Monday, January 30, 2012

Canyon Creek, Oregon

 

Detailed Beta found here.        

Nate, Jacob and I had been talking about what we should do for this up coming weekend. Flows in the Portland area were not looking supper promising so Nate and I packed up shop and headed to Corvallis for the weekend. Saturday morning flows where looking great on Canyon Creek.  There is a general consensus that the creek gets pushy over 500 cfs so we were anxious about what it would feel like.  The gauge showed ~600, but Rick had run the creek at 650 on the gauge and said this felt higher.  We surmised the estimated gauge is different based on a rising vs. falling stream (we had a falling level).

       Our main concerns with the creek at this level was new wood from the ice storm that had come through the North West Region the previous week and the rumors of abundant undercuts due to the unstable geology. Rick and Dan lead us to a put in just above Chocolate Chips that avoids the mile of wood and flat water above, its exciting starting the day off with a class five!  The rapid starts off with a small boulder garden that progresses into a series of small ledges where the water is eventually funneled into 7ft wide crack.  The first 3 boaters flipped, and the last 3 stayed dry.  Moving into the next series of rapids is a pushy technical boulder garden that is leading into Chicken Little. This rapid looks ugly but go's pretty smooth; there is one massive old growth that looks like it has been stuck in the rapid for a while but is easily avoidable. Portage on the right, if you're not feeling it. After finishing the crux part of the drop the river is split into two channels for about 200yards.  Both channels are currently clear of wood.  As the channels regroup the creek rips into a technical boulder garden that is quite long and fun.  The last horizon needs to be run on the right (easier said than done).  At this level a couple of us were able to cut right from the left channel which worked, but is not the preferred line. The left half of the river pours into a nasty sieve with a root wad stuck in the middle.

       Next up was a ledge drop that was very reminicent of sacriledge on the the little white. Big hole and all. A few more boulder gardens and a flume found us scouting Stuff Sack, more commonly known as Demon Seed. Three people ran stuff sack on this day.  This drop has a very clear line and a very clear undercut pocket on the right. Terminator is the next significant rapid followed by Day of Judgement, both of which you can scout from the road as you drive up to do the upper section. Terminator, which is known for the nasty sieve on river left, is cleaner than I had imagined, but still possesses significant consequences for a blown line. Both the aformentioned seive and pocket on the right side complicate things. There is a sneak on the left for Day of Judgment at the flows we had that starts off very manky and ends in a clean 8ft ledge.  

          The section imediately below Day of Judgment should be approached with extreme caution. It is the only section on Canyon Creek that cannon be scouted and is un-portageable. It is very important that after committing to the lead-in, you catch the large eddy on river right just after to gorge walls close in. From this eddie, you can boat scout the crux section (Jacob was able to hop out and get a visual, but that option may not exist at lower flows). The entire right side of the river charges beneath an old growth log and then flows into an undercut. The left side of the river is very manky and contains several rocks that could pin a boat. The line is the cut just above and to the left of the old growth root wad in the center of the river. This line splits the two hazards and is reminiscent to Zoom Tube on Cherry Creek. If you run this thing correctly, the spray from the water hitting the root wad will actually envelope you as you drop through the narrow channel. Although this drop isn't too difficult, it is one of the more consequential rapids on Canyon Creek.    Below this gorge, the run then alternates between large ledges and flatwater. Before you reach the put-in for the lower section, there is one giant ledge hole to be aware of. On this day, two of our group went for a ride, but were able to escape.  

It is common for boaters to just run this lower section (class IV), however the first ledge of the lower section held a swimmer for about a minute on this day, so be sure you have a solid boof before attempting the run, especially at this level.  Watch out for Osprey after the first mile or so of flat water, it would be easy to mistakenly enter this rapid. Dry out in the brush on the right to scout. The run over all is generally clean and definitely worth doing.  

A special thanks to Dan Rubado and Rick Cooley for showing us the lines, we would have been in the dark without you guys (literally). 


Canyon Creek, OR from Andrew Bradley on Vimeo.

