Diggin`for kayaking gold - the Grand Canyon of the Stikine

Making my way up to the Stikine was always on my radar when I started this trip in July. Due to the relativly low snowpack in northern BC, I knew that if I`m lucky levels would drop fast enough for me to have a chance to have a go up north in August with warm weather and blue skys... 
Wanting to do this run for a long time this summer gave me the chance to finally realise a river that I was chasing for quite some time.

Finally made it north

When I arrived in Whistler I knew that if the weather would stay stable, the river would probably drop into my desired range (320 to 380 cm3) the next week or so. I had already contacted some groups who were planning to drive up north, so I was pretty confident to find a solid crew that I could join. I started my drive in the desire to meet up with Adrian Kiernan and Billy Thibault in Prince George. Thankfully this worked out, because after blowing (another) tire on my way up, I was driving on my spare for almost 300km and was kind of scared getting stranded in the middle of nowhere fighting bears and missing out on my chance. So luckily the guys picked me up in Prince George and I continued my way up in Rob Murphys truck.

Adrian Kiernan, Rob Murphy, myself, Billy Thibault

We reached the put in bridge the next afternoon, and after listening to all the scary bonfire stories of the guys that had just completed the mission through the gorge, I went to bed pretty nervous but ready to go. The plan was to start the next day and either have a two or a three day descent into the canyon depending on who would be in the group.

put in, as calm as it gets

In the morning Adrian decided to wait another day, so our crew consisted Billy Thibault, Rob Murphy, Hector Darby Maclellan, Louis Bissonnette and myself planning to be in the gorge for two nights and three days. Hector had completed a mission from the source of the Stikine (hiking for almost 70km into the sacred headwaters) and will be the first person to complete a full descent of the Stikine River. Billy and Louis had done the run in 2014, so we had some first hand knowledge in our group.

the crew and the sign (the new one) - (standing up) Louis Bissonnette, Rob Murphy, (in the front) Billy Thibault, Hector Darby Maclellan, myself               photo: Adrian Kiernan

So we started day one at noon, paddling the easy lead in for the first hour, until the canyon walls began closing in and everybody had their last piss before Entry Falls. We choose not to scout the rapid, it takes a lot of time and everybody knew the line from countless videos and pictures. It was here, I felt the power of this river for the first time, entering the ferry a little too far to the right and getting stuck inbetween two currents for a little time.

I didn`t take any pictures the first day, it was raining a little and we ran most rapids without scouting. Everybody portaged Pass or Fail, since failing isn`t an option these days with wood in the failslot and the "sneakline" not looking too beautiful either. Wasson`s was next with half the group going right and the other half choosing the left line. A couple of rapids later we had made it to Site Zet and with nobody wanting to run it, portaged our boats in the afternoon to have less work the next day.

I felt really good after day one, having completed some big rapids with good lines, and really liking the whitewater in the gorge. In Camp one the weather cleared and we had a nice sunny evening enjoying sausages and the fire. 

Day two started with a big traverse into the lower part of Site Z. A good way to wake up in the morning...

Billy scouting the exit of Site Zet

scary morning ferry - Louis

into the wild - Louis

Hector following Louis into day two

the lower part of Site Zet is a pretty big rapid by itself, hard to imagine how tired you come into this after completing the top

Day two has the most whitewater, a lot of which is runnable out of the boat, but there are some big holes (like the Cunt Hole we all crashed into - and came out of thankfully, thanks again Louis ;) !!) and big rapids, the Wall One for example, a must run rapid that is not really scoutable.

On this section I had my second bad encounter with the power of this river, getting stuck in a random eddyline/hole and getting pushed into the canyonwall. Unable to roll I took a swim in the river definitely nobody wants to swim in. Thankfully I got straight into the middle of the current and away from boils and walls and Rob had me on his boat right away. No big rapids downstream, the guys got my boat out quickly and after a little climb we could continue the ride to complete day two. A stupid mistake and big reminder to never loose concentration and feel too self secure out there.

