat water was not so braided and moving at a good clip.  The weather was warm and the scenary was awesome.  Loving it.  Shortly before lunch we could start to hear a deep roar.  We floated around a couple of more corners and the river dropped off the face of the earth. 

looking upstream of the big one
I wonder whats making the roar around the next corner?
roughly 50 feet high
I’ll go if you go Mark
awesome views upstream of the waterfall as well

 

power lunch stop

We continued on for another hour or so before our next horizon line.  Wow this one was a huge rapid, I think it was totally runnable but boy was it big.  Started out very spread out with different channels each with its one character.   River right was a powerful fast moving river punching holes and large waves.  The middle was a bony slide and the left had about 4 or 5 ledges in a row from 6 to 10 feet.  The river dropped and funneled for a couple of hundred feet or so into a massive volume 30 + foot sloping waterfall.  After the waterfall the river again dropped over a couple of smaller but powerful sticky looking ledges.  The 30+ foot waterfall looked like it was flushing especially on the left.  There was definitely a line boofing the ledges in the left channel, then melting the 30 footer before again boofing the bottom ledges but it was a way bigger rapid than I had ever run.  The high end video boaters of the world would have loved this one though. 

funnelling down
the 30 + foot monster crux
looking back upstream at the funnel
the last sticky ledges with the big 30 in the background

 

same rapid looking upstream but from in the eddy on river right

After this portage we put back in for some of the best whitewater of the trip.  Some friendly fast 3 + wavetrains with the occasional hole to avoid.  Unfortunately though we were shortly back to flatwater. 

In the late afternoon, early evening we reached the next and what we thought was the last canyon.  The entrance looked tough, class five but runnable.  Lothar liked the hole punch on the left.  I liked the steep slide on the right.  Mark and Jean liked that you could walk it and put in right below it.  We continued to scout the rest of the canyon on river left.  The large volume river continued to descend steeply through some more class four + rapids.  Everything again was locked in with no eddies and no portage, Mark and Jean were soon out.  Lothar and I were still contemplating.  We reached the end of the canyon, we were probably looking 150 feet down at the last rapid.  Again no eddies, fast lead in dropping over what looked like a big sticky ledge.  How big was the ledge, 15 feet we guessed best line was river left but we couldn’t see downstream, was it undercut on the left wall below it, not sure.  Lothar decided to many what ifs and was out.  I still wanted to run it.  We started back up to the top of the canyon, I lost my nerve along the way.  Pushing evening time, running the canyon solo in the middle of no where through powerful but shallow rapids to the end ledge which looked big and sticky.  I decided it wasn’t wise to run it.  After the portage on the right we reached the last ledge.  From river level we realized the ledge wasn’t sticky at all and wasn’t 15 feet but 8 feet.  Lothar said it best, we found our inner P**sy today!  Oh well next time.  

looking down at the entrance rapid of pussy canyon
arg we should have ran this!
Jean and Mark ready for the fun runout to the canyon.

Another great class three runout in an awesome canyon to finish a large calorie burning day three. 

another sweet camp spot for night 3

We woke relaxed and ready to chill for the last two days floats.  Looking at the trip report from the canoeist in the 80s we assumed that we had portaged and paddled all the canyons.  We set off day four at different times because of this.  I believe I left camp second or third and floated for about an hour when I heard the unmistakable roar of whitewater ahead.  I noticed other members of the crew were already out of their boats scouting.  It was a 25 or 30 foot very large volume waterfall.  As the waterfall was narrower there was way more power behind this falls than Overlander falls on the Fraser which we walked the day before our trip.  There were lines down it, melt on the left, boof in the middle a bony bump on the right but every line had a few challenges in either the lead in or the bottom and it was powerful!  Unfortunately again there was no way around it and downstream was another  powerful class 5 rapid with a very challenging eddie to get into before, to scout or walk the rapid.  We again decided to walk these two rapids in the upper canyon and run the lower class 3 runout of the canyon.  The portage proved to be the most difficult of the trip.  A trail to follow but a hot day and a fairly steep climb up and around this large canyon section.  We roped our boat down to the river after the 3 big drops.  Some pics of the last canyon. 

entry falls of last canyon big smoky

 

drop two last canyon
drop 2

We actually found that we could run the third class 5 drop if we wanted as we roped our boats down but it looked powerful and shallow, not my favorite combo so we put in just below it. 

