Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Willow Canyon: Late Season Play

The Lower Willow River is the staple whitewater run for Prince George paddlers. When levels are right, it has a couple great little playspots: Surf City and Diamond Wave. Both have good eddy service and trails right to them for easy park n' play. Depending on the level, these playspots are a whole lot of fun.
Above is a picture of Hardy on Freak My Beak , one of the last rapids on the Lower Willow. You can see the river gauge on the cliff wall behind him. This gauge is available at Environment Canada, for the Willow River (at Hay Creek) that can be checked here: online gauge. Prime for the online gauge is between a 3.55 meters to 3.9 meters. Keep in mind that a 5 cm change at Hay Creek translates to roughly double in the Canyon. At prime levels the Lower Willow is grade II except for the Beak which is grade III.
Diamond Wave and Surf City are the classic playspots in the PG area. While not comparable to some of the big waves in our region like Dogdish on the Kalum, the Lower Quesnel put-in wave, Mo-Town on the Bulkley, or god forbid Tatlow Falls, these can serve up some nice fun rides.
With winter fast approaching, any day now our rivers will be frozen and that'll be a wrap for another year of boating in Prince George. Here's to next year, and be sure to stay tuned to the forum for news and upcoming Brigade events. Before I go, there's one more thing.... it's supposed to be + 7 this Thursday. Maybe see you out on Diamond Wave!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Grand Canyon of the Fraser


The Grand Canyon of the Fraser is located about 160km upstream of Prince George, BC. It was here where many of the ill-fated Overlanders met their demise as they attempted to navigate its rapids enroute to the Barkerville Goldfields in late 1862. Fast forward to 2008, and modern sea kayak technology makes the trip through the canyon pleasurable and relatively simple (although you still need basic river skills to handle the waves, boils, and whirlpools - class 2ish at low flows when we did it). Beautiful mountain scenery, a scenic canyon, a sense of history, and a very easy shuttle make this trip a Prince George flatwater classic.

Matt underneath Mt. Baldy above and below is a shot of Rick running through the first canyon:

Rick and Matt in the second canyon:

Nearing the takeout at Sinclair Mills and below an interactive map of the run:

Click here for more pictures

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Fall Paddling Updates

Some of our posse got out to the Upper Fraser River recently, with three successfully running Overlander Falls for the first time. Check out Ben's Pittman's burly line below:
The Brigade 2008 Young Gun of the Year award winner, Luke Borserio, also fired up Overlander, as did Kim Ward-Robberts:

Good job gang!! I just got back from an awesome trip to Savary Island and Tofino, and had a few days of good surf in the sunshine --- a rare event for the west coast. Pictures below are from Cox Bay.

Otherwise, local river levels are at the low late season point around Prince George, and it's getting much colder so incentives to get on the water around home have been low. We'll have our Annual General Meeting sometime in Novemeber, so stay posted for more info. That's all for now. Enjoy the fall!!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The UnLikely Paddlefest

Where: Likely, BC
When: September 19-22, 2008

What: The best paddling festival in western Canada, hands down! Hosted by Adrenalin Mountain Adventures the crew at Red Shred's Bike & Board Shed, for paddlers of all levels.

Rivers: From easiest to more difficult, the Lower Cariboo (grade II-III), Upper Cariboo (grade III-IV), Upper Quesnel (grade III-IV), as well as the Chilko River (III-IV) on Monday. At paddlefest levels, there’s a super fun easy surf wave at the top of the Upper Quesnel, that you can park n’ play at all day. For macho gnar-boaters there’s also Cariboo Falls (grade IV-V) at the top of the Upper Cariboo River. Don’t forget that Quesnel Lake is right at the festival site --- great for flatwater practice, total beginners, fishing, canoeing, or whatever.

Camping: Most people camp right in town, but some stay at Quesnel Forks, while others in Cedar Creek Provincial Campground or lodge in Likely. All the action is right out of town, so this is usually the best place to be. Plus you can stumble out of the Hilton in the evening and end up at your tent easily.

Friday Night: Show up and set up your tent, then meet old and new friends while a DJ spins at the Hilton.

Saturday: Paddling all day with organized shuttles. A rafting company may be around as well.