-Andrew

Flood Fun


                                        Photos by Aqualegia Leet, Priscilla and myself

PNW got hit with huge water January 2012.  We had gone from no water to a state of emergency in nearby counties.  Finding a river to run seemed just as hard as with no water unless you were willing to playboat as all creeks were too high.    I ended up not trying to force anything and day one just scouted the local falls near our school that has yet to be run.

Still looked pretty ugly, the recycle at the bottom being the main concern.  Maybe it will get run at some point, but I won't be the one to do it.

Update: Not true


A year later I came back and decided it would be fun to seal launch in to the pool from the summertime jumping point at night.  Similar levels made for a soft landing.



The next day I went for a nice paddle with a fellow Earth Science student through Helmick State Park.  The Luckiamute had gotten absurdly high and we were paddling on the road that is usually 20' above the stream.
                           Jan 20, 2012                                                                         Fall 2016

 Jan 20, 2012      

      Fall 2016

 It was easy to paddle from the park into the river, so I paddled to the top of the park, peeled out into the river and road the 15,000 cfs of flatwater to the end of the park (the river was at 30,000 cfs the day before).


Mid channel.  

I paddled under the bridge which is usually 25 ' above the river and tapped it with my paddle.

Jan 20, 2012                                                                         Fall 2016

I then came back up and eddied out behind this tree.  The current was really moving through the park, you can see this here.

Jan 20, 2012                                                                         Fall 2016


 There were some conveniently placed steps at the gauging station that I used to get out.

Jan 20, 2012                                                                         Fall 2016



The next day I woke up really late and some of my friends decided to join me as we looked for a "secret waterfall".  I had little hope of the drop being runnable because the landing was only a couple feet deep in the summer when I had last scouted it.  We got there and kept on the down low as we crossed a field and got our first glimpse at Shivley Falls on the East Fork of Drift Creek.  It had a ton of water and I excitedly headed down to check it out from water level.  The drop is a two tiered, 30 foot drop with the top drop landing directly on the bedrock creating the second tier (no go).  I had hopes the second tier would be do-able.

I took a trip behind the falls to the other side and decided I would run the lower tier.

Walking over to check out the options.
Patrick Stephenson photo.

 We went back to the car and I geared up, going over all the things my team needed to know to keep me safe.  The big concerns were the 2 ft' deep landing and the zero eddies to take out in.

I carried my boat behind the falls and set up next to the base of the first falls, Pat would push me directly through the edge of the first curtain and into the second drop.

The landing of the first falls, and the lip of the second.
Patrick Stephenson photo.


All went according to plan and I was able to execute the line I had planned in my mind,  upon landing I drove across the current towards the right bank where I grabbed onto a tree while Aqua grabbed my boat and I jumped out, stoked on such an impromptu and fruitful adventure.  All said and done we were there less than an hour before we were headed back to Monmouth for a birthday celebration.

My friend who was holding the camera was nervous and forgot to take pictures of me running the drop, and this blurry shot is the only picture we got of the entire falls.  The bottom tier is 10-15' tall.



Thanks to the team from WOU for coming and setting safety!

Butte Creek needs to be over 1,000 cfs before this drop becomes "runnable".

   -Jacob

Monday, January 16, 2012

The portage on Mccoy

This was written up by Rick Cooley who has multiple descents of Mccoy creek and has dialed in the tricky portage around the big falls.  This bit of information may save you a lot of effort and be the difference between finishing in the light vs. the dark.

---------------------------------------

Portage on McCoy:



