Ben Stookesberry 10/03/2016 | Posted in Canyons, Chile, Costa Rica, Family Zone, Featured Post, Internationalisation, jacksonkayak.com, JK Team Posts, Mexico, My JK, Norway, River Running, rivers, Team JK, Trip Reports, United States, United States, Villain, Western US, Whitewater
After this past expedition to Myanmar I have to say I was a little dismayed if not down right frustrated about our attempt to make a source to sea of the Irrawaddy river. But since no one was seriously hurt, Chris and I can now take a deep breath and look at the bright side: at least we’re not in a Burmese prison. If I really think about it, misadventure has been the hallmark, and in some weird way, the highlight my kayaking career. Speaking of, I can think of one misadventure for every year of my kayaking career. Here’s my list. What’s yours?
1998 – Colorado River; UT; USA
Like those that would follow my first misadventure started off well enough. It was my first day on the river in a kayak (ok a ducky if you must know) and it was glorious: sunny, 60 degrees, late February. After running the river we stopped in Moab got a 24 pack of what we would later find out is 3.2 beer and headed out to camp under a perfect starry sky. By 8 pm the sun was long gone and the temperature had already fallen 40 degrees. Needless to say we didn’t get drunk much less get any sleep and we nearly froze to death when the temp descended to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. But we didn’t freeze to death and I’ll never forget my first night on the river.
1999 – Oh Be Joyful, CO; USA
Some misadventures are extremely short lived and in this case it was probably for the best. After Ascending to the level of solid class 4 boater, I marched to the top of Colorado’s Oh Be Joyful creek to launch my extreme kayaking career. My first boof stroke sent me sailing out of control head over heals landing upside down a few feet clear of some exposed rock. There was a young pro on shore who gave me a look like, wtf are you doing dude!? and I answered by hiking up the bank and waiting another month to try again. No harm, no foul, lesson learned…
2000 – 3 day Little North Fork Middle Feather, CA; USA
After losing 2 of our team of four to an unfortunate fall and injury at take-out (long story), Eric and I went for the hardest river we had ever done with high water, no shuttle, and snowdrifts blocking the road 4 miles from the put-in. We kept going, and emerged 3 days later after 2 swims and a lot of survival boating. With a bowl of clam chowder we convinced a armed prospector to give me a ride on his Mo-ped 28 miles back to the put-in. It’s important to get your ass kicked by the river every once in a while.
2001 – Attempted first descent Rock Creek, CA; USA
No one had ever kayaked Rock Creek of the North Feather from top to bottom so Chris and I decided to give it a shot. 10 miles from the put-in a friend dropped us off at a downed tree so we started to hike. 2 miles later we were slogging through 3 feet of snow and going nowhere fast. All of the sudden their was the sound of motor and our saviour: A California redneck in a Ford Bronco. After plenty of winching and digging the bronco out he deposited us at the put-in 3 hrs later. So where’s the misadventure? Well we camped in the snow, froze our asses off, boated 2 miles in the morning and then spent the next 9 hrs hiking out of the canyon. It was pretty ridiculous.
2002 – First Descent Wabeena Falls, CA; USA
On my first run through the Royal Gorge of the American we had no idea of what to expect. We knew there were waterfalls but we didn’t know where or how many. It was taking us a long time to descend the river so towards the end I boat scouted the group off a relatively benign looking 20 foot waterfall. One guy in the group took offence and decided to return the favour and sent me to the lip of a massive horizon line without knowing what was there. About 70 feet later. My paddle shaft was lined up perfectly to smash my nose in the 40 mph impact. A week later I graduated from Southern Oregon University with black eyes and a broken nose. Karma’s a bitch.
2003 – PFD Rio Patria, Costa Rica
Suffice to say I’ve been a part of a lot of misadventure, but none more interesting than Costa Rica’s Rio Patria. Nick, Melissa, and I set off on the Patria ready for an overnight adventure. What we got was a 4 day mission highlighted by a night covered in ants suspended 150 feet off the ground in a tree and the cover of the San Jose news paper saying something like we were presumed lost until we found ourselves. It wasn’t the worst four days of my life but I’ve had better.
2004 – Colombia Rio Buey
The end of 2003 was the beginning of 2004 and a 3 year obsession with the Colombia’s Rio Buey. I never actually finished the river, and the first trip was particularly unsuccessful. We made it just a few miles downstream before hiking out in an area occupied by a dangerous civil/ narco conflict. Luckily the gun toting “Paras” showed little interest in the muddy gringos carrying weird plastic boats. We probably smelled bad too.
