Duo paddles Yukon for a good cause

For Rob Tweddle and Phil Carrington, life is a series of adventures. Their most recent journey brought them through Whitehorse last week, on a pit…

For Rob Tweddle and Phil Carrington, life is a series of adventures.

Their most recent journey brought them through Whitehorse last week, on a pit stop during their 1,400-kilometre kayak trip to the Bering Sea.

The two are no strangers to long distance treks.

In 2002-2003, Tweddle raised money for the fight against cancer by completing his North American Challenge.

He cycled across Canada, from Halifax to Vancouver, then paddled the entire Missouri River, and then hiked the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia.

“It took a year and three days — around 8,700 miles,” said Tweddle.

Carrington is no slouch either; he and another friend rowed 1,860 kilometres across the Atlantic in a seven-metre rowboat, also to raise money for cancer.

“We’re both ex-royal marines — we like the challenge and adventure, and we like to suffer,” said Tweddle, who’s based in New York.

He works as a freelance commercial climber, working on high-rise buildings and oilrigs.

“Every so often, we really have to push ourselves to see if we can do it,” added Carrington, a commercial diver from San Francisco.

The pair started sport4charity as a way to channel donations that came out of their adventures.

“Both our parents died of cancer, and initially, these trips we’ve done have been for cancer,” said Carrington.

“We thought, ‘If we’re going to do this kind of distance, we might as well make a spectacle of it, and raise some money.’”

For this trip, all money raised will go to Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans, to help with reconstruction in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

They’ve come across their share of skeptics. “People thought, ‘How do we know where this money’s going to?’” said Tweddle.

“People think they’re just paying for your trip, but we’ve done enough trips to prove we do this right,” he added.

The cost of the trip is paid out of the paddlers’ own pockets, and they are planning on auctioning off all their gear when they finish, and adding the proceeds to the donation.

At first, the pair considered entering the River Quest, after seeing the BBC documentary on the 2004 race.

“The idea was to do the whole thing, and then come back and enter the River Quest, by then we’d have strong shoulders, and a good chance of winning.

“But logistically, it was a nightmare.”

They opted for a river trip instead.

The pair’s Yukon adventure got off to a bumpy start, as their ride to Skagway fell through and they had to hitchhike to the beginning of the Chilkoot Trail.

“It took 10 hours, but we met five really interesting characters before we even got to the start of the trail,” said Carrington.

The plan was to hike over the trail, get into the kayaks on Bennett Lake and paddle to the Bering Sea.

Carrington twisted his ankle heading over the golden stair, but toughed it out. “I heard it pop, but it didn’t hurt too much, so we got down to the other side and then it swelled up like a balloon.”

A night of rest and a few painkillers later, and they made it to their boats.

Carrington had some more trouble in the river after they portaged past the Whitehorse dam.

“These are sea kayaks, not whitewater kayaks — a whirlpool grabbed me, and I did a full cartoon spin and it spit me out, then pulled me back in,” he said.

“Rob said all he could see was the tip of my kayak and the top of my head. When I finally got out, my heart was pounding pretty hard,” he added.

They were pleased to hear that the river becomes relatively sedate after the Five Finger Rapids.

They’re hoping to finish by mid-September. “We want to do about 40 miles a day, but we’d like to stop in places too, little outcrops and villages, we might want to stay there.”

They don’t really have a solid plan when they arrive on the Bering Sea, but they’ll be looking for an airport.

“A lot of the fun of it is winging it, the hardest part is getting to the start,” said Tweddle. “We’re here, we just have to paddle, and stay injury free — and stay away from whirlpools.”

Check out Tweddle and Carrington’s progress on their website at www.sport4charity.net.