Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas: More effort than usual for a drink of water

Everyone enjoys presents, but they are twice as sweet when you don't already know what's inside!

Last weekend we unwrapped some whitewater presents of our own.  Some of it is commonly run, some of which is far from, all classic material by Oregon standards.

Three of us got to unwrap one gift I (along with plenty of others) have been wanting to know what lay inside for a long time.  We put in more effort than most who taste these waters, but it was worth it.

Andrew made a video of that trip, along with another nearby classic.  Here it is.

Forbidden Fruit from Andrew Bradley on Vimeo.

Happy Holidays!

~1,000 cfs

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A less than relaxing Jacuzzi

Jacuzzi near the end of Ernie's Canyon has long been rumored as one of those drops people walk without much consideration.  It has been run a few times but the general consensus has been it was too risky to run regularly.  Recently however, a few people's actions have been changing this paradigm.

Dan Patrinellis puts it this way on his blog  "Jacuzzi was a rapid of ill repute until Joe and Mike Nash tamed the beast, now its an everyday thing (if you're those two)".

That point is validated in a video by the two guys he refers to in that quote, embedded below.

Dan and Jeff are all about changing paradigms. Deciding they wanted in on the fun, they headed up there and along with Willy Dinsdale and Chase Nobles, fired up Jacuzzi.

As can be seen below, good lines were had.

Jacuzzi Falls on Ernies Canyon from Daniel Mccain on Vimeo.

Additional links to Facebook footage.

                Chase   -
                Raft      -

Does this mean I am going to go try to run Jacuzzi this weekend?  Unlikely.  However, its cool to see our sport is still dynamic on a local level and that people are searching out new challenges in their backyard.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rock Creek: Ryan Allen Rd to Columbia River

This is the section with the famous Money Drop, an ever-changing drop near Stevenson Washingon in the Columbia River Gorge.

It's worth scouting the two big drops before putting on, this can be done via Iman Cemetery Rd.  Some routes have no tresspassing signs, but there are ways to get a good look.

Downstream of the put in bridge is 1/4 mile of warm up before the first falls.  This is a 30 footer that is run middle.  Below this first falls the river bends right as it goes over some more bedrock.  Get out on the left after the bend, and well before entering the low angle slide into Money Drop to get one last look from the left side.

Money Drop is a high speed, low angle ramp of 50 yards or so into a vertical drop of variable height.  You can typically count on it being over 50' tall.  It can be tricky to set the correct angle, resulting in many chaotic descents of the drop.  Recently (2016) the lip seems to have cleaned up and people no longer seem to have so much issue.

Andrew Bradley dealt with the tricky pre-2016 lip by boofing as big as possible.  While Andrew says his hit was soft, this technique is not recommended, at least one person has broken their back here.
Photo: Jeremy Lynn

Money drop from Andrew Bradley on Vimeo.

The level was about 10.10 feet on the Rock Creek gauge under the Ryan Allen Rd Bridge when Andrew and John ran it.
You can use the EF Lewis gauge to guestimate when Rock Creek will run. 
That gauge had a little under 2000 cfs when Andrew and John ran Money Drop.

Danimal rafted this one too.  Amazingly, he landed upright in the raft, unhurt. The level was pretty low that day, around 9.5'.

The falls was measured at 51' high the day he did it.
March 14, 2010

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Falls Creek, WA

Andrew and Matt did this run last year and thought the slides were very fun.  Andrew mentioned a scary peal out at the put-in, Matt didn't seem to think it was so bad.  Watch the video and determine for yourself if its worth your efforts for what look to be some really cool rapids.

Falls creek, WA from Andrew Bradley on Vimeo.

Sorry, Andrew didn't remember what the flows were but referred to it as a "good summer run".  From what I read on the Oregonkayaking site, it seems like 1,000 cfs in the EF Lewis would do.

Maybe Matt jotted down the flow?


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving: Clear Creek

Looking back on the year of 2013, I really do have a lot to be thankful for! I'm in good health (fairly decent anyway) and have an amazing family. I've got great friends and continue to meet new and interesting people. I was fortunate enough to travel to 4 different foreign countries. I started a new job and am performing well in the position. And.... I got in some exceptional kayaking!

In the holiday spirit, I thought I'd throw up a quick video edit from a spring trip to California. I caught up with the Corvallis Crew on the way back home from a Middle Feather trip while they were making the best of Oregon State University spring break. We tooled around Northern California for a few days and knocked out a couple laps on Clear Creek, a small trib of the Klamath River. The river is short, but classy and features a couple harder drops mixed in with some class IV. The last rapid, aptly named Cotton Mouth, is unscoutable/unportagable and is a step above in terms of difficulty compared to the rest of the run. Beautiful gorges and gin clear water make this a creek that's not to be missed if you're in the area. About 20 minutes from Happy Camp and an hour from the Cal-Salmon if memory serves.



Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pure Joy Amongst Pure Hate

The Pure Hate Gorge on Quartzville Creek has a write up on Oregonkayaking that has kept anyone I knew of away.