Shortly after the intimidating but fun 25ft falls on McCoy Cr and about 1/2 mile before the confluence with Yellowjacket creek, there is a mandatory portage around a 40-50ft waterfall that will make even the most seasoned of class V paddler's ass pucker just by looking at it.  There are two ways to portage this drop: the right way and the wrong way. The right way takes about 30 min with a relatively small and focused group, and you can shoulder you boat for most of it.  The wrong way can take 2+ hours and will require all of your ropes, multiple pulleys and z-drags, and sketchy cliff scrambling. 
The horizon-line for the portage is quite obvious.  Eddy out on river right about 100ft above the drop. The initial climb up is too steep to shoulder your boat, so send someone up with a rope to pull boats up as high as you can.  From there, the boats can be shouldered to the top of the ridge.  As the ground finally levels out, walk with your boat downstream through the brush about 50 yards or so and drop your boat.  
At this point you're about 200 ft above the river and it seems like there isn't any reasonable way back down.  Many people (including myself) have gone wrong with this portage by continuing to walk another few hundred yards downstream looking for an easier place to lower your boats.  Trust me when I say you won't find one.  If you can look upstream and see a shallow river wide 6ft ledge, you've walked too far.
Instead of walking further downstream, immediately begin searching along the steep edge to your left for small signs of a deer/fisherman's path. You'll eventually find a narrow and steep, but walkable ridge that leads right down to the water's edge approximately 50 yards below the unnrunnable waterfall. Once you find this, go back and grab your boat and walk your way down to the river.  There are a few spots along the carry down where lowering your boat with a short rope may make life easier, but you can shoulder the boat for most of way down.  Once down at water's level, you'll be just above a 6ft tall, river wide ledge and below a fun 20ft slide (which you can carry up and run). 
The 20' slide.
Photo: Matt King

At this point, you are about a 2hr paddle from the car that consists mostly class I-III with the occasional class IV drop mixed in on Yellowjacket. 
 ~Rick Cooley

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Gray's: Not to be Forgotten

While on Canyon Creek this past November, Chris Arnold mentioned to me that he was interested in getting back on the Grays River in Washington. I think my response was something like "The Grays? Where the hell is the Grays?" Needless to say, its not a river that gets much publicity, despite being near the front of the guidebook. When I asked around, most people said that they had never actually given it a shot, sighting a long drive as the restricting force. However, those who had ventured to this isolated gem, had positive things to say about the creek and often noted how they had a desire to get back on it. After consulting a map, it became evident that the creek isn't that far away from Portland. It took us under 2 hours from the front door to the put-in and could be done faster by those who push the speed limits more than I do. Another positive that emerged during my research of the run was that it has a very wide range of flows. When most other options are all but dry, the Grays often has a nice medium level.

This past Saturday, I finally convinced a few friends to tag along and give this oft-forgot creek a go. Ben Morton and Andrew Bradley joined Jacob and I as we headed out from Portland around 10 Am. I threw the bike on the back and hoped for a reasonable bike shuttle. Alas, I only have a road bike and the road turned out be to be loose gravel (I was not looking forward to the last leg of my journey). Jacob had actually done the run once before, but it had been over three years since he last visited the area. We jetted up the 5 and then headed west along the Columbia once he hit Longview. After ditching the bike at a point where Fossil Creek road nears the Grays, we headed up to the Put-In and were happy to see a healthy flow pushing through a tight canyon under the bridge. (The Naselle River was reading around 730cfs when I left my house that morning.)

We geared up, put on, and immediately were confronted with the first gorge, which we had given a brief scout from the bridge above. I think we were all a bit surprised at how pushy the rapid was despite it's benign look from 50 feet up in the air. We all came crashing through the big hole directly below the bridge and knew it was on. The next mile and half was characterized by steep bedrock ledges intermixed with large boulder-strewn rapids. We scouted often and were really enjoying the diversity of each drop. There was one river wide log in the first gorge that we were able to boof over on the right, but other than that, the run was super clean.

I'm not sure of the named rapids in this first section, but below are a few shots that I was able to snap while we made our way down stream. I believe that one of these drops is described in the guide book as 'Triple Drop'. All were class III-IV affairs and were great fun.

Cruise Control happy to be paddling and not hiking through the woods.

Ben Morton working hard for the money.

Andrew Bradley: Vancouver Maneuver

Before too long, Jacob's spider sense started going off and we got out to scout the class V drop known as Superbowl. When I got my first look at this behemoth, I was astonished by the technical nature and shear size. Superbowl is a legit class V drop and has more than a few things going on. In addition to the man-eating hole at the bottom and the tricky ledge 10 feet upstream, there also exists a small hole in the lead-in that is perfectly positioned to push you off your line. I was a little hesitant to run this drop at first, but after watching Jacob probe with a nice line, the race was on. Below (at the bottom of this post) is a quick clip of Jacob stylin Superbowl. Andrew also had a picture perfect line, sadly, the camera was done by the time he gave 'er.

