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Day 9, July 10. The storm at the "colosseum" canyon.

All tents up and secured, we thought.

Camping in a canyon is tricky! We were soon to find out.

A nice day, 25 Celsius, rain clouds to the west but it cleared up quickly. We drifted on the river, a few class I/II rapids and after a few hours stopped in a high, narrow canyon with walls of up to 800 m, the so-called colosseum.

It was windy. Occasional gusts of winds caused small sand/dust/gravel storms but we ignored it and pitched our tents on the wide gravel bar. Blue skies, very few clouds, 25 Celsius, perfect weather, it seems. However, we are in a canyon and here winds often amplify.

Normally, you shouldn't camp in a canyon to avoid this as wind directions change and a sheltered spot could turn in a very windy one, with the risk of loosing your tents and equipment, being blown in the river.

As the sky was almost clear, like on previous days, we assumed the wind would soon die down or else at night as it normally does.

After a few hours the wind grew even stronger, and most of the tents caved in, resulting in broken poles or were about to be blown away as the pegs reinforced with boulders got loose repeated strong wind gusts.

After a few hours the wind grew even stronger, and most of the tents caved in, resulting in broken poles or were about to be blown away as the pegs reinforced with boulders got loose by repeated strong wind gusts.

Tents about to go down, panic.

Tents about to go down, panic.

Two tents behind a tree and sitting on the edge near the woods were still standing but had to be pinned down to the ground by persons sitting inside. Swirls of gravel, sand and fine dust came inside the tent.

Most of us were hiding behind the gravel bar, shielded, more or less, from wind and sand storms. Still we got hit by gravel, sand and dust for three hours

Gust of wind got even stronger and the three large rafts started to fly, lifted by the wind. The single rope holding the three rafts and tied to a rock snapped.

Dylan tried to stop the rafts from moving and grabbed a loose rope of one of the rafts but had to let it go. His fingers got burned by the slipping rope. He had several blisters and required a bandage.

The rafts finally stopped moving and flipping so we could finally tie them down provisionally with three ropes. We did not dare moving them, even if we could. They could be picked up by the wind again.

Boats are blown some 50 m down river and were flipping up and down.

This continued for three hours, from 15:00 to 18:00 h. There was nothing we could do, except seek cover, watch and wait. A raft flipped again and all three were now upright. The three ropes tied to the rafts held.

One raft overturned and boxes inside the rafts opened and emptied out. Food and equipment was distributed on the rocky beach over a large distance.

Panic, the boats finally stop moving. Ropes were attached provisionally.

Luckily, the wind blew towards the shore and not towards the river. Our equipment could have disappeared in the fast flowing river. E.g., the air pump for the boats ended up in the water but could be retrieved easily, there was never a risk of drifting off. As the rafts needed be pumped daily, this seemed essential equipment.

We did have a satellite phone, if worst comes to worst, like the rafts disappearing in the river, so we could still contact the outside world for help.

Finally, around 19:00 h, the wind died down and we started collecting equipment and food scattered on the rocky shore. Some got damaged or broke but the damage was limited, e.g. the gin bottle, plastic wine containers and fruit. The beach now looked like an Italian or French campsite.

We managed to clean up the beach completely, looking for stuff over a distance of some 500 m. Now we had a Canadian camp site again.

Those that spent the night in the woods had a very quiet night with lots of mosquitoes, those on the gravel bar had an uncomfortable night as the wind picked up again at midnight and the sand storms continued but luckily not a fierce as the day before. We did have 6 vacancies in the woods.

The day after, all the equipment and people that spent the night on the gravel bar were covered in dust and sand.

We had a quick breakfast in a sheltered area below the gravel bar, packed up the boats and left in a hurry.

Leaving the stormy canyon


The wind continued to be strong but taking off in the heavily loaded rafts was smooth as there was no risk of overturning. The wind increased our speed drifting down the river. The wind continued to be strong until we finally exited the canyon. It is remarkable that throughout the entire canyon the wind remained strong, being funelled and amplified by the canyon walls of 500 to 800 m.

Later on we heard that the canoes of another party was pushed over in the same canyon by the high wind and they had to look for cover in a sheltered area and spent the night camping on the shore. This sounds unreal. Canoes are extremely stable.

Was this high wind caused by the canyon wall? Just amplified but not hurricane force outside the canyon.

On Tuesday 10 July a system with strong winds did pass over the Southern Yukon and SW North-West Territories. It caused a helicopter to crash in the Yukon. One person, the pilot, got killed.

Other pictures

Lunch while hiding for the wind.

Lunch while hiding for the wind.

The storm started.

Got stronger.

Low streaks of dust. Photo by Ian Cumming.

Most tents are down.

Boats are moving after the ropes snapped.

Unhappy guides.

Stoic Joe while hiding for the storm.

Most tents are down.

Watching the boats that moved.

Fell out of the boat.

Final resting place of the rafts after flipping over a few times.

The gin did not survive the storm.

Inspecting the damage.

What a mess.

Cleaning up.

Hiding for the storm and gravel/sand/silt. Lasted for three hours.

We saved most of the avocadoes, tomatoes and green peppers.

Final resting place.

Final resting place.

Back to where the boats should be, no higher up on the shore.

Tired and windblown guide.

Quick dinner.

Hiding in the forest. No wind.

Jean hiding in the forest. No wind.

Anne hiding in the forest. No wind.

Anne waiting for the boats to leave in the morning.

Blisters on Dylan's hands trying to hold the rope.

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