What can you say about the Stikine ? I am not talented enough with words to describe that place, it is simply amazing. Sean Allen, Bryce Shaw and I (Mikkel St.Jean Duncan) set off on a beautiful sunny day on August 29th 2010. Scouting Entrance Falls we happened across some goats halfway up the 400 foot cliff directly opposite us. The guardians of Stikine watched over us as we dropped into the biggest trip any of us had done. We had a scary low level of 240 cms, scary because we didn't know if a big hole would pop up in one of the big un-portagable rapids like the Wall or V-Drive. Day one was lots of big read and run rapids with a good warm up to the the big ones that come near the end of the day and later in the trip. We dropped into what we later guessed was Wicked Wanda without even eddying out. It was a huge ramp into a wave train with a big hole on the right and the biggest rapid I had ever run blind, so much fun. Three Goats had a big hole that we skirted on the left. We ran into a tight spot on upper Pass/Fail. The hole extended all the way to the left wall making the usual line un-runnable but a tough ferry to a micro eddy on the right and we where able to do a quick portage. Three passes on Pass/Fail proper, it seems like this rapid defines a lot of the run, big left to right moves in a lot of the rapids. Wasson's was a punch on the right well away from the hole and my closest call when I got caught in a random compression wave and Sean ran into my boat and knocked me out.
Day two was my favorite, a ton of quality rapids in the deepest most committing part of the gorge. We made quick work of everything we came across, AFP, Garden of the Gods and my personal favorite rapid, The Wall, even though Sean had a bit of a beating in a big hole there. In total we were on the water for just over three hours which gave us tons of time at beach camp which is truly a magical place - the tranquil river, a nice overhang to stay dry under and best of all we had a clear sunny day.
Day three was the most portaging we did. Scissors. The Hole that ate Chicago, which was sorely tempting but with V-Drive right around the corner it could spell disaster if anything where to ever go wrong. Only a small, say 1%, chance of that happening but not worth the risk. Then V-Drive. I had been looking forward to this rapid for the past three years, ever since I'd looked into the Stikine. I was so disappointed when I glanced at the biggest hole we had seen on the river by far and the scariest rapid on the river other than Site Zed. It was a 20 foot ramp into a 10 foot high foam pile. Ugly. Luckily we where able to walk around on the rocks on the left and complete our second scary ferry of the trip right out into Tanzilla slot and the end of the Canyon. Having no first hand knowledge of the river made us go slower but also made it into a bigger adventure. Don't be too afraid to do it without a guide if you have lots of experience exploring new runs and have just enough knowledge of the big rapids. A trip of a lifetime until I get back and do it again, hopefully with a little more water so I can run V-Drive. How many times do you get off a river with over 8'000 cfs and want more water ?
I have some head cam video in the works and will post it in the next couple of weeks.
If you have the skills you have to put this river up there on your to do list, nothing else compares. A couple things if you are thinking about going.
- 1. Watch the weather bulletin. Shortly after we were off the river it rained and went from 220 – 520 cms overnight. We had a clear forecast and only saw a little drizzle on day three.
- 2. Let Jim Reed at Pacific Western Helicopters in Dease Lake know that you are going. He appreciates knowing in advance if anyone is in the canyon and might need a rescue. He is a nice guy and having a good relationship will be handy when people in the future need a helicopter, which will happen.
- 3. Bring a satellite communication device, SPOT or a sat phone, preferably two or more so if the group needs to split up both parties have one. If you do need a rescue it makes it safer and easier for the rescuers. If we continue to disobey the sign at the put in and unnecessarily put other peoples lives in danger it is possible they will stop coming in after kayakers which would be a shame if anyone ever lost their life because of it. We had three, one each attached to ourselves at all times, not left in a boat which might float away. We rented a sat phone in Prince George for $100 for ten days, min charge. CPHP communications or something like that.
- 4.Go scared. If you aren't scared putting on you aren't aware of what you are getting yourself into. It's BIG, not just the rapids, everything. If it all goes well there is very little stress but a problem becomes a big problem quickly.