Alex Guimont chats about his unintentional first self support canoe descent down the Colorado River.
What did you do on your 21st birthday? If you’re anything like Alex Guimont, you set out with 7 people and a couple of tripping canoes to casually achieve greatness. A mere stone’s throw away from Las Vegas where other 21 year olds were having very different birthday parties, Guimont and co. were the first recorded team to paddle the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in tandem tripping canoes without raft support.
To Guimont, adventuring is never about the end results or accolades. “We really weren’t trying to break any records at all,” he says. “We really didn’t know til after the fact.”
Initially, Guimont was approached by his good friend and fellow FIVE2NINE team member Caleb Roberts, who was eager to go on a Grand Canyon trip. The two applied for a permit and, after a few tries, they finally got it and were able to start planning. “Why don’t we do it in a canoe?” was just an idea they ran with.
Most people do the Colorado River by raft, or with support from a raft, and there were some logistics to figure out for a 26 day trip in the relatively small space of a canoe. Trippers in the Grand Canyon are required to pack out their waste, for example. And there isn’t much room for food and supplies.
Luckily the team had one member who had taken the trip before and a total of four canoe tripping guides, so they were able to anticipate every possible challenge. After 2 months of organizing, Guimont went in ready for anything.
“It’s funny because I didn’t know what to expect,” he says. “I am a white water kayaker, I had never done a canoe trip or white water canoe trip… I had never been in a tripping canoe.” Guimont says his inexperience was actually a help, because he didn’t know what to expect so he just took every moment in as it came.
One of the reasons most people don’t do the Grand Canyon in fully loaded tripping canoes is because of the size of the rapids in there. Sometimes, the sheer weight of the vessel can cause it to crack, even on a relatively small impact. This is something Guimont and his team ran into pretty early on in the trip. They were able to get the boat repaired, but it made for some tense moments later on.
Because of this mishap, Guimont says some of the bigger rapids were challenging for fear of splitting another boat or messing up a line. But for the most part, the trip was a great time spent taking in some breathtaking scenery and bonding with his pals.
“As much as it was a challenging feat, we had a lot of days to go not a lot of way” he says. “It was actually pretty leisurely.”
Since the trip he’s been continuing his work with the Five2Nine team, and as a filmmaker with fellow team member Mike McKay. Alex also passes the adventurous torch to the next generation as a youth ski racing coach.
As for new adventures, Guimont says he keeps “plenty busy,” but he isn’t looking to be the first to get anywhere. He says he’s satisfied if something is a first for him, and if he has fun along the way.
“I just want to be the best kayaker no one’s ever heard of,” he says. “The people that I do it with are more important than anything else,” he says.