Monday, May 24, 2010

Weekend Update

Little Goose and Lower Trout Lake Creek.
Went up to run Kenobi Gorge on Sunday. I doubt this will be run again anytime soon, there is wood everywhere. Chewie and Sarlacc Falls both have really bad wood.
The wood in Chewie (as is often the case: all photos by Matt King)
The wood in Sarlacc. It doesn't look unrunnable here, but Matt assured us you would not be able to run this drop without crashing over/through a branch. With the wood in that hole, a less than perfect line would be very, very life threatening.
There is also a lot of other wood. Nick and I tubed this run last summer and none of this wood was there, so its all new this year. Looks like it will not be going anywhere as well. So after hiking our boats in and doing a bit of scouting, we hiked right back out. It was still cool to be back to this place, really a gorgeous place, with the area around Imperial falls being super unique. The walls are crumbling columnar basalt that is really pleasant to see. These walls are worth the trip on its own. I haven't seen anything like it before (except of course the last time I was here with Nick).
The rock cycle in progress.
The spring right next to Chewie is really tasty as well!
We still wanted to go boating, so Dan, Robby, and Matt headed for the Truss, while Shane and I headed for lower Trout Lake Creek.
I had only heard about one group of people running Trout Lake Creek recently, which is unfortunate. This run is a perfect next step up from the Middle White Salmon and a good intro to adventure boating. The run isn't very hard, but has quality whitewater without many dull sections. I was expecting "The Ledges" to be maybe III-IV, but they were solid class 4 and really fun! This was Shane's first class four in a kayak and he killed it! He was following me down, but I eddied out behind a hole and he kept going, probing the second half of this long drop. He hit his lines and punched all the holes perfect, nice work!
There are a couple drops that are hard to scout without going onto private property, but the owners were super nice and waved us over to let us know we could walk through their yards and even open there gates if we needed so long as we didn't let their llamas out. I won't describe the drops much because these are fun ones to figure out on your own. I was surprised by the many small horizon lines and high quality of rapids. Once the stream joins with the White Salmon, the flow doubles and there are some splashy, pushier rapids. All class three and fun. The geology starts to look like the Farmlands at this point, but the rapids don't get big. We took out at a bridge right above a lowhead dam on what I believe was Little Mt road.
Levels were just over 3.5 ft on White Salmon at Husum. I would strongly suggest kayakers who feel they are ready to do class four try out this creek. Just be polite to the landowners and try to stay near river level. Also know that portaging the Ledges would be near impossible on river right without trespassing. Even though the landowners have been gracious, river left might be a better option, actually, the best option is to just run them.
The other crew had a good run on the Truss, with Dan getting his first no portage descent, and Robby (less than ten times in a raft ever), ran everything except BZ. Matt sacrificed running Big Brother in order to set safety, but said the center would go well at that level, and had a good run in general. Dan decided he was running BZ whether anyone was in the raft with him or not. Now, BZ isn't a tall falls, it is just a really big hole. With most big holes, speed is a part of the plan, not the case this day. Dan's plan was to drop in, get surfed, have Robby or Matt (who was clipped in to the walkway) throw him a rope and pull him out. The first part worked (the getting surfed part), however, he was immediately pulled back in, flipped, then recycled a couple times out of the boat. Finally he balled up, hit the bottom of the river, then squatted off downstream, being under for half a minute without a breath. Matt gave chase to the raft, almost losing his paddle climbing into the raft, then eddied it out below Maytag and R1'ed it back up the eddy after retrieving his paddle and getting his boat into the raft. Saving the crew a lot of hassle tracking it down on the Middle White.
Dan redeemed his Karma at the BZ takeout, then we went back to Troutdale, then on to Monmouth. I finally arrived home at 2:30 after a couple more stops, long day.
Special thanks to Kait for helping drive, and spending the whole day following us around.
All photos by Matt King

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Little North Santiam: Opal Gorge

Photo: Matt King


Stream: Most people do this run as an extension of the Classic Opal stretch, but it is also worth doing as a stand-alone run.  Either way you start this section at Three Pools.  It is easy to walk up to the top of Thor's along a short trail to get some action in right away.

