Paddler and river watchdog Carl Jacks will be navigating the Incommapleux with a team of kayakers.

Kayakers take on Incommapleux waters for awareness

The last time a group attempted to descend the upper Incomappleux River, the trip ended in tragedy.

The last time a group attempted to descend the upper Incomappleux River, the trip ended in tragedy. In July 2003, Yves Laforest, Aurelie Chabaud, Michel Bastien and Martin Champagneur set out to climb Mount Hope in the southwest corner of Glacier National Park, then paddle the Incomappleux River to the Upper Arrow Lake. They were aiming to raise money to support children with leukemia.

They were successful in summiting, but their trip down the river ended quickly in tragedy when they were all swept up in a rapid. Only Champagneur survived.

Ten years later, a group of nine Kootenay kayakers – including Revelstokians Sean Bozkewycz, Sam Ewing and Christian Foster – is heading back to the Incomappleux River in an attempt to complete a first descent of the river and raise awareness about the unique rainforest that exists in its upper reaches.

Carl Jacks, a 36-year-old nurse who lives in New Denver, B.C., is leading the expedition. He is a co-founder of the West Kootenay-based Endangered Creeks Expedition, a team of paddlers that dedicate their time to exploring and reporting on waterways threatened by run-of-river power projects. As a kayaker, he’s regarded as fearless, a bit reckless, adventurous and a very skilled paddler.

The idea of paddling the Incomappleux has been with him since he first explored its middle and lower sections in 2006, when ventured as far as he could upriver by road. “Being a paddler, I couldn’t help think what’s above, what keeps going,” he said. “The features we were seeing in the lower sections were quite unbelievable.”

Jacks has undertaken a number of first descents of rivers and creeks throughout B.C., but the Incomappleux is the one he’s felt would be the biggest challenge. He’s not wrong, that’s for sure. Just to access the river, Jacks and his team will have to trek 13-kilometres overland through the Flat Creek Valley in Glacier National Park. Once on the river, they will be faced with 55-kilometres of paddling, some of which has never been run before. All they have is aerial photos to go on.

“It’s going to be what looks to really intense class four, five whitewater,” he said. “It cuts through a lot of slide paths so the terrain on the side of the river will be extremely hard to navigate if we choose to get out of the boat, which is usually the case if we need to scout a section of water.”

The purpose of the trip isn’t just to accomplish a first descent. The team also aims to document the wilderness found in the upper Incomappleux valley – a largely untouched wilderness filled with massive old growth cedars and that is also prime mountain caribou habitat. They are partnering with the Valhalla Wilderness Society, an environmental organizational that is lobbying to have the area preserved as a park. They have also received funding from Mountain Equipment Coop.

What are the challenges in an expedition like this?

First, there’s the overland approach through the Flat Creek valley. Jacks expects it to be two to three days of bushwhacking. Then there’s the river itself. The rapid that took out the 2003 expedition is the first one they will encounter. It is followed by a kilometre-long canyon. All of it is class four and five whitewater – about as intense as it gets. On land, the river is surrounded by avalanche paths that are full of devil’s club and alders.

Safety will be the prime consideration. “We’re not trying to be heroes out there. The river and the land is always going to win,” he said. “If something looks like it’s too dangerous to run or impossible to set safety on, then we walk it. If the walking is almost as dangerous as paddling, you’re almost in a toss up. It’s like a game of chess strategy, with putting safety in the forefront.”

Jacks said the fate of the last expedition is in his mind, but added that they are going in much more prepared. The 2003 mission consisted of mountaineers who were unprepared to run the river, he said, whereas his team consists of experienced kayakers.

“The idea there are unclaimed bodies in the woods, you can’t help but think you’ll be passing over them at some point. It adds an element of mysticism to it,” he said. “You can’t help thinking about it. In the same regards, I understand where they flipped, what claimed them and what happened.”

Jacks’ teams is leaving Revelstoke on Tuesday, Sept. 3. They hope to arrive in Beaton a week later. He said this will be his most physically challenging trip ever.

Here is the complete list of trip members:

Leader: Carl Jacks, 35, New Denver

Randy Speers, 44, New Denver

Chris Ryman, 34, Castlegar

Sean Bozkewycz, 29, Revelstoke

Sam Butler, 17, South Slocan

Sven Perschmann, 30, Rossland

Stephan Paetsch, 33, Edmonton

Christian Foster, 26, Revelstoke

Sam Ewing, 28, Revelstoke

 

Just Posted

Power still out in northern Slocan valley

Massive storm blew through Kootenays, downing power lines and damaging structures

UPDATED: Hydro lines down near Moyie

Hydro lines affecting traffic on Highway 3 south of Moyie.

All three victims identified in Fernie arena ammonia leak

Wayne Hornquist and Lloyd Smith were from Fernie and Jason Podloski from Turner Valley, Alta

Fernie mourns after fatal ammonia leak

The community of Fernie is coming together to support each other following a local tragedy.

VIDEO: Three workers identified as victims of Fernie ammonia leak

A local state of emergency will remain in effect until Oct. 24 after the leak at the ice rink

VIDEO: Sears liquidation sales continue across B.C.

Sales are expected to continue into the New Year

B.C. NDP convention set for Victoria

Premier, federal leader Jagmeet Singh to add energy

Silver Creek farm search expands north

RCMP were seen collecting evidence three kilometres north of the farm where human remains were found

B.C. school trustee calls LGBTQ school program ‘weapon of propaganda’

Chilliwack’s Barry Neufeld published the comments on his Facebook page

B.C. couple hope boat drone becomes first to cross Atlantic

Colin and Julie Angus of Victoria to have drone collect environmental data en route

B.C. casino accused of illegal activity follows rules: operator

B.C. had launched review after concerns about money laundering at River Rock casino in Richmond

Opponents of LGBTQ program to file human rights complaint against Surrey School District

District denied Parents United Canada right to rent Bell Performing Arts Centre for rally next month

Ex-employee describes alleged sexual assault by B.C. city councillor

Complainant was a teen during the alleged 1992 incident

Amazon gets 238 proposals for 2nd headquarters

Submissions were due last week. Online retailer has said tax breaks and grants would be factors

Most Read