Thursday, May 28, 2009

Quebec exploration

A few days ago we were introduced to a guy called Pat Levesque who lives up on the Saguenay River in a town called Chicoutimi. Pat invited us to stay at his place and on his days off he would show us the area. Over dinner on our first night Pat showed us his extensive research he had done on the area over google maps. Hundreds of pin points on the map all in a relatively small area area of bush north east of the town. This was one of the most amazing areas of whitewater potential Ive ever seen from space! The river that caught all our attention was the Bras Pilote which from space we could see it had some cool canyons and one stand out waterfall which looked massive but possibly runnable! At the put in we knew we had about 4 sections of big drops including the BIG one and some other fast moving bouldery stuff too! Right off the bat the bouldery stuff was bigger and faster than we expected but I guess anything looks small when you have scouted it from thousands of meters above the earth!

-Pat Levesque and I on the slide before the big one - Photo Tyler Fox

After an hour of sweet bombing down fast drops we came across a gem. It was a sweet 15foot clean drop which was a nice change from boulder gardens.

-Josh Neilson on 'Take Off' - Photo Pat Levesque

-Pat Levesque on 'Take off' - photo Tyler Fox

-Josh Neilson Below 'Take Off' - Photo Tyler Fox

Not long down stream after a slide looked like the edge of the earth! Usually horizon lines on rivers make kayakers excited at the potential over the lip. But when you are in the eddy above and can not see anything but sky out over the horizon then its a bit different. With a quick scout on the right and a peer over the edge it was apparent we were definatly portaging on the left. The height was possibly managable with a bit more flow but the entry was tight and too hard to clean a line over the lip.

Pat and I above the big one! - Photo Tyler Fox

-Tyler and Pat peering over the edge - photo Josh Neilson

-Me looking contemplating the possibility - Photo Tyler Fox

-Pat and I at the bottom feeling the power - Photo Tyler Fox

This was our first experience with a bit portage in quebec and all I can say is its hell! The trees are bunched up there is snow making caves to fall in and its steep! at the bottom looking up it was definalty an amazing place to be!

- Me portaging in the snow - Photo Tyler Fox

From here it was more class 3-4 bombing down to the bridge and take out near the confluence of the St Margarete.

-Tired bodies at the take out - photo Lou Urwin

The rest of the day we drove around in the park area scouting potential new first descents. The plan was hatched there and then for the next few days kayaking...

-Scouting Ulrich, Not fun! - photo Josh Neilson

Early the next morning we got up early and made our way into the park again. This time we were headed for Olaf Creek which flows into the St Margarite. At lunch time we made it to the put in and we were off. Tyler and I made our way across a few lakes before the gradient showed its face. When it did it did so fast!

-Josh Neilson on early drop on Olaf - photo Tyler Fox

Once we were a few small drops in we came across the first big land mark on our google map beta. A sweet slide but no exit point before a certain death gorge. The decision was made to portage high on the river left which took us about 1 and a half hours. It was brutal! By 2pm we were around the gorge but thinking hard about what was to come! We knew there was 8 more land marks we could see like this from the google map images so knew we had to keep the pace up to make it out before night! We put in on a ledge right below the last mank drop and ran it out. From above it looked like small holes but turned out they were huge and some big boofs needed to get out! From here the Olaf dropped consistantly and steeply all the way to the confluence to the St Margarite but with little time on our hands we didnt stop to document any of the drops. Definatly worth while though even with the portage in there!!!

-Some nice fun stuff in between the Gnar - Photo Tyler Fox

Here we paddled into the St Maragarite which now trippled the water we had on the Olaf and we knew there were some big drops ahead! Luckily the first was runnable! A sliding ramp into a big hole at the bottom! Tyler flew through it and i had a bit of a stall out in it but all sweet!

-Josh Neilson in Beaver Dam Falls - Photo Tyler Fox

- Josh Neilson below Beaver Dam Falls - Photo Tyler Fox

The Images from google shows a lot of flat water in between big drops but with this flow and more rocks than we expected there was some quality read and run rapids in betweens the big ones! There were only 2 portages in this bottom section and they were MASSIVE! Even if we felt like stepping up on the day these were still portages! maybe at low water they might go but not today!

- Portage of BIG holes and Gradient! - Photo Josh Neilson

- Another steep - Photo Tyler Fox

- Amongst the trees in the last portage of the day!! - Photo Josh Neilson

Soon after we were on the home stretch to the bridge right above the confluence of the Bras Pilote from the day before.

- Lou cooking in our new shelter at the Ulrich Drops - Photo Josh Neilson

-Put in for Ulrich at the lake - Photo Josh Neilson

That night we set up camp on a viewing platform next to some drops on Ulrich Creek with the intention of waking up and running 8km of that creek from the lake down. Tyler and lou ran shuttle and then we were on.

