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Expedition Rewind: The Impossible Gorge of the Marble Fork
Posted on November 21, 2014

Eric and Forrest scoping the line

Five years, 53 expeditions, all seven continents—it’s tough to narrow that selection down to ten of the best. But we have and the first descent of the Impossible Gorge to the Marble Fork is one of our top ten picks. While California is not nearly as remote a location as Bhutan, the Congo, the Torngat or Svalbard, Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic’s backyard mission was one that easily rated as class 6 crazy. Big wall climbing, sketchy lowering with full kayak rigs and a fully committing section of canyon that could only be run in perfect conditions—all the key ingredients for a Korbulic and Stookesberry special. Thought to be an unrunnable stretch of river on the hard-to-reach Marble Fork of the Kaweah River deep in Sequoia National Park, our kayak team tandem proved the fallacy wrong with a high degree of skill and a heavy dose of insanity.

Ben Stookesberry, inner reflection

Stookesberry dreamed up the mission years before: “When I first saw the impossible gorge I recognized both the alluring possibility of kayaking massive waterfalls and the daunting challenge to get there: Class Six waterfalls high up in the gorge would necessitate a portage unlike anything that had ever been done with a kayak.” To get to the five-hour decent in a never-before-run, 2,000-foot canyon with no possibility of escape, they enlisted the help of climbers Forrest Nobel and Jared Johnson for a frighteningly big big-wall traverse.

Ben Stookesberry lowering into the canyon of no return after five hours of setting fixed lines

After the traverse, they collectively survived a separated rib, sketchy 100-foot Twizzler, and a section of isolated whitewater that Stookesberry called the hardest he’d ever run. The epic became a project that turned into Ben Stookesberry’s award winning film Walled In. Read the full first-report story of the expedition at and watch the recap in the Walled In trailer below.

Big wall meets big water, the Marble Fork team loading up the boats

Five years ago we had a mission: draw on our brand’s heritage of technical innovation and alpine exploration to launch Eddie Bauer First Ascent and set a new standard for gear in the alpine realm. Five years after First Ascent launched, our record speaks volumes: 13 industry best-in-class awards, 53 pioneering testing expeditions, and a series of innovative technical gear that has enabled personal adventures, big and small, around the globe. For the month of November we’ll be profiling the First Ascent effort on Instagram, on the Live Your Adventure blog, at and with our YouTube playlist. Check back daily for guide-built, expedition tested and award winning product stories behind the making of First Ascent.

Author: - Friday, November 21st, 2014

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