After my experience I wasn`t not as confident as I was after day one, especially as day three contains the biggest rapids of the run. It is fun how crucial the mindgame is in kayaking, especially on a big run like the Stikine. Playing your thoughts and getting back into the game is a fun little adventure in itself, a great way to take teaching lessons for kayaking and life in general.

Wolftrack Camp - an awesome retreat in the canyon

Rob, Louis and Billy enjoing a beautiful evening

Day three is the shortest but very intense. It starts with Garden of Gods II, the longest rapid of the gorge, and as the canyonwalls get steeper, the whitewater becomes huge. Wall II, Scissors, the Hole That Ate Chicago and V Drive are pretty much stacked up after each other and form a big bang finish to this awesome gorge.

Aniol starting into his last day of Stikine power for this year

Louis and Billy leading Garden of Gods II

Rob charging into the hole

Louis and Hector in the Wall II

Billy and Louis scouting THAC, with Louis eventually running it and Billy watching

I was definetly very tense through this stretch of the river, but also enjoyed the great whitewater and awesome scenery. After V Drive the whole pressure just dropped of and I felt very relieved and painfully happy.

V Drive - we all ran it together since nobody really wanted to stay behind to take pictures

There are some rapids after, most famously the Tanzilla, where the whole river compresses through a thin slot and marks the end of the Grand Canyon of the Stikine.

After our paddle out (be aware, there are some holes left), that by the way is stunning and amazingly beautiful with eagles hunting and goats chillin`, we went to Telegraph Creek, a unique little village, to get food and celebrate our successful descent on one of the most desirable runs in the whitewater world.

deserved it

my favourit pic - same way we entered V Drive - chaos into perfect line       photos: Miranda

Again I want to especially thank the crew Billy Thibault, Louis Bissonnette, Hector Darby Maclellan and Rob Murphy for the fun, mostly safe and awesome time on this river and Miranda for driving our shuttle. 

We had a level slowly rising between 320 and 350 cm3 with warm weather and only a bit of rain. Perfect conditions to spend time in the canyon. I can only imagine how painful times can be in later months with cold nights and maybe some more rain. Weather forecasts, the gauge and lots of beta certainly changed a lot of things approaching this gorge. But still this river remains a very serious and powerful challenge and should never be taken lightly. Amazing how this sport keeps evolving, with people lapping the gorge, multiple runs of Site Zet, new time records set and close calls beeing survived.

good by!!! see ya next time!

For me personally this trip was the epidome of twenty years in whitewater, a combination of the power, the rugged nature and beauty of this great gorge. An intiminating but awesome and very special place to be at. Scary, challenging and very beautiful at the same time and so relieving after completing the mission. In my eyes this trip had everything what kayaking is about, everything I`m in love with since I started paddling as a small kid, everything i could ask for.



The long delayed third part of our spring trip writeup - South Tyrol and Tyrol

Well, this third and last part of the writeup of my spring trip around Austria with family and friends got a bit delayed. Between family, work and many other projects it got lost somehow and I was finally reminded about it last week when I went through some photos on my computer. I made some of my favorite shots during the last couple days of said trip, so I thought it would be a bummer not to put them on the blog. So here they are!

After Starting the trip in the eastern alps then moving south to Slovenia and west to eastern Tyrol we ended the trip with a couple days in South Tyrol and in the Ötztal back in Austria.

The Dolomites are some of the most beautiful mountains I've ever visited - only downside are the hordes of people...

Jim Janney enjoys the Reinbach-falls, little low, but still fun

Daniel Brasuell on the same; sadly he doesn't know how to run waterfalls and hurt his back.  

