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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pack Rafting the Primrose Write Up

There was so much more to this trip than the video could show, I knew I had to write it up and with lots more images.
The Primrose is just one of those rivers that was meant to be pack rafted.  A relatively short walk in through incredible alpine terrain, amazing scenery, and challenging paddling.  In a packraft, the paddling is actually more than challenging.  Simply put, you are not going to packraft the canyon portion.  Well, someone might at low water levels, but its super gnarly, so there.
I kept throwing this out a a trip all summer, and Paul Burbidge kept saying "I'm in", and he was.  We were all set to do it on the Labor Day weekend, but three makes a safer number, and Dylan Stuart was enlisted as a rock solid third, albeit a relatively newbie packrafter.
The Burb.  As a surveyor specializing in bush work, this dude is happy sleeping in the mud, eating bugs for dinner, and generally making short work of any and all wilderness challenges.

Dylan.  I always think of this quote from The Terminator when I think of Dylan in the woods  "Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead."  Although I'm pretty sure Dylan feels pity, and I think he can be bargained with.

When asked afterwards how this trip could have been better, I responded that we all wished Anthony had been with us.
But back to the trip.  We all took the Friday before the Friday before Labor Day weekend off to ensure we had enough time in hand to finish the trip.  We had no idea how long it would take,  We knew we would be portaging.  A lot.  Paul B had no spraydeck on his raft (what had he been thinking!) and Dylan was a relative new comer to packrafting.  We knew it had tough whitewater, but we also knew we had the judgement and sense to scout when required, and portage when it made sense.  Its packrafting after all.
Paul Bs partner Carrie shuttled us out to the Wheaton river valley bright and early on a spectacular August 30th morning.  Sunny, bluebird, warm.  Perfect.  We flew up the old mining Bernie Creek exploration road, and then left the road to travel overland straight through the alpine to Primrose lake.  6 hours later we were blowing up the rigs on the shores of Primrose lake.
Leaving the road at the headwaters of Bernie creek 
Looking into the Coast Ranges, with Primrose Lake in the deep valley ahead.  Mt. Porsild is the pyramid peak right of center.
We stayed right when we should have gone left.  Right got us onto steep, old moraine.  Lots of loose gravel and boulders.
We were on the water by 5:30-ish, and headed off down the lake with a stiff South wind aiding us.
Most of the way down Primrose.  We descended to the lake via the low valley on the left.
By 7PM, we had past most of the nice beaches and were headed towards the rocky river outlet.  I spied a nice sandy beach in a protected cove.  It looked to be the last nice spot on the lake, so we pulled in and called it home.  It was awesome!  A big fire and perfect, mossy mid sites.
5 star campsite.
Primrose lake really is one of the jewels of the Yukon.
We were up and at em early the next AM.  Sunny skies and a warm South wind eased our anxiety about the upcoming river.  The Primrose is class IV between Primrose lake and Rose lake, but the rapids aren't marked accurately.  As we entered the river, we could see the river dropping away, with whitewater dancing on the horizon line.  Bob and Theresa, my hardcore kayaking neighbors, had walked in with their hardshells the day before us.  They had dragged their gear in, and here at the outlet, we saw their tracks for the first time.
Looking downstream at the outlet.
The river stayed class II-ish for quite some time, with the odd bit of easy III thrown in for good measure.  It was classic, fun packrafting water, and a good warm up for all of us.  Eventually things got a bit more attention getting.
Fun splashy class II on the upper reaches.  The low water made things much more pack raft friendly than would otherwise be the case. 
Yahoo!!
Several chutes that looked to be IV-ish had us pulling over and portaging.  They were probably hard III at the low fall levels, but prudence suggested portaging.  I have no pictures of Prudence, but she was with us the whole trip.
Prudence, I mean Dylan, showing good packraft sense.
If we had been paddling more this summer, I'm sure we would have paddled more of the chutes.  One long section of hard-ish looking water had us following a trail through the woods past it.
Portaging packrafts is MUCH easier than dragging canoes or kayaks....
Dylan had a good background in canoeing, and he got into the swing of things pretty quickly.
We began to run more and more of the rapids as we got a better feeling as to what the characteristics of the river were.  There were no log jams, and the rapids were generally chutes with long stretches of wave trains below them.  The only drawback was that Paul B didn't have a spraydeck on his rig.  After every rapid, he would yell out "what was I thinking?"  as in why didn't I order this with a spraydeck?  Its a good thing he's tough, as he got to sit in icy water most of the time.
Looking back at the last rapid we carried.

