Paddler Ben Stookesberry on Doing Lethal First Descents—With a Smile

This text was produced in partnership with Eddie Bauer

Ben Stookesberry is the king of first descents. For the final 20 years, the Montana-based kayaker has been the primary particular person to navigate greater than 130 river sections in 40 nations—and counting.

Within the fall of 2021, he and a group of worldwide kayakers, together with fellow Eddie Bauer ambassador Chris Korbulic, made the primary descent of the Rio Chalupas in Ecuador. Dropping 10,000 ft—from the Andes to the Amazon—in lower than 50 miles, it’s one of many steepest, most intense rivers on Earth. It was the toughest expedition of Stookesberry’s illustrious profession, which is saying one thing. In his quest for unpaddled rivers, he’s crossed the Greenland Icecap, climbed within the Himalaya, and survived a kidnapping by Columbian guerillas.

“The Chalupas is in some of the unpredictable and dynamic environments discovered on Earth,” says 44-year outdated Stookesberry. “There’s no steady climate. There was a blizzard on the put in, tropical jungle on the backside, and relentless rain storms and flash floods. You’re kayaking in a canyon the place there’s no manner out besides downriver. However the jungle and slender canyon imply you possibly can’t scout the rapids till you’re proper on them.”

It’s the type expedition that Stookesberry loves. “They fulfill my boyhood dream of changing into an explorer and going to locations nobody has gone earlier than,” he says. In such environments, Stookesberry excels like few others. However he insists his secret to success doesn’t relaxation completely on his kayaking expertise. It’s simply as a lot about his perspective.

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Males’s Journal: What attracts you to expedition kayaking?

Ben Stookesberry: The kayak is the last word automobile—as a result of rivers are essentially the most ubiquitous options on the planet and the final unexplored crevasses. A few of these locations have by no means seen a footstep or paddle stroke. Kayaks are the one vessels that may discover them. I additionally like that these are multifaceted missions. When there are many unsurvivable rapids, there are many portages. It goes from paddling to canyoneering. You’re utilizing ropes to scale canyon partitions and machetes to hack by means of the jungle. You’re breaking down the expedition into components; planning logistics, security and technique; in search of climate home windows; and acclimatizing. It’s extra akin to a giant expedition within the mountains.

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