We were awake now. This was in sharp contrast to our zombie-like state this morning before our first coffee of the day. We had driven in from Calgary late last night and had spent the night in Golden with one of Brandon’s friends. We stayed up a little later still, drinking a few beers with our host, you know, because that’s the polite thing to do. As we were thinking about heading to bed Brandon realized he still needed to repair a crack in his boat, cracks in boats typically aren’t a good mix. All in all it ended up being a pretty late night before a decently early morning.
One of Brandon’s friends, Dave Best picked us up in his big shiny F-150. This was luxury considering we dirt-bags were used to cars with character (old and shitty). The four of us were headed off for a day of paddling in Revelstoke.
Dave (Professional Photographer) Brandon (Kayak Grand Master), Tim (Kiwi Kayak Grand Master), and me Danny (Soon to have his ass kicked in a very large hole).
We put in on the Albert Canyon of the Illecillewaet. Albert Canyon is a super short run with only two rapids on it. The second rapid is a large river wide hole (really scary), and did a very good job kicking my ass. I didn’t swim, but that was more luck than anything else. After coming out of the canyon we linked onto the raft run. The raft run is a super fun class III section of water that doesn’t take too long to get down.
We were now on our way to Sutherland Falls. Driving from Golden to Revelstoke the mood had been light and fun, we chatted and laughed the entire way, not a care in the world, but as we drove to Sutherland barely a word was spoken. Brandon had run the falls several times the past few years; Tim sat beside me concentration on Brandons face, this would hardly be the hardest piece of white water Tim had ever run, but it would be the biggest drop. As for me, I was just hoping I remembered spare underwear.
We spent several hours scouting the falls and the various drops above Sutherland. Two more of Brandon’s friends joined us (Zack and Bryce, both Kayak Gurus… I am starting to feel a little out of my league). Once we finished scouting we decided who would run what, much of that discussion pertaining to the two possibly un-run drops further up Blanket Creek. One quote from Bryce, in reference to the un-run rapids stood out in my mind… “Well, they are there. That is a good enough reason to run anything.” Fair point.
I set up safety as Brandon and Tim effortlessly styled the two un-run rapids above Sutherland, as well as the 30’ boof. The only mishap was when I almost stepped on a giant python!! Actually it was just a little Garter Snake, no bigger than a shoelace, still just as scary. Indiana Jones would have agreed with me. We all regrouped above Sutherland Falls for the grand finale!
I set up safety for Brandon who went first. As he came over the lip his boat started to lean forward a little more than was ideal. He hit the water well over the handlebars, a big plume of mist shot skyward. A second later Brandon re-appeared… but no boat, this was less than ideal. Brandon quickly swam to shore while his boat and paddle decided to do their own trip of the river, and headed off without him. We retrieved his boat but unfortunately never found his paddle.
Zack was next, he had an amazing line for 75% of the water fall, but on the last 25% his bow started to rise and he hit the bottom almost flat with a resounding “BOOF!!” that echoed in the canyon. He pulled out of it unscathed but would definitely be sore come the following days. Tim and Bryce both had good lines, despite the fact that Tim was missing a large chunk of skin from his finger.
Okay… my turn. I hate going last.
I hiked up to my boat at the top of the falls (I was smart enough to leave it up their earlier so I wouldn’t have the chance to wimp-out). As I hiked up I wasn’t sure if my heartbeat or the waterfall that was making all the noise. I stood at the top calculating in my mind and figuring out how I would paddle the drop.
“Okay ferry out to there, turn downstream there, slight right angle, right stroke to correct, plant left stroke as I go over lip, set angle, fall a bunch, tuck up, scream at the top of my lungs and wave my arms around like a maniac down there. Easy.”
I pushed myself into the water before any sensible thinking would keep me from going any further. I ferried out, turned downstream. All I could see from this point was the river disappearing over a horizon line and the tippy-tops of the massive trees. I came at the lip with a slight right angle, a few feet before it I corrected with a right stroke, and then planted my left as I rolled over the lip. The world opened up before my eyes. I could see the pool below and the creek run down to the lake, as well as all the tiny people looking up at me from 60’ below. It would have been a spectacular view to take in, however my mind was preoccupied with the important task of thinking “HOLY SHIT!!!” as I plunged into the depths below.
Okay so I swam out of the bottom… But I actually had a really good line as well! Always leave room for improvement! Next time, stay in the boat… actually that’s pretty good advice for any time.
- Danny Gariepy