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Old 09-29-2011, 01:30 PM   #1
windquest OP
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The Ultimate Canol Thread:

2 great reasons to start this thread...
1) Since this topic often comes up a few times a year I thought I would compile all the threads about the Canol here to make it easier for inmates to locate information about this road/trail.
2) Myself and inmate b.ringrose are planning on attempting to ride the complete North Canol. Since a lot of planning will be required, a central place to discuss, ponder, and plan is in order.

Advrider.com Links about the Canol from previous threads:
N. Canol Road
Canol Trail Question
North Canol Road
Canol Road
Canol road: attempt #1
North Canol Road Anyone?
Up The South Canol Road
Digs on the Canol /

Links about the Canol from other sources:
Motorcycle Explorer
Long Trails Hiking the Canol in 1998
Canol Heritage Trail (WARNING: website has popups)
Canol Trail Hiking
moore adventure
ryan murdock (very high quality pictures)
Gravel Travel (thanks Deadly99!) ( excellent site with tons of pictures)
Field & Stream with Jim Baird and Mike Shea and their attempt at the Canol...in quads
(main page)
(part 1)
(part 2)
(part 3)
(part 4)
(part 5)
(part 6)
(part 7)
(part 8)
(part 9)
(part 10)
(part 11)
(part 12)
(part 13)
Video of Bikepacking the North Canol from Anthony Delorenzo

Few facts of the Canol...
-The North Canol is approximately 575km from Camp Canol(Norman Wells) to Ross River
-The South Canol is approximately 219km from Ross River to Johnson Crossing
-Most people that hike or bycicle the North Canol go West to East
-The North Canol has no gas supply between Ross River and Norman Wells
-The only lodging along the North Canol is here: Dechenla Adventure Nature Tours It's expensive and the services are basic due to its remoteness. It can be found 276km east of Ross River.

Bike for the Trip:
The HONDA XR250R (96-04) ended up being chosen as the bike for this trip due to durability, weight, suspension, power, fuel economy, large availability of aftermarket parts.
Fuel economy varies between 26km/L - 30km/L

(a fine example below)



Tire Mousse: for dualsporting?
-I started a thread in the thumper forum looking at the use of tire mousse for this trip. Based on the info gathered it's looking like we will you them for our trip.

Possible Inmates for the Trip:
-windquest (specialty: mechanical setup for bikes, floatation, naval navigation)
-b.ringrose (specialty: camping setup, shelter setup, food supplies, gear setup)
-n.schemenauer(specialty: millwright, naval propulsion, bike repair)
-j.ringrose (specialty: logistic/communication, [he won't be joining us on the trip but will coordinate logistics and communication on the ground])
-Deadly 99
-El Birdo (no longer planning to join)

Projects Required to Complete for the Trip:
-Design & build floatation system with Saturn Cataraft tubes for transportation down the Mackenzie river and river crossings along the Canol






Picture of the Canol:





windquest screwed with this post 04-02-2013 at 11:23 AM
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Old 09-29-2011, 07:36 PM   #2
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As far as Caribou Pass is fairly easy. After that...it will be an adventure! Since you have three major rivers to cross and multiple lesser ones (I believe 5 crossings of the Ekwi, due to how it's meandered across what was the road), your biggest concern may be hypothermia, which kills a couple people each year up here. Timing for lower water, a decent (forget inner tubes) raft system, a dry suit...what tends to kill these trips is the amount of gear you need to bring, since it's a multi-sport adventure. A food/fuel drop may be mandatory.