Next up was the infamous Picnic rapid. I'd heard word that this class V drop has changed in recent years and become significantly harder. It's worth noting that it's much easier to get out and scout if you pull off before the river bends to the left. We scouted this drop from the bottom up and were all a little nervous about the nasty seive at the bottom left of this long intricate boulder slalom. Picnic is over 100 yards long and probably drops somewhere around 30 feet from the very top to the bottom. The crux of the drop is surely near the bottom where the main channel constricts down between a large boulder and the right bank before pounding through a giant wave hole and into a vertical gorge. That being said, don't overlook the long boulder garden above the crux. There are more than a few f-you rocks and ledge holes that could really screw with your line. Oh yeah, there isn't really anyway to run safety of this guy either! We opted to run the drop as a group from top to bottom. I led the charge while Jacob and Andrew followed behind me by about 50 feet. Everything went according to plan, but I think we were all a little surprised to have made it through the crux hole upright and paddling. Ben opted for the high seal launch into the canyon. You guys have to trust me on this one: Picnic is one hell of a rapid. Too much fun!

Next up was broken paddle, which really didn't compare to the two previous drops. The mainline on the left looked pretty sticky at this flow with a undercut wall complicating the matter, so most snuck the drop down the right side. A little manky, but more preferable than the munchy left.

We were soon in the run-out, which isn't short, and booking it down stream towards my bike... and the beverages. Within minutes of hoping off the creek, a pickup truck drove by and offered us all a lift up to my car! Red Wine Success! We hid the boats in the woods and jumped in the back. The guys were nice enough and we rewarded them for the ride with a handful of Tecate's upon arrival.

On the drive home we stopped in Longview and made some questionable decisions regarding our choices for dinner...

All in all, the Gray's is certainly worth doing once or twice a season and it really isn't much further than BZ from Portland. Class IV and V paddlers alike will find plenty to enjoy on this scenic section of river. And again, Picnic is one of the more fun drops I've run in recent memory! Go get it!

Best Regards,

Nate

video

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Jumping The Gun

  I tried writing this earlier, but I couldn't, I'm not really sure how to even still.  As long as I have been kayaking I have been pretty cautious.  This probably came from my first mentor, my dad.  He always made sure I was way more prepared skill-wise than the rivers I was running.  He would tell me I had to be able to catch every eddy in every rapid on a river before I could run the next one.  It was frustrating because even then I wanted to see as many different rivers in the area as I could.  I kept practicing and after 3 years on class 3 he finally let us run Copper Creek, WA.  Needless to say, after all the practice on class 3, this run felt pretty easy.  The slow start into consequential whitewater meant that once I was there I could concentrate more on the stream as a whole and less on whether I could make it through a rapid.  Anticipating where things would go wrong was something I felt I picked up on quickly.  This paid dividends later on when we explored new runs where time was of the essence.  On those new runs, there is not always enough time to set safety and scout every rapid.  Having years of experience analyzing where problem spots are has lead to a style of river running that has served the crew I paddle with well.  I always try to be as prepared and knowledgeable as possible for the streams I set out to kayak.  I have always been proud of my choices.  There have only been two choices I have made kayaking that I have truly wished I could take back.  Both times my thought process consisted of, "this doesn't seem right, but things always seem to work out for me, so I am sure it will turn out fine."  Both times this foolish rationale almost killed a friend.  Both times I also looked back thankful to be alive, because I had allowed this choice to leave my hands.

Last weekend I attempted to run a creek in the Columbia Gorge (word is already getting out where it is).  This run was above my head.  I had spent four days this last summer finding access.  That does not include mapwork, only driving and hiking to find out if my mapwork was correct.  What I discovered was that this was the least accessible place I had ever attempted to go.  However, on my fourth try, I found the way in with the help of Andrew Bradley.  After missing the run the first time it rained this year, I was determined to get in there whatever the cost.  This run is the pinnacle of exploratory kayaking in the Columbia gorge, in my opinion.  The deepest gorge on the maps (600 feet per mile) and pictures of glorious waterfalls filled my thoughts.

When the opportunity came, Emile (pronounced Eh-meal) Elliot and Anna Herring were willing to put in the work to scout this run with boats.  I was hoping for low water, but nature had other plans.  I was so entrenched with getting onto the river that the flooding going on around us didn't deter me.   