2005 – Rio Tunuyan, Argentina
When I showed up to work at Agentina rafting it was to ostensibly finance and wait for a window to run the Rio Tunuyan. Luckily the 8-day Tunuyan first descent only cost $150, because that’s all I saved after 3 months of work. It probably had to do with too much steak, wine, and fernet. Unfortunately in that order and then in reverse one night… I’m really sorry about your trailer Joey.
2006 – Dirang River, India
In the dictionary ‘Misadventure’ is defined as “a kayaking trip to India”. After 4 days on a train and 3 days driving we were just 6 hours from the put-in when our driver unintentionally (I think) and unfortunately (I’m sure) ran over a policeman’s foot. We spent the night at the police station. Luckily our driver was released in the morning, but not before having his licence revoked. It took another 3 days to find a driver and finally get to the put-in.
2007 – Dominica
If whitewater kayaking on one of the smallest landmasses ever kayaked sounds like a bad idea, that’s because it is. We spent most of our time waiting for it to rain, only to find out that a few minutes after it stopped so did the rivers. But how bad can life actually be on a trip to the carribean? Answer: not too bad.
2008 – Twang Chu, India-Bhutan-India
Please see 2006 for definition of Misadventure.
2009 – Rio Piaxtla, Mexico
It’s the deepest Canyon in North America and one of the most beautiful places on earth. In misadventure you take the good with the bad; and in addition to taking the risk of running into the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, we portaged for 13 hours across the 9000 foot nearly vertical canyon wall and almost perished from dehydration. Good thing almost doesn’t count.
2010 – Lachen to Mangan Teesta River, India
Unfortunately the Teesta, a river draining the third highest peak on earth, has been dammed and diverted more than any other river in northern India. That process was just coming to fruition in 2010, and with all the construction, we couldn’t get permission to run the river. So we stopped asking for permission and went for it. In the end we were portaging downstream until I slipped and fell nearly losing boat and self into a lethal section of river. That’s when we decided to hike out. The dam people didn’t want to say “I told you so” but…
2011 – Kaieteur Falls, Guiana
Kayaking the river from the base of the tallest river waterfall on earth sounded amazing. But we failed to bring enough rope or otherwise formulate a half descent plan so we spent the next 2 days trying to hike up to it’s base from down stream. At some point we left our boats behind and tried to make a quick push upstream to simply see the falls from the bottom. 6 hours later we were stranded in darkness and down pouring rain finding shelter in a cave built for 2 that had to fit 3.
2012 – Marble Gorge, CA; USA
To be honest, I think the Marble Gorge was a huge success. Although a week of the most technical portaging ever done with a kayak to run 3 waterfalls does sound kind of weird now that I think about it.
2013 – Svalbard, Norway
Since the first time I saw the photos of rivers falling off the polar ice, I fell in love with the idea of kayaking here. But sometimes it’s easy to think too much about what you want to do and not enough about how and when your going to do it. After 6 days sailing from the most northern city on earth through blizzard conditions and 10 foot seas in the Arctic Ocean, we reached the ice waterfalls that would be better described as ice trickles. I am pretty proud of my seal launch.
2014 – Dudh Kosi, Nepal
In 1976 it took a month for the first team to descend the river of Everest from the headwaters at 17000 feet to the plains of India. Since we entered at just 9000 feet, I figured we could finish the river in little more than 5 days. I was wrong.
2015 – Rio Año Nuevo, Captain Pratt; Chile
Up until this year, the longest hike-in I had ever done was to this remote river in Captain Pratt, Patagonia. Incidentally it’s still holds the record for my longest hike out.
2016 – Irrawaddy River, Myanmar
I believe that everyone who’s tried to get off the beaten path in Myanmar has a story. Here’s mine: We carried the kayaks for 105 miles, and kayaked just 55 miles. Enough said.
Special thanks to my fellow misadventurers: Chris Korbulic, Pedro Oliva, Eric Seymour, Josh Bechtel, Chris Larson, Judd Lehman, Dave Wyland, Shannon Linnanes, Nick Hinds, Maricio Arredondo, Melissa Newell, Sivio Gurrieri, Pato Valsechi, Jared Johnson, Forrest Noble, Darin Mcquoid, Jesse Coombs, Garret Brown, Andrew Gerdes, Surjan Tamang, Rocky Contos, and James Duzenberry.