LAKE PLACID - Lake Placid Elementary School physical education teacher and whitewater kayaker Matt Young has a thirst for adventure.
The 30-year-old has run many Adirondacks creeks and rivers, a few in Quebec, some in Europe, and rafted in Norway and the Grand Canyon.
Now, he's embarking on an 11-day trip Siberia to paddle the Kitoy River and some of its tributaries. The group is being led by professional kayaker and guide Tomass Marnics of Latvia, who has previously visited the area. Many of the runs are Class IV and V rapids, which are for whitewater experts only.
Photos courtesy of Matt Young
Matt Young kayaking on the Raquette River
"We start out really high and then as you go down, the tributaries come in, and the flow becomes bigger and bigger and bigger," Young said.
Young was invited to join this international group of kayakers by his friend Fredy Riner of Switzerland, who he has paddled with in Europe. The only person Young knows well who is going is Anthony Gianfagna of Watertown.
Young's trip started Tuesday morning as he flew out of John F. Kennedy International Airport. He wrote about his excitement in a blog for Kotatat, one of his sponsors, on Monday.
"The uniqueness of this trip, beginning with the simple fact that I am going kayaking in Siberia's Sayan Mountains is very exciting," Young wrote. "While I have a lot of previous multi-day paddling experience, I have never attempted a trip so long or so remote. I have also never planned to stop along the way to paddle other rivers."
The group will stop on the Kitoy River to explore the Ekhe-Gol and Biluti tributaries. To do this they will haul their kayaks and gear over land, then ride the current back to where they started on the river. Young is really looking forward to the Biluti.
"I've seen some video and some pictures and that really looks like the real gem, the real prize of this trip," Young said. "In Tomass's previous trip, it took him two days to hike to the top."
To get to the headwaters of these tributaries, they'll have to deal with the challenge of hauling their heavy boats and gear.
"To portage with a boat that is loaded to the gills is, it's crazy," Young said. "If you think about the size of a whitewater kayak, everything, my entire existence has to fit into my kayak - food, sleeping stuff and it's a pretty small stuff."
Young said the trip is the next big step in his kayaking career, and will include some tough challenges. One of them will be on day five when the river enters a canyon named Motkin Gorge.
"The canyon itself is around 15 kilometers with many class IV big volume rapids and one very steep and narrow section of the river named 'Rapid 47,' which has been run just twice in a kayak," Marnics wrote in a trip description provided to his fellow kayakers. "Kayaking in Moktin Gorge makes you feel like a small ant: everything is big and powerful around you, but still good to go. In (the) summer 2012, we got lucky with the water level on Kitoy river and decided to give it a go and try to do the first descent of that big boy. That was amazing! Once you get to the left tributary, you see the famous Ekhe-Gol waterfall - 16-meter high monster is great test for the real warriors. It is also possible to hike up to Ekhe-Gol river and paddle last canyon of the river which is about 5 kilometers long, class IV section.
"The second day of the Motkin Gorge probably the best paddling day on Kitoy river. Big rapids, wide lines, nice slalom between the huge holes and deep vertical walls of the canyon. After you reach the exit of the Motkin Gorge you feel like you've got something special inside you, have seen something unique."
Young said he hasn't decided yet if he will run the waterfall, which would be the highest of his life. He said he likes to think that the days of running tall waterfalls are behind him. Either way, the adventure should provide him with plenty of opportunities to get his adrenaline pumping and enough views of breathtaking scenery that should make this trip worthwhile. It's something Young can't wait to experience.
"I'm really pumped," Young said.