-Josh Neilson on an fast fun one - Photo Tyler Fox

Right away the river made its way down but we were soon met with a portage! Hopefully this was not going to be the theme for the day!

-Only Portage on Ulrich, might go lower flows... Photo Tyler Fox

We soon realised it was not and it got better and better! This was to be the only portage of the day and the drops were all classy! Sometimes boofs, sometimes melts, sometimes boulders sometimes slides... The real prize came near the end where we got a cool 4 foot boof into a pool then an easy sloping drop into a pool! It was so good I even went back for a second go!

-Josh Neilson above 'Pinacle Falls' - Photo Lou Urwin

-Dropping in - Photo Lou Urwin

- Lou taking the First D - Photo Tyler Fox

- Tyler Following orderly - Photo Lou Urwin

-An easy slide towards the end - photo Tyler Fox

The river kept dropping all the way tothe take out above a section of possibly runnable slides and drops but more water would be nice for these.

-The bottom part of the bottom section, more stacked on top of this! - photo Lou Urwin

So huge thanks to Pat for showing us this area and setting us up with 3 sick sections of whitewater to explore! Unfortunatly he couldnt come on the last 3 of 4 first descents but he now knows he has some classic runs in his back yard for the future! Exploration trips like this are a lot of work and preperation and Pat did a lot of this for us! With all the Driving, Scouting, Portaging and runnable whitewater in mind I have to say Im definalty coming back to this place again soon! All worth while!
We are now back in Chicoutimi thinking about plans for 1 or 2 more runs then the big haul down to colorado for Mtn Games. See ya soon!

-Lou Urwin- Photo Tyler Fox

For more info on rivers up here in Quebec contact Pat Levesque at or

Monday, May 25, 2009

Quebec Update 2

Here is just a quick update on today. We had a day of updating everyone on the net and then Tyler and Lou decided to whip across town and park and huck this sweet little drop in town. This drop is called Chute de la HaHa.

-Tyler Running the entry drop- Photo Josh Neilson

-Tyler on the main drop - Photo Josh Neilson

- Lou immersed in the curtain at the top, spot her paddle.. - Photo Josh Neilson

We are now getting ready for a mission tomorrow and now have another first d lined up for Thursday or Friday too! Too much to choose from! So little time...
Stay tuned

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tour 09 begins

- In English its 'Waterfall'. In Thailand it was 'Nam Tok'. In Norway its 'Fossen' but now we are in search of the 'Chutes of Quebec'!

Where do I start this story of such epic moments in its first week...
It all started relatively smoothly pulling out of 269 Twyford Rd with boat on roof, bags in boot and passport in hand.
The trip to Auckland was not a bad one and the check in to the plane with my years worth of gear and kayak was a breeze! Things were going so well! I got off the plane and settled in San Francisco Airport for the expected 18hr Layover with some wireless internet, an uncomfortable chair and regular updates on the loud speaker about terrorist treat level ORANGE!!! What does that even mean?
Anyway the hours ticked over and as it came time to sleep I made my way to the domestic terminal to sleep before my flight and check in at 6am!!! At 12.45am I made it to American Airlines check-in area and someone came over and said if I was on one of their flights I could not come with my kayak... They then changed me to 'Air Canada' and said they will now take you at 8am. I was a bit unsure about this but could do nothing! When I went to check in at Air Canada they had the same story and NO KAYAK policy! With only a few minutes till my original flight boarded I raced back there and made up a totally outrageous story about why I was switched over and they bought it! As the flight was boarding they rushed me through and i missed the $250 over sized baggage cost and made the plane! I then went on to leave my wallet on the plane in Chicago on my connecting flight which I just made it back for in time and then although I had told Lou when my flight was coming in we missed the vital info on flight numbers etc and they went to the wrong terminal in Toronto... about an hour later they found me and we were off!
So that was by far one of my worst travel experiences but all good because I made it and am now sitting in Quebec after a week on a sick mission!

-Josh and Lou Hanging out, Photo Tyler Fox

The first few days we hung out near Ottawa sorting cars and things and did a sneaky run on the Ottawa before heading into Quebec. On our way toward Quebec City we took a detour and ran a cool drop called Chutes Mont De Peine with a spectacular backdrop of a massive cascading manky drop.