The stream exits the Pool at the base of Thor's and goes around an island.  At low flows both sides are rocky, right is the standard route.  The next mile is class II and gives you a chance to get warmed up.  The entrance to the gorge is obvious as the walls rise up and a rapid presents itself.  This is the longest, yet least challenging rapid of the section.  You can run the entrance wherever, though I like to stay along the right bank.  The lines converge near the bottom and a boulder in the center of the river creates a ledge.  At low and high flows it is best to boof off the left edge of this boulder (covered at high flows) and at medium flows it is fun to boof off the right shoulder of it.

This lands you in the calm pool above the Mystery AKA the Un/Un (unscoutable/unportageable).  The standard line is 6 inches off the left wall at the lip, pointed towards 1 o clock and letting your nose drop.  If you have the correct angle a shelf will shoot you out cleanly into the aerated pool below.  Angled too far left or right and you will likely receive a glancing blow from either wall before being shot out into the pool below.  
The right channel gets run too, but not as often.  There is even a middle boof at high flows as well.

                                               A right side run of Mystery AKA the Un/Un at very low flows.
                                                              Photo: Lucas Rietmann

There is a small ledge below here that develops a respectable hole at high flows before another calm pool.  The next horizon line is the Undertaker, as far as I know this drop has been run once at 5,000 cfs (by Willy Hinsdale) and portaged by every other boater who has ever run this stretch of river.  The left side portage is quicker, but there are about 5' of this exposed portage that are slippery and this keeps a lot of people who would otherwise enjoy the run from paddling Opal Gorge.  I don't want to tell people it's no big thing, and it's true that if you fell it would likely be the end of you, but lots of people have made the portage without issue and most of them are more than willing to repeat the trip.   The decision is always yours, and if you really get freaked out you can always attain back upstream to get to the river-right portage at med-low flows and below.

                                                                             Don't fall
                                                                       Photo: Matt King

                     Eric Foster-Moore is all smiles after passing the crux of the Undertaker portage.
                                                                  Photo: Matt King

There is another boulder just below the Undertaker (Tombstone Rock) that can be run on either side so long as you are driving strongly back to center.

The next rapid is Unicorn, a long Boulder Garden that is entered on the center/right and then run down the main/center channel the rest of the way.

A moving pool separates the runout of Unicorn from Henline Rapid which can be scouted from the right at normal flows and left or right at low flows.  Lines exist far right and far left, avoiding the center of the rapid (where most of the current funnels) at the top and bottom.  There is an undercut bottom-left that makes me squeamish here at low flows, but it is covered at normal flows.

                                                Brian Butcher runs left at Henline Rapid.
                                                           Photo: Lucas Rietmann

The next horizon is the Sierra Slot, which used to have a boof on the right but things seemed to have changed a bit and that line seems to flip people onto their head.  The new standard line is the same as the old, running the right channel driving hard left with a right stroke into a fold that can rinse out the sinuses but lands in a forgiving pool.

Below here you are free of the gorge, a half mile of class II leads to the last portage at Elkhorn Falls.  If you look at this rapid and decide it looks like something you may want to run (main line or sneak), first walk out onto the finger of rock creating a pinch in the outflow and see for yourself how much of the river actually flows under there.  The portage is ultra easy on the left.

                                Michael Freeman making the first move of Elkhorn Falls at flows under the            .                                                    recommended flow range (still a class V rapid).
                                                             Photo: Lucas Rietmann

A half mile downstream is the Elkhorn bridge with a staff gauge underneath on river right.  I generally like taking out at the Elkhorn bridge these days as it avoids another mile of class I and flatwater down to Salmon Falls, the other take out option.  

That said, Salmon Falls is a good drop, and if you have never paddled it before I would encourage you to paddle down to it and make up your own mind about whether it's worth the flat water or not.

Salmon Falls can be scouted thoroughly along a retaining wall on river-left, you won't be able to see much from river-right.   For me, if levels are below 1,000 cfs I choose to portage the lead in to Salmon Falls and seal launch at the lip.  Over 1,500 cfs the center to left line Rick Cooley demonstrates below is most appealing.  At 1,000-1,500 cfs I usually take out at the Elkhorn bridge.  