drop 3 “p and s” powerful and shallow

The rest of the canyon was fun and pretty, the rest of the day was cruising to the confluence of the Jackpine River.  Jean and Lothar had great stories of their high water June descent of this gem years ago.  A wonderful flight in that might have been on the shady side of legal.  Awesome scenery before the river fell off a huge plateu dropping falls and slides one after another bigger and bigger with each drop.  They walked them all but on day two were treated to one of the best days of continues high water class four creeking they have ever had .  Creme da la Creme as they put it.  And there is a trail to get you to just that class four section.  I would love to do it in the future.   

Last camp at the Jackpine\\Big Smoky confluence
mouth of the Jackpine, Sept low water

Day 5 was a 37 KM flatwater float to Grand Cache.  A hot day and some nice Alberta like scenary a nice finish to the trip.  Pics of Day 5 

 

Jean, definitely the man of day five
beers and the takeout!

Jean arranged for his head chef(sorry forgot your name but thank you) to come pick us up and had cold beers ready as well, awesome!  That night we were treated by Jean, who owns the best hotel in Grand Cache and probably one of the best, well run hotels I’ve stayed at, the Grand Cache hotel.   Jean treated us to an awesome dinner, drinks and a great room for the night.  Thanks again Jean 

Many thanks to Lothar for sharing all his pics with me.  I’ll buy a camera one of these days. 

The big smoky was a great trip and I would do it again for sure.  The scenery was amazing and it was nice to paddle such a different river than I have experienced in the past.  Looking back though I think that going in early August would have been a better choice.  I think that much more whitewater could have been run much safer with more water.  At September flows the upper canyons were tight and slotty with undercuts everywhere.  At higher flows I think a lot of drops would open up and have less consequences in them.  Many of the lower larger canyon drops were very powerful and very shallow at this flow.  Higher flows would make them bigger still but safer as well.  Higher water would have made the first two days more enjoyable as well as some of the braided flat was really bumpy.  Be aware this trip has very little class 4 most of it was class 3 or class 5 and up. 

 Who would like this trip, anyone really who has basic class 3 river experience.  All of the canyons had trails so there was no worries for portaging.  Class 5+ paddlers looking to run the nar and get some great video would like it as well.  There was lots of big runnable stuff.  We had fun and accomplished our mission, eating many mokies on the smoky with good friends!

Swims of 2010

April 14, 2010

April 12. Wow, mid April and already a swim.  Hope its not a sign of a bad year.  Entrance drop of Matson Canyon at low water is actually a little more challenging.  There is know eddy on the right to break down the rapid and a lot more holes in the lead in.  In my playboat, I hit the last  hole before the pour over entrance.  This hole started me in a back ender so I tried to boof the pour over while backendering, flipped got pushed left, tried a roll and missed.  Got pushed up against some undercut, sievy rocks.  Tried a couple of more rolls but couldn’t get up while being pushed into these rocks.  Swam, no gear or lifes lost.  Chris G also flipped but hit his first roll and was able to paddle away from the rocks.

Six day multiday Johansen Creek-Sustut River-Skeena River

December 14, 2008

In late July 2004 9 paddling friends from around BC joined together for an excellent multiday kayak trip from Johansen Lake into Johansen Creek into the Sustut River into the mighty Skeena River.  The trip was done (Sustut down) by Lothar a few years before and he recommended it as one of the best multidays he had done.  At the time Lothars team thought they were doing a first descent until they flew into Sustut Lake stopped at a hunters cabin and found  writing on the wall of the cabin stating that a german group had paddled the river just one year earlier.  Thank you to Mark Gale for the trip notes to refresh my memory of the fine details of the trip and to Steve Whittal and Alistair Champion to providing the pictures.

After a few days of paddling some classic creeks, kitnawakwa(spelling)

 etc Shane, Alistair and I take our shuttle driver Fernando for the long trip to Johannson Lake.  On the way we make a quick stop to run east boulder and then back on the road.

Jason at the lip of blue fungus waterfall-east boulder creek

Jason at the lip of blue fungus waterfall-east boulder creek

  We turn off towards Fort Saint James and then keep going past along the Kemess mining road until finally we make it to Johansson Lake.  We left Terrace at some crazy early time and get to Johansson Lake at dusk.  Fully preparing to set up tent at the lake we find a well stalked cabin start a fire and start eating mr noodles.  Living the dream already. 

