At the heart of the Alaskan Pebble Mine controversy, the Koktuli River winds its way through the Alaskan bushland from its source at Frying Pan Lake to Bristol Bay. Known for the salmon that return to the region each year in epic proportions to spawn and die, disrupting the landscape vital to this eco-system would devastate the fishery, its industry and peripheral wildlife tourism industries as well. This massive project would set a dangerous new precedent for mining and development in the Bristol Bay region and all of Alaska.
Tuesday 15thJanuary. A club pool session has just finished, pints are in hand and inevitably the conversation turns to the upcoming Summer Tour. Where to this year? France? Austria? Norway? Then Andrew, in his final year and last long summer of freedom, mentions the magic word. Expedition? A murmur goes around the table. Some dismiss it as too much effort, others don’t have the funds, but a few keen eyes light up. “Where to?” are the first words out of their mouths. With experienced paddlers about to graduate and new blood just entered the club, an expedition is the perfect opportunity to pass on skills and attempt new destinations. Imperial College Canoe Club has a long history of kayaking expeditions, but the graduates who undertook them have long since moved on. Time to renew the tradition.
A few more pints later we had a team and a destination. The team: Two fourth year students, Andrew and Tom, who have been with the club for four years; two first year students, Ben and Cameron, who are competent paddlers but with little international experience; and one graduate, Mo, thrown in for good measure. Our Destination: The Republic of Georgia. Due to various commitments we are limited to September, where Georgia is one of the few countries with good water levels. Moreover, Georgia is a lesser known kayaking destination- up and coming but with very little information on the rivers there. We plan to spend the whole of September exploring and documenting these rivers.
After some research, we found some river notes from 2007 written by Steffen Schuelein, who scouted the country for the Georgian Tourism Board. However, most of the descriptions are from scouting the rivers at the roadside. More recently, there have been a few blog posts from people who have ventured out to Georgia, but we were unable to find much detail other than the names of rivers they had paddled. Our big break came when we contacted a Russian provider who runs trips in Georgia. They were able to point us in the direction of their rough notes, which had suggested ingress and egress points as well as rough difficulty indicators. We were also relieved to learn that they run trips in September which reassures us that there will be sufficient water.
Unsponsored started in the late 1990’s and has continued to have a high presence within the paddlesport community. The aim of the site has evolved to provide the paddlesport world with up to date “paddling tips, tricks, news, and gear reviews from an Unsponsored point of view” (many thanks to Shane Benedict from Liquid Logic kayaks for coming up with the tag line for the site).
The South Ram River, near the small town of Nordegg, Alberta, stands out to a select group of kayakers because of a beautiful series of waterfalls spread throughout its canyon walls. The tallest waterfall on the river, Ram Falls, cascades nearly 100 feet to a pool below. For years, paddlers have visited the South Ram River to run the Class 5 canyon, but always opt to enjoy the view of Ram safely from the riverbanks. T
Three kayakers logged the first descent of Ram in 2012. Six years later, extremely low water levels forced Edward Muggridge to abandon his first attempt at Ram Falls. He all but gave up his dream to run this hundred-footer. Liam Fournier followed Edward Muggridge’s journey to paddle 100-foot Ram Falls. Mentored by world-class kayaker, Aniol Serrasolses, Road to 100 takes us deeper into the attempts and the failures, the anxieties and the skills involved in successfully running massive waterfalls.