Thursday, September 10, 2009

Kate and Christie's Epic Birthday Adventure

After many discussions about the desire to start doing more self support trips, we decided the Clendenning River for our birthday would be the perfect start. The Clendenning River is known as a two day class IV-V read and run trip through Clendenning Provincial Park. With clear skies and a 40% chance of rain we rallied the troops and headed to Squamish, BC. Once there, we were a little uncertain about levels with the gauge being broken. Checking the weather forecast, we discovered that a storm system was predicted to roll through on Sunday so we decided to pull the trigger, set shuttle, and beat the rain.

Day 1: We woke up to sunshine Friday morning, all smiles and giggles, and made our way to Whistler Air. The views from the plane were spectacular, leaving us all giddy with excitement. As the plane flew off we were dealing with the psychology of feeling completely on our own, miles away from the nearest road. It didn't take us long to realize the level was on the high side of good. After our first swim, we realized how important it was going to be that we work together as a team. By swim two, we realized how quickly small mistakes and simple decisions can turn into big situations. In the backwoods of British Columbia it can take up to two hours to reunite one with their group, boat, or paddle. We were relieved to come across the pinned boat, only to find out that we had been separated from two members of the crew. When it started getting dark we felt helpless, with nothing else to do than set up camp and hope for the best for our comrades.

Photo: Ethan Smith

Photo: Ethan Smith
Photo: Ethan Smith

Day 2: We woke up to the early arrival of the storm, adding to our already high anxiety. The river was rising fast. By noon it was flooded chocolate brown and we still hadn't caught up to our friends. After waiting two hours for them at the beginning of one of the crux sections, we made the call that we needed to keep moving downstream. It's hard to explain the excitement felt several miles downstream when we paddled around the corner to see them camped out, waiting for us. At this point new waterfalls were appearing off both sides of the canyon walls and the side creeks were raging. This is when class IV-V turned into class FULL ON. Pretty soon the entire god damn canyon looked like the North Fork of the Payette at high water, complete with mine fields of bus-sized holes and scary ferries. We found ourselves creeking down the boulders on the shoulder and trying not to get sucked into the main flow. We all had a scary side surf or beat down at some point in the day. We definitely got way more than we bargained for on the this trip. In the middle of a long portage we realized we weren't going to make it out that night and hunkered down somewhere near the end of the walk. Thank goodness the rain let up for a few hours while Nick cooked us a delicious 3 course dehydrated meal and somehow Ty built us a fire out of the soaked landscape to dry our gear.

Photo: Ethan Smith
Photo: Ethan Smith

Day 3: We had an exciting morning, waking up to fresh snow on the peaks and actual rocks in the river!! While finishing up the steep section, we encountered swim number 3. This swim came complete with a log broach and crazy solo hike through the woods with the bears. Once again we had a great moment of excitement when we turned the corner to find Willie and the run away boat. Never have we been so excited to see class II for the paddle out. We finally made it to the take out around 4:00 pm on day three.

Learning a lot about team work, group dynamics, smart decisions, the power of positive thinking, and staying cool in stressful situations, we walked away with a great first time expedition experience.

Signing off to plan our next misadventure....
heart, Kate and Christie


kayakin4jc said...

wow, i am so glad you all are safe. must have been super-stressful, but, in retrospect, a great adventure!!!

Wet Willie said...

Great write-up, Christie!

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