Few kayakers have ticked off a more impressive resume of bigwater descents on legendary rivers than Chris Korbulic and Ben Stookesberry. But one river has been on their hit list for a long time— the Stikine in northern coastal BC. With a Grand Canyon made famous by John Muir and massive glacially-fed flows that carve a path of grandeur through the Cassiar Mountains, the route displays an amazing geologic array from sedimentary duff to volcanic basalt canyons. Known as “Great River” to the local Tlingit First Nations, it has also earned the moniker of “the Everest of Rivers” for the expert whitewater kayakers with the skills to run it safely.
“High volume, isolation, extreme weather, and difficulty contribute to this comparison,” Korbulic says. “Like Everest, however, it’s not the most difficult objective, but one of the most highly trafficked, sought after, and super high-end class V rivers in the world. It is full of truly world-class whitewater and offers the chance to go as big as you want.”
Less than 100 kayakers have paddled the Grand Canyon of the Stikine since its first descent in 1981. And, until last season, only one rapid remained unrun, Site Zed, a stretch first descended by Ben Marr. According to Korbulic, 2013 was a banner year for the Stikine, with probably more descents than any other year, including three more descents of Site Zed by Gerd Serrasolses, Aniol Serrasolses, and Galen Volckhausen. The conditions and weather of 2013 also provided the perfect window for Stookesberry and Korbulic to finally tackle the Stikine. This gallery is Korbulic’s window on the experience. —LYA Editor
Top: The crew, taking heed of the ominous warning.
L to R: 1. The Stikine has been on the list for a while, and Ben Stookesberry is stoked to finally be entering its Grand Canyon. 2. Ben Stookesberry in Pass/Fail. Make the tricky move to the right of the bottom rock; Pass. Miss the move and get tossed in to the dangerous mayhem to its left; Fail. Ben makes a strong pass at the first of the major rapids. 3. Site Zed Portage; Zed is typically the portage for everyone, until last year when Ben Marr made the first descent and was followed by three more descents this year.
Top: Camping on a clear night at site Zed. First night’s camp at Site Zed, a proposed then deserted dam construction site, is the entrance to a major canyon and the largest rapid on the river. Extreme weather is always a concern during fall this far north, and we were treated with extremely optimum clear and warm conditions.
L to R: 1. The portage ends with a ferry out in to the bottom half of Site Zed and some of the biggest features on the river. Aniol Serrasolses makes the move, and would later return to be the third person to run all of Site Zed, following his brother Gerd. 2. Ben and Barny Young enter The Wall: Vertical walls rise from the water along the steepest parts of the Grand Canyon, making rapids like The Wall difficult to scout and highly consequential. 3. Ben Stookesberry enters The Wall, classic Stikine, with vertical walls rising from a long, imposing corridor of whitewater
Top: Ben Stookesberry and I in a moment of calm: There are some calm stretches of respite, and much of the canyon is actually top-notch scenic flat water.
L to R: 1. Ben and I in Garden of Gods: Near the end of day two the canyon opens to less confining dimensions at Garden of the Gods. 2. The last major rapid on the river, safe passage through V-Drive warrants a little celebration from Ben and I. 3. This was Aniol’s second trip down the Stikine in a week, and the line down V-Drive is pretty simple, so when he just said “follow me,” I agreed that sometimes it’s best not to scout. Here, I’m getting my first view of the rapid.
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