I think about kayaking. A LOT. One of my favourite things about our sport is the process of applying knowledge, skill, and fitness to a particular rapid, and coming up with a theory of how it should be run. We then apply this theory to the rapid to the best of our abilities, and hopefully create a line for ourselves to run smoothly.
The limits of our sport are constantly being pushed. First D’s of rivers and rapids continue to occur constantly, and people take it to the next level on other rivers by running them at higher and higher water. I have a pretty vivid imagination, and sometimes I find myself lost in thought about what is in fact possible in a kayak, and what the human body can withstand. This is only exacerbated by the ease of access to information on the Internet. I have wasted so much time “Internet scouting” rapids.
Here are a few of my favorite as-of-yet un-run waterfalls that fall into the “purely theoretical” category. The possibilities are incredible, but you would be playing with fire.
Virginia Falls, Nahanni River, Northwest Territories, Canada
This thing is absolutely spectacular. Total vertical drop of around 500 feet. It sits at a latitude of 61.63, just south of the Arctic Circle. Access is available only by float plane.
It starts with a monster entrance slide that you would have to be all the way left on. A giant rock formation splits the flow, and the right side of the main drop is an absolute no-go.
You could catch an eddy after the slide, but there is no aborting at that point, you are walled in and committed.
You would then have to run a monster weir hole immediately followed by a 250+ foot cascade. The only way to
properly document this thing would be a chase helicopter with a camera, ski-film style. That would be a bit
If you completed this rapid successfully, you would have just run the sickest thing ever descended in a kayak, and be able to enjoy the satisfaction under the Northern Lights that night. Ever since I read “True North” by Will Hobbs when I was 9 years old, I have been mesmerized by the spirituality and power of this area of northern Canada.
Ok, moving on…
Pywiack Cascade, Tenaya River, California, USA
Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to run Tenaya Falls in Cali. It is the most amazing slide that I have ever done at 350 feet of vertical descent. I have never gone faster in my boat, and it is absolutely amazing that something that big can be so good. Here is the video of that day.
Tenaya is huge, but it is only the runt sibling of a titan waiting ½ mile downstream...
The Pywiack Cascade drops 700 feet and is much steeper than Tenaya. Sadly enough, several hikers have slipped from trails far above this thing and taken the ultimate ride once they hit the water. The whole gorge slopes in at a very steep angle, and it is the slickest, most perfect granite you could imagine.
Here is a low water picture of the bottom of Pywiack. Do you think that pool is big enough?
Absolutely spectacular terrain...
What would your speed be by the end? Physics folks please chime in… 50+ degree slide that drops 700 vertical feet… 120 mph? It sure seems like you could be.
If you want a quick helicopter view of the top of this bad boy, pay close attention to the BBC Planet Earth series episode on Freshwater. One final thought with this one… are any of you familiar with “speed-flying?” Would
that be possible with a kayak on this slide? I think so, but where would you land?
I’m not going to lie, Palouse used to be on this theoretical list for me… and then Tyler Bradt stepped up and proved it to be possible! I still can’t believe that happened, congrats dude!
Good lines everyone, and have fun thinking about the theoretical possibilities of our sport.
PS- Feel free to drop a comment with your own theoretically runnable drop for us all to check out, or let us know (via Facebook Like or comment) and I can share some more!