By Jessi Loerch
“No matter what happens, the road keeps leading me to the river.”
— Kayaker Ben Stookesberry, “Walled In.”
Ben Stookesberry is a kayaker. He also hikes, climbs and scrambles. But all those adventures are really about getting him on the river. Stookesberry has more than 70 first descents on rivers all over the world.
Stookesberry spoke recently and showed his film “Walled In” at the Mountaineers’ Be Wild speaker series. “Walled In” takes a different style than many other kayaking films, in that its heart is a story — rather than just stunning shots of crazy drops.
Stookesberry wanted to run the Marble Fork of the Kaweah in Sequoia National Park. The stretch of water was unimaginably difficult to get to.
“How does Ben find the one little sketchy blue line out of all of these blue lines?” one of his partners asks, pointing to a map.
And it is sketchy. Getting to the river took eight days of portage, including rappelling and traversing, with their kayaks.
“Chris (Korbulic) and I call this kind of kayaking fun, but to everyone else it’s just work.
No joke. For this trip, they were often dragging 100 pounds of boat and gear over house-sized boulders.
In the end, they make it in with their kayaks and they make the first descent. In all, it was about 8 days of work — and about 4 minutes of kayaking.
It seems a crazy equation. Yet, watching the film, I could understand. I will never do something like that; I will never make a first descent. Yet I understand the drive. I understand the desire to push your limits.
And I think that’s what at heart of so many adventure stories and films. Pushing your limits, whatever that means for you.
During a Q&A after the film, Stokesberry answered a question about how much time they spent work to get in, versus how much time they actually kayaked.
“So, yeah, about four minutes,” he summed up. “Great kayaking trip.”
Stokesberry has just returned from Nepal, where he was kayaking the Dudh Kosi, with runs off the slopes of Mount Everest.
“Kayaking has taken me so many places I never would have gone otherwise,” he said.
- Stookesberry on an adventure in Nepal
- Ben Stookesberry on Facebook
- More about “Walled In”
- “Walled In” score by Seattle-based composer Amy Stolzenbach