Saturday Night: The Gold Diggers Ball! Yes this is the theme of the weekend. It’s to commemorate the gold miners who came through during the gold rush and who lived at Quesnel Forks (now a nearby ghost town) and in Likely. There is a parade to kick off the festivities, so bring a costume and get ready to party down. Dinner is served at the Hilton by Gecko Tree Cafe, followed by the raucous funk sounds of Mamaguroove until the wee hours. Guaranteed booty shaking freakshow!

Sunday: Brunch served at the Hilton by Bluespoon, then paddling all day with organized shuttles. Later in the afternoon there will be a BBQ at Quesnel Forks served by the Likely Firehall.

Monday: Chilko River trip, shuttles will be arranged by those participating, departing at 9am Monday from Williams Lake and returning around 9pm. Here's a short video of Ben Pittman on Bidwell Canyon, the biggest rapid on the Chilko:

Cost: There is no cost to camping in town or at Quesnel Forks. Cost for the organized shuttles is by donation --- please be generous! All meals will cost $7-10.

Kayak Introduction Course: Captain Holiday's Kayak & Adventure School will be there to do a 2-day introduction to kayaking course. Don provides everything you need - kayaks, paddles, helmets, lifejackets and wetsuits, and absolutely fun and expert instruction. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged, so call him toll free at 1-888-905-2925 to reserve your boat.

More Info: Call Mark at Red Shreds (250-398-7873) or call Ivan (250-989-2100). Apparently there will also be 50 T-shirts this year available for sale from Mark.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Beginners Rock Isle Pierre!!

The Isle Pierre Rapids located on the Nechako River is an excellent place to learn some basic whitewater skills. Located just 40 minutes out of Prince George, it's a favorite run among beginners and novices and is a great introduction to big water. The Nechako River drains a significant portion of the central interior of British Columbia. By the time it reaches Isle Pierre, it has a lot of volume which gives it some push in the rapids, formed around several large rocky islands.

In some places there are large boils and strong eddy lines, and in the main rapid there's the infamous Isle Pierre whirlpool, as shown in the picture below (grade II at this level).

In high water (+3.5 m on the online gauge), the main rapid has large standing waves at the top and powerful boily water below --- often quite intimidating for beginners. You can decide to run it, like Jess Rayner in the picture below, or take the left hand channel and miss it completely.

By summer, the Nechako is also a fairly warm river as the area it drains is mostly low and mid elevation watersheds. This is a particularly nice characterisitc when swimming is a possibility. Despite being a strong swimmer, Dan managed to stay in his boat on this run pictured below. Nice work Dan!!
Halt! How dare you take my picture! I heard tube skirts were a big hit this summer. Very svelte.

Apart from Isle Pierre, the Nechako River right in Prince George can also be a decent place to practice skills like eddy turns, ferries, rolls, and all the flatwater moves you can muster. Good times! See you on the river...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Torpy Creek

Torpy Creek is a low-volume tributary of the Fraser River located about 100km east of Prince George. It was pioneered by Sean Fraser, Laura Bakermans, and Kevin Taylor in 2001. The run features two 25+ footers (one is grade 6, the other is 4+) and a ~4km grade 3/4 canyon with loads of great boof moves and rapids. The Torpy saw a flurry of local boaters in the first four years after it was discovered, but numbers dropped to zero after 2004 due to wood issues and general apathy. I figured it was time to check it out again, and so on August 24 2008, Ian Norn, Mike Brine, and I made the early morning drive into the McGregors. Even at low flows, the run is great: nice waterfall, lots of boofs, and gorgeous canyon scenery. Enjoy the pictures from the run, and click here for more shots - Hardy

Ian Norn on the stretch between the two waterfalls.

Michael Brine finishing off with a boof

Ian and Micheal style the second waterfall

Lots of nice boofs in a gorgeous canyon to take you out.

