For kayakers, the Grand Canyon of the Stikine River in northern British Columbia is the pinnacle of North American white water. Coursing through a remote gorge, the 50-mile (80-kilometer) run is rated a ferocious Class V+, the highest survivable rating for a river. Since it was first descended in 1981, fewer than 40 paddlers have braved its fusillade of kayak-swallowing rapids, each more difficult than the last. And, of those who did, all took three days to complete it, stopping to scout rapids and gather their wits between particularly hairy sections.
On September 21, four North Carolina kayakers, Daniel DeLaVergne, 28, Tobin MacDermott, 22, Tommy Hilleke, 28, and John Grace, 29, shocked the white-water world by running the Stikine in nine hours and 50 minutes. It's an achievement paddlers liken to climbing one of Yosemite's big walls in a morning.
"Running at such an intense level for that long takes a toll," says Stikine veteran Aaron Pruzan.
Adds expedition member Grace, "It was the most brain-scrambling time I ever had on a river."
- Nat Geo Expeditions