Eventually the river slowed down and entered wetlands at the South end of Rose lake.  We pulled over and had a lunch fire, and looked at the very fresh griz tracks.
Nothing like fire to improve ones outlook.

The long paddle down Rose lake beckoned.  It;s about 16 km to the North end of Rose lake, with a short section of river dividing the lake at about halfway.  We were all about the same in terms of our drive for paddling flatwater.  Give 'er for an hour or so, then drift and chat for a while, then give 'er again.  This got us down to the North end in if not record time, then in good time.  It started to drizzle just as we found a nice camp site in Pines.
Giving 'er.
The Place Beyond The Pines.  We didn't see any sign of Ryan Gosling.  
Heading into the wetlands with the kayakers on the beach behind Dylan. 
It was overcast, socked in and drizzling hard the next morning, when a floatplane showed up and deposited 3 kayakers on the beach opposite camp.  I don't think the Primrose has seen this much action for years.  Dylan knew all of them, and it turned out they were meeting Bob and Theresa at the top of the canyon to run it and the rest of the river as a day trip.  It started to pour rain as we all made our way through the wetlands above the falls.  It was nice having the lads in front of us, as they had run the river before and knew where the take out was above the falls.  We all pulled out, and while the trio dragged there boats towards the gully that would get them down below the falls, we deflated and packed up for the 5 km portage.
Paul B won worst-dressed in his tarp-poncho.
Cool meadows away from the river.
Dropping down to the put-in below the class V canyon.
About 12 years ago, a fire went through this area.  Apparently there used to be a trail for the portage, but it has long been lost due to the fire.  The portage went quickly with everything on our backs.  It would have sucked to drag boats though.  We were down at the river, with rafts mostly ready to go when the kayakers came out of the canyon.
Looking upstream at the canyon.
 We put in after the kayakers.  We boat scouted for a while, and then came to what was apparently the hardest rapid in the lower section.  Dylan portaged it, I ran it, and Paul B filled with water on the first drop, and became separated from his raft.  I left the lads in a desperate race to catch the wee Alpacka.  It was a long walk out without it.  I eventually caught up to it hung up on a rocky bar, filled with water, but apparently fine.  This was about 2 km downstream from the lads.  It was pouring rain, so I hunkered down under a Spruce, built a big fire and waited.
External sources of heat are good.
 In a short while Dylan showed up.  Not long after, Paul B swam across the river and was reunited with us.  All was well.  More fun class III followed, with one drop we didn't like the look of, so we carried past it.
Lots of fun class III.
It was the kind of water where if we had been paddling more the past summer, we would have run all of it. That and having a deck on Paul Bs boat.  Regardless it was great fun, with no log jams to worry about.  The river carries on like this until it widens out and slows down forming a long, narrow lake complete with an idyllic campsite on an island.  It was pouring rain and cold, so we didn't stop.  At the outlet of the lake, the river drops into a long chute that we didn't like the look of, so we made a long-ish carry past it in the thick woods.  Apparently it's a long wave train with no hazards.  Knowing that now, it would probably be a fun paddle.  It was Prudence's idea to portage.
In the lake.
Lots of fun class II below the chute had us out to Kusawa lake quite quickly.  When we arrived at the lake, it was about 5 PM, and nasty North wind was beating into us.  An old friend of mine has his cabin near the mouth of the river, and when I saw his boat at the dock, I suggested we stopped in.  Ed was home, and was nice enough to give us a lift to the campground, which saved us 10km of flatwater.  Michelle and Carrie were there with food and beer.  The kayakers had only just reached the campground, but they had paddled the lake while we drank beer in Ed's boat.  The weren't expecting us until much later.
Great fun.  I want to go back.


1 comment:

  1. That was a very nice trip. Will read about it later- the photos were very good!

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