Myself showing Daniel how do do it right. Photo: Thomas Dimke

The big waterfalls of the Reinbach are a sight to see. Definitely worth the little hike.
Entering Heiligenkreuz gorge (Venter Ache) Another fall run we got on because of cold weather the days before. A day later this walled in section was too high. Photo: Daniel Brasuell

Jim boofing a little drop right before the first mandatory rapid
Reiner on the first mandatory drop

Jim follows

Another fine drop deep in the Heiligenkreuz. 

Reiner finishes the same rapid
The group scouting Wellerbrücke on one of the last days of the trip
Jim Janney, Reiner Glanz, Jürgen Maier, Harald Glanz, Thomas Dimke and Daniel Brasuell
After some days in the Ötztal and a little detour through Germany Reiner brought Daniel and Jim to Munich so they could catch their flights home. The trip came to an end for all of us, but to put some icing on the cake Reiner and I met up again in Schladming for another lap on Untertalbach at a very juicy level. Great way to end the trip!

Hannah and the kids enjoy a beautiful evening... Love.

Check out Daniel Brasuells writups at http://www.awetstate.com/
It's also worth checking out his video about this part of the trip here

Thanks to the whole group for the fine and safe trip!

Also thanks to the people and white water organizations that support my brother and me. Much appreciation to Liquid Logic, Sweet, Kokatat, hf, SystemX and Alpin Action for keeping us afloat, dry and safe with the best gear in the industry.


Middle Kings - the "Bottom Nine"

So the next morning we woke up to the same awesome views of Tehipite Dome that we fell asleep with. After breakfast we were ready for the Bottom Nine, the stretch of this river that is supposedly the crux when you talk with people that have run MFK.
So after a short Class II boogie start to warm up the first horizon line marked the start into the steepest section of this trip.

A short portage followed, and then it just kept on going. We ran some rapids out of the boat, with the ocational scout and also some portages. Most drops are stacked up to each other, but its possible to stop inbetween and boatscout a lot. 

Manuel and I liked this section a lot, for us it was less stressful then the day before, maybe because we just took our time and scouted more also due to the steepnes of the rapids. Also the character of the river had changed to a little more pool and drop style.

steep bouldergardens as far as you can see - Rok and Manu

Some spots are pretty sieved out and its awesome to have guys with you that know the run and know most places where to portage or scout. This just saves so much time and energy on a long class V day like this.

cool rocksplat boof in the second half of the day - Rok and Manu

Darin and Rok on one of the countless moves down the Bottom Nine

We had a long lunchbreak before one of the portages, and it took us almost 7 hours to get to the confluence with the South Kings which left us happy, relieved, very tired and also a little sad that the Middle Kings was over. We put up camp a little before the confluence and went to bed pretty early and pretty exhausted.

The crew tired after we`ve completed Middle Fork Kings -
Manuel Köhler, myself, Darin McQuoid, Rok Sribar
So the next day we paddled out Garlic Falls, a true Californian classic that has some very good whitewater on its own. Even though it was much lower than the last time I`ve done it, like my brother showed us four years ago, that first rapid wants to show you who`s the boss and dialed out some whitewater mikado again. After a beautiful last day on the river we finished our trip at the parking lot and went out to get some eatin`and lovin`....

Darin leading Rok on Garlic Falls
This trip had some of the best scenery I´ve ever witnessed out of a kayak. Adding that to the hike and 4 days of hard, continous and superb whitewater this is truely a trip to remember. Thanks to Bri, Jason, Kevin and Paul for the help with logistics, and Rok, Darin and Manu for the company and the very save trip on the water. MFK is a true adventure and a trip you`ll never forget.

the beautiful views everywhere will stick with me forever -
LeConte Canyon on the hike in before the switchbacks start
Additional Info: we had 1350cfs at Rodgers Crossing when we started hiking and the river was dropping pretty fast. For my feel it was a perfect level. The first part of the river is probably always very bony. Bottom Nine was pushy but perfect. Appearently we had a little too much water for the gorges after Devils Washbowl.

Big shoutout to Shane Benedict, Obie and the whole Liquidlogic crew for their huge support!!

cheers, Reiner