I had never been particularly interested in the run until Lucas Glick and I were riding on a speedboat with kayaks in tow across Green Peter Reservoir.  We had just paddled off the Middle Santiam Wilderness run and found we were going to get to our cars with plenty of light left.  Conversation with the kind locals quickly died out as nothing but the most basic of pleasantries was possible with the noise of the wind.  I began brainstorming and I thought that Pure Hate was nearby, short, and would be low.  Maybe we should check it out?

Lucas is not hard to convince when it comes to trying new things in a kayak so once we reached the take out and had our gear packed we headed up the Quartzville rd.

 The put in was easy enough to find, a quick walk to the river and we were on our way.  There were a couple small bedrock rapids and some wood before a 6' ledge.  Below here things kicked off.  First was a slide with wood.  Then the creek turned the corner and dropped through some serious whitewater.  The first two rapids had us pretty worried and a downstream view showed another corner in a locked in gorge.  With less than an hour of daylight left we hiked out, deciding to potentially return the next day.

We stayed at the Glick's house in Sweet Home, where we were treated to some cooked food by Lucas's mother.  I was tired after the long day on the Middle Santiam and by the time I fell asleep I had written off boating the next day and Lucas bailed on the Clear Fork.  Lucas came into the guest room in the morning and asked if I wanted to head back into Pure Hate.  I thought about it for a few seconds, but knew I couldn't turn down a chance to see what was in the gorge and before long Lucas Reitman had showed up at the house ready for adventure. While making breakfast we looked at some canyoneering reports and the satellite imagery, by mid-morning we felt we knew mostly what we were in for.

We put on to slightly less water than the day before but still acceptable exploratory flows.  Again we paddled our way down to the gnarly rapids at the head of the gorge, this time though the Lucas's were fired up to run the near mandatory one and I decided to force a portage route, while also trying to set some sort of safety.

Glick went first and came through with nary a wobble.
Lucas Glick drops into "Fear and Loathing", a two drop rapid with a tricky ledge into a pothole that is just out of sight in this photo.

 Lucas Reitman also cleaned it.  I scrambled around to a point where I could do a throw and go, and took advantage of the low water to take a peak around the next corner, which turned out to be a fun rapid the Lucas's ran on verbal beta.

A great place to be.

Below Fear and Loathing the rapids were pretty locked in but not harder than class IV.

There was one logjam that required a seal launch.

We ate lunch at a neat side hike with a waterfall.

Once the gorge opens up there are a few more rapids worth scouting.  All the rapids below Fear and Loathing either had a clear line or we were able to portage at low water.

One of the last rapids.

After a slide comes in on the right (it doesn't go as clean as it may look) we were in the runout and the bridge came not much later.

We were stoked on the run and were already planning our next trip to this cool gorge on the drive home. It is very similar to Opal Gorge and Elk Lake Gorge in that it feels like a class five trip, but aside from the entry rapid (Fear and Loathing and its predecessor) its very maneagable.

Our best guess was that good levels for this run are between 500-1000 cfs on the Quartzville gauge from snowmelt.  In the winter when the stream is fed from rain, the gauge reference here may become obsolete.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Special Drainage

The North Fork Siletz is kinda out there so it gets less traffic than some of the more popular runs around Oregon.  It is unfortunate more people don't make the trip because it really is a cool drainage.

The drainage has 4 runs that have a reliable rain fed season.  2 of which make my top ten overall list.  The North Fork Siletz itself is about as classic as coast range runs come and is what this report will focus on.  The more adventurous runs are described elsewhere on this blog and the internet at large.  The main section is all roadside, has great water quality, 3 bedrock rapids of the class IV-V variety (easily portage-able) and miles of III+ splashy goodness. The area also boasts some of the largest trees in the coast range and you drive through the site of Valsetz if you come through Falls City.  When this town was a thriving logging community, it experienced more days of rain than any other city in the contiguous United States.  The town has now been reduced to a couple foundations.   Every time I visit the Siletz headwaters area it reminds me why I like kayaking so much. 

Photos from Lucas Reitmann and his Gopro.

The run has a write up on Oregonkayaking, but they run it at flood and it doesn't paint a picture that makes people want to rush out to the NF.

I have run it a few times and its made a good impression on me, so I'd like to share some beta.

At flows above 5' on the Siletz gauge, the best put in option is to walk the short Valley of the Giants trail to a footbridge and put in on that fork.  Within a hundred yards you will be the confluence with Warnicke Creek and if the gauge is over 7' you will have a very enjoyable III+ ride down to the Boulder Creek Confluence.

On our most recent trip, the gauge was at 4.5' and we decided to put in on Boulder Creek.

Below here are some small rapids before reaching the first ledge.  This is the ledge described on the Oregonkayaking report that only Jesse Coombs ran.

At the lower flows we had, it is a benign slide in the middle, or a slightly less benign ledge on the left.  The rapids below here remain small, but the bedrock is intriguing and there are some surf spots (maybe even a squirt spot Emile?).

Eventually there will be a left turn towards the road, the river then turns right and enters Bombshell Gorge.  Its worth scouting and setting safety on the left.  At 7' on the gauge the first hole is sticky looking.

