Outdoor festival attracts intrepid Arctic adventurers to Llangollen

Wild river kayaker and outdoor adventurer Erik Boomer has been where no man has been before – and now he’s coming to North Wales.

The intrepid American and his Canadian partner in peril, Sarah Landry-McNair, are just back from their latest epic exploit, a 65-day 1000 kilometre crossing of Baffin Island by canoe, ski and on foot.

They will join a host of other outdoor experts, including British climber Adele Pennington, the first woman to climb Everest twice, who are hoping to inspire a new generation of extreme adventurers at the first Flo-Llangollen Festival, a three-day fiesta of the great outdoors at the Royal International Pavilion on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, November 15-17.

Erik, 28, and Sarah, 27, will be describing their Baffin Island experience as they braved tidal rapids, blizzards, crevasses and polar bears to cross the largest icecap on Baffin Island in a summer where it snowed almost every day with temperatures frequently below zero.

Erik, now back home in Idaho, USA, said: “I’ve never been to Wales before so I’m excited about coming.

“It was an arduous trip across Baffin Island in the coldest summer they’ve had for 30 years but it’s given us a good story to tell and hopefully it will inspire others to get out and experience what the outdoors has to offer.

“For Sarah and me, our families took us out camping, rafting and sea kayaking from when we were kids and we just loved it and we’re always looking for new things to take on.

“It’s the uncertainty that appeals. Adventure is everything that happens that’s unexpected and that’s what makes it fun.”

Flo-Llangollen is being staged by River Legacy and supported by rural regeneration agency Cadwyn Clwyd and the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Organiser Sarah Henderson said: “Llangollen is a perfect place for an event like this because of its fantastic facilities and the fact that it is easily accessible to so many people.

“We’re delighted at the lineup of people we have coming and the range of activities they can try their hands at – from archery and exe-throwing to white water kayaking and rafting.

“You could be on a mountain scrambling course with mountaineer Adele Pennington who is coming here from Nepal while for canoeists and kayakers they just don’t get better or more full-on than Erik Boomer.

“We’re even putting on mountain biking courses because Llangollen has the steepest competition track in the world and we’re giving people the chance to canoe across the Froncysyllte Aqueduct and that’s pretty extreme.”

Erik’s Baffin Island trip saw him and Sarah build their own traditional kayaks from wood and skins before setting off down the Weasel River Valley with Erik tackling the wild glacier-fed river in the first week.

It’s ranked as a Class Five, exceedingly difficult, with long and violent rapids, following each other almost without interruption, a boulder-strewn riverbed, big drops, a violent current and a very steep gradient.

But for Erik it was all in a day’s work – he is the first man ever to take a kayak down the near-sheer, four-drop, 139 foot Racehorse Falls in Washington State, http://vimeo.com/10736337

He and Sarah also had plenty of other hazards to contend with as they followed traditional Inuit routes across the frozen wastes of Baffin Island, often carrying their canoes and equipment and facing tidal rapids, snowstorms and the threat of polar bears.

Sarah, the youngest person to travel to both the North and South Poles and who grew up on Baffin Island, said: “I love it there but there aren’t any roads so you have to snow sled or dog sled everywhere unless you get a plane.

“Our trip was very wet, you’re constantly wet and cold which is tough but we ski-ed, hiked and kayaked across and we were definitely in polar bear territory.

“We saw their tracks and they were fresh. We didn’t see them but they would have seen us and we had to carry a shotgun and flares just in case because we’ve had previous scary encounters – some bears are just curious but if they’re hungry they’ll come straight for you.”

David Shiel, Senior Countryside Officer at the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB, said: “The AONB are providing financial support for the event and are running a number of cycling events over the weekend – combining a cycle along the canal with a boat ride.

“The event fits into the general move to promote the activity sector in the Dee Valley – Cadwyn and the AONB supporting the Outdoor Forum in the Dee Valley and bringing businesses together.”

The event aims to appeal to people of all ages and aims t get them out and active and Erik Boomer added: “You’re never too old to enjoy the outdoors and do something different.

“My dad is 64 and has just learned to back-country ski and he’s having a blast and is in the best shape of his life.”

The three-day festival runs from Friday, November 15, and tickets start at £5 with a wide range of activities available as well as accommodation, including camping – for full details see the website, http://www.flo-llangollen.com/

For more information on Cadwyn Clwyd projects ring 01824 705802 or e-mail info@cadwynclwyd.co.uk

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