klastline river into the stikine aug 2010

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

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