Party: Nick, Natan and I
It was my first day off; Nick had organised to meet up with his friend Natan. We were off to do our second canyon on the island: Looper Creek. I was pretty excited about this one as we had quickly looked down into the canyon from the bridge that crosses it when we were last in the area a couple of weeks ago to do the Carmanah River. From the top, it looked very impressive, certainly the best slot canyon I had seen in Canada!
We again took two cars to Port Alberni and car pooled from there, meeting Natan in the tiny town of Nitnat next to the brilliant blue lake that goes by the same name. From there, it was only a short way to where we would park.
Chris Hood has written a wonderful trip description on the Canyoneering Northwest webpage and we followed his description to approach the canyon; note that the access road has been renamed from Looper Main to to ?? 100. The sign with the old name could be seen a little further back. Anyway; we followed the road that follows the north side of the creek for about 2km where we reached a pull-out and dropped down into the creek.
Enduring a bit of bushbashing and some down-climbing in a small gully we reached the creek. We geared up. I had take some photos of me in the teal wet-suit I was borrowing – part of the conditions…
We weren’t carrying much gear, in fact I think I was the only one with a pack which contained a short length of rope. I was sceptical about the pitch and was wearing my Aspiring caving belt as a harness.
“The stream is relatively small by late summer, but traverses a wide, wonderfully lush path through overhanging BLM, alder, and spirelike WRC. The channel is broad and open, floored with gravels, boulders and the bubbling stream that flows over multicoloured limestone outcrops. Little pools punctuate the course as mossy limestone walls develop on both sides, with maidenhair fern, swordfern, mosses, and liverworts growing out of moist crevices in a riot of emerald. The pools expand as the limestone becomes more abundant in the streambed, and gorgeous cascades appear, along with the first full pool requiring a swim. The canyon begins to form as the valley bottom entrenches and deep wades become more frequent”. It was pretty hot, so we were soon swimming and jumping in even where we could have easily passed around the pools.
We had some short constrictions, but the canyon never got very narrow before widening out again. After passing the West fork the canyon became more of a slot; the walls becoming much taller. In one of the constrictions I set up my camera to get some photos of us all, as well as getting getting a photo of the first aid kit I ‘won’ from a lotsafreshair giveaway (I was feeling a bit guilty, as I was supposed to have sent in a photo with it on a trip a long time ago; but it had taken a while for me to get it posted to North America).
The canyon soon deepened with a series of cascading falls, the water becoming more noticeably blue. We arrived at a bend in the river, a large mouth of limestone had been created on the right. We had prepared for the inevitable caves in the canyon walls and soon had climbed up to the opening with our headlamps at the ready. Sure enough there was a small opening that continued into the wall. Crawling in Natan and I squeezed in trying especially hard not to damage the wetsuits – esp. the one that I was borrowing! It opened up into a small room before you could see the passage drop down further through a narrow rift. It might have been passable, but deciding I’d probably shred the wetsuit, opted not to continue.
Another cave, this one on the left, was also explored. It had some small speleothems decorating the walls as well as some nice cave glitter.
The final section of the canyon was the most impressive, this is the part the road crosses and most people will hike up from the bottom. The walls became more steep, it was narrower and the water became really cold. A network of small caves had been sculpted in one of the canyon walls.
We spent some time enjoying the atmosphere, looking up and imagining ourselves abseiling/rappelling down from the road. We mentally went over how much rope we had, but decided we were a little short.
Soon we continued downstream a little further were the canyon opened up and an obvious trail wound its way up the right bank. Taking off our canyon clothes we headed up to the awaiting car. Many small handlines getting more in the way rather than being a help. Pleased with the day we headed back to Port where we parted ways