The Clendenning

The Clendenning is a multiday wilderness trip beginning high in the Coastal Range of British Columbia. Jonaven Moore organized this trip, and I was fortunate enough to be invited. The entire Clendenning drainage is protected as a provincial park, and for good reasons. The closest comparison I can draw is that of the Yosemite Valley--huge granite domes and slabs with waterfalls cascading down them from the several glaciers above that are all visible from the river.

The Clendenning requires a float plane shuttle to fly into a lake at the headwaters. The plane, an otter, seats seven with kayaks and gear. So when two people backed out at the last minute (very last minute) there was a rush to fill those seats. Jonaven called Andrew Spragg from Vancouver, and I called Bryan Urakawa who was able to drop everything, start packing and be at my house one hour later. From there we headed north to meet Bryan Smith at the infamous Krispy Kreme parking lot. The three of us would represent the US contingency. We then continued up to Squamish, eventually meeting Jonaven, Nicola (his girlfriend, and the best shuttle driver in the world :), Jordy McKenzie and Joey Vosburgh for a pre-trip sushi dinner.

The next day was shuttle day. Bryan Smith, Joey and Nicola headed up the Elaho to drop take-out vehicles at the confluence with the Clendenning, while the rest of us lounged around squamish. Four and a half hours later, they returned just in time for all of us to load up and rush to Whistler to catch our plane. Mike, with Whistler Air (604 932 6615) flew us over the Pemberton Ice Cap and right up the Clendenning drainage. You have never seen people jump from one side of the plane to the other so fast to check out the various drainages, rapids, and other amazing scenery. 30 minutes later we were landing on a lake with ice bergs floating around. As Mike buzzed our heads on his way back to Whistler, the group was full of excitement about where we were just dropped off and what lie ahead the next two days. We spent the remainder of the day taking in the surrounding area, including a paddle across the lake to check out the glacier.

We caught the best weather of the entire month of September; and as we waited for the sun to rise over the surrounding mountains we loaded our kayaks and prepared for day one. A small boulder garden before the largest confluence entered, some flatwater to fully appreciate the scenery, and then the whitewater started to pick up. A few fun boofs through some building boulder rapids started us off. Then as we approached a sievey portage, we learned that Jonaven had cracked the bow of his gus. Luckily it was above the water line, but with 25 km and a day and a half to go, we tried to wax and duct tape it as best possible. The rapids continued for a few more kilometers before reaching the flat section in the middle. As we approached a drainage some of the team had scouted from the plane, we started to look for a good camp site. A nice mossy clearing above the river was spotted and provided a campsite that felt like sleeping on a carpet. That afternoon, as I was unpacking my boat, I noticed a crack right under my thigh (tough day for liquid logic). So out came the knife and metal spoon, and Joey gave us a lesson in field boat welding with a ski base methodology. It seemed like both the boats were going to be good as new....kinda.

Reports were that the second days starts out with hardest rapids, giving way to long class IV, read and run, boulder rapids. (This was a report we had from Sam running the river at 90 on the gauge. We had flows closer to 67. 73-57 day 1, 81-67 day 2, peaking @ night) We found some fun class IV rapids that started to grow in complexity. With more water, this could definately become juicy. As the rapids grew harder, the weld on the bottom of my boat grew weaker, until if finally split open again. After portaging the hardest drop on the river, we pulled over, put my boat in the sun and broke out the duct tape. I portaged the next rapid and gained a good scout of the next two drops. They looked more straight forward with a few holes to dodge, but fewer rocks. I made my way down to the river and rejoined the group, taking the lead in a mad bombing mission trying to make as much mileage as possible in case my boat's crack grew even bigger. Eventually the rapids gave way to class III and the valley started opening up. We knew we were into the final few km. After confluencing with the Elaho, we had the hardest part of the trip left. A short but grueling hike throught the BC bush up to the logging road.

This is a trip that everyone who kayaks should do. And those who don't kayak, should learn how, just to experience this amazing place. Its one of the most beautiful rivers I have ever floated!

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