The Stikine has been described by some as the Everest of kayaking, but you cant pay someone to be led down the Stikine, its a right of passage held by less than 100 people who have made the journey since the first descent 30 years ago.
Daz made his successful descent on his third visit to the river after making the journey from welsh Wales to northern BC in about 36 hours. He mentioned he had had a stumble.
Who said portaging was easy? Read on.
by Daz Clarkson-King.
The modern world with all its traps is hard to escape, smartphone by my bed beeps and I am awake. It is far too early. An email has arrived. Long time white water pioneer Doug Ammons is talking of the Stikine again, of the bridge that roars and the feelings. He wants to know about my fall at Zed and more.
Its over a year now and I still think of the place, glad that the magnet pulled and so pleased to have fallen in with a crew, at the right time. Seems I appreciate them more now, how we all fell together, without words.
How do I talk about the fall, I cant- is it strange to have blocked the negative from my mind, perhaps the team can- I cannot. Although I will try, I will be succinct and do a small piece on it.
Parts of the trip, the negatives- wake me from sleep, missed moves and tiredness. Same with the two failed attempts, now they seem like the stories of a different man that I have woven into my own fabric.
Doug you asked me to think about my fall. Which I've not done before. And only an hour ago didn't think I could, but then the words just came. Its 6am UK time, in bed, wind blowing outside writing this on my phone.
Over a year now. Lots of things passed. The moments in the canyon don't fall easy in my memory, its not a linear story board, but just fragments. Mostly its first person views, but sometimes like watching a cheap vhs movie.
Previous choices to walk away, I know left a chip on my shoulder, one of my doubt- one forced by another's hand. Perhaps that made me stronger? You be the judge as required.
Parts of the descent replay in my mind with ease, the paddle in the entry, feeling like a choir was singing all the way. Vee drive, from the scout to paddling the line, so vivid – I can even tell you the number of strokes I used, or so it seems.
Then I have memories that are harder to remember. The missed eddy at Wassons and running blind, this always melts into the portage at Zed. Where I was tired, beaten and at the back of the pack. What happened on the portage, a tale so close to the terror of a boys own adventure novel, of my slide and fall. That's blocked. Although pieces of the jigsaw appear now and then.
It felt late in the day, beaten. I have no words for how tired I was. We shouldered our boats that night, leaving our supplies at camp. My ankles are badly damaged from previous kayaking incidents and the uneven rocks do me no favours. I am struggling behind the group. Slowly I watch the placement of each foot. First left, then right with all the weight of my shouldered boat. It seems long and painful. The group are not in my vision, when I lift my eyes to find a route. The splintered maze of rocks- I go right, the high road.
Easy at first, then not so much. My foot slides, I forget which one, like it matters anyway. And I am falling. A few feet I could cope with, but this, this is more. I've kayaked smaller waterfalls. I force my kayak in front and wait for it to jam. I can then use the cockpit as a ladder.
Too late, steady at first, trickles of dust and gravel run down to my back. I'm falling faster now, but as always in these times, its replayed in cinematic slow motion. I crumble on to my feet, and stop, still. Then it happens the trickle of rocks become a stream, the stream a river a growing rock infested river – alive.
I hunker down close to my boat, not looking up. I can hear them rolling. Twack, thud, twack, thud. Time and again rocks bounce off my boat, the odd one deflects from my shoulder and helmet. My arms cover my face and they too take a beating. Perhaps this was why I had put my elbow pads on when we left the bridge and yellow sign – I was the only one to do so.
The dust takes some time to settle, as I lay on the cold boulders, a beaten heap. I try to stand, to walk. Even with all he adrenaline my ankles cry with pain. They are not broke, just twisted bad. I sit and reflect. 10ft to my left the giant roars, Zed all hungry.
The dust has settled by the time Max is retracting his steps. I know he thinks I'm just resting. I try to explain, but Zed has turned me into a child again. I fumbled for words, stutter, stammer. Like I did at school. It takes some minutes for all the team to congregate. Then the truth appears. As falls go, it was big. As consequences go, it was big. A broken leg or worse and things would have got interesting.
Max looks at me, I remember now that I couldn't hold his gaze. Without a word he shoulders my boat and carries it along to join his. Its a hard walk back to camp, harder still in the morning. Scouts and portages for the next two days hurt. Ankles still click.
That's about all I can remember. The rest is blocked. It hasn't stopped me thinking if I want to go again.