In this installment of our exciting travels we become a tourist attraction, lose Gina and Conrad, find Bristol Uni Canoe Club, some large volume rivers and another canyon to climb out of. After finding really cute squirrels at the forbidden put in on the Maligne, we headed downstream until we got to a point where the Harlequin ducks wouldn't notice or mind our presence – the Maligne Canyon. This is a tourist attraction and is marked on the map as such – it's also a good quality section of whitewater and is marked in the guidebook as such. It's a very short section – about half a mile and there's no road access to the top, so Conrad, Gav and I had to carry our boats up the tourist trail along side it – becoming tourist attractions in the process: people stopped to take our photos, ask us questions, tell us we were mad and all eagerly gathered along the banks waiting for our run.
Gav ran the large rapid at the top – much to his audience's delight, while Conrad and I opted to seal launch in below the sticky hole-filled shoot, again pleasing the crowd with the high seal launches. The rest of the 1/2 mile was great fun with a nice boof drop and some cool rapids through a gorge. At the take out bridge we met the girls and continued down another couple of miles to just above the confluence with the Athabasca. Not long after getting off the river an email arrived from one of our spectators, sent via travellingkayak.com saying he'd got some good photos of us on our run down.
From there we left the Rockies (but we shall return on a hunt for Dinosaurs) and headed to Clearwater, where Gina and Conrad would head off and the rest of the Bristol contingent would pick up Claire, Gav and Sarah. Before departing, we had one last run with Gina and Conrad down the Clearwater – it's a big volume river (although they'd say medium volume over here) with huge wave trains and swirly, boily eddy lines. While the Bristol guys were doing what uni clubs do best – faffing, this time about a portage around a class 6 rapid, Conrad ad I paddled on down through the lower section of the Clearwater, which was great fun in Creek boats, with even bigger waves and holes than the top section, and would be awesome in playboats if surfing is your thing.
At the take out we said a sad good bye to Gina and Conrad and decided to hang around with the Bristol guys for a bit longer; It's been quite good having a different selection of people to paddle with over here. From meeting up with Simon and Cheryl and then Johnny and Alex as well, to Gina, Conrad, Claire, Sarah and Gav and now all the Bristol guys, we've gone from just the two of us to 11.
Since the Clearwater, we've tagged along with team Bristol and their matching red 4×4 hire vehicles (aka rigs). We've paddled the Adams (not worth doing), Thompson (huge volume) and the Cayoosh creek. We paddled the guide book section yesterday and then attempted to continue downstream into the canyon section, but didn't make it as far as the canyon; there was a horrible rapid where the rocks and river seemed to merge in to a chaotic mess of white and drop a hundred foot in several stages inside a very tight canyon – a mandatory portage if ever I'd seen one. We started to walk around it and the portage soon became an extraction after several landslides blocked the path. The climb to the road wasn't too bad and luckily didn't require and further rope work.
Somehow unperturbed by two difficult walkouts from canyons in recent weeks, as we left camp this morning, team Bristol were planning to head to the Bridge river – which is, according to the guide book, 25km long canyon that is very difficult (the word impossible is used) to get out of and is also very likely to contain wood. I guess they're here for adventure…
Sharon and I are here for fun, so are spending a relaxation day together. I think our plan is to maybe reattempt the Cayoosh canyon tomorrow, putting on lower down and then head towards Whistler, although water levels are still high there, so a concrete plan has yet to be formulated.