Paddy & Phil’s Excellent Adventure ; Upper Seymour – Not Again!
I usually go to Kamloops for Easter, but not this year. In the last few years many of our club disappear to America to paddle with the Lower Columbia Canoe Club and I am envious. I have to listen to all the tales of how great their rivers are, how well attended, the variety of water craft their friendliness, etc. etc. etc. It’s enough to make envy’s sister bitterness take over – but I digress.
Carey planned the upper Seymour before Easter, but the water was too high. Easter/Passover, the prohibition on work fresh on my mind, Carey announces an ad hoc trip via email to upper Seymour, the first in three years. I drop plans, do a quick calculation that paddling does not violate the sabbath and agree.
Carey demands we meet fully prepared at 8:30 a.m. Bryan Gorman-\, Jen, Jill and Paddy, Trish and I are there. Gatekeeper opens up and we leave: usual shuttle vehicle at the new walking bridge at the new takeout – essentially a 40 foot cliff to the river – and head for the put in.
Usual drill: 5 solos, 3 of us in Rivals – Trish, Jen and me. Jill and Paddy in their sporty Caption and Carey in whatever that Blue hole thing is called. Bryan in a rather small L’Edge. Carey is very buoyant and insists we can all do the whole thing except if you want out at the lunch spot Spur 4 you can. Jill and Paddy don’t have dry suits and are in 2 piece paddling gear, a fateful decision. Trish doesn’t have a dry suit but then she doesn’t swim!
Trip talk and we set off. Jen is distinctly hyperventilating, Jill has her keep calm and carry on expression but secretly dreading it. I, trying to be helpful, yell out strokes to Jen which causes Carey to tell me to “STOP CALLING OUT HER EVERY STROKE” AND “SHE HAS TO FIGURE IT OUT.”
I stop, recalling decades ago I failed Carey’s Moving Water Instructors course and therefore must act humbly. To make a long story short, river 20ish and to the lunch spot we all arrive not much worse for wear. Jill decides despite Carey’s assurances we can all do it, after one dump she isn’t. She is prescient. I decide to tandem with Paddy. What could go wrong? I send my Rival home with Jill.
Following lunch, the Remainers leave. Paddy and I dump within 100 meters of the lunch spot but self rescue mid rapid. One of 3 more stupendous dumps. We head down the river duelling banjos playing in our minds.
It doesn’t take too long to see why below Spur 4 is very much unlike above Spur 4. Jen now “figuring it out” is going backwards down rapids, stuck on rocks, down wrong channels perched on top of rocks, but incredibly never falls out. Bryan in his L’Edge toy tub too small and without room for as much as a bailer makes a dump or two but self-rescues. Carey of course is on course. Trish like I say, maddeningly, never falls out perhaps the fear of exposure in her rather thin mall small 3mm farmer jane.
I turn on my complete Captain Bligh to Paddy’s Fletcher Christian shouting DRAW, DRAW, PRY- NO DRAW, PADDLE! as we hurtle ever faster down ever steeper drops. Unlike Anne and Alaine we are not paddling as one.
After a number of stops to drain water and such, we approach a spot where the upper Seymour pushes into a single channel with humongous rocks and holes. Carey sails through holding his paddle up for us to come ahead. Jen and Trish think better of it and get out to scout.
Paddy and I, now pretty much without a game plan, follow Carey’s enticement. We enter the channel just centimeters left of the first rock, we drop into what appears to be another rock and are instantly eaten by a hole.
I don’t know what happened but Paddy is swimming to shore without me. I am hanging onto the bow line of the caption as it drags me down the river. As I look back Bryan in his L’Edge, makes it. I am now heading down river being towed by a freight truck. I see Bryan reaching for what eventually turns out to be the shortest thinnest still legal throw rope I have ever seen-no doubt for kayakers in teeny boats.
I see a boulder coming up and crash onto it. I’m holding the bow line of the caption with one hand and my paddle in my other, while Bryan is throwing a small diameter throw rope that travels about six feet or about 20 feet short of me, who is now stuck against a rock most of my body in the water pouring over my shoulders.
Paddy breaking all the rules of rescue, has now walked out to the river with his paddle keeping him from being swept away waist deep he literally shoves the thinnest rescue rope into my hands and takes my paddle while Bryan now “belaying” me staggers to pull 200 plus pounds of me holding a Caption full of a ton of water on its side to shore.
Where is Carey? The man who thinks we can all do it, is now back at the drop watching Trish and Jen or should I say nursemaiding them. He apparently had written pensioners Paddy and me off. Trish bangs through on far left.
Jen follows and stays in. Later she would tell me “Phil I want to buy your rival.” “Why I ask, its old roylex it’s is thrashed? She replies “because I calculated that I was in control 50% of the time. Well 50% not too bad and one dump through massive rock gardens is impressive so you can borrow it at least for river’s week.
Back to us. Paddy and I are lying gasping on the river’s edge emptying the Caption. It’s his third swim and his two-piece padding suit is now full of freezing water his pantlegs and arms now bulging with ice cold river water. His feet and hands, long since devoid of feeling, we clamour aboard the Caption.
This was the first of three dramatic rapids and two more are coming up. The next I don’t remember much, but we got through and empty our boats above the last rapid, above the new walking bridge. Carey said it could be lined to. Bryan, Trish and Jen start to do that.
Now this last drop and I have a history. The history is I have never in my 20 years of paddling got past it. Well this year is different. I have a tandem, I have a bow man made for adrenaline: despite our shaky dance style we go for it!
Carey sails in diagonally – he makes it. Paddy in bow, me hoarsely shouting instructions, plunge ahead attempt to go diagonally and are swept over the rock into yet another humungous hole. Now out of our boat we dog paddle, swim kick to shore; Carey now chasing the Caption on its journey into the rock slide, he somehow gets the boat.
The take-out was a groaner, straight up a 40 foot hill, with Carey barking at us to avoid recently planted trees-the paddle ends. What an excellent day!
P. S. Paddy phoned me the next day to tell me he is still recovering. This from a guy that jumps off cliffs with a parachute thing a ma jig.