28-Jul-2007 -- The journey started Thursday morning (July 26) in Kelowna, British Columbia. Jeremy, Ryan and I piled into Jeremy’s truck with the boat on the back. We drove North the the Trans-Canada highway and then East over the mountains to Donald. That’s where the adventure began as none of us had ever explored that area before. We drove along gravel forestry roads for a very long time along the Columbia Reach of Kinbasket Lake. A few times we had to go way out of our way to get around different arms of the lake which added a lot of time to the driving leg of the trip. As we drove along we had the opportunity to see four black bears in two different encounters and three deer along with various birds.
It took quite awhile driving on the Sullivan arm of the lake to find an appropriate place to get the boat the water. We found a great little bush track down to the lake, sorted our gear, loaded the boat and said goodbye to anything that we couldn’t carry on our backs. After dealing with a finicky motor we crossed the Sullivan arm and came around the point into the Kinbasket arm. We put a spotter in the bow to watch for the large number of deadheads of various sizes.
As we entered the Kinbasket arm we had to make a decision between attempting to boat up the river as far as possible or camping at a flat area near the mouth of the river and hiking in a further distance. We pushed up river as far as we could before deciding that going back down to camp on the flat was the better option. We set up our camp, had dinner and once the black flies and no-see-ums let us be we went to sleep.
Day two started great and gradually got harder. We walked along the FSR for two hours with full packs making lots of noise to keep the bears away. We saw scat and tracks but had no direct contact. We had a quick snack at the bridge and then proceeded a fair way up the mountain before the road petered out. Here is where the hard part began. We worked our way around and up the East ridge of Kinbasket mountain through primarily cedar forests full of black flies. From time to time we fought through much denser patches of deciduous bush and the aptly named Devil’s club, a foreshadowing of things to come.
Eventually we could hear the tributary that we were aiming for, on the other side of a particularly dense copse of deciduous trees. We fought through the bush... to the edge of a steep, unstable embankment leading down to the rushing water. We debated a bit and then skittered our way down the slope. Some of us skittered more than others. (Thanks again Jeremy) Ryan crossed the roaring stream and then we tossed our stuff across in bundles to him. We climbed over using a convenient log and rock hopping. We had a snack, redonned our packs and climbed up the steep bank on the other side of the stream and the reentered the "jungle". It got denser and deeper as we proceeded. We were trying to find some more exposure to camp in because the bugs were getting bigger and more annoying.
We eventually broke through onto a boulder field and took a vote to see if we would press on or camp for the night. We decided to keep going as we had a couple more hours of daylight. Eventually we ran out of boulders and had to hack through more dense forest. It is probably the densest foliage that I have ever climbed through and all with a full pack on my back. Eventually we talked about going back down but decided that it was better to push on in order to camp near water. We set our minds for a miserable night on the mountain. Thankfully we were led to what is perhaps the only horizontal patch on that part of the mountain, which was also near water and with very little brush to clear to make our beds. Ryan went for water and Jeremy and I set about preparing our little bower in the bush. We slept well, knowing that in the morning we would have decisions to make.
On day three we woke up feeling good and realized that continuing up was our best course whether we were going to give up or go on. We pushed up to the tree line saw that the confluence was within striking distance and then aimed for a large table of rock as a good stopping place. We had a nibble a finally dropped our full packs in the interest of ease to the confluence.
We walked up the spine of the South moraine of the glacier that covers the confluence in the winter. Once we gained some elevation we cut across to the confluence. We had to circle around a bit get all zeros but we finally got within a meter with 7 m accuracy at an elevation of 2216m. We took a billion pictures and then went to the nearest high spot to build an inukshuk to leave our mark.
We bootskiied most of the way back to the bags and then had some lunch to prepare for a short scramble up snow and rock and then the 1470m descent back to the river.
Jeremy kicked steps into the snow as we made our way up, again with our full packs. Ryan "summitted" the ridge and we took in the breathtaking view of the lake, the river and everywhere that we had bushwhacked the day before. We dropped some Johnny rocks off of the cliff and then started the big drop. Rocky meadow, to deciduous goat bush to pine forest to cedar forest with the corresponding change of insect life. The way down was very hard on the knees and the leg skin at least until I put on long pants. Also, the “grain” of the vegetation kept pushing us off course. We made it down to the road and set up camp on the bridge, had some supper and then crashed with the satisfaction of a completed confluence and all of the difficulty behind us.
The fourth day was a fairly easy hike (I hobbled) on forestry road along the river. We found the boat much nearer to the water line than we left it. I guess that they closed the dam while we were up the mountain. We had a satisfying boat ride back to the truck and after we loaded the boat, we drove home with a stop for pizza and beer in Revelstoke.
It was an incredible trip and pushed all of us. We grew as individuals and friends. Planning, flexibility and strength of will combined with the Grace of God and good friends made this trip a success. Thanks Guys!