Hi all, we survived
I owe to everyone who took the time to respond to my post to give a little post-trip review. So the very very short version of the story is that everything was fine, we survived, never encountered anything that we felt we could not deal with, that being said nothing quite went exactly as planned.
You could say that we made two main mistakes in our planning. The first was to assume that we could keep the same pace as the guy (the only human to our knowledge who has ever kayaked this exact route) did when he did this. We were way off the mark there. Now that we have attempted this its clear that he is a superhuman badass with magical powers that somehow allowed him to cover the number of kilometers daily that he did. (We never thought our lack of skills could keep up with his surplus of skills, but our rational in assuming we could keep the same pace was based on the fact that the year he did it was one of the driest years in a decade, very low water levels and we were going on a year with exceptionally high water levels, we assumed the high water levels would translate into more current that would help us keep the same pace…we were off the mark there)
The second mistake in our planned was definitely the packraft. The rivers we were on were often really slow, sometimes with no current at all. The packraft killed us. It was just too slow. To refresh your memories we were 3 people…we had chosen a russian made 2-person kayak with a V shaped bottom which weight about 18kg and a because that was already a lot of weight (we also had almost a weeks worth of food and gear that we thought we would be carrying on our backs) we chose for the third person a packraft. Well, we ended up dragging it behind the kayak with a rope. Its a long story but in the end because there was such heavy rainfall in the weeks before we left we ended up arriving at our put-in point by horseback, which was not only a good decision but was pretty much the only option at that point. If we had known we would go by horseback we could have taken different crafts that weigh more, but we didnt. The packraft was impossibly slow in the slow water. If it wasnt for the packraft we would have had a better chance of keeping the same pace as our predecessor (although it still would have been tough, he’s a machine).
Otherwise, our glorified russian pool toy was actually a great choice (albeit I have no previous experience to compare with). It held up fine. So did the Kokopelli packraft aside from its lack of speed.
The route was definitely remote, we encountred one guy who had been living by himself for in a tiny cabin with no other peopel within 100k next to the river. We had tea with him and he said that in 45 years living out there we were the first people to come down that river other than the occasional hunter who actually live in that area.
As for the river itself we did two small parts that I would guess were class III, and a bunch of small class I and II here and there between the pancake parts. No issues.
All in all the trip was a hell of an adventure. Full-on. Not easy by any means. There was lots of on the fly adapting and problem solving but all do-able. The big problem was the speed. We got so behind in our schedule that there was no way we would have made it to our finish line (which we had to make by a certain date because there is no way out from there other than a small supply plane that flys in once a month). So the short of it is that we had to cut the trip in half (there was only one place that was connected to the outside world by road that was about at the halfway mark). So we didnt reach our goal, but I feel we got plenty of bang for our buck.
I am blogging about the trip, in installments. Feel free to check it out: www.thescenicroutethroughlife.com
Thanks again for the advice
PS: We are selling the Kokopelli packraft and three carbon paddles if anyone is interested