Wood is always an issue on this run

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Likely Road Trip

Last weekend a few of us did a road trip down to Likely to run the Upper Quensel and Cariboo Rivers. Having done a number of summer paddling trips to Likely since I started kayaking over 3 years ago, I can say that without question, it is one of my favorite places to boat in western Canada. Hot weather, warm rivers, and primo whitewater!! Sean and Laura made the trip out from Smithers, and Ian and I drove down from Prince George. For mid-August, levels were still pretty high (~6 on the Cariboo, and 0 on the bridge gauge for the Quesnel), and the temperatures were in the low 30s. Lots of play scattered play throughout both runs and quality big water rapids. On Saturday night we all went to the McConkey's new place up Quesnel Lake for a BBQ. Hardy and Gretchen were there as well with there lil' jibber Louise. Sunday, Trevor even managed to make it out for a surf session at the put-in wave. I'm not gonna flap about the rapids much here though. Instead, I made a video of all the named rapids on the Upper Quesnel which you can check out here:

Upper Quesnel Video (be sure to click on "watch in high quality" on the lower right of the viewing screen). I don't like to embed youtube videos because it doesn't give you the option to watch in high quality, and so the images are poor ass.

Also, Ian took some great pix from the weekend and I've posted them on our picassa site.

Likely Pictures (be sure to click on "slideshow")

Be sure not to miss the UnLikely Paddlefest held in later September, and sponsored by Adrenalin Mountain. This year's gonna be awesome, with Mamaguroove rocking the Likely Hilton on Saturday night. See you on the river!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Upper Fraser Trip Report

Last Monday, a bunch of us did the long drive east from Prince George to the whitewater section on the Upper Fraser River. Known among kayakers for its challenging rapids and impressive mountain scenery, the Upper Fraser is one of the whitewater classics in Canada. The run starts below Moose Lake in Mount Robson Provincial Park, through Overlander Falls, and into the Upper Fraser Canyon ending at Hargreaves Bridge across from the Mount Robson Information Centre.

On this trip we were joined by Brigade old school legends Rick Brine and Ed Day, both still paddling hard and in their 50s. Hardy Griesbauer, Ian Norn, Mike Brine, and myself rounded out the Prince George crew, with Graham Gerry from Quesnel and Amanda Smith from Fernie making up the rest of our group. Levels for our run was 70 cms.

After driving 3 hours from Prince George, we all stopped at the bottom of the Upper Fraser Canyon to scout the most difficult rapid on the run --- Terminator (grade IV+ at this level). Here the whole river drops into a gnarly river-wide hole. Terminator is a mandatory scout for anyone considering running below Overlander Falls. Here's a short video of Terminator:

After leaving a vehicle at Overlander Falls, we drove further up river and put on. The great thing about this run is that the rapids build slowly up to grade III before it's go time. The real action starts at Shithouse Rapid (grade IV), and continues pretty much through to the take-out from there. Below are some pix Ian took of us at Shithouse.

Following Shithouse was Eric's Hole --- a massive drop on river left that you would likely never emerge from. The line was this cool creeky bouldery sneak on the right that spits you out into the huge wave train below Eric's. After this a lot of the named rapids became a blur that Ian, Hardy, or Ed gave beta on, including Boulderdash, Holy Terror, Toilet Bowl, Otter Slide, and Staircase, all grade III+ to IV-. There were also busy stretches of grade III whitewater between the named rapids that gave the entire run a very continuous feel. The only close-call of note would be at Otter Slide, where Hardy, Amanda, Rick and I ended up way too close together above the drop. By the time I got some space and began paying attention to my line, I was way off and ended up pitoning into this jumble of boulders beside Amanda. Kind of terrifying! But also a little funny. Luckily with a little effort I was able to free myself and stay in my boat, and then share a big "wtf?" laugh in the eddy with Amanda.

At Overlander, we paused for a couple pix while Mike debated running the falls. It's a monster if you haven't seen it (grade V), and only a handful of the best decide to make the plunge. No dice for Mike on this trip but I'm guessing he's already planning for the next time. Below is Overlander Falls, followed by a picture of our group at the top of the falls.
Ian's actually run the falls a couple times, as well as lots of descents through the Upper Canyon. Unfortunately he recently put a hole in his ear creeking, and so flipping isn't an option until he heals up. This also explains the full-face in the above picture, but I can't explain the moustache other than it's totally legit.
The Canyon is a step-up from the rest of the run, with numerous grade III-IV rapids leading into Terminator. After Graham traded his playboat for Ed's creeker, he lead Hardy, Amanda, and Mike into the Canyon while the rest of us hiked out to Hargreaves to set up for pictures. It was pretty awesome to see everyone run this. To avoid the meatiest part of the drop, you had to get up on this massive ramping pillow on far river left and punch the hole at the bottom. Some had good lines like Mike and Amanda, and others not so good. Here's a bunch of pix of Terminator:

