Bishop River, Season 2: Expedition paddling in the new Nirvana

Some places have an irresistible personal appeal and their call never ceases. For me, the Bishop River in Southern British Columbia is one of those, and maybe the only place that has ever had such a lock on my imagination and directioned my goals. 

Though this was our second attempt and there had been a previous attempt that included a week of portaging high above the river, I still consider it an exploratory trip as there was still so much left to discover. After almost exactly a year since mine and Todd Wells’s first attempt with Eric Parker, we flew in again with Galen Volcklhausen for another attempt, armed with a much better picture of what we would be dealing with. 

On the first night, we camped where we had lunch on our previous trips day three! Optimistic with our pace and a clear night, we slept well until rain and wind battered the tent walls and the nearby glaciers. Sure the water would be rising, I slept little, but rose early and happy to see the river level had barely risen, skipped breakfast, and started paddling. 

I had packed pretty light but 6 days of gear for a cold-weather trip is never light. My Nirvana that had paddled so well for me at around 180lbs was loaded up with another ~40lbs of camping gear, food, and camera gear. I knew the weight was going to be a good test of the boat and my paddling. While it took a few strokes to get used to the weight distribution and loaded characteristics of the boat, I was soon just as comfortable as if it were empty. Everything happens a little slower with all that weight, especially camera gear on my lap balancing things toward the front, but I after I moved the seat back one more notch the bow maintained its predictable, surface-oriented nature and off we went.


After 5 days of spectacular descent, the pace relaxed and we cruised the paddle ot through the lower valley of the Southgate River to Bute Inlet and the Pacific Ocean. Imagine Yosemite Valley for 25 miles and you begin to envision the paddle out. I always enjoy these paddle outs, knowing the hardest part is over but somehow wishing it was still going. Going in just to get out, class V exploratory descents like this have driven much of my life for the last 10 years, but still there is only one Bishop River to experience.


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