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A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.

- John James Audubon


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Adventure Travel

Jun 07, 2018

Engagés: La Finale

Throughout May 2018, The Outdoor Journal has been reporting on five French explorers who have been traversing Greenland’s toughest terrain.

WRITTEN BY

Maxime Lainé

In the face of much adversity, the expedition finally made it home to Paris, having being trapped at the finish line without food, and unable to extract themselves due to bad weather. We caught up with Maxime Laine upon his return, to hear about ‘Engages: La Finale’.

If you missed it, then you can read the day by day updates, sent home by the expedition via satellite phone, here.

The end of the expedition taught us a lot of humility.

Throughout the crossing, we had over estimated the distance that we expected to be able to cover towards the end of the expedition. We had reached the highest point, and had started to walk down to the east coast. However, the weather played it’s part, and played with our nerves, as the snow just could not stop falling.

There was so much snow, that every step went deeper and deeper, day after day. Each day, we could not imagine how it could get any harder the next. Our expectations, with regards to the kilometres we could cover, were just in vain. We had to keep telling ourselves, to get out of the tent, and to walk as far as we could, and then even further.

On the 28th day, we walked 30 kilometres in 12 hours. We were exhausted, but our daily goal was only 40 kilometres away from our position. We told ourselves, one more time, that we could walk 25km on the 29th and 15km on the 30th day. This would be ok.

However, on the 29th day, the snow kept on falling. We could only walk 5 little kilometres, with the little energy that we had. It was at this point, we had a critical decision to make.

Option 1: Keep on walking. Get closer to the coast, and a better extraction point, for the helicopter. Given the harsh weather conditions, this could take us several days, a lot of energy, and we were running out of food.

Option 2: Set up the camp and stay where we are. Economise our energy and the rest of our food. Hope that the helicopter can come to pick us up.

We went for the second option. However, once again, Greenland’s weather played with our nerves.

We were now out of food.

The helicopter was supposed to pick us up on the 30th at 1:00pm. The pilot just could not make it, and the next clear weather window was 4 days later on the 3rd of June. There was nothing that we could, but stay in our tents, spending as little energy as possible. We tried hard to think about anything worth thinking about. Anything to take our minds off our empty bellies.

At times like these, the only thing to do is remain calm and patient. We had to call the pilot every hour, and every hour he told us that the weather window was not good enough, and that we’ll talk again in an hour.

This repeated itself for more than 24 hours… until we woke to find a beautiful day, and a clear blue sky out of our tent. Still, we didn’t want to express any form of optimism, Greenland had played this game with us before.

We just waited for the pilot’s confirmation which was never clearly expressed, until finally we saw a red flying object on the horizon coming towards us. We could not believe it. For the first time, Greenland “a fait preuve de clémence” and was not playing with us anymore.

It felt like we had passed the test, like we had learnt enough about humility.

Over the course of the next week, Max will publish a detailed account of what he thought about for 10 hours a day, whilst he crossed Greenland. Here’s a sneak preview. Make sure that you follow us or subscribe so that you don’t miss it.

One of the most difficult part of crossing Greenland by foot, is not only to walk 10 hours a day, but to keep our minds busy. We were in an environment where nothing could possibly interrupt our minds.

There was just us, walking on the same white and flat ice caps for endless days.

Even the sun doesn’t set. Just us and ourselves. Thinking about our frozen fingers and toes. Our friends, our family, our jobs. Why we are here, focusing on this very moment, what we are looking for, what kind of life we want to live, what is the next adventure. All of a sudden you are aware of plenty of little things that we strangely never had the time to think about before.

We came back to Paris, and people did not see us any different, life remained the same here, but we were different. We triggered a new energy, like we had just woken after a very long sleep.

You can discover your own ice sheets in Greenland here.

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Travel

Sep 19, 2018

The Top 5 Whitewater Kayaking Destinations in North America

The five whitewater kayaking destinations in North America, that every paddler should have on their list.

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

As a member of the U.S. Freestyle Kayak Team, I have been fortunate to paddle rivers all over the world. I have paddled in Europe, Africa, South America, New Zealand, and all over North America. Some of my favorite paddling destinations have been the White Nile River in Uganda, and the Kaituna River in New Zealand. If you get a chance to visit either of those places (especially before the White Nile is dammed next month), I highly recommend it. However, if you are on a budget and can’t afford flights out of North America, or if you live elsewhere and are planning your first paddling trip to North America, here are five destinations that should be on your list!

OTTAWA RIVER, ONTARIO

Big waves, warm water, low consequence.

Brooke Hess kayaks Minibus Wave. High water on the Ottawa. Photo: Andrea Polgar.

Whether you are a beginner, an elite freestyle kayaker, or just looking to run some big volume whitewater and surf some fun waves, you can always find something fun to do on the Ottawa.

Spring melt on the Ottawa provides massive rapids and big waves. Buseater and Coliseum rapids are perfect for elite freestyle kayakers looking to step up their game and test themselves in big water. And with the Gatineau and Rouge Rivers close by, there is plenty to choose from in terms of both river running and freestyle. Be aware though, spring in Ontario and Quebec is cold, and the whitewater isn’t easy. Only go at this time of year if you are 100% confident you won’t swim. And, in case mistakes happen (which they do… we are only human), make sure your drysuit is in good shape and you are fit enough to hold on if you are getting beatdown!