Fernando and Jason enjoying dinner of champions

Fernando and Jason enjoying dinner of champions

That night we are treated to an awesome display by mother nature as it pours rain with the biggest thunder and lightning storm I have ever experienced.  In the morning pilot Wendel with AlpineAir dropped the rest of the crew off.  Jean, Mark, Steve, Lotar, Pat, Joe had a great flight and were ready to hit the water.

The rest of the crew arrives in style!

The rest of the crew arrives in style!

  As with most multiday trips I’ve done with Steve he popped out of the plane with a boat he hadn’t paddled in years and still needed to outfit it.  He is definitely the king of fitting a lot into life.

Shane, Alistair and I  start out down Johansen Creek, with the rest of the group starting an hour later.  Johansen Creek was mostly 27 Km of flat meandering creek.  One short section of low volume, boulder strewn Class 3 creeking.

Pat on Johansen Creek, Day 1

Pat on Johansen Creek, Day 1

We were all happy to get to camp on Day 1 just upstream of the confluence of Johansen and the Sustut River, none more so than Lothar who was paddling the 250 pound freefall loaded with mexican food and booze.  Definitely point and shoot boating for Lothar on day 1.  Camp was excellent with pebbles for our tents and sweet views in all directions.  Huge amount of food and drink consumed by all.

camp after day 1

camp after day 1

Day 2 was a good one.  We reach the confluence of the sustut river and are greeted with busy fun class 3 and incredible views.  To River left is the Sustut mountain Range, Savage on the right, bigger than expected.

Jason and Shane taking it all in

Jason and Shane taking it all in

Some of the group saw a grizzly in the shadows as we paddled down.

Joe paddling fun stuff day 2

Joe paddling fun stuff day 2

mark, morning day 2

mark, morning day 2

After lunch we reached our first major canyon, Lothar’s group had portaged this canyon on their trip and at first look of the first drop it looked like this might be our fate as well.

the crew scouting the first drop in the first canyon

the crew scouting the first drop in the first canyon

Most of the water sieved out under a massive boulder on the right with tree sized logs sticking out from under the rock.  Alistair, with a bad ankle that doesn’t like hiking was into making this canyon go. 
Shane and Alistair paddled over to the left side of the rapid for a look at a left side run down this massive drop.  The rest of the crew paddled over to river left to take a look as well.   Alistair and Shane were convinced that the sneak on the far left of the rapid was wide enough for a boat to pass through. Alistair, Mark and Shane were quick to run the drop and made it look easy. 

Mark entering the first rapid of the first canyon, Sustut River

Mark entering the first rapid of the first canyon, Sustut River

Alistair heading left for the 8 foot sneak boof

Alistair heading left for the 8 foot sneak boof

Alistair home free!

Alistair home free!

Everyone else was convinced to run it although I was still wavering.  Just then Pat’s boat slipped off shore and started floating towards the rapid.  There was no way anyone could get into their boat and save it in time.  Pat had images of a very long walk out in bear country.  Amazingly though the ghost boat found the perfect line and made it to the bottom eddy with only a minor bow dent to show for it.  I figured if a boat could float the right line then I should be OK!  With a little rope work Pat was able to get down to his boat, very happily I might add!  The next rapid we scouted from the right, most of the rapid slammed onto a rock but the right slot was the line.  It looked relatively easy but seemed to push most people into the right canyon wall in the runout.  All went well for everyone though.

Steve bracing for all shes worth, second drop first canyon, sustut r

Steve bracing for all shes worth, second drop first canyon, sustut r

Lothar ready to get his face wet

Lothar ready to get his face wet

After that the canyon opened up for a bit.  We took a quick break and Joe and Shane were successful fishing.  About 4 Km downstream the canyon closed up again and one more sweet drop was had.  An 8 foot ledge which we all ran right down the middle.