Foot and hoof at the right time of year are tough enough. A spring trip with rivers still frozen is probably a decent option (one trip skied it). Motorcycling will be very tough. I know there are stories of people who have done it on tiny bikes over multiple years, and that sounds believable. I haven't heard of anybody who has actually accomplished the entire trip on a modern size bike. Be the first! And bring the Big Visa for the helicopter, just in case. Good luck!
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Old 09-29-2011, 08:40 PM   #3
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I guess we are discussing it so here is my two cents . I have never been past Ross River , only read reports of hikes mostly . Starting from the east would be best on a serious attempt because it is the most expensive and has the highest likelyhood of failure. Unless one wants to go ride it regardless and just take a look see. Something I would lean towards unless a big bag of time and $ fell on my lap. A light weight bike bought cheap (disposable) pulling a serious raft on some kind of trailer . I wouldn't bring anything you wouldn't walk away from with no regrets . Spent some time on the Liard river in the NWT getting barged for work this summer. Asked a few locals about fish /exploring trips . As always anything is possible . Bring cash .
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Old 09-30-2011, 10:37 AM   #4
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As far as Caribou Pass is fairly easy. After that...it will be an adventure! Since you have three major rivers to cross and multiple lesser ones (I believe 5 crossings of the Ekwi, due to how it's meandered across what was the road), your biggest concern may be hypothermia, which kills a couple people each year up here. Timing for lower water, a decent (forget inner tubes) raft system, a dry suit...what tends to kill these trips is the amount of gear you need to bring, since it's a multi-sport adventure. A food/fuel drop may be mandatory.

Foot and hoof at the right time of year are tough enough. A spring trip with rivers still frozen is probably a decent option (one trip skied it). Motorcycling will be very tough. I know there are stories of people who have done it on tiny bikes over multiple years, and that sounds believable. I haven't heard of anybody who has actually accomplished the entire trip on a modern size bike. Be the first! And bring the Big Visa for the helicopter, just in case. Good luck!
Our tentative plan was to cross the North Canol between the last 2 weeks of August and the first 2 weeks of September. We based this on the probability of lower water levels, less bugs, and reasonable daytime temperatures.

We agreed that to minimize spares/tools, we should use the same bike. Along those lines we will have to go to some serious extremes in order to minimize the weight and volume of our gear. Another way to minimize weight carried is to choose a fuel efficient bike. We currently both have XR650R's which although are reasonably light weight for a 650, are not fuel efficient. Rough calculations told us that we would need 45-60L of fuel per bike. I came to the realization that on our current bikes a fuel drop would be mandatory. So as of now a different bike will need to be found.

We are planning on riding from Calgary therefore the bike that is ultimately chosen will need to be capable of serious distances with minimal maintenance. We originally discussed riding West to East on the Canol, due to the most difficult part being the last section towards Norman wells. This meant that we would have less weight in fuel and food to carry during the most difficult portion. However once in Norman wells the bikes would have to be shipped by barge or air and we would most likely have to fly out as we can't ride on the barge with our bikes. The other problem is that barges don't come down the river often, usually monthly, so if we wanted to ride home we would have to wait for the bikes which just isn't feasible. Option 2 is to ride from Calgary to Wrigley, NWT float down the Mackenzie approximately 330km to Norman wells where we cross the river and start East to West. This would enable us to (if we make it) to ride home once we make it to Johnson Crossing or Ross River.

I'll post some more ideas about how we'd float down the Mackenzie or cross rivers along the Canol
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Old 09-30-2011, 11:27 AM   #5
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I've given this some serious thought as well

My guess is you'll need double or triple the gas...there's is some serious bog sections and whatnot that'll suck back the fuel. More than one attempt has had to turn back due to fuel concerns.

For a serious attempt an east to west makes more sense.

A helidrop of fuel and food seems prudent.

A sub 300 pound bike with a trailer. A raft, paddles, pump and whatnot seems wise. A light bike seems wise for carrying on the raft. Lots of tools and spare parts.

My guess is it would take 15-25 days, I know it seems like a lot but the chances of having to ride out bad weather seems like a real possibility. Add a week to get to Norman Wells and drive time to and from and I'd be looking at month and a half probably. Given the need for a light bike I'd be trailering the bikes.

A winch or come along to drag the trailer seems wise.

The CHT is on my bucket list
Best of luck, I look forward to hearing about your planning
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Old 09-30-2011, 05:11 PM   #6
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Our tentative plan was to cross the North Canol between the last 2 weeks of August and the first 2 weeks of September. We based this on the probability of lower water levels, less bugs, and reasonable daytime temperatures.

