Monday, 30 May 2011

Yukon: The next adventure

On June 1st I will fly to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory and start a thrupaddle of the Yukon River together with my Swiss paddling partner Adrian. The Yukon is 3,120 km long and the fifth longest river in North America. It usually takes about 60 to 80 days to thrupaddle it. I will fly back on August 23rd. Even after all my adventures in the last 4 years this expedition is something very special for me - out of various reasons.

  • This is my first long paddling trip. I have paddled 2 weeks in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota and the Everglades in Florida - but I have never been on such a long paddling trip. Luckily the Yukon is quite an easy river with no real white water and hopefully even paddling rookies like Adrian and I will be able to manage it.
  • This is my first long trip I have planned with a partner. Almost all my other adventures have been solo trips or I have met partners while travelling, but this time I am setting out with someone. I must admit that Adrian has done most of the planning. The whole trip has been his idea and is his birthday present for his 60th birthday. I have only joined him half a year ago, but we have been a good team ever since. On this trip we will literally be in the same boat for 2,5 months and I hope we will still be talking with each other at the end of the trip.
  • This is a relatively expensive trip. The air fare has been relatively expensive especially since I am only staying for less than 3 months. I have bought a lot of new equipment for this trip, like a new petrol stove, a two person pot set, a bugshirt, a synthetic quilt. And I will have to buy more gear in Canada like a life jacket, paddles and waterproof containers. Plus we will have to buy the boat, a Canadian canoe and many other little items in Whitehorse. We will sell the boat and the paddles at the end of the trip, but keep the rest. Although I will be able to use most of the new gear on other paddling and cycling trips, this has been a major investment for me.
The Yukon poses a lot of new challenges - and a lot of them are quite new to me. Still, I would be much more nervous about this trip if I were on my own. Having a paddling partner is a big help, especially since Adrian is an experienced long-distance hiker like me.

  • The average water temperature of the Yukon even in summer is only 5,5 Celsius. When you fall into water that cold you have about 10 to 15 minutes to get out - after that you will die of hypothermia. Remembering that we managed to capsize our boat even in the tame Everglades this is a scary prospect.
  • The Yukon is extremely silty. If you want to get drinking water out of the river you have to let it sit overnight so that the sediments can settle down. This fine sand is also a killer of tent zippers and fabrics. I don't expect that much of our daily gear will survive intact. 
  • Wind is a big problem especially in the Yukon delta close to the Bering Sea where there are no trees left as wind breaks. These high winds can create standing waves that make paddling impossible, especially in a canoe. We are expecting to be stuck in our tents for a couple of days and I have brought playing cards to keep us entertained. We hope we have enough time buffer for these occasions.
  • Of course there are the mosquitoes. We have bought new bug shirts for this problem. But at least the mosquitoes and ticks do not transmit any diseases like Lyme Disease in Alaska....
  • And there are the bears - black and brown. Adrian has even bought a bear proof fence for them to ensure us a good rest at night.
  • The Yukon is very isolated. Once past Dawson City we will have very few resupply and communication possibilities. Probably there won't be many blog updates for that reason. We can just hope that we don't run into any medical problems and don't miscalculate our food supply.
The Yukon is a big test for me. I want to do more paddling on my own but don't feel experienced enough for long solo trips. If I can cope on the Yukon with Adrian, I will hopefully be able to cope on my own. And then the first solo paddling adventure would be the Murray River in Australia...This is how one trip leads to the next one!


Anonymous said...

Hi there - we wish you & Adrian a great trip! Looking forward 'SPOTting' your route & reading your news. Take care & best regards, Paul (ABB)

Anonymous said...

The Murray contiues to flow well. It should be relatively straightforward after the Yukon!