Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sweet Home Alberta!


I was going back home to Fort Saskatchewan, AB, just outside of Edmonton, for my sisters wedding and a 'family reunion' of sorts so I decided to bring along my gear and take a week off following to see what would be flowing. I didn't know much about the season in Alberta or boating in Alberta at all really so I was pleasantly surprised to find some prime flows and eager groups. Although I didn't get on everything I wanted to, I did manage to hash out five new runs while there and get some good pictures along the way! All in all I was pretty stoked to enjoy the whitewater offered up in my home province!

The trip would start with a quick stop at the Ashnola River near Keremeos, BC for some camping and soloing at prime flows then proceeded to an impromptu stop to visit a friend in Lethbridge, AB. Following that was the wedding and also an opportunity to see some friends I hadn't seen in a very long time while in Fort Sask. as well, Sunday night I would take off for the Kootenay Plains to meet up with Tristan and hit some plains classics, but with rainy cold weather Monday morning motivation was low so Tristan went to work at HeLa Ventures and I took the day to go exploring the area.

Throughout my trip I found that there is just so much to explore and check out in the rockies and National Parks area and beyond, you don't necessarily need to be kayaking constantly as there is so much to do. I would spend some nights at friends places, or camping with friends or alone and often watching the conference final NHL hockey games at interesting local pubs chatting with whoever was sitting at the bar. I also had the opportunity to enjoy some great home cooked meals and probably the worst movie (expected) I've ever seen, FDR: American Badass.

Tuesday through Sunday would provide excellent weather and good flows on lots of rivers. I drove a ton and managed to hit a few classics and a few unique runs as well including Siffleur Creek, Elbow River, Highwood River, Cataract Creek and Etherington Creek. I even spent some time at the Harvey Passage playpark before heading back to Chilliwack with a quick stop on the way in Vernon, BC. It ended up being a pretty calm and lazy trip all in all, no limits were pushed and I left tons of stuff back there to keep me busy next time around! It was the perfect trip to reconnect with lots of old friends and family and make some new ones as often happens on the river!

Siffleur Creek: Siffleur Creek is an obscure, unique piece of whitewater located in the Kootenay Plains about half hour West of Nordegg on highway 11 near Bighorn River. A prominent hiking trail is marked on the highway and seemed to be quite busy. The main run begins by rapelling 100 feet down into the canyon below as I understand unrun class V+/VI Siffleur Falls after you've hiked 5 km with your boat already, then paddling out through what begins as Mistaya style box canyon and opens up into a km long straight canyon with a 300 foot tall flat 60 degree edge on one side, an impressive site to say the least. Even though there are only about 4 rapids and only one approaching class IV, it is well worth getting into for the scenery and experience alone. Once the canyon melts away you can either walk back 2 km from the Siffleur bridge or head back to the confluence with the North Saskatchewan River to get out closer to the highway. Word is there are 2 more runnable falls located upstream, but we didn't know how far a hike that would be so didn't worry about it.

Now that's...a cool canyon

Doesn't get much better than Alberta rockies backdrop

Siffleur Falls...oh there's a line...tricky

The Mistaya-esque upper canyon, put in wherever you see a tiny ledge that looks half decent

Rapping down a hundred feet or so

Beauty glacial blue waters

After a short jaunt down the canyon it opens up to....more amazing scenery!
Elbow River: The Elbow is located just half hour South West of Calgary and seems like the perfect after work run featuring Elbow Falls and two other rapids, the Pinch and a big slide, it is short and sweet and easy to do laps on or just lap the falls which is a popular tourist attraction. A super easy shuttle and bang for your buck it doesn't get much better! It was great to catch up with some friends from University of Victoria who live or work near Calgary in the summer and get on this and a few more. The falls are also incredibly picturesque, especially if you catch them with light hitting them.
Mike points out the line to Monique through the Notch

Monique running the slide

Michael doing what he does best, staying dry

Brittany taking the plunge over Elbow Falls

All smiles below the falls. Photo by Ashley Lalonde

Different perspective of the falls. Photo by Alexander Sutherland @ Highland Exposure

Highwood River: The Highwood is located down towards the lower end of the Kananaskis highway, which is closed in the winter. It is the culmination of a number of runnable tributaries into a larger river with a big water feel to it. Amazing scenic canyons, roadside access and an easier feel make this a fun longer run to mix in with a day of creeking.
Cool big water feel rapids

Mike gets flushed @ Toilet Bowl

Typical canyon scenery and a horribly vertical hikeout

Cataract Creek: Cataract is an ultra classic. Quite likely you've already heard of this one or at least seen the iconic picture of Titan, it's iconic waterfall. Beyond Titan and it's intro rapid that rarely gets run and requires higher water to fill in, Hercules, this Creek features a great class V broken ledge rapid, Leviathan, and another shorter but more technical falls, Zig Zag. There are also plenty of rapids in between on this long creek and boogie, other notables include Faux Leviathan, the Notch and the Final Four, a great way to end your day!
The ever so classic Hercules/Titan shot from above

Adam checking out the entrance to Zig Zag

Going down...avoid the left

Heather chills out above her 'portage'

The portage is more than twice the height of the falls, boats away!

Gerard runs the Notch

Boofing big @ Zig Zag. Photo by Adam Daniel

Etherington Creek: Etherington is a super low volume, super fun little creek, it felt like about 200 cfs in there, a similar feel to Fall in the Wall in near Seattle. It is a few km long and goes through an awesome, dark little canyon, surprisingly devoid of wood, at least when I ran it. There are 3 larger rapids to this one, Mindbender falls where it's incredibly hard to time your boof properly, followed by some great slide rapids and another larger one lower down which needs a decent amount of water to cover some rocks near the end.
Gerard with a better line than me through Mindbender

Gerard hits up the slide below Mindbender

All in all it was a great week in Alberta and I can't wait to get back actually! Calgary might be one of the best cities in the world for whitewater when it's running...wow did I actually say that? Go Oilers.

Mike enjoys Harvies Passage in the heart of downtown Calgary, AB

Scott having a crashing surf

Scott airs out the last hole

Crescent Falls on the Bighorn at a perfect level on the Monday with horribly cold weather. It came up a bit by Friday too high to want to go Saturday driving me down towards Cataract.

Johnston Canyon big one, former world record drop. A nice medium high level when I got there, but no boaters to be found, a bit of wood, and a long hike made me enjoy the non-boating aspects that day.

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