Whistler Huckfest

After a wet welcome back to Squamish, the first weekend of the school year was warm and sunny. As per the usual in Squamish, beautiful weather means the pressure is on to get the most amount of play time in before the rocks get wet and the rivers start raging. Saturday morning was spent basking in the warm sunshine at Cheakamus Canyon, one of the many world-class climbing crags in the Squamish Area. Once we had sufficiently tired ourselves out, we headed to Whistler for the annual Huckfest – a kayaking festival on the upper Cheakamus River.

A daring swimmer flies off the falls at "Balls-to-the-Wall."
A daring swimmer flies off the falls at “Balls-to-the-Wall.” Photo by Ian Legris

Huckfest is not for the feint of heart. It runs from 5 pm – 5 am, and is held on the class IV+ rapid “Balls to the Wall,” which is an “easy” waterfall into a boiling canyon below. Due to a conveniently settled slab of rock below the falls, the water pushes you into an eddy where you can safely get out and go do it all over again. This makes it an ideal location for a celebration of paddling in the Sea to Sky corridor. Kayakers from Vancouver, Squamish, Whistler, and Pemberton were present. While I don’t consider myself an expert paddler by any means, I was amazed by the number of novice kayakers – some of them in a kayak for the first time in their lives – that were willingly throwing themselves off the falls. The pool below is relatively safe, and people swim or take inflatable giraffes off it every year, but the idea of being locked into a plastic boat upside down and not knowing how to roll does not seem very appealing.

Two Huckfest attendees take the mini-raft down “Balls-to-the-Walls” on the Upper Cheakamus. photo by Ian Legris

A large number of people attended the event simply to watch, as the kayaking portion only runs for about 5 hours before the awards and dance party take over. I attended the event with four other Quest students, three of whom have never gone kayaking before. The event is arguably better as a bystander, as the water is freezing and the climb back out of the eddie is heinous. It only gets colder once the sun goes down, as spotlights allow the falls to be run until about 10 pm. Quest’s very own Maranda Stopol and Daniel Kline were among those brave enough to run the falls at night. I however, decided that daylight was a more appropriate time to take such risks.

Onlookers cheering on a Kayaker as they send the falls at the Whistler Huckfest.
Onlookers cheering on a Kayaker as they send the falls at the Whistler Huckfest.

Once the lights turned off on the river, the awards ceremony began. Each participant was asked on the Whistler Whitewater Facebook page to BYOA, or Bring Your Own Awards. We were encouraged to create our own categories as well, and the result was everyone who went off getting something, whether it was for the most stylish line or ridiculous costume. Once the awards ceremony commenced, the DJ got the music going and we grooved out until the wee hours of the morning.

Overall the Huckfest was a great time, and while I don’t encourage going off the falls unless you have a good amount of whitewater experience, I encourage anyone who’s interested to stand on the side-lines and help create the great atmosphere that makes this event in the woods so special.

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