Monday, October 10, 2011

Part Four: Save the Best for Last

We finished the creek from part 3 in very high spirits. Matt had a found a really good one, but we still had plenty of energy and another mission planned for the next day. We spent some time driving around figuring out access and giving the flow one last check before getting after it that same evening.
It involved a pleasant hike through the Eagle Cap Wilderness.
Access would involve a 4 mile hike in, with the first mile being uphill. We shouldered our light boats in the night before to the saddle signaling the downhill part of the hike. It turned out to be a bit longer than we had thought it would be, but that just made the next days portion a little easier. Matt and I arrived at the saddle about twenty minutes after dark. We headed back down the trail to find Ryan (who opted out of this trip), and headed back to our cars in the dark. We camped at the trail head excited about the next day. We said farewell to Ryan in the morning and hoped to meet up with him somewhere near the end of the run as he would be following another trail trying to intersect us at some point.
As Matt and I made it to the saddle, we were blown away by the view. It was hard to capture, but Matt did a good job with the picture that heads the "stream guide" page on this website. We took some time to eat and set up our carrying systems, then it was off down the backside of the trail.
Exiting the saddle and on our way into the valley.
We took a few breaks on the way down but made good time. As we approached river level the anticipation grew.

The put in was gorgeous, both upstream and downstream. It was a nice little meadow that would make a great camp.
We paddled a short bit of meadow with no wood till we came to the first granite outcropping.

It turned out to be a really cool looking drop, there was a log in the runout creating a bit of a sieve and neither Matt or I wanted to start a trip of this nature off with a bad moment so we took the super easy portage on the left.

Matt gives the "Snakepit" a look.

The easy portage on the left.

We boogied some more class III-III+ down to the next bedrock outcropping. This one did not have the same smooth look to it and had wood in the runout. We regretfully shouldered out boats again, not knowing that this would be the last time we portaged a rapid on the trip.

The wood in the runout should be gone next year, in which case it will be runnable.

Below here was a short bit of boogie before our dreams were fulfilled. We found gorge after gorge after gorge. A few of which required half hour scouts to see the whole thing since they were totally boxed in by vertical walls. It seemed that each gorge got slightly harder. All were incredibly fun, sometimes classic, sometimes unique, drops. I actually cannot recall many of the rapids because there were plenty of gorges, each with many rapids.

Matt scouts one of many.
After some time we arrived at our first class five gorge. This one required a long scout and a relocation of a small tree. Matt spent his time working out the first drop (the hardest), while I figured out the route through the rest of the rapids. The first one was unique and difficult, we ran a chute down the left, then worked to avoid a wall on the right and the left.   Matt lead into "The Leftorium" and we regrouped below the entrance.

Entrance to "The Leftorium"

This dropped us into the heart of the gorge.  I went by Matt who was eddied out. I called out "follow me, every drop goes on the right".  I proceeded to be able to see the whole picture at this point and ran the first drop on the left :)  Matt wasn't thrown off and we had a good run.  The next drop locks you in completely and we finished as we started; left, left, left.  Improvisation certainly has a place.  Exiting the Leftorium was a short class III-IV respite before getting right back into more gorges.

We exited this gorge only to float a short distance before a large horizon line between high walls. This one we scouted on the right and had us smiling. It was a fun, non consequential looking rapid through two drops with a fluffy hole at the bottom. I tried to tuck and go deep through the bottom hole for fun, resulting in the only roll for either of us this day. On Matt's run, he resurfaced just as a salmon headed the other way took his shot at the rapid!
Myself launching into the rapid.
We had this short bit of flat water before we could see what looked to be another gorge section looming in the distance.

We scouted and ran a couple class four drops before we turned a corner and saw a very large logjam.

We portaged over the boulders on the left, bummed to see that the jam had ruined what looked to be a sweet 8 foot boof. Looking downstream, we could see there was something big. With the steepness and the spray from upstream I assumed it would be unrunnable. Matt was scouting on the left and the crawl over the boulders looked energy consuming. After I could tell he was scouting the rapid and not a portage route, I saw a way to scout on the right. I came down and saw a very big rapid. The first two holes were serious moves, followed by a very marginal goal post move that landed on rocks. This lead into some very pushy looking water that lead into a boulder fence that had to be run far left to avoid some sieves. I describe each individual move, but this was one rapid, there was a small eddy after the first hole that Matt ended up catching, but after that there was no stopping and it was full on. I really wish we had gotten pictures, but we were both very focused on the task at hand. After scouting for awhile I decided I would run it, Matt was certainly feeling the same. The portage on the left is doable, but it would take a very long time lifting over car sized boulders for 200 yards. Once we committed, I went back for one more scout and saw what looked to be a way around the goal post move. I decided to take this, though it would require some very tight boating. I entered the green water into the first hole angled right with a big stroke, landed moving right and dropped a ledge with a big hole on the right with right angle and came up stroking to get right of a large boulder separating my line from the goal post move. I turned the corner and dropped a six foot ledge landing right next to the goal post move, waiting for Matt to come through these posts. The whirlpool I was waiting in was trying to push my every which way, but I saw Matt make his move(successfully) and I exited, making a precise effort to get back angled left and avoid getting pushed into the right wall, then subsequently the sieve. I succeeded and drove left through the rowdy water. My edge caught for a second, but I was able to brace without missing a stroke and kept driving left. I shot through the last technical boulder fence move on the left and cheered with Matt as we floated through the class four into an area with eddies in the gorge below. Matt ended up having a flawless run as well, and we took just a moment to celebrate before Matt headed off while I stayed in a small eddy waiting his direction.
Looking back up at this rapid in "Inclination Gorge" doesn't quit capture the story, but you can see something is happening back there.
Matt hopped out below this next rapid to take pictures and signal me through. I thought it was going to be an easy drop and we had some miscommunication, so I paddled into this small drop thinking it was a small class four with two ledges. However, I came over the first drop and was starring down the barrel of the least punchable hole I've ever dropped into! Luckily it was easy to ride out on the left. We had a good chuckle over that one as both of us had a big surprise as we came over.
Not even close to getting over the steep, backed up pile. Looking back at the slot we both surfed out on the left.
Below here were even more unique, fun class IV-V drops. We couldn't believe it. The run was everything we had wanted to find and more. I won't ruin all the surprises, but definitely don't just run stuff on this river without scouting. The last scout revealed a small ledge, then a big eddy on the right above this log jam.
The easy portage on the right lead to this view, a straight shot of flat water leading out of the final gorge and into the runout!

We both took advantage of the fun seal launch and soaked in the last 50 yards of canyon as we emerged grinning ear to ear.

There was about a mile or two of busy class II-III and no wood portages before we rounded a corner and saw the bridge and Ryan! It turns out he spent his day chasing Oakland around and never got a chance to get past the runout. We shared in a victory beverage and some food as we geared down amazed at what we had found.

Some footage from the Imnaha and other Wallowa classics



1 comment:

Margie said...

the views are beautiful