We agreed that to minimize spares/tools, we should use the same bike. Along those lines we will have to go to some serious extremes in order to minimize the weight and volume of our gear. Another way to minimize weight carried is to choose a fuel efficient bike. We currently both have XR650R's which although are reasonably light weight for a 650, are not fuel efficient. Rough calculations told us that we would need 45-60L of fuel per bike. I came to the realization that on our current bikes a fuel drop would be mandatory. So as of now a different bike will need to be found.
Good to see you're carefully checking logistics. Yes, the east end is difficult and expensive transport, and that's before you get to the Trail! Be aware that some years, there can be significant snow up there the first couple weeks of September, but that is probably the best timing you can pick. Expect -10 at nights. One thing you can't minimize is fluids, which include not only fuel, but enough oil for at least one change in case you dunk. A drop of some type might be a good idea from a weight standpoint, as you've calculated, it's a "heavy" trip.

For those who think towing a trailer is feasible, search for some pictures from the eastern end, and think again. Not happening. The guys with the quads came back without their trailers, for good reason. For rafting, think two inflatable raft thwarts, some good nylon straps to run through the frame, and affix them like giant floating saddlebags, one on each side of the bike, finding the height balance between drowning the bike and having the centre of gravity too high. Doing this, I don't see much option but to swim the bike across, dressed in a dry suit. Some rivers are going to be too wide/without anchors to line across, and you have to get the line over anyway. This is going to really suck, and you'll end up a long ways downstream. Scout at least 2 km up and down to find the advantageous spots to put in and take out on the far side. You obviously know this is very dangerous, and each deep crossing is going to be very time consuming. If you're not an experienced water person (paddler of some type) who can read rivers, I'd flatly say don't do the trip - the river crossings will kill you, when the rest might only maim you. Sorry to sound so serious, but it's a serious trip. Right now, there's a great thread on the BAM road across the former USSR. This is much more remote and difficult, and there won't be the odd military/farmer to help.
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Old 10-01-2011, 03:27 AM   #7
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All just opinions, take them or leave them. When I mentioned trailer I was thinking of a light weight mountain bike trailer. Like the bike and other gear, it's disposable if needs be. It's something to debate I suppose...light bike with a big ass dry bag/backpack and trailer for fluids, etc or a weighed down bike...neither is perfect. I had thought a lighter bike was the way to go....there aren't many sections Where you will be spending the day "riding" so slowing way down seemed a trade off for not having to wrestle a pig the entire time.

Did the atv attempt from this year get published or is there somewhere to read about their experience?
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Old 10-01-2011, 08:42 AM   #8
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All just opinions, take them or leave them. When I mentioned trailer I was thinking of a light weight mountain bike trailer. Like the bike and other gear, it's disposable if needs be. It's something to debate I suppose...light bike with a big ass dry bag/backpack and trailer for fluids, etc or a weighed down bike...neither is perfect. I had thought a lighter bike was the way to go....there aren't many sections Where you will be spending the day "riding" so slowing way down seemed a trade off for not having to wrestle a pig the entire time.

Did the atv attempt from this year get published or is there somewhere to read about their experience?
All opinions are welcome, keep the information flowing! The plans so far are not to take any trailer as it would add complexity and more weight. There are sections in the east that are basically a boulder field which I think would destroy any trailer. This would only slow a guy down I think and I'd prefer if possible not to leave any "garbage" behind as I pass through out of courtesy. Aside from a few crossings that I believe are ride-able from Caribou Pass heading West would be largely straight riding at a decent clip. Perhaps someone can chime in on that fact.

I had heard that the ATV guys did the North Canol in 9 days, there was no mention on how they got the ATV's there or home, but they did require a food/fuel drop.

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Old 10-01-2011, 09:01 AM   #9
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I've given this some serious thought as well

My guess is you'll need double or triple the gas...there's is some serious bog sections and whatnot that'll suck back the fuel. More than one attempt has had to turn back due to fuel concerns. Our fuel calculations will include a safety margin, although we will not double or triple that figure. This is because we feel that taking that much extra gas will slow us down, increase crashes, increase damage and lower our fuel economy to the point that we would require the extra fuel. It's kind of a vicious circle. Our goal is to minimize weight/maximize fuel economy.

For a serious attempt an east to west makes more sense.
100% agreed, especially when other factors such as scheduling and cost come into play.

A helidrop of fuel and food seems prudent.
We are considering this as a backup but our goal is to cross the North Canol unassisted. This being possible if we can minimize fuel usage and number of days required for the crossing.

