Keyhole Falls isn't your typical waterfall. The 3,000-cubic-metre-per-minute flow shoots out of a massive rock wall situated on the Lillooet River in BC, Canada. Subject to constantly high water levels from coastal mountain snowmelt, it's nearly impossible to see, and tough to scout. Simply getting to the waterfall is a challenge – you can't paddle into it, as the river above Keyhole Falls is impassable. Setting up for the drop means abseiling in from 100m above.
It gets its name because of the way the water has cut the wall over centuries of erosion – it looks like an old-fashioned, but very over-sized keyhole. “‘Among kayakers, it is a well-known waterfall,” says Spanish kayaker Aniol Serrasolses, “But nobody had ever tried this before.” Despite it being no secret among kayakers in the Pacific northwest and British Columbia, for the reasons above, it has never been run by anyone.
The waterfall taunted Serrasolses as he trained over the past two years on the nearby Stikine River, considered by many to be the 'Everest of kayaking'. The Stikine's torrential whitewater, smaller waterfalls and serious rapids provided plenty of entertainment – but still, the Keyhole called.
The first attempt was aborted before it began. “The first time we got to the falls, the water was just too high,” says Serrasolses. Serious waterflow – the velocity of which was increased by the narrow slot canyon Keyhole Falls runs out of – made it unsafe to even think about. “We aborted the mission, and headed back to Spain.”
But a few short weeks later, opportunity arose: water levels were forecast to be down. Serrasolses and team rushed back to Canada, but now they faced a different problem. Questions remained about the depth of the waterfall in the impact zone.
Casual depth tests indicated reason for concern – but no line of sight between Aniol and the support crew, coupled with walkie-talkies dying, meant communication went from poor to non-existent. Aniol decided to run it anyway – and that's when things got tense.
Serrasolses got into his boat, quickly addressed the camera, and went for the first descent of one of the most lusted-after lines in kayaking.
And he nailed it. Paddling around the bend and over the edge of the gushing waterfall, Serrasolses took the plunge of his life – and managed to unlock the keyhole. It was one of the best things he ever did. "My motivation is to get into places that no one has been before.” Mission accomplished, Aniol. And how did it feel? “I've never been happier under a waterfall!"
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