I knew we wanted an early start.  Leaving Monmouth at 4 AM seemed like the ticket to me.  We pulled this off and, with a shuttle driver, gave ourselves the best opportunity for getting through the run in the daylight.  We started hiking just as the first light turned the sky from black to grey.  We made it to the put-in very quickly and were pleased with the water level; it looked ideal.  The only problem was that I wanted low water, but we decided to go for it anyway, knowing we had a mile to make the decision to hike out.  The put-in drop was a sweet 12-foot waterfall that Emile and I ran.  The next half mile was class II-III with some wood, but the portaging was as easy as it gets and there were some fun slides in there.  Eventually, we eddied out above an ominous corner.  We found a magical looking 40' drop consisting of a slide into a 25-foot boof.  Small pockets on either side would necessitate safety.  Both Emile and I very much wanted to run it, but in the name of saving time, decided to walk around.  This turned out to be a good choice in the long run.

Shortly below here we came to a really nice looking Class V that had a couple of branches hanging down just above a macking hole.  Once again we walked, this time deciding to scout downstream in anticipation of the known gorge.  We saw...the most intimidating gorge I have ever witnessed.  This gorge picks up where the Salmon River Canyon leaves off.  It has an entrance drop reminisent of Final Falls, with a stout 25-foot lead-in drop.  This locks the stream into an inescapable gorge 200-feet deep with near vertical walls.  We started hiking, aiming for the road 1000 feet above us, hoping to make it around this section and put-in below.  After an hour, the GPS showed we had make very little progress.  We ditched the boats, now trying desperately to make it out before dark.  It was 1:30.

We were about halfway up when we decided to send a text to my dad letting him know we would be late.  Half an hour later we sent another text saying we needed help and we began to worry that we would not make it to the road before dark.  The road was still over 10 miles to the nearest outpost of civilization, and over 20 to the nearest city with a gas station.  We finally made it to the top and the road we were aiming for was not there.  This is when I realized I had left the GPS and maps behind during a gear exchange.  My heart sank:  our only navigation tools were now somewhere on the hillside we had just come from.  We were disoriented on the top of the divide and I decided I needed to go back for the GPS.  I followed our tracks for some time, but it was snowing now and our tracks were quickly covered.  I eventually turned back knowing I would not find the GPS and we needed all the daylight available for this now unfathomable task. I was awestruck that we were now stuck in the least accessible place I had ever attempted to be in without anything to navigate on other than my recollection of the map and our instincts.

When I returned with the bad new about the GPS, the gravity of our situation became visible in every person's eyes.  The decision was made to abandon the search for the road and start going downstream.  Emile was not wearing a drysuit, and thus would not survive a night in the snow.  We began our march downstream, knowing we would eventually hit a road 3-5 miles downstream.  We set off into a cliffed-out hillside in the waning light.   

From this point to the time we stumbled across a clearcut I will not tell in detail, because what happened cannot be expressed in words.  I can sum it up as not only were we in terrain steeper than the 32 degree landslide threshold, cliffs above and below, in the snow, with multiple creek crossings (gradients over 1,000 fpm), and a team member fighting off hypothermia, but also, halfway through our 8 hour treck,the sun set and the light followed.   My most vivid memories are of losing my footing, then clawing at brush while sliding trying to get a grip before flying off the cliffs and 400' of remaining gradient to the stream below (5.10 booties are amazing for rock, but like skies on snow.  I eventually took them off and walked in my drysuit booties for most of the trip).  Or the view when I looked at Emile's bloody shins and he had swollen feet after hours of hiking in shorts and booties.  The most rewarding memories are of when we would take a break and eat or drink something, discussing our next move, everyone perfectly aware of the situation at hand, everyone refusing to break down.

At the end of it all, we reached a clear cut.  We knew we had to be close to a road.  We tried Anna's dying phone one last time, reception!!  She dialed 911 and we figured out that people were already searching.  We informed them of were we thought we were.  We listened for the police sirens and I scrambled to the top of one last hill looking for the cars.  I saw a car only a few hundred yards away and hollered down to Emile and Anna.  We whistled and hollered and shined lights.  I slid most of the way back down to my friends all the while with the sickening vision of the car turning and leaving.  Hoping they had seen us, I joined the rest of the team and we headed off towards the light and finally made contact.  Knowing it was over was a huge relief.  We got in the car and headed back towards Stevenson.    