A sub 300 pound bike with a trailer. A raft, paddles, pump and whatnot seems wise. A light bike seems wise for carrying on the raft. Lots of tools and spare parts.
Agreed on the weight of the bike. We are working on a raft design that will get us down the Mackenzie river and allow us to cross rivers along the Canol. The raft will be able to be broken down with minimal tools/time and reconfigured between the two required uses. We are not planning on bringing a pump as we are working on a solution that uses the exhaust gasses from the bike as a pump source thus eliminating the need for a separate pump.

My guess is it would take 15-25 days, I know it seems like a lot but the chances of having to ride out bad weather seems like a real possibility. Add a week to get to Norman Wells and drive time to and from and I'd be looking at month and a half probably. Given the need for a light bike I'd be trailering the bikes.
We hope to minimize the risk of bad weather by choosing the best time to go. This doesn't guarantee anything but improves our odds. Our current estimates equate to 7-14 days to get from Camp Canol NWT to Ross River Yukon.
This means we would have to cover 572km in that time which is between 41-82km/day. With an average of 10hrs of saddle time per day this gives a moving average of between 4.1-8.2km/h. We understand that this may not be possible between Camp Canol and Caribou Pass but West of that is much faster riding where we can improve our average km covered per day.

A winch or come along to drag the trailer seems wise.

The CHT is on my bucket list
Best of luck, I look forward to hearing about your planning
Thanks!
^See above ^

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Old 10-01-2011, 04:25 PM   #10
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Good to see you're carefully checking logistics. Yes, the east end is difficult and expensive transport, and that's before you get to the Trail! Be aware that some years, there can be significant snow up there the first couple weeks of September, but that is probably the best timing you can pick. What would you suggest for a 14 day window in terms of the eastern section? Expect -10 at nights. One thing you can't minimize is fluids, which include not only fuel, but enough oil for at least one change in case you dunk. A drop of some type might be a good idea from a weight standpoint, as you've calculated, it's a "heavy" trip. We will proabbly have one emergency oil change between the 2 of us. However we'd like to do that portion of the trip unassisted, which I think will ultimately force us to pack light, travel efficiently and hopefully finish in a reasonable manner...

For those who think towing a trailer is feasible, search for some pictures from the eastern end, and think again. Not happening. The guys with the quads came back without their trailers, for good reason. For rafting, think two inflatable raft thwarts, some good nylon straps to run through the frame, and affix them like giant floating saddlebags, one on each side of the bike, finding the height balance between drowning the bike and having the centre of gravity too high. Doing this, I don't see much option but to swim the bike across, dressed in a dry suit.I think I agree with you on this, we are currently pondering various systems and looking at the pros and cons. The finally product should be made of minimal # of parts, must be easily reconfigurable to work for the Mackenzie river and the Canol rivers. We will have to do lots of practice on real rivers before this trip is attempted... Can't leave anything for chance for as you said, no one will be out there to help you. Some rivers are going to be too wide/without anchors to line across, and you have to get the line over anyway. This is going to really suck, and you'll end up a long ways downstream. Scout at least 2 km up and down to find the advantageous spots to put in and take out on the far side. We are also working on a line system that we will be able to rig across large rivers in order to increase control and safety. You obviously know this is very dangerous, and each deep crossing is going to be very time consuming. If you're not an experienced water person (paddler of some type) who can read rivers, I'd flatly say don't do the trip - the river crossings will kill you, when the rest might only maim you. Sorry to sound so serious, but it's a serious trip. Right now, there's a great thread on the BAM road across the former USSR. This is much more remote and difficult, and there won't be the odd military/farmer to help.
^see above^
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Old 10-02-2011, 11:43 AM   #11
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From the east, starting about the 3rd. week of August would probably be a good trade off. Mosquitoes will be down, water in a normal year will have mostly dropped, you still have some good weather. By the second week in September, it's weather luck as to what happens. If it's a wet year, you're going to be turned back anyway.

