Lessons From The Trail Episode 10 Outfitting For Whitewater

Lessons From The Trail Episode 10 Outfitting For Whitewater

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You may notice that I jumped and episode in this Lessons From The Trail series, going straight from Ep. 8 to Ep 10. That’s because Episode 9, How To Spit Roast A Goose In The Bush, was posted previously. Check it out!

Outfitting For Whitewater 

Heading into the main whitewater section on the Adlatok, we go through the outfitting needed to paddle wilderness whitewater and inflate our bow and stern air bags. The Adlatok presents many long, boulder-strewn rapids to contend with and no shortage of huge standing waves to bomb over either. It’s a very exciting whitewater river. You can see at the beginning of this video that Ted and Will hit a rapid-bound boulder sideways and manage to slide off of it. They were close to wrapping their canoe around it which could have meant an end to our trip. Luckily, that’s the closest we came to catastrophe out there. The footage of me wrapping in this video was from another one of my trips on the Pukaskwa and I threw it in here as an example.

Ted and Will run what was likely the biggest rapid of the trip. Photo: Jim Baird
Ted and Will run what was likely the biggest rapid of the trip. Photo: Jim Baird

Here’s what we bring when paddling whitewater on extended wilderness trips:

Expedition Grade Canoes: You’ll need a canoe that can wrap around a mid-river boulder and then bounce back to shape. With Royalex off the market, the new expedition grade canoe material used by Nova Craft is called Tuff Stuff. An all-around hull design like the Prospector is our choice for longer wilderness trips and we go with 17-foot boats.

Spray Decks: A tough fabric spray deck will shed most of the water you’d otherwise take in while running big standing waves, meaning you’re less likely to swamp and you can run larger rapids. Plus, it’ll hold down your gear. Northwater sews well made and versatile decks and can customize anything you like. The blue deck in these videos is sold under their brand. The Red and black spray deck is Trailhead’s design and is sewn by Northwater. When using a deck on a whitewater trip that includes a lot of portaging, the ability to load and unload your boat with speed is key. Choose a deck that allows you to easily access your gear.

Ted and Will execute a perfect run on this tough drop. Photo: Jim Baird
Ted and Will execute a perfect run on this tough drop. Photo: Jim Baird

Pulleys: Keep these on your body. If you dump and pin your canoe, it’ll be hard to get at them if they are in your boat. A three-to-one rescue pulley system will un-pin most any boat. We also carried a traction pulley. As with all rescue equipment, its imperative that you learn how to use it, and practice frequently.

Throw Bags: Great for throwing at a river-bound person in a rescue, but I find I used them more often to grab ahold of and swim to shore after a dump. Of course you’ll want to tie the rope end of the throw bag to your tow handle first. This is the rescue I preform in the video. Get a throw bag with at least a 50-foot-long rope.

Air Bags: Secure your canoe flotation bags into your bow and stern with 8mm rope and a singe strap. They’ll make you less likely to tip when you fill with water. They’ll also make your canoe float higher in the water if you do dump, enabling you to bring it in to shore easier. Plus, they’ll make it less likely for your swamped canoe to wrap.

There are not portage trails on the Adlatok and we had our slowest day of travel in the whitewater section because of two border-line impenetrable, bushwhack portages that were seemingly never ending. The day was nice which meant that the black flies were really, really, really bad. I killed 52 with a single clap in the air on this day.

The calm before the storm: Ted and Will enjoy relaxed paddling and beautiful scenery before entering the whitewater section. Photo: Jim Baird
The calm before the storm: Ted and Will enjoy relaxed paddling and beautiful scenery before entering the whitewater section. Photo: Jim Baird

 

 

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Jim Baird is an Adventurer, videographer, writer, photographer, and talent. His previous rolls include extensive work with a map company as well as guiding and prospecting. Jim has shot video for Cineflix productions, BBC Worldwide, 13 Minds, and The Weather Network US. He's produced video series such as “The Kesagami River Solo” and “Lessons From The Trail with Jim Baird”. Jim’s content has also appeared in print for several publications that include Explore, Canoeroots, Real Fishing, Ontario Out of Doors, Outdoor Canada, Canoe & Kayak, and Field & Stream magazines. Jim is an expert woodsman, white-water canoeist, survivalist, and a bold wilderness navigator. His expedition experience includes a solo trip down the canoe eating rapids of the Kesagami and then along the tempestuous James Bay coat, an 800-mile snowmobile expedition across the Northwest Passage, 300miles above the Arctic Circle. A month long descent of the Northwest Territories Kuujjua River in the Arctic Archipelago, followed by 120-kilometers of paddling on the Arctic Ocean. He's also completed a 33-day canoe expedition via four rivers including the Adlatok in northern Quebec and Labrador.

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