My sister and her boyfriend showed up at the station and informed us of the multitude of people who were out looking for us.  My dad sums it up here.

 I just wanted to publicly acknowledge everyone who stepped up on
Friday when the calls for help went out. Jacob had been looking at access for
a creek in the Columbia Gorge for many months, and he, Anna and Emile gave it a
shot on Friday, December 30th. I didn't know about it until I got a call from
Aqua (their shuttle driver) around noon. Shortly after that, I got a text from
a different number saying, "hiking out, will be late." At 2:30, another text
saying, "need help. sunset hemlock rd 2 miles south of fs 43 intersection." 
And that was all the contact we had with them until we heard from the sheriff at
8:30 pm that they had been found. I immediately left work downtown and started
dialing the phone. Thanks to Val Shaull for dropping everything and meeting me
at Lewis and Clark with lots of gear, to Rod Kilner (paddling friend from
Stevenson) for going to the Skamania County Sheriff and getting them rolling. 
Our friends the Heesackers, whose whole family came out with paddling, climbing,
boating and GPS equipment. The two paddlers who I met at Lewis and Clark
(please write to me with your names, I'm so sorry I forgot in the chaos) who
loaded up on Val's rig and came up to Carson with us. Sam Drevo, Dan McCain and
his friend John, Dwight and Jordan Englert, Masaki Hisamoto, Ed Hall and unknown
others who were going to be there at first light the next day. Thanks to the
Portland Fire Bureau who offered their technical rescue team if needed. Fellow
Portland firefighters Randy Brusse and Gerard Pahissa who both live in Carson. 
They were both great at rallying the community and we had many volunteers coming
out of the woodwork to help search the next day if needed. Gerard deserves a
special thanks for letting us use his "Old School Bar and Grill" in Carson as a
staging area, and he fed a bunch of us and refused payment. You should eat
there not only for the great food, beer and vintage video games, but because
Gerard is a good man who went way out of his way to help. Finally, thanks to
Officers Hastings and Clifford of Skamania County Sheriffs, whose persistence
and knowledge of the area saved at least one life that night. And one last word
of thanks to Jacob, who took another few years off his dad's life last week. 
Probably would have just spent it vegging out in a nursing home anyway.


We drove to Rod Kilner's house (who lives in Stevenson) and got to see and thank all the people who had put their lives on hold for the day to help in the search for us.  It was amazing to see the efforts people had put in.  I have been overwhelmed with gratitude for the last few days knowing what these people did for us.  All of them coming together really showed the health that is still present in humanity.  This day will forever be a building block for how I view the world and the people in it.  

So I will say...

Thank you to all the people who came to help us yesterday, it meant a lot to get out of there and see and hear about all the people who cared. I will not forget. 

A special thanks to the Heesacker's, Rod Kilner,Val Shaull, my parents, Skamania county Sheriff, Aqua, my sister and her boyfriend John Church for putting in a huge effort to find us.
A special thanks to Carson residents Gerard Pahissa and Randy Brusse for their support of my family and friends while they were in Carson.

Also Dan Mccain, John Watkins, and Sam Drevo for planning to come in the next day to float the stream and find us.

Dwight and Jordan, Masaki and Ed Hall for also planning to be there the next day to help.

And everyone who voiced their thoughts through writing and phone calls, it meant a lot to hear from all of you.
I hope to never put any of you through that again.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Worthy of note


-Losing the GPS and map turned this from a horrible hike out into a life threatening situation.  


-Anna's phone and the collaborative will (lead by Emile) to get out of the canyon may have saved a life.


-I should have waited until Spring when we had more light even if it meant risking snow on the access road.


-I should have scouted this run in the summer at low flows first with a canyoneering team.


-Anna went to the doctor and it was confirmed that she had frostbite from the trip (she was wearing a drysuit, wool socks, and booties the entire time).  It is likely Emile got frostbite as well, it doesn't only happen on Everest as my dad said.

    -Jacob