                                                                     Photo: Matt King

Then there are those who try the far left lead-in to Salmon Falls, sometimes these people even manage to go over the main drop upright. 

                                                             Photo: Lucas Rietmann

Flows:  400-2,000 cfs on the Little North Fork Santiam Gauge is the range I am comfortable with; ideal first time flows on the Elkhorn Gauge are 5-6'.

Locals have done the run up to 5,000 cfs but many of them have regretted that decision.  If you do the run over 2,000 cfs the Undertaker needs to be portaged on the right, and you should know the run well beforehand.

Access:  Take I5 to Salem and head East on Highway 22 towards Detroit Reservoir.  In about 22 miles turn left at a flashing yellow light onto N Fork Rd. 14 miles after turning off Hwy 22 you pass Salmon Falls, which is the lower take out.  To use the upper take out continue upstream 1 mile and park your vehicle at the intersection of Elkhorn Rd (which leads promptly to the take out bridge) and N Fork Rd.  At the end of the day you can walk to your car and drive it down to the bridge to load gear, but locals don't like boaters leaving vehicles at the bridge all day. 

From either take out continue upstream on N Fork Rd to get to the put in, after a few miles the road turns to gravel.  Just under 2 miles after this happens you will make a sharp right onto a road marked by a kiosk and some boulders that leads downhill.  Just under a mile after making this turn, pull right into the paved Three Pools day use area (not signed in 2015).  Stairs at the far end of the parking lot lead down to the put in.

Original Write-up

Well, Matt and crew seemed to have a lot of fun on Opal Gorge a couple weeks ago, so Nate and I decided we would head back for each of our second runs down this PNW classic. I had to be back to class that evening, so we met at the Swiss Village restaurant at 10am. I was a little apprehensive about the drizzle given the strong warnings about venturing into the gorge when the rocks are slick. Nate had done the left side portage before and was confident it would be just fine. Plus, if it was really that bad, we would just do the right side portage.
We put in and putted around the put-in pool for a couple minutes, then were on our way. The class II went by quick, then we were at the first boulder garden.  This boulder garden is a good skill check, if you feel comfortable on this drop the rest of the run will be within your ability but maybe a half class harder.
This put us in the pool above the Un-Un. I didn't feel like hanging out here thinking too long, so caught the final eddy for a peak, didn't see much, then dropped over the left side where a quick reconnect propelled me into the pool below (don't boof).  Nate joined shortly after with a similar line.

After the next small drop we eddied out on the left above the Undertaker. When I had portaged on the right side, the drop looked runnable (as in Tyler Bradt or Eric Boomer runnable). This time I got a better look and I no longer think that.

At this point we were a bit on edge because of literate warning against doing the portage if it was raining, Nate and I walked the route first without boats to suss things out.  Instead of the friction climbing, mountain goat, totally gripped tightrope walk I was expecting, we found a manageable, if exposed, portage route. We did pass the boats to each other at one spot, but this was just a precaution, not a necessity. The issue is definitely the fact that IF you were to slip and fall, you would have very close to zero chances of living.


At the time this video was shot (a time before GoPro!) you can tell we were taking the portage awfully seriously, as at the time conventional wisdom said what we were doing was "against the rules".

I was glad we did that trip as it broke the stigma of the portage for me and I could enjoy the run much more afterwords.

15-20 trips down the gorge later and I still take the portage seriously, but I am no longer apprehensive about it.

Level was about 650, which is a friendly level.


Opal Gorge from Jacob Cruser on Vimeo.

You can contrast that video with this one made a few years later.

Opal Gorge: Winter, 2014 from Jacob Cruser on Vimeo.

We seal launched in below the portage, then did a boof move off the center rock downstream.  Just downstream was "The boulder garden". This one probably has the highest fun:stress ratio of the rapids on this section, just move back and forth down the center channel. One more class three, then we eddied out left to scout Henline rapid.   Getting out to scout here was tricky on the left as the rocks are slick as snot (2016 UPDATE: If I scout this rapid now, I do so on the right).