The last stretch to the take-out is a full-on blast through a number of very pushy drops that you can see looking upstream from Hargreaves Bridge.
High fives in the sunshine all around at the take-out! Really couldn't think of any other place I'd rather be. Great run, and thanks to everyone on the trip, especially Ian, Ed, and Hardy for the guidance, and Rick and Amanda for driving. Also big thanks to Ian and Rick for the great pictures.

For more pictures of the Upper Fraser trip click here (click on slideshow for best image quality).

For the full video click video here (be sure to click on watch in high quality)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Summer Trips 2008

Lately I've gotten really into making videos of our kayak trips. Some recent trips I've made videos of include runs on the Cariboo River in Likely, and runs on the Lower Quesnel River.

Click here for the Upper Cariboo Whitewater video
(be sure to select "watch in high quality" to the lower right of the viewing screen)

Click here for the Lower Quesnel 2008 video
(be sure to select "watch in high quality" to the lower right of the viewing screen)

Brigade member Ian Norn also had the camera out for a recent trip he did with Luke Borserio and Kim Ward-Robberts to the Dore River, near McBride BC.

Click here for Dore River pictures

Finally, a couple weeks back, I was up in the Northwest part of British Columbia recently, and spent five days on Atlin Lake. Gorgeous country!

Click here for Atlin Lake pictures

That's all for now. Happy paddling and here's to the rest of your summer --- cheers!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Blackwater River

Last Saturday, Al, Kelly from Williams Lake, Trevor, and myself ran the Blackwater River, about 80 km southwest of Prince George. The Blackwater is located near the historic Carrier-Sekani Grease Trail, which Alexander Mackenzie used as an inland route to find the west coast of Canada 215 years ago. The River has been proclaimed a BC Heritage River.

In summer levels, the Blackwater is reknowned amongst experienced whitewater canoeiests for river tripping. In the high waters of late-spring, it's an amazing intermediate whitewater kayak run. The stretch we did starts where the Blackwater Road crosses the river, and goes until just before the Fraser River confluence --- 28 km long.

As with most rivers, the biggest hazard is wood. This years floodwaters brought in heaps of new logs, most of which we encountered in the first few kilometers. Levels were still very high as the picture below taken from the put-in bridge shows:

Scouting in the canyon was manageable, with decent eddies throughout. Below is Al Leighton eddying out after portaging a log-choked rapid about 2 km below the put-in:
Picture below is our lunch spot --- a rock in the middle of the river to avoid the fierce mosquitos. Note the log just above water level in the background.
The character of the river is continuous pool-drop grade II-II+ rapids, with a number of grade III rapids throughout.
There is also one flatwater stretch before the final canyon. However, with the high flows and nice scenery, it went by quickly. Parts of the canyon are over 200 meters deep, as seen below:

The final canyon is the most impressive, and also has the most challenging whitewater. We hiked up on river left to scout this one, which was a bit of a bush-whack but a good call nonetheless. There was one river wide log at water level about half way through. Here's a couple shots below of T-Star looking sharp for the birdie: Note on the take-out: modern short kayaks and high levels on the Fraser River basically make getting to the normal take out as written in our guidebook impossible. A couple years ago, we found a new take-out trail that is now the preferred alternative. From ~ 16.5 km on the Tako Road, head south on the Tako "F" Road, staying on the main "F" road. This year they've fixed the road, and now there's only one short section about 200 m from where you park that requires 4 x 4. The trail head at the parking spot has old signs, and leads all the way down to the Blackwater ~ 500 m upstream of the Fraser River. To recognize this while on the Blackwater, look for a bunch of pink ribbon on river left about 1 km past the final rapid, about ~ 500 m past a cable-trolley carriage that crosses the river. Follow the quad trail from the river to the parking spot --- a solid 30 minute hike uphill.