hanging out below a sweet ledge, great way to finish day 2

hanging out below a sweet ledge, great way to finish day 2

Mark getting air time on the ledge, end of day 2 Sustut River

Mark getting air time on the ledge, end of day 2 Sustut River

Day three started with some pretty canyon flats.  Soon though we were into some fun Class four.  Each rapid seemed to get progessively harder until we got to a big class 5.  The right side pushed into a couple of huge holes.  Scuba gear would be a good addition to run the rapid on the right.  The left side was the best line but had some issues.  You had to enter with a boof from the left ledge, then down the middle a bit to avoid an ugly rock sieve on the left then cut back left in front of a house rock.

looking back upstream at this big class 5 on Sustut River

looking back upstream at this big class 5 on Sustut River

A couple of folks including myself walked the rapid.  Most ran it without issue.  The most interesting and exciting line happened to Jean.  As he was landing from the top ledge a salmon jumped in front of his face.  Loosing focus Jean got pushed up against the front of the sieved rock on the left.  Safety was there though and with Jean politely asking the boys to push him away from the sieve they succeeded and he finished the rapids clean.

Jean landing after the first ledge

Jean landing after the first ledge

Jean being helped off the sieved rock by Joe and Shane

Jean being helped off the sieved rock by Joe and Shane

Day 4-6 of the trip it was all about friendly, fun mother skeena.  There were so many incredible surf waves and holes.  If only we were in play boats!  We still had a blast in the creekers though.

The mighty Skeena after the Sustut confluence

The mighty Skeena after the Sustut confluence

Joe surfing on the Skeena

Joe surfing on the Skeena

Pat rippen

Pat rippen

Sweet Skeena River

Sweet Skeena River

Steve enjoying the moment

Steve enjoying the moment

Last obstacle on the Skeena

Last obstacle on the Skeena

Lothar's awesome girlfriend Deb, meets us with beers at the takeout

Lothar's awesome girlfriend Deb, meets us with beers at the takeout

We haul the boats up Damsumlo bridge, mission accomplished!

We haul the boats up Damsumlo bridge, mission accomplished!

img_0719

 

Above, the A team, on the log from left to right Shane, Steve, Lothar, Jean, Jason, Mark.  In front Pat and Alistair.  In back Joe.

To finish, a great multiday that was enjoyed by all skill levels, a highlight for me was having a couple of black bears swimming across the skeena, one in front of me one behind.

We started the trip in early August, it provided perfect flows for the Sustut and Skeena but was a little low for Johannsen Creek.  For a strong group I think earlier season trips at higher flows are possible and would also make Johannson Creek more fun. 

 Looking for a new multiday, this ones worth doing!

Rockstar canyon, Williams Creek

November 9, 2008

http://www.flickr.com/gp/29740948@N03/mAf7M1

I spent my 35th birthday the best way possible.  In the day with friends on the water and in the evening with my wife and daughter.  Awesome cheese cake Laverne!  Thanks to Dan for the pics.  Corey Boux has the yellow nomad with the dark grey brown helmet.  I’m the guy with the yellow mega rocker and yellow helmet.  This is a really fun section and would love to do it more often.  I think we were the first group on this section this season.

Hirsch Creek Canyon, Kitimat BC

November 9, 2008

http://www.flickr.com/photos/32305272@N08/

This was my first run with the boys down this magnificent canyon.  Probably the best run I have ever done.  As some pros commented about the run last year before they headed off to do the stikine.  “It can barely be done thats a good run.  The crux of the run is at the end of the canyon.  It starts with a must make ferry in front of a class 5 plus waterfall(triple drop) to make a small eddy to do the portage.  The portage is a big  one requiring some rope and team work.  You put back in and then have to run the third drop of triple drop(unportagable, run it left with a boof)  Then a class 3 rapid where a few years ago Pat flipped, swam and ended up swimming through “patapolt” a yet unrun class 6.  Luckily he came through physically unscathed although I’m sure he still has nightmares.  The class 3 actually has an easy sneak on the left and then its an easy ferry to the right to portage patapolt.  The last crux is slingshot, again no portage here.  The water is screaming by and chaotic from the patapolt immediately upstream.  You must drive back into this flow immediately upstream of a rock.  Yikes.  On this trip I actually flipped here took some soft shots upside down then rolled up at the end.  What a rush and what a way to finish this awesome run!