-Josh Neilson, Mont de Peine - Photo Lou Urwin

-Josh Neilson Mont De Peine, Photo Tyler Fox

-Lou Dropping in, Mont De Peine, Photo Tyler Fox

-Tyler Fox Silhouetted in Mont de Peine, Photo Josh Neilson

After this we checked out Chutes Saint Ursule, which was run a few years back by Steve Fisher and Dom Chaput for 'Black Book'. In the case of this film it by far makes this drop look smaller than it really is! standing next to it puts it in perspective for sure! Its Massive and well worth going to see!

-Saint Ursule in it's entirety, Photo Josh Neilson

The next morning we headed a bit further north in search of a river called the Mastigouche. I had seen it in some clips before and it was the run in Quebec that I knew I wanted to run!

-Josh Neilson, top slide Mastigouche - Photo Tyler Fox

-Lou Urwin, Top slide, Mastigouche - Photo Tyler Fox

With a small hike in we were at the lake which marked the start on continuous gradient downwards!
Slide after slide was on the cards as we made our way down.

- Josh Neilson, Bottom drop of middle slide - Photo Lou Urwin

-Tyler Fox, Bottom drop, Middle slide - Photo Josh Neilson

-Lou Urwin Sliding the middle one - Photo Josh Neilson

Everything was clean and managable apart from one drop in the middle that had me on my toes.. It wasnt a big drop, it wasn't super vertical and it didnt have a big tow back... what it did have was most of the the flow going into an undercut wall at full pace on one side and into a toaster on the otherside with a narrow boat width ridge down the middle. With all the calculations made I rolled off the lip and along the ridge to the bottom in one piece and stoked!

Josh Neilson, The tight slide - Photo Tyler Fox

While this got the heart racing I knew that the best was to come. The take out slide is amazing, You enter on the left and slide down toward a wall then turn right and hold on... Coming off the left wall into the middle and down the ramp to the bottom! We ran this one over and over till we couldnt go any more. The run at this flow was sick and could definalty use a bit of extra water here and there but all in all it is a super fun run!

-Josh Neilson, Bottom Mastigouche Slide - Photo Lou Urwin

-Josh Neilson, Bottom Slide - Photo Lou Urwin

-Tyler Fox Claiming it! - Photo Lou Urwin

-Folow the leader, Josh and Tyler - Photo Lou Urwin

-Lou Urwin getting into it! Photo Tyler Fox

Successful days on the river like this are not as frequent as they may seem looking at different sites over the net. For every quality drop or river there are numerous drives up winding roads to see waterfalls that land on rocks or have dams above them etc etc. For the next day we found this to be the case but as energy levels were dropping we came across more!

- One of the ones that had potential but doesn't go! Photo Tyler Fox

We met up with David La Rouche and his mate John and headed to camp at a Riviere Gouffre Du Nord where we would put on in the morning and run a nice sloping drop now named 'Breakfast drop'.

-Josh Neilson having waterfalls for breakfast - Photo Lou Urwin

-Tyler with a serving of the same! - Photo Josh Neilson

- Lou following suit - Photo Josh Neilson

-David getting vertical - Photo Josh Neilson

-John rolling off! - Photo Josh Neilson

For the rest of the day we were in unfamiliar territory for everyone and headed in search roads next to blue lines on out maps. Within an hour we were standing next to more drops and slides but left these for the way home. The winner of the day though was hidden in behind a farm in the hills which thanks to John and Dave and their French speaking abilities we were up the farm track in to find 2 classic waterfalls and a third marginal one. With a bit of google earthing we have found that the section above has a series of waterfalls and slides which may be on the cards in a few days.

- Bottom 2 of 3 standing yet to be run, We'l see soon - Photo Lou Urwin

We are now based at Pat Levesque's house in Chicutimi planning for an epic week on the river. Yesterday we ran the Bras Louis which was a nice run but very cold! We put on and ran the A section first which was an hour of boogie water then the other guys had to leave back to work so they did our shuttle from the top again and we ran down to the end of the B section. The B section was a step up from A and had one portage for us but the rest went like mad! The last drop was unlike anything Ive run before. A skateboard ramp like entry which once at its lowest point then headed back up again over a huge rooster tail and then straight into the next drop. Super fun and even went back up for a second go!

-Josh Neilson rolling into the ramp drop - Photo Lou Urwin

-Tyler Fox doing the same - Photo Lou Urwin

the rest of the day we spent Driving up those roads in search of drops that all came to dead ends and no sight of the rivers... The never ending search for whitewater is often a long and slow process but when you find the goods its all worth while.
The next few days is set out for a possible few first descents, one which we found and others that Pat has found and keen to search out more. Stay tuned...

- Map Books, a must for every waterfall search mission - Photo Josh Neilson

- Believe it or not, The dark figure behind this 'DANGER' sign is a BEAR!!!! obviously the focus is a bit blurred as I am swiftly making my way back to the car! AGHHH RUN