Into and out of the Kitimat Ranges
Greetings from the traverse crew! We’ve been luxuriating in Terrace B.C. since our arrival from Bella Coola last week and are now about to human-propel ourselves to Stewart, which we will reach in 7-10 days.
With sad faces and full bellies we left Bella Coola and our new friends, Andrew and Sarah, and Duncan and Meghan, and took our first steps, or strokes, in our packrafts through Dean Channel and along Cascade Inlet. As we paddled alongside Pacific white-sided dolphins, we lazed in hot springs and gazed in wonder at petroglyphs and countless magnificent waterfalls. From the head of the inlet, we jumped right back into the mountain setting, where, after months of traversing, we feel at home.
As we descended from the mountains, the Kitlope River awaited. This was an important destination to me, as I had wanted to explore and witness firsthand the largest continuous tract of coastal rainforest in the world. Travelling the land as we have been doing for the past four months, we have become all too aware of the fact that are precious few places left where we humans have not had a destructive presence. Thanks to BC Parks, the Haisla people of Kitimat have protected this area from destruction so that future generations might have an understanding of wilderness. We feel blessed to have experienced it.
Then, three weeks into this section of our trip, our eyes fell downcast upon a massive blight: Kemano, an industrial development project built to service Alcan’s massive hydroelectric project, which energizes an aluminum smelter in Kitimat. Currently, Rio-Tinto Alcan is boring a second tunnel, which will increase smelter capacity by fifty percent. However, as the project pulls water from the Nechacko Reservoir, (a major tributary of the Fraser river) environmentalists are concerned as reduced flows along the Nechako River cause water temperature rises in the Fraser River, affecting salmon runs. As well, the Kemano project diverts the river’s snowmelt water through a mountain range and releases it into the ocean, bypassing salmon spawning grounds. This was a heavily contested project back in the 1990s, and the NDP government at the time rejected the expansion. Now, it is back with some changes, and in the face of projects like Enbridge and liquid natural gas plants, Kemano almost pales in comparison. That says a lot about the direction we are headed in conserving our environment.
Our plan was to pass through Kemano, and although we wrote countless letters to Kemano corporate affairs, they refused to grant us access on our human-powered journey. So, we hopped over it in a plane with Nick Hawes from Lakes District Air and started our ski traverse on the shores of Tahtsa Lake. For the following weeks, we had a new companion; a wolverine, whose fresh tracks paralleled ours everyday. We even had a close encounter one morning as it shuffled by our camp. Between bouts of never-ending rain, we had views of the Pacific Ocean and the interior plateau in this narrow section of the Coast Mountains. The rain, caused by this season’s unstable air masses, was a constant issue, once leaving us tent bound for a week and severely shortening our travel windows to grab moments between whiteouts and thunderstorms. Taking forced breaks was not so bad, but left us with hollow feelings, as what little remained of the winter snowpack disappeared into the adjacent rivers.
Eventually, the mountains gave way to logging roads and we reached Clore Creek and my beaming bride-to-be, Bridget. Terrace and civilization beckoned. Once there, the wonderful Collette and Duncan Stewart family took us in. Home cooking! However, Erica received news about a family emergency and headed to Arkansas to be with them. While we waited for her return, we debated how to continue because the mountains seemed to be quite barren of snow. Rallying some local skiers, we brainstormed how to travel through this now summery landscape. Erica has now returned and we are again about to step out into lands as-yet unknown—at least to us. For now, we say goodbye to the glaciers we have come to love.
Thanks to all in Terrace, including Guido, who teased us with a protest against traversing while we were here, chanting “Terrace townies are up and downies” and “This ski traverse is perverse.” His issues with ski traversing fell on compassionate ears as we pledged to return to the Terrace mountains to do some ‘real’ (aka downhill) skiing. We leave Terrace with bodies strong and minds inspired to send some more wilderness!
If you love our planet and our glaciers as much as we do, click here to have a look at a wonderful website by Matt Beedle, a Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions Graduate Fellow and a PhD candidate at the University of Northern British Columbia. As well, James Blalog’s TED presentation is a must watch. Finally, I have strung together some videos of our trip from the past 5 weeks. The first is a video of some visuals I strung together of our journey. These are also some reviews of our gear that has failed: Arc’teryx Arrakis 65L Backpack, Dynafit Speed Radical 10 bindings and Exped 7UL sleeping mat.
Our thanks to everyone who is supporting us and who we met including:
Dale Douglas@ Tyax Air
Nick Hawes @ Lakes District Air
Jonas Hoke, Chief Meteorologist
Nicole Koshure, our weather girl
Ian “Cheddar” Watson
James Retty & The Escape Route
Andrew & Sarah in Bella Coola
Grant in Bella Coola
Norm and Denice Bougie
Nirvana Pass ski crew
Mountain Equipment Co-Op
Julia Fesenko @ Inreach
Air Blaster Ninja Suits
Red Shed’s (Williams Lake)
Staff &friends@Tweedsmuir Lodge
Tracey “Trix” Kindrachuck
Erin and Ryan Boyle
Meghan Cornish & Duncan
Clarence @ Tsayta Air
Bobbi and Earl @ Pitt Lake Water Taxi
Eric Hoji & Jen Ashton
Sam @ Surefoot Whistler
Mike King @ Whitesaddle Air
Andor Tari @ Sage Advice
Sky & Garret @ Talheo Lodge
Collette & Duncan Stewart
Guido, Matt and Lazlo who came out to share their local mountain knowledge