Jen Higgins Grant for Young Women: Klinaklini Kayak Expedition - Trip Report
Editor's Note: The recipients of the 2017 Jen Higgins Grant for Young Women are Maranda Stopol, Jo Kemper, Jordan Slaughter and Darby McAdams whose objective was to complete the first all-female descent (third descent ever) of the Klinaklini Canyon. "Our goal is to paddle a challenging and highly committing stretch of whitewater in one of the most remote and beautiful places in British Columbia’s Coast Mountains, while also promoting female athletes pursuing high caliber expeditions in the male-dominated world of action sports," they stated in their application for the award.
The group attempted a run on the Klinaklini this summer. Below is some background on the river and an excerpt from their trip report. Read the full report with photos here.
Interested in applying for financial assistance for your adventure next year? The annual deadline for applications to the Higgins Grant is January 31.
Klinaklini Canyon Background
The Klinaklini River flows through the rugged wilderness of British Columbia’s Coast Mountain Range. Its remoteness has prevented many travellers from exploring the area and its inaccessibility has fostered a pristine habitat for wildlife like grizzlies, moose, wolves, mountain goats, eagles and salmon. Historically, the river was a corridor for First Nation’s trade, and the name, Klinaklini, originates from a Kwakwala word for eulachon grease. Today, the lack of settlements makes the river access logistically challenging without access to a helicopter, or a willingness to navigate the Klinaklini Canyon, a class V gorge that is only known to have been attempted a handful of times.
The river is just over 100 kilometers long from Klinaklini Lake to Knight Inlet, with the last 2o kilometers consisting of a high volume class V canyon where the river runs through a series of gorges. Gorges 1 and 3 are the steepest, with drops about 33 m/km (170 ft/mi). Gorges 2, 4, 5, and 6 drop about 23 m/km (120 ft/mi). As far as is known, no group that has attempted this river has ever made a full descent.
August Adventures on the Klinaklini
The trip began quite smoothly with only a couple of portages necessary on the first day due to low water volumes. The group — Maranda Stopol, Jo Kemper, Jordan Slaughter and Darby McAdams — covered a lot of ground through beautiful scenery and camped on a gravel bar just downstream of the North Klinaklini Confluence.
Awaking to stormy weather the next day, water levels had risen about a foot up the bank, and as rain continued throughout the day. The group estimated that "the river had grown by almost half its original volume." Fog settled in and visibility was poor all day until they set up camp.
In the morning, the sun was out, but the river had risen even more overnight so they began to portage around what would be a dangerous section at these high water levels.
Bushwhacking and brainstorming
"I hoped that [the water level] had dropped and paddling out could be one of our options. As those thoughts were crossing my mind, I saw a full-sized old growth tree floating down the brown, flooded river and knew that wasn't going to be possible," writes Maranda Stopol in the trip report.
The women spent the next few days portaging downstream in hopes of reaching a logging road they had identified as their lifeline out if things went wrong.
After days of bushwhacking, they could see the logging road; however, there was a steep flooded tributary blocking them from reaching it. The next few days were spent hiking for miles upstream, looking for a place to cross, and trying to find creative solutions to get even just one of them across the tributary in order to rig a line to ferry their gear and the rest of the group across safely.
Despite their best efforts, nature would win this round and after much deliberation, they regrettably called their emergency contact for assistance.
Fight, flight, or play dead?
"It is said that when faced with a survival situation, animals have three responses: fight, flight, or play dead," writes Maranda Stopol. "We went into this trip ready to put everything we had into making a complete descent of the canyon. Then, for reasons out of our control, we were forced to hike out.
"While something like this can be hard for the human ego, physically and emotionally straining, and a significant use of resources, when it’s all said and done, I am mindful of what’s most important as I move forward from this experience. I am grateful for this opportunity to learn and grow as kayaker, a leader, and a person and I feel blessed to be able to continue exploring rivers in the future."
Promoting alpine-related outdoor pursuits for young women
The ACC is dedicated to helping young women pursue their adventure dreams with annual cash grants from the Jen Higgins Fund. Teams must include a young woman who is central to conceiving, developing and leading the trip.
The Jen Higgins Fund was established by friends and family to honour Jen Higgins after her death in 1997. Jen's enthusiasm and generous spirit continue to live on by supporting young women in creative, self-propelled, mountain adventures with this grant.
The Alpine Club of Canada is honoured to be able to continue Jen’s legacy of sharing knowledge and enthusiasm with others - the legacy of a truly adventurous and generous spirit.
Annual deadline for applications is January 31.
Donate to the Jen Higgins Fund
The ACC is dedicated to helping young women pursue their adventure dreams and your donation to the Jen Higgins Fund helps us support them.