I agree with you about a trailer getting destroyed, plus it would be very awkward. People don't appreciate that this isn't a two track or much of a trail in places any more. There are some decent sections, but a fair bit is picking your way along very slowly. It's not just the crossings, where the rivers have washed out the road there can be significant side hill scree slopes, etc. I very much appreciate your desire not to leave any debris behind. People go hunting as far as Caribou Pass, so from there west is "pretty good" by some standards. Certainly once you reach the Yukon the road is in good condition. For that portion, an aggressively driven pick up truck averages about 30 kph. A bike can increase this, but you run the risk of hitting something unexpected if you go too fast to make up time.

I'd suggest 7 days is too optimistic. Each major river crossing is going to take a day in itself for both bikes, once you scout, and if you're using a line, you may be crossing the river 4 times - once to set up, twice for bikes, once to take down. Minor crossings, depending on water level, are going to take half a day each - if you're not spending an hour scouting, wading, and preparing, it's probably not enough caution....and it can be good for your mental health to take a day off, particularly if the weather is terrible. Keeping your attitude up is essential for these trips, and forcing a schedule is a downer. It's an adventure, not a chore, and it's easy to cross that line.

As soon as a raft gets complex, it starts to get heavy and takes more time to assemble. A real raft that you could flop the bikes in and row across in one trip would be the safest and ideal, but is going to weigh at least 60 -75 pounds with oars, and is a nightmare to pack on a bike. That's why I suggested reducing it to taking just the thwarts or equivalent as a pontoon set up. An option might be a Pack Raft, but I've never used one, so don't know what they can do. They are very light, a big benefit, and might accommodate a person and bike - maybe add a roll up floor? Filling from the exhaust works fine, but won't get the last bit of firmness, which may not matter, your testing will tell.

Having a reasonable amount of experience with line systems, they can be great but are time consuming and have some inherent dangers. Personally, I think being free-floating is safer for a small group, although there is no guaranty where you're going to land! That was the 'scout up and down for 2km to find the best spot' comment. Worst case you end up in the MacKenzie! I'd bring some pulleys and rope to set up a Z-drag, but more in case you have to winch the bikes out of a bog than for rivers. You need a lot of rope to cross some of these rivers, again bulk and weight. Crossing the MacKenzie, just hire someone from Norman Wells to ferry everything over.

Now if only somebody made a 175 with the balance of a Trials Bike and the carrying capacity of a GS...
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Old 10-03-2011, 06:46 AM   #12
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row row row your boat...

Some preliminary ideas on floatation for the Mackenzie river section... bike is shown upright but could be laid on its side as well. Only one shown but there would be 2 tied together longitudinally. note: the system is to scale with the bike.


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Old 10-03-2011, 07:54 PM   #13
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What would you propose for propulsion? Going to need good human power to get across a river that big.
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Old 10-03-2011, 08:05 PM   #14
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"Now if only somebody made a 175 with the balance of a Trials Bike and the carrying capacity of a GS..."

you are describing a Rokon, ( ok maybe not that balance part) 172cc, 45 liters of fuel, 208 lbs, you still need more fuel though.
http://www.rokon.com/products/trailbrkr.htm
dealer in PG, plus they float.

what ever you decide to ride, test it in similar slow speed conditions for mileage. ive never rode anything like this but I have done week long trips, mostly in 2nd gear, barely getting to third as it was slow tight riding , mileage went straight to hell. granted it was a 650 but small bore may lose mpg as well.

acerbis made a 6 gal tank for a wr250f, kick and e start. just a thought. or that tank on a 125. or .. the Rokon
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Old 10-03-2011, 09:16 PM   #15
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What would you propose for propulsion? Going to need good human power to get across a river that big.
Are plan is to ship the broken-down rafts to Wrigley, NWT. We would ride from Calgary, AB to Wrigley, NWT. Then we would reassemble the rafts, load our bikes/gear on and take a leisurely paddle 320km down the Mackenzie river to Norman Wells, NWT. The average current on the river is 5km/hr. With my calculations it would take about 7-8 days to get to there. Once in Norman Wells, we would disassemble the rafts, keeping only the inflatable thwarts/pontoons and ship the remaing pieces back home. Then as you said before pay someone to boat us across the Mackenzie to Mile "0" at Camp Canol... Although a speed boat up the river would be faster and much more expensive, b.ringrose and I both agreed that floating down the river would be an experience we just couldn't pass up... So paddle power only...
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