We both decided to run right. There is a log hanging down into the lead in (2012 UPDATE: The log is gone) that we thought we could go under, but we couldn't so we had to reroute on the go. You can see my strokes get off in the video, it wasn't a big deal though and we both had acceptable lines through this fun rapid. Below here was Sierra slot. We caught the eddy right at the lip on the right and were able to look down into it. We both attempted boofs, but ended up plugging, someday I'll hit that boof!(2016 Update: I am 1 for 10 on trying to hit that boof)

We both braced out of the bottom and enjoyed the boogie and boofs downstream. We both portaged Fishladder and took some time to stare into the outlet which is nasty looking. You can see this in the video. The whole Little North Santiam goes into a six foot wide slot, however, there is a rock outcropping blocking that route. The only way to do it in your boat would be to boof into the eddy on the right, I would love to see video of the people who have run it.

We then began the paddle down to Salmon falls. We scouted for a bit, then decided if looked plenty reasonable if we portaged the lead-in.   The boof route looked like it would launch you weird, so I decided to try to hit the right side of it. Getting into my boat at the top and without my boat filling with water or slipping ended up being the most difficult part of the falls.

 Nate came next and went down the main tongue of water to the right of the flake, he got a good stroke in and rode out a brace at the bottom for a clean line.   We were both stoked on the falls and the run.

We walked up to our vehicles and scouted access to an ugly looking creek I will probably find myself on someday, then back to class. I couldn't have asked for a better day!

The first time I ran Opal gorge, I thought, that was cool, now I have done it. This time, I was thinking, this is awesome, I love every rapid and I can't wait to come back. To me, the change of heart came from the portage of the Undertaker. The first time I took the right side portage, which was  more work, sketchier, and scarier I thought. The second time I took the left side portage which I felt was easier and gives you a cool view of the Undertaker, plus adds one more boof. I will be coming back more often.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Upper Abiqua Creek

(All photos by megi Morishita unless otherwise marked)
I ran Upper Abiqua today with Ryan Cole, Steve Cameron, and Megi Morishita on Mother's day 2010. I had been looking at this section seriously since early winter. A couple weeks ago, when a trip to Opal fell apart, Steve and I tried to find a way into this run and faced a series of gated roads, which led us to settle on Little Abiqua (a not so good run featured elsewhere on this blog).
I had seen pictures online and heard rumors of another waterfall on Abiqua creek aside from the one Tim Gross ran some time ago. I had always seen it labeled as Lower Abiqua falls, which lead me on a series of runs down class 1-2+ sections of the creek in search of this falls. After eliminating the possibility of it being where I had originally thought, I decided it was possible it had been mislabeled in pictures. Which made me excited that it might be on the section above the falls (which I planned on running anyway at some point).

I spent another day driving around up on Crooked Finger road looking for different access points I had seen on google earth. I was suprised to find a road that traveled within a hundred yards of the creek that we would be able to use as a put-in. I also knew there was a trail to the lip of Abiqua falls, so spent another day with a friend from school looking for the take out. Which happened to be the pool above the hundred foot drop! There was an interesting looking mini gorge above, and the creek looked reasonable at the put in, so I decided it was time to give it a go. It rained hard the weekend before, and I saw the gauge raise above the point I wanted it to be. I hoped that this meant it would drop to a perfect flow by the next weekend, so I started the recruiting process. I was suprised that both Steve and Ryan (the first people I asked), were all about it. So plans were made and by the end of the week, Megi had decided to join in and we had a solid crew.