In case cold water, icy banks, and big volume grade 5 rapids aren’t your idea of a perfect kayaking vacation, just wait until summer! August on the Ottawa is the perfect combination of exciting (yet low-consequence) whitewater, big surf waves, small surf waves, warm water, and good weather. Imagine surfing on the world-famous Garburator Wave in a t-shirt, then paddling 50 meters downstream to a perfect sandy beach for a mid-day picnic with your friends, and capping off the day with a beautiful river run straight to your campsite!

SLAVE RIVER, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES 

Like the Ottawa, but bigger.

Leif Anderson going big on Rockem’ Sockem Wave, Slave River. Photo: Natalie Anderson

Located in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, the Slave River is not often listed as a world-class paddling destination due to the amount of driving required to get there. But don’t let this deter you, the Slave River is epic!

The river is three kilometers wide, hosting four different sets of rapids. Due to the massive width of the river, each set of rapids has multiple (more than 5) different channels. Each channel within a set of rapids is the length of a full-day river run. This means, (if I did my math correct), there are at least twenty different river runs to explore on the Slave River. All within ten minutes driving distance of each other. And this number doesn’t even include the smaller side channels, or runs where you combine multiple different channels in one run! This allows any paddler, no matter their skill level, numerous options to choose from. There are grade 1 floats, perfect for canoeists. There are grade 2 options, perfect for beginner kayakers. There are grade 3 rapids with world-class surf waves. And there are grade 4 and 5 rapids that have the potential to intimidate even the world’s most elite kayakers. In addition to the amazing river running, the Slave River offers epic surf waves for anyone from beginner to elite freestyle kayakers.

WHITE SALMON, WASHINGTON

If you love beautiful places.

Darr Soli paddles the Little White Salmon River. Photo: Leif Anderson.

If you are a whitewater kayaker of any sort, I am sure you have heard of the Little White Salmon River. It is a classic grade 5 creek that professional kayakers travel from all over the world to paddle. It is also potentially the most videoed section of whitewater in the world. I have never paddled the Little White Salmon River, but I have seen so much GoPro footage of it on the internet, I am pretty sure I know most of the lines.

What I bet you don’t know, is that in White Salmon, Washington, where the Little White Salmon River is located, there are also numerous other grade 2, 3, and 4 rivers. In fact, the White Salmon River alone has a grade 2 stretch, a grade 3 stretch, a grade 4 stretch, and a grade 5 stretch. Whether you are a beginner kayaker, an intermediate kayaker, an advanced kayaker, or a professional kayaker, there are multiple beautiful, moss-covered, basalt-laden rivers for any skill level in and around White Salmon.

IDAHO

Wilderness, hot springs, big water.

The Lochsa River, designated as a National Wild and Scenic River, flows through the Clearwater National Forest. U.S. Forest Service Northern Region photo.

I don’t have the words to describe how wonderful Idaho is. I grew up two hours from the Lochsa River, spending weekends camping in the woods without cell service. It was my first ever taste of big water and I was hooked from the very start. If you like big water river runs in remote locations without cell service, Idaho is where you should go. If you like multi-day kayak trips through remote wilderness, with sandy beach campsites and hot springs, Idaho is your place. Basically, if you like whitewater and are not a complete weirdo, you will love Idaho.

You have the Selway River, the Lochsa River, the Clearwater River, the South Fork Payette, the North Fork Payette, the Middle Fork Salmon, the Main Salmon, the South Salmon… I could go on. So many remote rivers with beautiful surroundings, I don’t even think I need to say more.

SKOOKUMCHUCK, BRITISH COLUMBIA

Starfish, seals, sea lions, salty water.

Emily Lussin kayaking at her home wave, Skookumchuck. Photo: Brooke Hess.

Skookumchuck is different. It is unlike any other kayaking destination. Skookumchuck is located on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, in the Sechelt Inlet. Yes, Inlet… not river. Skookumchuck is a tidal rapid, formed by the tides as ocean water moves in and out of the Inlet over a rock shelf. The salty water flows over the rock shelf and forms a picture-perfect, glassy, green surf wave. If there was a contest for smoothest kayaking wave in the world, Skook would win.

Despite how epic the kayaking wave is at Skook, I don’t think that is what makes the place so special. To access the wave, you hike four kilometers through a dense rainforest, with green moss and vines hanging everywhere. It feels as if you are hiking through a magic forest with fairies and unicorns. Something you would see in a Disney movie. Sitting in the eddy waiting for your turn on the wave, you will be mesmerized by the purple and orange starfish scattered all over the rocks. Not to mention the sea urchins, barnacles, sea anemones, and seals everywhere!

On my most recent Skook trip, I watched two sea lions play in the whirlpools behind the wave for thirty minutes. I then proceeded to make excuses for why I didn’t want to get back in my kayak until the sea lions were gone (I was scared)… but nonetheless it was one of the best days of kayaking I have ever had. I have even heard of people seeing whales breaching on the other side of the Inlet while someone is kayaking on the wave. The entire setting of Skookumchuck is magical. Even if you consider yourself more of a river runner than a freestyle kayaker, a trip to Skook should still be on your list.

 

Cover Photo: Leif Anderson.

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