Gilttoyees River Exploratory mission Aug 08

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.

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10 Responses to “Gilttoyees River Exploratory mission Aug 08”

  1. Mr WordPress Says:

    Hi, this is a comment.
    To delete a comment, just log in, and view the posts’ comments, there you will have the option to edit or delete them.

  2. Clint Says:

    Sweet Write-up Jay…Blogs could be your calling! Looks like a must do trip, you guys scored some sweet weather too!

  3. Bob Says:

    Thanks for the heads up! What a trip; great pictures and fine prose. – Bob

  4. Inge Says:

    Dont ever do this kind of dangerous thing again…are you crazy??? love mom. By the way… you are doing exactly what you live to do…so few people do that…good on you

  5. James Van den Broek Says:

    Awesome trip report Jason on an incredible sounding river…low water for sure next time!

  6. Bob Says:

    Great stuff. What happened to several of the videos that have been removed?

  7. taersker Says:

    Jason, This was awesome footage and writing. Some of the unique dialogue is understandable to a non-whitewater person like me.

    I love that you are so wholeheartedly involved in the wild area of BC near your home. So many of us will never experience the “rest” of the Province.

    Karen Lane

  8. kimmmy Says:

    YAA Boyzzzzzzzzz!

    sicko! You better take Robberts to prob…a few of these drops!

    Such sicko country!

    Haa..to be in such a place….!
    kimm

  9. jcathers235 Says:

    Thanks everyone for the comments, sorry those other vids didn’t work. I’m not sure why they didn’t. If you go to youtube and type Giltoyees all six vids should come up though. I enjoyed writing the post. I realize it’s a little long winded for non kayakers but what do you do. I’m hoping when things slow down to add some other multiday trips I’ve done in past years as well as the trip were doing next week(the dean river unless water levels are to high) and other future trips.

  10. joe Says:

    lower water was way better. More drops could be run and we could stay at river level the whole time. Still very hard. essentially a full three workout with beautiful scenery.

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