I spent time between classes all week checking flows as they dropped lower and lower. Finally, on Thursday, it was at the perfect flow and I debated soloing it, fearing that it would drop by Sunday. But talking to Ryan, it sounded like at least he was in come Hell or Low water, so that helped me make the right call to wait. I got off the Little White on Saturday and checked the flow, it was below what I wanted, but I knew we cold float our boats. We met in Wilsonville the next day and I chuckled when we pulled up in four compact cars as I knew the take out road isn't super friendly. We loaded up and headed towards Scotts Mill.
Shuttle went smoothly (you know you are on the right put in road when you see a boulder balanced on a tree stump. I guess we know what loggers do with their free time now), and it was time to put in.
Ryan mustache you a question.
The water level really wasn't so bad, just fine for an exploratory trip. The first 1/2 mile was some pretty fun class III to what would be class four with more water boulder gardens. The bedrock kept trying to poke out and produced a couple of fun slides. The best of which occured at a bedrock island, with the right side being the preferred route. This was a three part drop with the first being a series of sliding slides (that works right?), followed by a dividing rock. Steve sent us over the right side, which was a sluice with a few holes to splash through. This dropped you right above the final seven foot slide featured in the video. You could also run left of the island at high water down a groove chute.
Halfway through part one of "Waggle Dance"
Steve below part one of Waggle Dance
The author entering Part 2 (of 3) in Waggle Dance

Part 3 of Waggle Dance is in the video.
Below this rapid the run reminded me of the West Fork Hood at 4 feet--mostly low water boulder gardens, with some interesting larger rocks and bedrock on the sides. It was of reasonable quality and I would thoroughly enjoy this section with healthy flows. There was a bit of wood, but Steve didn't have to get out of his boat once until the point in the video where I mention we are 2-3 miles in. The creek entered a gorge and we got excited, but it had no noteworthy whitewater in it. As you exit this gorge, there are a couple logs to deal with, but nothing too bad. This also signals the flattest part of the run which is about three miles in as the gradient peters out and we came to a braided section. This didn't last very long, but had three or four wood situations.
Steve had his first portage at the end of this section. Below this point were a couple small boulder gardens, then we came to a horizon line. This produced a nice 15 footer and scouting revealed another horizon line below! The first one we ran down the ramp on the right and was so so fun. It looked like there was a boof in the center and the left would open up with more water, but we were all satisfied going right.
The author running "Momma Dukes Laundry Chute".

We lapped this first 15 footer 9 times between the four of us.
Steve lapping it up.
Below was a uniform horizon line that I worried might be too big. We got out to scout and it looked perfect! It was just over twenty feet and had the perfect flake on the center left. Ryan was kind enough to let me go first and I got a great boof! Landed totally flat and soft, so perfect! I gave some fist pumps because of just how perfectly sweet this drop was. This may be the best twenty footer I have ever run. Ryan came next and stomped his boof.
Ryan about to stomp "Peony Falls"
Steve came off a tad sideways, but landed upright. Megi says she doesn't like waterfalls, but you would think she runs them all day long based off her line! We revelled shortly in the awesomeness of the back to back waterfalls, then headed off into a progressively tightening mini gorge we dubbed Mother's day gorge. It was a really cool area as Steve pointed out that the area around was all logging areas and more of a valley, but at the bottom was this nice mini gorge which provided a really intimate feeling while still affording the knowledge you could hike out if you wanted.
This mini gorge contained some fun slip and slide type ledges of the variety you would expect in a mini gorge. This all cultimated in the gorge narrowing even more with a few logs dangling from the walls. I saw Steve scramble into an eddy so grabbed one of my own. I figured this was the final gorge I had seen during scouting. It was a bit slippery getting out, and at higher water I would definitely want to eddy out a bit higher up. We took a look at the drop all the water funneled into, it was unrunnable due to some really ugly wood. We were all very happy that Steve was able to, first get into the eddy, then make it out of his boat from the squirly, tiny eddy. We all corrected off this and helped each other to get out from a higher, slightly better eddy (not ideal though, if you go back, eddy out as soon as your spidey senses go off).
The reason to portage Cattle Ramp
We looked at portage options, and it looked like there was a reasonable portage to the left up through some Devil's club. It wasn't a really bad portage, but I changed routes and went higher at one point because it looked safer and less clubby up there and that proved to be true. Though I did dig out the last few Devil's thorns from my hand during class today...
The end of the Cattle Ramp portage
We got back to the water and were now at the take-out pool with the lip of 100 ft Abiqua Falls as the exit to this pool. We decided the easiest thing to do would be to send someone over via swimming/tether and then send the boats on rope to him. Ryan decided he would go, so off he went and the boats and all of us followed shortly.
Roping the boats across
We took some time to check out the very cool place we were in and I made sure to crawl down to the very edge of the falls to get the up close and personal view.
After we finished checking out the place, we hiked out on the trail that hikers take to get to the lip of the falls. We had to pass the boats up a small rock band at one point, then it was smooth sailing for about a hundred yards back to the car.
In a very cool place. Left to right: Steve, Ryan, The Author
We were all pretty excited about how enjoyable the run turned out to be, and were glad things went so smoothly. Our final task was to load up four boats, a bike, four people, all our gear including two bins (Megi had a guitar, camping gear, bike tire, and bag of smores ingredients in the trunk so we couldn't put any gear in there), and a dog into a tiny little Toyota Echo. We then had to get this fully loaded and weighed down car a half mile up an old logging road that was at the very limit of what a Sedan is capable of normally. The car was turning wheels every now and then, but eventually brought us to the top.
The car with the Heart of Gold

