Monday, April 5, 2010

Panther Creek: First known raft descent

David Saquety and I had been talking all week about trying a first raft descent in the Columbia gorge. The night before came and it looked like it was going to be too low. I drove up to Portland with low expectations for the next day. Getting turned away at the door to view the Dream Result premiere for being too young didn't brighten my mood much either :(
I woke up the next morning and consulted with Dan about the day's plans. The run I was originally planning on was too low so we started looking at secondary options. About the time I decided what I wanted to do, I got a call from David, I don't know who mentioned it first but one of said "what do you think about Panther", which resulted in the other saying "yah, I was just about to ask you the same thing".  We picked up Laura Sol, which was interesting for me since I had heard her name only in stories from my dad who used to boat with her, now I was getting to boat with her! In all the thought that went into planning for the day, I forgot to call Steve until we were already in Stevenson, oops, sorry Steve. Luckily he was willing to rally and meet us at the put in.
Here are a few clips, sorry Dave and Laura, I didn't get any footage of you guys :(
I can vouch that they had stellar lines through everything and paddled this run like it was in their backyard.
After lots of dilly-dallying, We put in around 2. The first section to Rachel's went smooth. Steve was the only one to fire up the first two moves, after punching the stickier than it looked hole, we started scouting the third tier. It was here we realized this was going to be a long day. We were probably there for 30 min. We all fired up the third move (the slide) and continued downstream.
Things went fine until Dan's raft decided to run a rapid without any beta and got pinned, this resulted in a 20 minute or so rescue. Luckily everyone was fine and gear was not lost. Downstream in some boogie water, they got pinned again, resulting in a 45 minute rescue. We decided here that when we hit the Wind, we would hike out. The rest of the run went great, super fun river that was the perfect level of challenge. We hit the wind and started cruising. I had only done this section at summer flows so didn't realize we would be moving so fast. By the time we hit Beyond limits we knew we were going to be paddling out and not having to hike. We made it to Shipperds and the portage started smoothly.
We had a plan for the portage, but with some confusion and the rope getting stuck, things got stressful in a hurry. As we were waiting to throw the rafts in, it got super dark, like as dark as it gets. I decided not to do the jump because there were ropes in the water, so the hike along the cliff in the dark was the name of the game and proved to be interesting. We got down to the bottom to realize our ropes had gotten stuck on something and something had to be done about it. After some futile pulling, Dan came up with a plan. He would pull himself up the rope to the rafts against some very strong current, climb into the raft, and cut the rope that was stuck. His first try failed, as the current was just too strong. For the next try, we angled the rope closer to the cliff so he could use the wall. None of us really believed this would work, but Dan is highly trained in doing things everyone tells him won't work and was adamant that he could do it. While he was pulling himself up the rope, we had no contact and could not see him so it was an intense moment for all until we heard his yell as he made it to the raft. I might add he did this with a broken rib, I can't comprehend a lot of the things he does.

He then pulled himself into the other raft, and cut the rope, saving us from hiking out.
The paddle out in the dark was by far the scariest part of the day. We knew it was only class two but most of us had never run it at this level, and even in class two, big water tends to produce some big holes (7.5 on wind gauge). These are easy to avoid when you can see, but when you can only hear and see ghosts of white, it gets pretty scary. I hit a couple waves that were big enough to hit my face. This was not a getting dark scenario, it had already been completely dark for over an hour. So we stayed near the right shore, and just kind of guessed where the takeout was, we guessed right! We took out at 9 after 7 hours on the river, glad to have our boats with us. We said our goodbye's and headed home, excited to have completed another adventure.


wind= 7.5
panther= 300 cfs

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