Ashlu valley & bye bye Whistler

We headed down to the Ashlu valley and took a look at the river and the impending dam and have spent some more time in Whistler.

At the start of the week we met up with Sarah again and paddled the Daisy lake section of the Cheakamus – it's recently changed course after a flood, so we were paddling in between huge tree trunks in the river which is a strange sensation. Then on tuesday we headed to the Ashlu – one of BC's classic rivers and unfortunately one which won't be around for much longer. The dam construction is well underway and in order to drive up the valley we had to sign in at the construction site office. Getting to this river is a mission in itself – dodging huge dump trucks that made Macy feel like a matchbox car, poor guidebook directions and a road that defies the term 'road' – I'm not even sure goat track would do it justice. Macy didn't like it. The classic section of the Ashlu is a grade V bit called the Mine – British Columbia has it's own take on the usual grading system and class V here is a good bit harder and more dangerous than class V elsewhere, so I ducked out of paddling that scary section and Sharon and I paddled the last fall – one called Last Tango which saved Macy the torture of the road.

The last couple of days have been spent relaxing in Whistler – we got a Gondola and chair lift to the top of the mountain and had some stunning views and an afternoon of great hiking, we treated ourselves to a cinema trip and are just about to head to the rec centre for some swimming and saunaing.

Tomorrow we leave Whistler after several weeks here and head back to Vancouver Island to see if we can find an elusive bear.

Here's a couple of photos Bob took of us on the river and one we took of the construction. We got some video as well and will add that to the next installment.

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And then there were two…

It's been a long time since our last blog – we've spent most of that time with a group of paddlers from Bristol Uni and also with Fran and Robin – two Brits we knew from home.

Those who weren't out here for such an extended holiday had to return to Vancouver this weekend to fly home. So from a group that has increased to 13 at times, we're now back down to the two of us.

Over the last few weeks, we have: paddled rivers, soaked in hot springs, ridden a Hummer to the top of Blackcomb Mountain, seen a whistling marmot, cooked and eaten excellent food on the campfire, avoided all bears sadly, danced till the early hours in Whistler and watched many shooting stars.

The old adage states that a picture speaks a 1000 words, so we've kept this blog entry short and uploaded 4 more photo albums – check them out on the photos page.

Fun in Whistler

In a bit of a role reversal, I (Sharon) decided to paddle the Green while David acted as shuttle bunny. The Green is a lovely short section of grade 2 which builds up nicely to grade 3. The great advantage of this being a rafting run, is that it is relatively tree free! Unfortunately we still haven't seen any bears in BC despte everyone else seeming to have seen several.

For those who haven't been to Whistler, its like a theme park where pretty much any outdoor activity can be done it seems. We tried the luge yesterday which was lots of fun, though I took the corners a bit slower after nearly falling off. It takes a bit of getting used to the artificalness of the place, but I like the fact its a huge outdoors playground.

Tourist attraction, faff and big water

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 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.