Gilttoyees River Exploratory mission Aug 08

August 21, 2008

Hello everyone, this is my first post. On Monday Aug 4, 2008 Dan Nieckarz, Joe Kotai, Tim Johns and I, Jason Cathers had an exploratory trip on the Gilttoyees River. We met at Dans place on the outskirts of Terrace at 5 am. Joe had his truck and jet boat in tow. We piled our gear and kayaks in the boat and jumped in the truck for the 45 minute drive to the Kitimat village boat launch. Launching went smooth and we were on the water for an hour to the Gilttoyees inlet.

heading into the Giltoyees inlet

We stopped and set prawn and crab traps for our return. Joe had a yummy moose tongue he thought the crabs would love. Tim got the honor to set the traps.

Tim placing the yummy moose tongue in the crab trap

We then jet boated up the bottom flat section of the giltoyees for about 5 minutes until we found a little cove for the jet boat.

Jason, Tim and Joe awaiting the heli

Jason, Tim and Joe awaiting the heli

We geared up and floated back down to the mouth and beached waiting for the Lakelse Air helicopter to arrive at 10 am. It was 9:45 am , and at 9:50 the pilot arrived.

Our flight has arrived!

Joe and Tim went first, as Dan and I tied the boats together and readied them for the trip in the net attached to the long line. Within 15 minutes the heli was back and the pilot hooked up the long line to the heli. The heli lifted off and we held the net steady until it lifted off the ground. Now Dan and I were alone in prime grizzley bear country. No bear spray was allowed inside the cabin of the heli so Dan and I had to leave our bear spray with the kayaks. We waited and waited for what seemed an eternity with bear scat and prints all around us on this open sand\gravel bar.

Grizzly print beside Dan's size 11 booty

Grizzly print beside Dan

Dan and I started singing loudly to keep the bears away. Finally after over an hour the heli returned to pick us up. Apparently he had run low on fuel not realizing how far up the river our group wanted to travel. As I had not been in a helicopter since I was five Dan was nice enough to allow me to sit in the front seat. What a trip with stunning views in every direction and the Giltoyees River looked fantastic. We saw Joe, Tim and our kayaks and realized in a matter of minutes we would be starting our adventure that we had dreamed about for so long. The water color of the river was a beautiful aqua blue.

the put in

the put in

Our pilot wished us well and to be safe and took off. We were on our own. We floated for about 10 minutes taking in the incredible scenary in every direction.

Tim taking it in

Tim taking it in

Enjoying the moment

Enjoying the moment

The one thing that suprised me was how high the river was running. Our runs in Terrace, BC were all low and I expected the same here. But with the Giltoyees coming out of a glacial lake and snow melting in all directions from the hot weather I was wrong. On most multidays, the headwaters are bumpy lowwater levels. Not here, the water level in this flat section was already greater than most of our backyard creek runs in Terrace. And then, the whitewater started. Our first major rapid was a portage as most of the water fed into a river left undercut and room of doom.

1st portage upstream

1st portage upstream

We had a quick easy portage on the river left and were back on the water. Right around the corner was our next portage. This rapid was a steep, tight boulder filled slot. A definite no go which we portaged on the right. Then we started getting into more runnable whitewater. We came across a nice ledge with various options to run it. Joe and Tim chose to run it on the right. Dan and I down the middle between some tight boulders. We had some more fun class three for a while and then came to our next portage. This was our first of many portages that we thought would be more runnable at lower water flows. This 30+ foot rambling slide looked sweet but to many what ifs. Right after was another 100 foot rambling slide that pinched down near the end with an undercut house rock on the left. There was a low volume slot on the left that I thought looked doable so I bumped and slid my way down. When I looked back Dan, Tim and Joe were all grimacing. I guess it wasn’t as clean of a line as I thought. I got out to scout the finish of the last 20 or so feet of the rapid. It looked to be a go and fun. We all decided to run it. I went first, slid off a rock getting in the current that slid me upstream into a meaty hole, it got my heart going but I side surfed it out and finished the rapid cleanly. Joe went next, he looked great but got flipped at the last hole. He missed a few rolls as he was pushed against the left rock wall but held it together to roll up. Tim and Dan had great lines and went through cleanly. We got into some more super fun 3 and 4 before the river braided into three different channels. The left channel looked like it would be great at lower water but too meaty for us at this level.

power lunch

power lunch

It was a good power spot for lunch though. Tim got out the maps and checked how far we had come, we knew the river would soon be dropping over a massive set of falls.

