Thursday, August 30, 2012

5 reasons to jump back on the bandwagon: The long way to the Upper

Matt wrote about the beast that can be the Upper Upper Cispus some time ago.  Hearing that the run made him nervous and the horror stories of the beatdowns behind Behemoth since have made my numerous failed attempts at putting on that river sit better.  Finally after 4 years of failing to take a single stroke on this section, stories of the quality this stream houses at moderate flows from Nate, Compton and Danimal resulted in a decision to finally get on this river and discover the stream for myself.

The whole day I kept waiting for something that would prevent me from putting on the run, I was careful to double check my gear and after paddling below the put in bridge I realized this was the day I finally got to paddle the Cispus!  The first falls is great fun with a line that is challenging to keep dry on, but low consequence.  Below here were many drops of every kind, everyone of them left me smiling a big smile.  My plan of attack was to get beta from Nate, then stick right on him as he was giving up stellar lines all day!  All drops were good to go, challenging, and great fun.  By the time I was sailing off Behemoth I was having about as much fun as I ever have kayaking.  The boulder gardens below were as fun as I had been promised and as the excitement tapered out upon approaching the take out I knew this was going to go down as one of my favorite trips on record.

Matt has mentioned 5 reasons to avoid the Cispus, given the change in nature of the run with lower levels and less wood, I felt it was worth countering that with my own thoughts of a less harrowing day.

5)  The wood situation has changed in the first falls, along with the rest of the stream dropping the stress level.  

4) At 550 cfs I found the run to be tecnically challenging in my favorite kind of way.  It was all about boat angle and crux strokes.  I think this was a great flow as it was slow enough you were not getting pushed into mank, and you had time to really set up each stroke.  I think higher flows or lower flows result in more rock collisions.  At the same time, you will hit some rocks, mostly in the class 2-4 nondescript rapids.

3) The drop above Behemoth can be portaged, this in itself makes the run much less committing.  I chose to run the drop after seeing the left side of the hole flushes and is not a vicious piton as I initially interpreted.  Knowing that if I want to walk that drop if I'm not in the mood really changes the tone of that stretch for me though.

2) At moderate flows, the move at Behemoth is manageable.  I received lots of very solid beta for that one, after combining that information with what I saw when scouting the drop I found that getting as high as I could on the shelf with a strong left stroke at the moment of disconnect worked well for me at 550 cfs.

1)  The plethora of rapid types make for a very rewarding experience.

This all changes with flows, as Matt said, "Better kayakers than me and you have gotten stuffed into the cave behind the veil at Behemoth."

 As always, take this run seriously and it can reward you greatly, take the river for granted and you may end up in a dire situation.

Check out Nate's take on the run below for photos and line descriptions.



For whatever reason, the Upper Upper Cispus has eluded me for the past two years. I've actually been at the put-in sitting in my boat, and never actually descended the river. I've always felt that the run has a very polarizing effect on those who paddle it. Some folks claim that it's right there at the top of their list, while others associate the run with low water mank. And then there are the select few who have found themselves at the lip of behemoth at higher flows, who won't even make a return trip to the area. It seems that almost everyone has a strong opinion about the UUC in one light or another.

A few weeks ago, I finally got the opportunity to create my own opinion about the most polarizing run around. I shot the following photos over a two week span in mid-late august. In subsequent weekends, we had flows around 680 cfs and 550 cfs. I'd definitely recommend the higher of the two levels. In addition to cutting down on some of the mank in the upper boulder gardens, the higher flow also washed out the troublesome hole in the gorge above Behemoth.. making that section far less stressful.

I'll start with the photos from the second weekend that I spent up on the upper upper.

Cruise Control scouting the 'Warm Up' Falls - This drop is a mere 150 yards from the put-in bridge. Be careful when approaching the lip, it would be easy to get swept down the gut if you get lost on the lead-in.

Looking down into the unknown

The warm up above the warm up.

Melting Pot

John Edwards feeling limber

John finishes off one of the countless boulder gardens in the first gorge. This one required a strong move to the left and allowed for a really sweet fading boof off a big rock in the center of the river. The right side led into a nasty boulder sieve. 

Dan Rubado - The right side of Island is a tricky line. Boof early!

The bottom hole at Island - Brandon's got safety

Jacob - Island Paradise

JD - The top of Island tends to roll people onto their left edge. Be prepared and drive hard onto the boil coming of the right wall at the lip.

Scouting the gorge above Behemoth - This is about the point where everyone starts to get really concentrated and quite. The stress factor amplifies a bit as everyone begins to contemplate the massive horizon line at the bottom of the gorge.

Send out a probe

That's me, clawing my way out of the big hole directly above Behemoth. - It's best to hit this hole on the left with lots of speed!

JD in the Gorge

View from the top

After firing off Behemoth, I snapped this shot of the lower gorge. This section is one of my favorites in the entire PNW. Go right, then right again, followed by a move on the right before heading to the right... You get the idea.

Brooks Foster with a line right out of the text book.

The bark is worse than the bite. Although this hole looks terrifying, as long as you're in control and paddling hard, you'll make it through just fine. JD demonstrates.

Behemoth is a fun drop, but it is consequential! There is a nasty pocket on river left that several friends of mine have wound up in. Both folks required vertical extractions up the wall.

The following photos were taken on the first weekend spent on the UUC when flows were slightly higher. I apologize for the low photo quality. I was having a bad camera day.

Alex Kilyk on a cold summer day. Temps were in the 60's and water coming down was silty run off.

Dan and Chris Menges scouting Island

Alex fires off the left line at Island

This pinch drop should be approached with caution. As you can see, there is a log in the run out that is pretty nasty on river right.

Shortly before the river drops off the face. Issac, Dan, and Chris.

Contemplating life in the eddy above the big one.

First in flight

Issac gets his river karma back in balance.

And I'll leave you with this beauty! Issac Priestly likes his beer with a little extra sediment. 

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