Friday, May 4, 2012

An Earth-bound quest for the celestial: Return to Wiki #1

Photo:  Emile Elliot

This creek has been gaining attention as the season nears its end.  The final quarter mile of boulder gardens (Smokin' Aces) has proved a force to be reckoned with.

Matt King runs Smokin' Aces on our initial exploration of the canyon last year.

 While this section of whitewater is fun, it is best experienced as icing on the cake after a run starting from Black Hole Falls.

One of the gorges on the middle section.
Photo: Matt King

For my third run of this creek, I joined a crew Andrew Bradley had conglomerated with high hopes of running Black Hole Falls.

For this trip John Edwards, Emile Elliot, Anna Herring, Andrew Bradley and myself camped at the take out the night before anticipating the adventure taking all day.  This approach turned out to be the right call as we hit snow almost 4 miles from the end of the road.  Emile got us 1/4 mile closer by some impressive charging in his truck, but sooner than later we resided ourselves to hiking the road.  Having anticipated this as a possibility, we dawned our various kayak shlepping devices and headed into the mountains.

Photo:  Emile Elliot

With only one short detour and a quick stop to fashion some low tech crampons for Andrew we arrived at the end of the road and the beginning of the bushwhack.

This is a lot steeper than I expected, are you sure that was the right road...?
Photo:  Emile Elliot

Andrew upgrading his footwear and testing them out.
Photos:  Emile Elliot

 Carrying kayaks down 30+ degree slopes is not something most people practice and this was apparent as we watched our precious hours of daylight tick by.  People pushed through the pain [Andrew had something colorful to say whenever we gave him a chance, we appreciated the positive moral :) ] and around two hours after starting our 3/4 mile bushwhack, we arrived at a bedrock laden creek.  There was a presence of wood in this upper section, but it was mostly out of the way and easy to deal with.

Photo: Emile Elliot

We hiked upstream to run two fun bedrock slides before a short log portage placed us above another horizon.

First rapid, fun and straight forward.
photo: Emile Elliot

 The next half mile was horizon after horizon of easy, but oh so fun slides and ledges of all varieties.

Andrew lookin' fly
photo: Emile Elliot

Next two photos shot by Andrew Bradley

After leaving this series of fun rapids (The Asteroid Belt), a tributary came in on the right signaling the big falls.

This drop was tricky to scout, with an exposed climb right at the lip of the falls.  Andrew and I forgo this move and waited to hear back from the others.  On this day the falls was too low, with a green water landing (the landing itself is not visible from the scouting platform).  We made quick work of the climb to the trail on river right and took advantage by following the path to the pool below the falls.  We enjoyed the scene for awhile, paddling below the falls before continuing on.  Many more fun bedrock rapids continued, usually dropping about ten feet in various ways.

Two rapids stood out in this stretch.  The first was a fun double boof with a log below that made it a tricky undertaking, but everyone who ran it had upright lines.

Photo: Emile Elliot

 The next was a narrow slot-ledge on the right that looked pretty angry, which Emile apparently had no reservations towards.  He paddled right up and got stopped quickly by the hole at the base and began an impressive surf.  The boxed in hole below was not as wide as a boat is long, and he was pinned sideways twice, once upside down.  He fought through both of these, but once it was apparent he was not coming out in his boat, gave the signal and pulled his skirt.  We got him a rope and pulled him out using a non-traditional approach and were able to get him and his gear to shore safely.  We dubbed this one Solar Flare*.  Emile continued to lead the charge after this and we cruised down some read and run.

Shortly below here we came to the traditional put-in I had used before described in the initial trip report.  From here down it was apparent to me just how low the water was, as well as how low energy levels were becoming.    We took advantage of the trail once again to portage the V+ gorge and ran a few more good rapids that benefit a lot from twice the flow. We had the second swim of the day occur in a class two pin, really bringing to light the toll the long day had taken on us.   Eventually we reached the great wall signaling Smokin' Aces.  We ran the lead in and after recovering a paddle from an ill fated trip a few weeks back we found ways to get out on the right and look at the biggest boulder garden of the run.  The low water lead us walking around on the right.  There is also a wood sieve on the bottom left that was not there when Matt and I ran the drop on our first run.

We tried our best to keep it together through the last two boulder gardens, everyone fought hard, staying in their boats and soon enough we were walking through camp to nourishment at our cars!

Emile edited a video capturing many of the highlights of the trip, including his first swim in over ten years!

Wiki Creek #1 from Difficult E on Vimeo.

It was a long day and everyone was beat by the end.  Attitudes stayed positive the whole trip and the day went smoothly/according to plan.  Even the two swims were taken care of quickly. We also had a very small number of log portages, I only recall 2 or 3 near the beginning of our trip.  From the sounds of it, we all plan on returning sooner than later to once again enter the adventure, and see the rapids with more water.  I have chalked this up as my favorite trip of the year, and the satisfaction has kept me charging through mid-terms here at Western.  This trip has reminded me to never shy away from the unknown in favor of the known.  For I find the rewards of adventure far outweigh anything else I have done in a kayak.

photo: Andrew Bradley

*The solar cycle resulting in flare's is 11 years, and the last time Emile pulled his skirt was over a decade ago. 
 = Solar Flare is name of the drop


want cc 1,000-2,000
900 min.

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