(photo:Ryan Cole)
All in all it was a good trip, probably my favorite of the season in terms of pure enjoyment. The task of completing the unknown and finding access was a worthwhile adventure. While I would love to come back some day at higher water and run the entire thing, some might enjoy putting in just above the waterfalls as this would be the most bang for your buck. There is an old road coming off the take out road that leads to a perfect put in that would require no portages before the falls.

Since this report, I have returned many times to Abiqua Creek to run the waterfalls and I have enjoyed it every time. Most of the people I bring along like it too. Cattle Ramp cleaned up the next year and goes fine now.

An option for water falling on the Silverton Plateau;
- Run the falls on the lower part of this section of Abiqua Creek-- Momma Duke's Laundry Chute (~15-ft) and Peony Falls (~20-ft)
- Head over to Butte creek falls and run those. Butte Creek Falls (~22-ft)
-Silverton Speedway into the town of Silverton (65-ft slide/ 10 ft ledge)
The waterfalls on Abiqua and Butte are all different and have classic lines with big friendly pools, making them really fun and good for practice. All of them are possible to lap with varying degrees of difficulty. Just be aware of the very large drops on both of those runs. Both are very avoidable with the takeouts being before both of them.

(All photos by Megi Morishita unless otherwise marked)
-naming the rapids-
Since we were there on Mother's day, we figured we would honor our mothers by naming the drops after them.
-Drop one/Waggle Dance-
the bedrock rapid with three parts we named Waggle Dance as Megi's mom is getting into bee keeping. Waggle Dance is when bees shake their butts to show the other bees where the food is. Megi's mom thought it was a fitting name as you have to waggle back and forth for the first part, then the second part is through some holes you get to dance through, and the final seven foot drop is sweet as honey.
Steve was our foraging bee for this drop!
-the 15 ft falls/Momma Dukes Laundry Chute- Momma Duke is Ryan's moms nickname, and given I'm sure she has done a fair amount of Ryan's laundry in the past was fitting. You come into the rapid all stinky and dirty after a day of kayaking, then drop down the laundry chute into the washing machine and come out all clean at the bottom!
-20 footer/Peony Falls- Peonies are my mom's favorite flower because they are so beautiful, just like this falls!
-final gorge/Cattle Ramp- This was named before the mother's day theme arose. It fits as it funnels you down a narrow chute until you hit the meatgrinder (nasty log sieve) at the end. Steve also has two brothers, and I imagine raising three boys was as big a handful as trying to herd cattle!
This is the gauge I used for the run.
We had 170. I would recommend over 200. I would be careful going in above 500 as I don't know what the eddies above final gorge would be like as well as the take out pool might start moving in a hurry.  These drops tend to go even a few days after other runs in the area have dropped out.
-4.5 miles
-140fpm overall with a couple flat sections, with the good sections getting close to the 200 fpm mark.
If you are interested in this run, the info is there on the internet maps and satellite imagery. If you don't want to put in that kind of effort, feel free to email me and I'll give you detailed directions to any of the access points.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Little White Rafting