Where are we?

Where are we?

We were definitely getting close. After a quick lunch we were back on for more fantastic class 3 and 4.

Tim finishing a fun class 4

Tim finishing a fun class 4

me on the same rapid

me on the same rapid

We came to a longer complex rapid that was non stop white puncuated my 2 meaty holes and a ledge hole at the end. I decided to run it punching the first two holes on their weakest point, river left and then boofing the ledge. Boofed a bit earlier and ended up having to sidesurf the ledge hole out to the side but came out smiling at the bottom. To bad the camera malfunctioned for this rapid! Around the corner was a sweet 60+ foot slide that I was debating running but the hole looked just too meaty at the bottom at this level. More fun class three and four as we eddy hopped down the river.

Upstream shot of class 4

Upstream shot of class 4

Joe got out ahead to scout a horizon line and what a horizon line it was. We looked down at three 30+ foot waterfalls in a row and their was plenty of water volume flowing over.

Time to portage

Time to portage

This was the start of the big portage we knew we would have when we first looked at this run on google earth. We started the portage on river right through huge first growth forest. It was nice to get out of the hot sun for a while. Every now and then we were able to peak back at what the river was doing as it seemed to fall forever. Halfway down the waterfalls split into two channels. Even the smaller volume channel on the right looked awesome.

Although this valley was untouched by white man, natives used this valley for 1000s of years for a grease trail. The trail continued on upriver to just below where we put on where it then crossed over the divide into Alastair Lake and down the Gitnadoix river into the mighty Skeena River. Native people came from across North America through these trails to trade with the local native people for oolichan fish grease. This highly prized grease was only found in Northern British Columbia. These small oily fish were caught by the 1000s fermented and then cooked for over 14 hours to seperate the grease from the fish. The oil was very nutritious and used for eating and medical purposes. It was also poured over berries picked in the summer and would preserve them for winter consumption. As we portaged we realized even though this trail hadn’t been used for over a 100 years, because it was through first growth forest, it was still very much intact. We found a tree with burn marks on both sides. A burn mark is a trail marking made by cutting away the bark of the tree. You could still see the marks made by a stone axe in cutting away the bark.

grease trail markings

grease trail markings

Joe went a little off the beaten trail and found a cave, which upon looking inside saw old cedar boughs which had been laid down on the floor of the cave for natives to sleep on. A little further on the trail Dan found some nice claw marks from a bear on a tree. Definitely the coolest portage I have done.

Upon arriving at the bottom of the portage and putting back into the river we were greeted with the view of the most spectacular waterfall with which we had just walked around.

What we just portaged

What we just portaged

Within a minute a large tributary joined the flow of the Giltoyees making this truly a river now. We found a nice beach on river left and set up camp.

l to r Tim,Joe and I day 1 camp

l to r Tim,Joe and I day 1 camp

Day two started with 5 minutes of flat water, there was snow scattered all along the river banks from numerous avalanches. We had a few fun class fours and then the big stuff started. We were greeted by a solid looking class four but unfortunately just after it the whole river dissappeared into a massive sieve. The portage around it would prove to be the most difficult of the trip. Hot weather and tight bushwacking with fresh warm steaming grizzly bear scat everywhere. We got out the bear spray and kept loud. Luckily the bear or bears choice not to investigate us. We got through the thick bush and luckily had a nice patch of ice to cool off on before we descended down to the river again. We got back in the river and had some fun boogy water. Soon after huge boulders started appearing in the river and the river got steeper. We got out and took a look. We found just below this maze of boulders the whole river went under a massive ice bridge. Wow! We got down to river level just above it and saw that it was clear and runnable. What a rush and something I never thought I would be able to do. When inside the ice cave the whole cave was raining water from the hot weather. On each side of the ice wall was a tunnel where a small creek was flowing into the river from the mountainside on each side of the river. Once through the ice bridge we had approx 1 km of class four continues whitewater before the horizon lines started coming again. We had a quick walk on the river left for this one.

left channel at lunch stop

contemplating more class 5

We stopped at the second horizon line and had a late lunch. The river split into three channels with most of the water going through the left channel. The whitewater in this channel at this water level was approx 500 feet of continues meaty class 5.

