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Canadian kayakers nab first descent of BC's Filer Creek

Expedition chronicled in new Red Bull documentary

Curious about what it’s like to kayak a whitewater creek deep in the Coast Mountain range of British Columbia? The Filer Creek Expedition is a new 20-minute Red Bull film chronicling a first descent of the Filer Creek by kayakers Sandy Macewan, Benny Marr, and Ed Muggridge.

Macewan found the creek 250 kilometres north of Vancouver via Google Earth and other fancy online methods, and called up Canadian kayakers Marr and Muggridge to bring the trip to life.

Marr, a kayaker born of the Ottawa River, who spends the entire year circumnavigating the globe in search of pristine whitewater, was eager to return to BC for the trip. On the phone from his truck in Quebec, Marr says MacEwan was the force behind the push to make the trip happen.

“So we're looking at the gradient, trying to decide what the whitewater is going to look like, what sort of problems can arise,” Marr says. “And, logistically, Sandy really took control of this one. I've done trips in the past where we just kind of get there by driving, kayaking, hiking, you just hike, hike into the river, which is really, really fun and challenging. And this one, we actually took a water taxi from Lund to close to the mouth of the river, and then we got a helicopter bump from there.”

The trio packed just enough to get them through the next seven days and some 50 kilometres of what Marr calls “creeking” back to the Pacific Ocean.

“At that point, there was only one way out, which was down the 50km river,” Muggridge says. “We’d spent months talking and planning, but the feeling of actually being there, watching the helicopter fly away, was one of the wildest, more exposed feelings I’ve felt in my life.”

Although there were plenty of portages along the route, the film also shows some incredible whitewater and stunning scenery as the fellas make their way downriver, paddling and bushwhacking by day, and the most amazing creekside camping at the end of another exhausting day.

“The whitewater turned out to be really, really great,” Marr says. “There was definitely you know, a section un-runnable at even at a lower flow. The waterfall was probably runnable but no one in our group wanted to run it. It was by no means like a clean classic piece of whitewater and then everything below that was pretty good. Everything that I found (ahead of time) was credible and that I wanted to run, I ran. So I was pretty happy with the amount of whitewater that I got to run on the trip.”

Muggeridge was astounded by the scenery and explains that a lot of new rock in the creek made for some intense paddling.

“It was a classic BC Coast Mountain rapid. There was a lot of fresh rock – moved there by recent landslides – which made the whitewater choppy, unfriendly and not clean. It was scary, powerful whitewater and had nasty features throughout,” he says. “There were some really solid sections, but its high exposure and riskiness, as well as its remoteness, removed the option of pushing any boundaries. The whole feel and character of the river put me on edge. With less water, I think I would have run more. But, all in all, the gorges and scenery throughout were beautiful.”

The short documentary shows how challenging it is to execute expedition-style trips such as this, where there is some risk that the whitewater isn’t as advertised. There was as much hiking as there was kayaking, but it’s all part of the deal, says Marr.

According to him, the other trips he’s done in the area, many of them have been much less runnable for a variety of reasons, including timing.

“This trip was well-timed,” he says. “It could have had less water, and it would have made some of the whitewater a little easier, but we still got to run for sure.”

Marr is currently in the Quebec area right now where he comes each spring to surf the big river waves that come up with the winter thaw. He’ll also hit his favourite Ottawa River spots before making his way west again to British Columbia before travelling somewhere internationally in the fall and then back to Washington state for winter paddling.

He and Macewan are eyeing another first descent for August/September so stay tuned.

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