Dan and Jeff Compton rafted the Little White Saturday. We put in a ways behind Hans and Tom, who were also rafting the run. Cool to see the rafters taking charge! I helped them remember lines and we set safety for each other on the way down. It was a fun run. At the put-in Dan slipped and fell, causing his thumb to really swell up, he didn't make a big deal of it and said it was all good, so we put on.
The raft did really well, hitting a log near the end of getting busy, but not getting stuck. Aside from that they styled everything they ran. Dan fired up Stovepipe R1. We all walked Island and Spirit. We finished the run in good Spirits so to speak, we took our time doing the run, hanging out on the platform at Spirit for awhile and floating through the lake at the take out. I always enjoy taking time on this run, its such an amazing pace. The Columbia must have been lower than usual as we had current all the way to the take out.
The video for Kathy Mccain.
Dan also called me the following Tuesday to say he went to the doctor and the fall he took hiking around the put in area broke his thumb. He is getting surgery on it today(Wed.), and is getting a plate put in there. If anyone wonders how someone can paddle off the things he paddles off, maybe this will shed some light on the type of person he is, he paddled the Little White with a freshly broken thumb! Toughest guy I know.
The Level was 3.2
Life is good.

"LWS Drano"


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

NF Clack

Nate signing in. Freshly back from a ski season in Crested Butte, Colorado and getting back into the swing of things again, I've decided that it's about time to write my first blog post. I'll keep this short and to the point. Tuesday after work myself and Pete G did a run down the North Fork of the Clackamas. It was my first time down the run and seeing that I've driven by the mouth of the river for the past three years on the way up to the Three Lynx run, I was pretty stoked. Pete is a NF veteran so the hike in went quickly and we flew through the first part of the run with relative ease. Upon arrival at the putin, I was informed that the flow was medium-high and it should be a fun level. (quite refreshing after seemingly always running small creeks slightly below a desirable flow) The first few steep drops went well with short scouts and a lot of verbal beta from Pete. One thing to note, there is a big old growth log sticking out from the left that renders the second tier of the first big ledge drop unrunable (at the flow we had.) The move is typically a boof on the left, according to Pete. Short portage for us. Next up was the big portage around the 10ft and 40ft falls. The 'trail' was in terrible condition and i'm pretty sure my dry suit has a few new pin pricks in it from all the thorns. Stairway to heaven was next. I took a right line and went deep at the bottom. One of my favorite drops of all time. It was right after stair way that things began to get a little spicy. Pete, who has run the NF as much as anyone, began to note many changes in the river. It appears that some rain event shifted a lot of boulders around within the last year, even 'destroying' an apartment sized rock that used to call the creek bed home. Pile driver went without too much excitement, although Pete noted there was some shifting in the lead-in to the drop. We both portaged Storm Drain, which was made difficult by some more channel shifting before arriving at the lead-in for Double Blind Date. A quick scout reveled the normal line was still intact and we could just see the water ripping around the corner down stream. Pete informed me that either side of the ensuing boulder garden would go if I kept my nose up and there was not really any room to stop in between the two drops. Double Blind went well but upon arrival at the boulder garden, I knew I was in trouble. No clean line existed and before I knew it, I pitoned a rock hard, rolled, and pinned upside down. Trying to unpin myself I lost my paddle, which remained pinned, flushed and eventually swam (no paddle=no roll for me). We were able to retrieve my boat and paddle and continue on. The point is, the boulder garden below Double Blind Date has changed significantly and is definately worth a scout. Downstream we ran into some more trouble (that was largely derived from the altered river bed) which eventually ended with one broken paddle and two very banged up paddlers. Final verdict: the NF is a great run and I will definitely be back although I might portage the aforementioned boulder garden. It was a great welcome back run to the PNW and I am very happy to be home.
Here is a little video of the North Fork Clackamas that Theron Jourdan made a couple years ago. You can see how sweet Stairway is, along with the boulder garden that caused so much trouble for Nate and Pete(it caused some trouble for us too, though the left side went smooth when we were there). When you see the blue boat pinned on the wood, the camera turns back upstream, it then shows the boulder garden below Double Blind Date. Also shown is why you shouldn't try to drive the put in road :) (luckily not our vehicle)
Also, it seems that flows are pretty hard to gauge on this one. Nate and Pete had about 3300. I think you are looking for between 2500 and 3000 on the Clack at Three Lynx for a medium flow.