Treacherous waters of the Peel

Peel 201208Running a ledge on the Peel, innocent as they look at first sight, dangerous they can be in reality.

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One of many vicious whirlpools in the Peel Canyon.

While I was organizing and editing the video material of my Yukon Territory summer trip into a movie, I encountered some interesting snapshots while packrafting on the rivers. Most of the time an action snapshot looks more challenging than the experience really was, although at some times it’s quite the opposite.

The Hart and Peel river are well described in Juri Peepre’s guide book “Wild Rivers of the Yukon’s Peel Watershed“, a book I had studied well in advance. Both rivers contain many class II rapids. This may sound feasible in a packraft, although in reality a few of those rapids on the Peel are formed by bedrock consisting of a series of treacherous ledges which give birth to even life threatening back eddies. While for a layman to whitewater such ledges may seem innocent, I knew I had to take caution. Yet I have twice been seduced. Even though nothing serious happened, this was two times too many.

The Peel river also contains some class IV rapids and even a class VI rapid in Aberdeen Canyon where several people have already gone too far into the canyon before starting the portage above the canyon walls. All of them have lost their lives (otherwise Aberdeen Falls wouldn’t be rated as class VI by definition). While I portaged the unnavigable part of the upper Aberdeen Canyon, I was still surprised by a nasty boiling rapid deeper down the canyon. Here I have been balancing twice between keeping equilibrium or tip over, swim and fight against hypothermia. There was a specific reason why I was accidentally caught in this rapid, something I will keep for the report for now. What is certain is that on a wilderness trip not all dangers can be known beforehand.

Here are some snapshots of the boiling surprise down Aberdeen Canyon:

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What the hell is this?!

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Trying to escape to the right.

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Almost safe?

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A train of whirlpools sucks me back in …

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… and pulls me down sideways.

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Hit by the next wave.