The left channel at lunch stop

The left channel at lunch stop

After lunch we bounced down the low volume right channel and before the channel joined back with the main flow got out to look at the next horizon line. It was a huge volume 20 foot waterfall with some boulders at the base of the falls backing up the hole of the falls. At this water level it was not runnable, by us anyways. We could see there was another horizon line just down stream but it looked very challenging to get back to the water before that horizon line. So we choice to walk around both drops without looking at the second drop. The walk was a tough one with steep terrain. Tim who is half mountain goat flew ahead. By the time I caught up with him he was repelling down a 15 foot cliff. I looked at him and he said “do you remember your munter hitch.” I was so hot and mentally exhausted at this point the answer was definitely no.

“I’ll walk around” I said. Anyways we all got through it. When we got back to the river we were saddened to see a fairly runnable ledge that we had just walked around.

next time

next time

Next time, lower water. Down stream where we put in was a powerful rapid that bordered on class 5 when the hazards in the drops were considered. The rapid was broken up by two huge house rocks one at the beginning of the rapid and one near the end. The left side of the house rock near the end of the rapid looked like it ended up sieving out through some boulders. The right side was pushy with non stop holes and narrowed at the end between the house rock and the right wall and dropped over a ledge. Right after the ledge was another boulder the water was pushing hard into. Tim decided right away to start walking and I was leaning that way myself. Joe was taking a serious look at the rapid though and after talking with Dan about it, Joe and Dan decided to run it. With them deciding to run it I took a harder look at it and decided to run it myself. All of us got pushed around in the rapid. Joe ran it first and got pushed off line towards the house rock. He braced off the pillow and went right over the ledge where he momentarily stalled out before coming through. Dan went next, he was looking good and was right on line but just before he went over the ledge he got spun in a hole and went over the ledge backwards flipping but immediately rolling up to finish. I went next, very early in the rapid I got pushed almost sideways. Instead of correcting I decided to go with it and do a 360 degree spin. Unfortunately I only got 180 degrees, ie backwards and couldn’t get turned around again in the pushy water. I also went over the ledge backwards then momentarily broached on the boulder just downstream of the ledge. I definitely took the prize for the ugliest line. All on video too, how nice. Joe was pumped now and was ready for anything. The next big rapid came again splitting in two channels. Most of the water went through the left channel. We took a look at the left channel, it was runnable but very full on. The right channel had a creeky feel and dropped over 3 consecutive ledges. Joe immediately decided to run it and styled it. I went next, not as pretty but through. Tim and Dan went next with no problem. We had a few more class three’s and then decided to grab the next beach as it was getting late. As with the whole trip so far the views in all directions of our campsite were amazing.

Looking back up at what we ran and walked

Looking back up at what we ran and walked

Day 3 started with a whopping 20 minutes of flat water. At this point we had portaged so much the flat water was a nice break. It didn’t last long and soon we were staring down a 500 meter full on class 5 canyon with two big chuncks of death wood. Not at this water level, time to portage again. We found a beaver dam filled tributary just before the canyon which we paddled and portaged up. We then boat passed are kayaks up a steep embankment and onto the snow. Sure beats hiking through devils club. We put back in below the low walled canyon and had just over an hour more of a peaceful, scenic flat float and the jet boat appeared on the right. We were done.

Of coarse the story is not exactly over. We travelled way to fast on our way to the Giltoyees with concerns about making our flight. So we only had 1\3 of a tank to get us home. I towed the jet boat out to the inlet. We hauled our traps and were happy to see we had a huge bounty of crabs, unfortunately only one prawn though. About half of the time on the way back we used the little kicker motor instead of the big motor to save fuel. Dan and Tim set up a sail to help save fuel as well. In the end though we made it back. We traveled only 30 kms in 3 days. I did a multiday a week later on the Bell Irving into the Nass river, big water class 4 in which we traveled 160 Km in 4 days. The Giltoyees was very challenging whitewater indeed.

Best trip any of us had ever done. A world class classic. The views were spectacular, the whitewater was amazing with relatively easy portages and no canyons. An untouched wilderness setting and a run that will be exciting for any solid class 4 or better boater. Go in September though, the water level was definitely to high when we ran it.

Thanks to Joe for finding and organizing this adventure. Thanks to Dan for the pics.