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.

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