Mosley Creek Expedition

Friday, May 06, 2005

Mosley Creek Day 5-Homathko River and the Flight Out

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That morning we awoke to a hard frost on the glacial moraine, muscles were sore and the team was slow on the rise. We began with a refueling session of oatmeal and other breakfast foods. The shear beauty and almost spiritual feel of this place is hard to describe. Arguably the very heart of one North America’s bigger wilderness mountain ranges, one can’t help feeling the power of the Waddington vortex.

Snow-laden peaks surrounded our glacial spread.

photo by Tommy Hilleke

Early morning frost coats the gear; first round of breakfast cooking up.

photo by Johnnie Kern


photo by Johnnie Kern

Here is a shot of the team on April 8th, 2005

photo by Tommy Hilleke

The same mountains during the fall of 2003.

photo by Tommy Hilleke

Due to our camp’s location on the third tributary of the Homathko, we began the morning by paddling down the glacial Tiedemann Creek.

The confluence with Mosley Creek and Tiedemann Creek.

photo by Johnnie Kern

After the two creeks come together a sort section leads to the main Homathko and the mighty Trifluence.

The river is typically paddled with a flow of 8,000-12,000 cfs. Due to the necessary low flow we needed for the Mosley Creek, the Homathko was running an unusual 3,500 cfs. Anticipation for what we would find downstream ran high, with speculation of river–wide sieves and boxed-in hydraulics.

Here is series of “The Bet”. The Bet is the single most challenging rapid on the river, we were sure we would find a terminal aspect at the bottom, but the rapid proved to run clean, 10 feet below the standard flow.

Pat Keller in the entrance.

photo by Johnnie Kern

Johnnie Kern working it out in the Bet.

photo by Tommy Hilleke


photo by Tommy Hilleke


photo by Tommy Hilleke


photo by Tommy Hilleke

There was still a “big dawg” hole at the bottom but the momentum of our loaded boats was no match for the pile.

photo by Tommy Hilleke


Our biggest concern we had in pre-planning laid in the ‘First Act of Tragedy’ Gorge. The 3 ‘Acts of Tragedy” were named not for kayaker carnage, but for the work party of Alfred Waddington, who were all murdered save one by their Indian laborers on a gravel bar at the mouth of the last Tragedy canyon.

Sure enough the main line was a pile of sieves. The portage around this canyon would be daunting at best, but fortunately there was a slot down the right hand wall open for passage. At typical flows the force of the flow would push paddlers on this side of the river into a stopped-up sieve. The flow we were on allowed escape to the center of the river, avoiding the pinch.

photo by Johnnie Kern

Pat Keller and Daniel DeLaVergne scouting “Tradgedy Act 1”

photo by Johnnie Kern

Dropping in.

photo by Johnnie Kern



photo by Johnnie Kern

Right slot and sieves in the flow.

photo by Tommy Hilleke

Pat Keller

photo by Tommy Hilleke

Johnnie Kern

photo by Tommy Hilleke

The rapids lead into a beautiful boxed-in canyon. Mystical floating for sure.

photo by Tommy Hilleke


photo by Johnnie Kern

The Second Act of Tragedy presents the longest walled in section of the river. At typical flows the Second Act is composed of three parts; A tight box with undercuts and bizarre currents, a river-wide ledge with multiple options, all with epic consequences, then a long rapid culminating in the “Death Hole”.

Grace in the entrance to Part 1.

photo by Tommy Hilleke

Pat Keller same, the boulder he is passing is typically forming a large hydraulic.

photo by Tommy Hilleke

Grace in the outflow of the first box of Act II.

photo by Johnnie Kern

Johnnie Kern Act II, Part II.

photo by Tommy Hilleke

One of the big issues with the Second Act comes in the form of a creek separating the box canyon in two. The scout all the way to the Death Hole typically takes 30 minutes each way and requires a swim across said creek. Twice. We chose to forego that option and dropped right in, leaving us ZERO portage option.

