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Simpson Valley | Canada

Written By: Cole Oruski

Day 1:                                           
We planned on walking eleven kilometers throughout the span of the whole trip. On day one we hiked five. Our crew of Bow-Valley locals Eli Chilton, Justin Milner and myself all met up at Sunshine Village ski resort located about 15 minutes west of Banff, Canada. We had a simple goal: hike over the top of the ski resort and camp at a lake overlooking the valley. We would repel into the valley the next day. The hike that we had to do on the first day was easy going. There was a nice, maintained hiking trail. Wildflowers lit up the valley adding a fairytale-like feeling to start the expedition. We got to our campsite, set up our tarps and began making dinner. As we ate, we looked over the deep valley that we were going to commit ourselves to the next day.

Eli Chilton & Cole Oruski gaze into the valley prior to entering | Photo: Justin Milner

Justin & Cole hiking out to camp day one | Photo: Eli Chilton

Justin & Cole relax over the campfire and stare over the horizon they are to repel over the next day | Photo: Eli Chilton

Day 2: 

As we all began to wake up the stoke was high in the air: today was going to be a sick day of paddling. Staring over the 200-foot cliff at the head of the valley made me sick to my stomach. I knew that once I was beyond it there would be no more maintained hiking trails and only an entirely unknown world. We climbed over huge avalanche debris, from car-sized boulders to walls of logs, pushed down from the snow. We had two kilometers to walk to get to where we thought we would be able to paddle. Hours passed, and it felt like we had moved nowhere. Then we heard the sound of running water. This was the tributary of the Simpson and the excitement and joy returned.

Finally, we could see the river and the stoke was high again, but soon our faces slowly dropped. Wood! The river was full of log jams, one after another. We knew we had to keep going. We still had two more kilometers until we would reach our final campsite where the tributary reached the Simpson river.  We waded through the glacier-fed river as much as we could to try and avoid the knee-breaking BC bush. As the river slowly grew in volume, we eventually had to make our way through the bush. After 10 hours of hiking our anxiety grew and we knew we would have to make camp soon. The vicious leg cramps dropped us one by one. At this point, we were just trying to find any sort of flat ground to set up our camp. Finally, as dusk approached, we could see an opening through the trees. One final spike of excitement drove us to walk the extra 100 meters to the opening. As we got closer it became clear that we had made it. The Simpson River was right in front of us. We did not have much light left in the day, so we quickly cooked up some food and crashed on the sandy beach under the clear night sky.

Justin repelling down into the Simpson River Valley | Photo: Eli Chilton

Justin & Cole gazing up at the cliff they just repelled down | Photo: Eli Chilton

Day 3:

After not paddling on our second day we were pumped to finally get some strokes in and we had 23 kilometers ahead of us. Within the first five minutes, we saw our first log jam. We were just hoping it would not be a repeat of the second day. Gladly it was not, and we had smooth sailing for the rest of the river. There were no significant rapids, just class ll-lll. We were a little disappointed to find no significant rapids but were just as stoked to get some stokes in the water. As we slowly approached the end of our mission, we started looking around and were thankful for dodging the hassle of Canada day and having spent it in the BC bush of Kootenay National Park.

Last day camp. Gear splayed about to dry. | Photo: Eli Chilton

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