While deep in the whitewater section of the Kesagami I’d ask myself multiple times each day; should I shoot, line, wade or portage? Sometimes the answer was a combination of all four. For example (and not always in this order), after careful calculation while scouting from shore, I’d run the first part of a set, eddy-out, line the next drop, and then portage around the final part of the obstruction.
With the three-and-a-half days of rain I had, the river was high and extra pushy. On one occasion, I found a smashed-in-half canoe beside the river. A victim of the Kesagami’s fury no doubt. The dangerous part about this river is the many falls that often shortly succeed the run-able rapids. A lot of the falls aren’t very big, but they’re big enough to mangle a canoe should you loose it in an up river rapid.
When paddling solo in the wilderness, you really need to be carful. A simple mistake, like dropping your rope while lining, can spell disaster.
Manage the risks by following this advice:
- Keep an eye on your map, when you approach an obstruction like a water fall or a dangerous set of rapids, get to shore well before the danger and scout it out. Often, it’s best to just start portaging if it’s obvious from your map that the obstruction is not something that can be waded or lined.
- When in doubt, scout. Never just blindly run whitewater. Always get out of the canoe and walk down the bank to observe the rapids. Sometimes, on short class 1 and 2 rapids, you can stand up in your canoe to gain a better vantage point and scout from the water. But beware: this technique should only be used by advanced whitewater paddlers.
- Decide if you should shoot, line, wade and/or portage (SLWP).
- Shooting means running the rapid.
- Lining is walking or running down the bank while maneuvering your canoe down river at the end of a long rope.
- Wading is when you hold onto your boat and wade it along the side of a rapid.
- Portaging, as it applies to a river, is carrying your outfit around an obstruction. Sometimes it makes sense to portage your gear, and run your empty canoe down the rapids.
- If a set of rapids rushes around a blind corner, it’s important to see what’s around it before proceeding. It could be a waterfall. Often, wading and/or lining up to the corner, instead of scouting, saves time.
Note: This episode chronologically overlaps episode 10, 12 and part of 13.