Here is Johnnie Kern hopping out for a look-see.

photo by Tommy Hilleke

Pat Keller and John Grace headed through the gut of Act II.

photo by Tommy Hilleke

A look up from the bottom of II.

photo by Tommy Hilleke


photo by Johnnie Kern


photo by Johnnie Kern

The team survived the Third Act and bombed through the last significant cataract, Labyrinth, without executing a bit of scouting. There were a few tenuous moments but in the end it all went just fine.

After paddling through the still and deep Waddington Canyon it was time to pull out and call in the heli shuttle. During the fall Homathko Season paddlers usually cruise out the final forty miles of dead flat water to Bute Inlet, but due to the low flow we feared we would get lost in the myriad of braided flows.

Paddling to the coast also requires the use of a Float Plane, which must fly at a higher elevation than the helicopter and is inherently more susceptible to weather delays.

Kern calling in the Bell Long Ranger.

photo by Tommy Hilleke

Mike King coming in hot.

photo by Tommy Hilleke

Sand Blasted.

photo by Tommy Hilleke

The crew loading up the net. ‘Now this is some boat racking I could get used to.” – Tommy Hilleke.

photo by Johnnie Kern

Ready to rock and Roll.

photo by Johnnie Kern

We sent the boats on the first trip, not wanting to leave the sanctity of such a wild place. Now that we had survived the storm of ’05, paddled the river, slogged the portage and generally had a splendid time exploring the bush, the helicopter seemed such a foreign intrusion. Were we real me we would have paddled the 200 miles to Quatrra Island to the Greyhound station and bused it back to the put in. Here we were buzzing out of the river like corporate execs headed to the next board meeting.

At least for the next hour we were alone on the beach with out our gear, soaking in our last moments in the mythical Homathko Gorges.

photo by Tommy Hilleke

The river flowing through Waddington Canyon, aka “Inner Peace”.

photo by Johnnie Kern

The mighty Tiedemann Glacier flowing off of Mount Waddington hidden in the smoldering clouds.

photo by Tommy Hilleke

The flight out and around the huge icefields of the lower river was truly awe-inspiring, but the views turned to Triple A grade when Mike took us on “the Short Cut”.

Proud of his new Bell Long Ranger and the heli’s amazing flying capabilities, Mike flew us up and over an 8,000-foot mountain pass, complete with glaciers and all.

The run out of an old glacial bowl.

photo by Tommy Hilleke

There are many large lakes on the ridges above the Homathko and Mosley canyons. They were all as frozen as this one.

photo by Johnnie Kern

Another lake.

photo by Johnnie Kern

Once in the Short Cut we were treated with amazing close-up views of the alpine mountain terrain.

photo by Johnnie Kern


photo by Tommy Hilleke

There were active and remnant glaciers throughout the valleys and peaks of the terrain we were flying. Amazing how big and lonely the wilderness expanse of the Coast Range can be.

photo by Johnnie Kern

Johnnie documenting the beauty we were so fortunate to witness. The images and video we returned with nothing short of spectacular, but hardly did justice to the first hand experience.

photo by Tommy Hilleke


photo by Johnnie Kern

After our momentous crossing of the pass we dropped out of the alpine and back toward our base camp at White Saddle Air (2,900 feet).

photo by Tommy Hilleke

Unloading our gear from the net, we shared a feeling of uncontained excitement and the ever-present dread of returning to the work-a-day world from which we had momentarily escaped.

photo by Johnnie Kern

The pile of gear that we hauled down the river, packing up for the trip back to Seattle.

photo by Johnnie Kern

Locked and loaded, we said goodbye to our new friends from Canada, vowing to return for a trip down the mighty Homathko River.

photo by Johnnie Kern

For the complete story and brilliant images see the OR Issue of Canoe and Kayak Magazine.

To witness the story of our trip from your television check out LVM Issue #17, available this fall at LVMvideo.com.

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