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Paddling BC

by Laurence Rowe published Sep 21, 2006 09:40 PM


Running the Thompson river was intimidating and hard work at first, remembering how to paddle in a huge volume of water, going with the flow rather than fighting it to keep control. Following other people down allows room to think - and fear - more than how the next rapid should be run. But as we eddied out above one rapid I thought it better to get out and take a look rather than blindly follow the fisherman's advice that it looked better on the right. The fisherman's advice was sound and the flow went down the right hand side. Standing on the side above I could see a clear tongue of water there. And having inspected it I then had to lead down it.

On breaking out, any fear in the anticipation becomes redundant, as once in the flow of water the only choice is which way - not whether - to run the rapid. Sitting in my boat the change of perspective is unnerving. All I can see is one big three metre wave towering in front of me. That's the line. Paddling hard to gain speed I go up it. It's steep so I lean forward at the top to stop myself being flipped and punch through it. Then I'm on the crest of the wave and for a few seconds I can see the whole rapid clearly in front of me. I can now relax. There are no holes too close and all thats left is to ride out the smaller, choppier waves below the tongue of clear water. It's all over in less than a minute. It's exhilerating and a big smile is plastered across my face.

The next day we ran the Nahatlatch again. Beth, Pete and I had run it with some other people the day before while Jo and Andy drove to the nearest garage with the right part to fix the brakes. It was a beautiful river though. The river has two sections. The top one is relatively easy, and at these levels bony as it's rather low. The second through a canyon, a series of fairly technical drops all with nice pools below, at least at these levels - in higher water it gets really hard. It was the top section that got me. I mucked up my line and went over a rocky drop sideways bumping my ribs, just between the two bits of foam on my bouancy aid. It got Jo too. It was a beautiful river, though I ended up being unable to paddle for a few days afterwards.

Seeing the upper Fraser river I decided I had to paddle again. I did manage to appreciate the river, but only on a theoretical level. In practice it just hurt a lot as I tried to get down it paddling as few strokes as possible to avoid moving my back. It did have a rather big waterfall at the end. We looked at it earlier in the day and there seemed to be a line. Getting out again we thought it was definitely there, on the left hand side. There was a lot of water going over it, but it all pushed through with a big pool at the bottom. We set up Pete's camera to record video and got back in our boats. We decided to run it in quick succession as there was little opportunity to set up protection from the bank. It's best not to think too much about running a five metre fall. Accepting that I was running it I saw Pete go first, then Beth, then it being my turn I broke out and ran it....

Paddling Overlander Falls

We were all ok, and provided plenty of entertainment for the people on the bank when me and Jo swam.

Paddled to the Chilko a couple of days after. We had to hire a van a driver to take us in as the road was too bumpy for our people carrier. It was the most beautiful and amazing river I've ever paddled. Paddling down we saw loads of fish eagles (I think they're the same as ospreys) and at least one golden eagle. I was wandering why it was called a golden eagle when it was just brown coloured until going round a corner and seeing it with the sun on it's back, it was beautiful. There were only a couple of grade 4 sections, but the second one, the white mile, was just a really cool roller coaster ride. Apparently there were lots of fairly big stoppers on it, but I was just concentrating on staying in the main flow so didn't really notice them. You tend to go where you look kayaking so it was probably just as well. The 23km section took about 3 1/2 hours, but it seemed to go much more quickly. That was my last paddling. We went to the Skook wave just north of vancouver for a couple of days on the way back. It's a tidal race thing that only works on an incoming tide. It forms a really cool play wave, but required paddling really hard to get onto and play on which would have just been really frustrating with a sore shoulder. But chilling out in a beautiful location was great.

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