The Guidebook

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Homathko River

Just the name "Homathko" sounds both appealing and stout at the same time. For some reason this particular river trip has held my interest for quite a while - I'm not sure why - it's one that you don't hear a lot about, one you don't see many pictures of. I guess the fact that everyone who you do talk to about it raves on and on about how good it is is the reason. One problem in planning a trip here from outside of the province is hitting a good flow window, so after moving to BC a while back getting on a trip down this river moved to the top of my list of things to get done.

After a failed attempt in the fall of 2009 due to no real weather window and a lack interest we rallied a crew of 6 - Max, Ali, Steve, Matt, Rob and myself - to try and get down the river in the spring. We knew it would be a bit of a gamble to find a good flow window with decent weather - the threat of a massive spike in flows was a major concern considering almost all of the snowpack was still sitting in the mountains.

Based on historical flows we penciled in the second week of May as our time to drop in - typically the river has come up from winter lows but it hasn't had a flow explosion from hot summer weather. Days before our departure we got just what we didn't want - a quick rise in flows to the upper limit of what we wanted to take on. After a thousand phone calls, meetings and general waffling everyone bailed except Max and Ali - the river was at 370 and rising but they had the time off and were going down that river high levels be dammed.

Everyone that bailed knew it was the right decision for us, but we knew if the weather turned and flows dropped it would be one bitter pill to swallow to know we missed a window and the lads were on the river not portaging everything - as you can guess, that's exactly what happened.

That next day I got a text at about 1230 from Rob - "I don't know if you've checked the Homathko gauge but it's at a perfect flow (note: it kept dropping for 3 days after the peak at 370) and the weather looks good." This led to a mad flurry of calls, pissing off wives and girlfriends by changing plans yet again and racing to pick up the last odds and ends before shops closed down for the weekend - we gave the go-ahead at 3 pm and I was en route to Squamish at 6 pm to start the rest of the drive. We were stoked - the Homathko was on!

The long drive north to Williams Lake was spent stoking the Homathko fire, chatting about what to expect and praying the weather would stay cool and flows would hold at good levels. Spirits were high when we set up camp on the side of the highway, until we woke up in the morning - greeted by fresh snow. Despite the heavy dent in our morale we didn't break, went for a greasy feed in Williams Lake and kept driving. Almost as if something was trying to scare us off the wet snow persisted right up until we reached the put in - much to our delight the skies lifted and it dried out when we got there just in time to get changed and shove off on the trip.

The next four days of kayaking amount to one of, if not the best multiday trips that I've done. By the first campsite the skies cleared and generally stayed clear right through our trip - sunny but cool weather kept flows at perfect levels. There was a ton of snow in mountains but none a river level, except for some 30-foot deep snow piles at several slide paths.

The Homathko starts off as a tiny river out of Tatlayoko Lake with clear water and a lot of wood in the river - much of it was cut down by beavers! The volume quickly doubles, and doubles again - one of the hardest parts of this trip is constantly adjusting to the growing volume - it seems around every other corner another sizable tributary joins the main river.

The second day brings you through the Great Canyon - this is the most continuous zone on the run and while it lacks the vertical walls you find on the big water day the valley walls rise out of the river and don't stop until they reach the tops of the mountains - extensive portaging here would be a nightmare. For the most part it's all good to go and after a long day we reached the spectacular confluence of the Homathko, Mosley and Teidemann.

The rest of the trip went really well with amazing whitewater in an incredibly wild setting - after the long paddle out we were fired up to meet the hospitable folks that live permanently at Homathko Camp - fresh, hot coffee never tasted so good! If you're ever there, consider staying at the camp for a night before you fly out. All too soon the roar of the arriving float plane signaled the end of our trip and the sad journey back to civilization.

And that's the Homathko story - I can't recommend this trip enough. If you want to know all the intimate details you need to go see it yourself - in the meantime, clicking this link will point you to the info to start planning your trip. Enjoy the few photos!

Thankfully this buzz-kill did little to stop our momentum to put on.

Ready to launch onto Tatlayoko Lake.

Right out of the gate you're met with absurd scenery - heading for the start of the river.

After rain and snow the skies cleared by the first camp at Nude Creek - sweet fire, sweet campsite.

Day 2, just about at the Great Canyon. And yes, that's a 30 foot deep snowbank at the rivers edge.

Great Canyon whitewater.

Contemplating fate at Birthday Canyon.

Starting the portage at Doran Creek.

Fired up about The Bet.

Classic scouting on Day 3.

Steve Arns, Rob Murphy and Steve Rogers at the take out.

The best shuttle rig.

1 comment:

Todd Gillman said...

Wanna do it again in the fall?