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


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