A couple months ago Icicle TV filmed a segment with the Creature Craft team as they paddled the Wenatchee River’s Tumwater Canyon. Darren Vancil , CC’s founder and head test pilot mentioned that the crew was in town training for a full descent of BC’s Grand Canyon of the Stikine, one of whitewater paddling’s last great problems . We caught up with Darren and the rest of the crew recently to catch up and talk about their trip. In a word it was… intense.
The expedition’s members faced incredible triumph and tragedy in the 52 mile canyon’s span. Stopping rarely due to the overwhelming current’s power, safe eddies were few and far between, with mile after mile of wall to canyon wall of the continent’s most notorious whitewater.
Far from being unexplored, the Stikine is frequently ran by kayakers with the notable exception of the crux rapids, where paddlers portage around the churning cauldron of Site Zed, the last great problem in North American whitewater. The group was passed by legendary kayaker Jeff West at Site Zed as he attempted the first one day full descent of the Grand.
Tragically, the team discovered Jeff’s body further downstream. A satellite phone summoned rescue helicopter carefully cradled Jeff skyward, the thundering blades fighting the rivers own tumult, the chopper departed, leaving the paddlers to resume the trip. With no choice to quit, as the 1,000 foot sheer walls prevent such an exit with four 400 pound rafts, the crew did the only thing left to do. They got back in their boats and finished the first raft descent of the Grand Canyon of the Stikine, North America’s last great rafting challenge.
The sorrow of Jeff West discovery serves as a sobering end note of the untamable power of nature and man’s desire to experience that power at the most intimate level; to embrace the maelstrom and float like a leaf, an island of calm in the storm. Stay with us on this story, are going to be working with the group to document the trips details for our readers. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Jeff West, may he find safe waters.