Russell Henry, a kayaking explorer from Victoria, British Columbia, has just embarked on an 800-kilometre expedition from Prince Rupert to Skagway, Alaska. Stephanie Brown reports.
May 17, 2017 update: The team were recently blessed with beautiful warm weather for paddling but unfortunately the heat deterred them from the mountains. The considered paddling further north to find higher peaks and even explored the idea of getting a plane into the ice fields. (Due to personal funds and unfavourable weather for the pilot that got shut down.) So they arrived in Skagway, their final destination, “disappointingly early,” Russell says. They’re currently discussing the best way to extend their shortened trip and get skiing. Log on to paddlesandplanks.com for more updates.
April 20, 2017 update: The three adventurers have reached Wrangell, Alaska after 16 days of paddling with some ski tours throw in for good measure. Despite never having sea kayaked before, Luke has settled in to a rhythm, although the cold forced him to trade in his 1970s neon-coloured neoprene shorts for fishing wading pants. When not paddling, they were hiking and skiing Mt. Etolin and Mt Shakes. Dave broke a binding while ascending the latter but luckily Marker air-mailed a new one to him and he picked it up in Wrangell. Log on to paddlesandplanks.com for more updates.
Russell Henry, known by many for his seven-month paddling trip from Brazil to Florida, which was showcased in an article in Coast Mountain Culture magazine and on this site, is a true island-born explorer. He holds the record for the fastest circumnavigation of Vancouver Island with no assistance. He and a team paddled a six-man outrigger canoe to Alaska. And now he’s setting out once more but this upcoming expedition is a bit different because it involves two activities Russell loves – backcountry skiing and sea kayaking.
On the surface these sports may not appear to be very compatible but Russell has always been the kind to make it work when he wants to. Joining him on this expedition will be David Moseley from England and Luke Spence from Australia. The three explorers will have their skis in dry bags strapped to their boats and plan to spend one to two weeks paddling north along the coast from Prince Rupert, British Columbia to Skagway, Alaska. Along the way they will paddle into the shore, stash their boats and head into the alpine to set up base camp and enjoy a week of backcountry skiing.
“I thought about this trip because I am not all about sea kayaking and this combines a few sports into one trip,” said Russell on his last night in Victoria during a presentation at Ocean River Sports, the store his father founded.
It appears as though the three are calm about their impending expedition but they admit they aren’t as prepared as maybe they should be. For example, Luke has never sea kayaked before but believes that with the experience of the other two (Dave is a kayaking guide) he’ll have help getting through. They do have one thing locked down, though, and that is the close friendship and trust that a trip such as this will require. Having lived together this past winter season in Nelson, BC the three have an easy dynamic about them they will need when stressful situations present themselves on the mountain and the water.
They admit they aren’t as prepared as maybe they should be. For example, Luke has never sea kayaked before.
During his talk Russell exudes confidence and you’d expect nothing less from a guy who set out to break the world record paddling around Vancouver island with little planning. On that trip he recalls having packed oatmeal for breakfast and then remembering on his first morning that “I hate oatmeal. I totally forgot.”
No matter the conditions they run into one thing is clear, these three have adrenaline pulsing through their veins and it’s going to make for an epic journey.
When asked about what makes this an “expedition” versus a “trip” Russell said he had a lot of time to think about this with his brother while in South America and he decided a “trip is just something you do. An expedition is a lifestyle.” After three successful large-scale paddling trips, numerous ski seasons spent in the mountains and growing up sleeping in the hatches of kayaks, it is safe to say Russell does not take trips.
To follow the team’s expedition, log on to paddlesandplanks.com.