Alpine Club of Canada

Gazette, Spring 2018

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24 The Alpine Club of Canada Gazette spring 2018 Klinaklini Expedition flows with lessons by maranda stopol T he Klinaklini River flows from British Columbia's central plateau through the Coast Mountains to Knight Inlet in the Pacific Ocean. During a helicopter portage while working as a safety kayaker for a commercial rafting company, I saw the calm meandering river disappear into a steep canyon carv‑ ing through rugged peaks. I wondered what was down there. Before I knew it, I was planning an expedition. My friend, Jo Kemper, was also interested. We learned that four teams had attempted paddling the Klinaklini Canyon, but none had completed a full descent. After gathering as much infor‑ mation as possible, a team composed of Jo, Jordan Slaughter, Darby McAdams and me, loaded up our kayaks on a float plane and flew into the headwaters lake. Before landing in Klinaklini Lake, we scouted the canyon from the air. It felt good to finally lay eyes on the whitewater. Our late season launch meant the water levels were low and I was confident we could paddle through the canyon and portage the big‑ ger, unrunnable rapids at river level. Excitement was high when we landed and all the challenges and logistics I jug‑ gled before the trip dissipated with the hum of the plane as it disappeared in the distance. Our first day brought two big rapids and we moved smoothly as a team, covering lots of ground through beauti‑ ful scenery. e next morning, we awoke to stormy weather and noticed the river had risen slightly. Guessing it was partly the diurnal fluctuation that occurs with glacial‑fed rivers, we made a note of lowest flows in the afternoon. rough the day however, it rained harder and harder. We reached a tributary that had been dry the previous day, which was now a gushing brown torrent filled with wood and sediment. By afternoon, the rain stopped but the river continued rising; we estimated it had grown by almost half its original volume. Approaching the first gorge, a thick fog settled into the river corridor and sections had less than 30 metres of visibility. As we paddled deeper into the flooded canyon, we all shared an ominous feeling as the fog thickened, the whitewater picked up, and the canyon walls steepened. We caught an eddy to scout down‑ stream and avoid getting locked into the gorge above the first mandatory portage in the dark. From our camp on a mossy pad overlooking the river, we established a gauge rock next to a big hydraulic feature. We decided if the river dropped by mor‑ ning we would continue paddling. If it was the same level or higher, we'd portage. e morning brought blue sky, but the river had risen substantially. Our gauge rock was underwater, and the hydraulic feature was a massive crashing wave that occasionally broke when a full‑sized tree went floating by. We began to portage, and I hoped, with the day or two it would take to hike downstream, the river level would drop, and we could continue paddling. After hours of wrestling fully loaded 24 The Alpine Club of Canada Gazette Winter 2017 Jordan Slaughter and Darby McAdams scout the rapid Nobody Move. photo: maranda stopol The team dries out gear in lush BC forest while planning their next move. photo: maranda stopol

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