Lucas enters Bombshell

At our flow there was a sneak route on the left or a tricky twisting ledge drop on the right that produced a couple rolls at our flow of 4.5'.

Gabe drops a Bombshell

Victor becomes a piece of plastic shrapnel.

 Below here is a twisting drop and then a hole that might be worth setting safety on.  The easiest way to do this is to have a confident boater run it first and get out on the left.

The small, but sneaky pocket hole in Bombshell Gorge.

Easy pool drop rapids continue below here until what has been referred to as the recommended portage.  It would be possible to unknowingly enter this unassuming drop from above so its worth familiarizing yourself with the area on the shuttle.  We scouted for awhile and Lucas said he wanted to run it but like the rest of us was worried about there being a rock in the chute.  Priscilla and I paddled over to river right and got a big stick.  We probed the depths a few times and determined there were no obstructions hiding beneath the surface.

Lucas then decided to give it a go. He came in and submerged briefly before riding out a tailstand in his Dagger Axiom.

 It was an inspiring line.

  Inspiring enough in fact to start to make the rest of us interested in the drop.  Victor was heading up to his boat almost immediately after Lucas came through.  Lucas called across the stream that it was good to go and we should give it a shot.  Victor then floated into the chute, also submerging and coming out upright.

Recommended portages are often of the grandiose variety.  This one is a compact model.

I followed Victors approach and floated into the chute, letting the water funnel me into the deepest part of the channel and using a rudder stroke I skipped through like everyone else.  Lucas was quick on my tail for a second lap and came through this time without even getting his head wet.  It looked to me from downstream like he drove harder right and took a big stroke.

We took out here and Lucas did the scooter shuttle.  While standing around it was decided this drop should have a name.  It has only been referred to as "the recommended portage", but given Lucas's volition to go first, along with a second successful attempt we devised a name that we felt was ever so clever.

We dubbed the drop "Go Reit, mann"  as the line is to go right, and Lucas's last name is Reitmann.  

 Lucas fire's up "Go Reit, mann" again.
As Nate later pointed out, it's best said in a Jamaican accent. 

There is even a bonus side slide.

Video of the day from Lucas.

NF Siletz from Lucas Rietmann on Vimeo.

 ~1000 cfs is the minimum for this run, 5'-7' on the Siletz gauge provide ideal flows.  If you are looking for a more full day with plenty of class IV(V) and the level is over 4,000 cfs (7ish ft) check out Warnicke Creek.  You can start above Golden Goose and run through Go Reit, mann for an extended day of very fun boating.  Lastly, if water is super high, a combo run of this and the south fork is worth looking into.


Thursday, October 31, 2013


Vertigo Gorge on Dipper Creek.

 The story of the first decent is one of the best trip reports I have ever read.  The chance to get in there to see the gorge and imagine what it was like for those who pioneered the run was an opportunity I didn't want to miss.

Heacam shots by Emile and Lucas. Dinsdale photos marked as such.
Scouting the entrance to Vertigo Gorge.

An ambitious crew of 8 turned into 4 when the reality of the trip set in the morning of.

We camped along the Ashlu and were hiking to the put in of Dipper by 10 on Saturday morning.

There are a couple warm up rapids and a couple warm up portages before the entrance drop.  We scouted the entrance for awhile before Willy dropped over with an inspiring line.

 He got out to set safety on the right.  Lucas went deep, resurfacing upright in the bowl on the left.  He was unable to paddle out, so Willy through him his rope, too short...  It had been cut the week before and unfortunately was not able to reach the cave.  Emile tossed Willy another one, who connected with Lucas this time and pulled him across the boil.

The view from the room on the left.

Emile's line was a similar story.  He and Lucas were enjoying the Vertigo pool when I hiked up to my boat and soon joined them in that spectacular spot.

                                                                        Dinsdale photo.

Willy continued to lead the charge over the crack drop into an incredible pool that turned out to be one of my favorite places on any river.

Head-cam of the crack.

Two fun boofs were below here and then a short optional portage. Emile exiting Vertigo Gorge proper.

Dinsdale photo.

 Not long after is the recommended portage. Here Willy describes the line.
The horizon line in the background is Rock Snot and scouting is an involved process.

Lucas, Emile and I roped our boats up a steep gully on the left with assistance from Willy.  Willy had seen the drop the week before and decided to forgo the scout on this trip.  When Lucas, Emile and I reach river level on the other side of the portage Willy came into view after a successful run over Rock Snot.

Rock Snot from the end of the portage.

It's not far below here to the BC Groove tube.  It has very dangerous wood in it and we were able to do a portage on the right that is a bit crumbly.

We ferried across the pool to the left to scout out the shipwreck falls.  I anticipated a painful landing as its not well aerated so decided to get it over with quickly.

 Boofing out next to the ships prow. 

 Willy parted the water in the landing zone on impact after his tail down boof. 

Lucas and Emile went for the nose down entry but took big hits as well.  

Dinsdale photo.

Emile on his way to joining us in the pool.

Taking it in

We then paddled onto the Squamish which is icing on the cake.  This canyon is gorgeous with splashy class IV whitewater.

We did the short hike out and Willy fired up the scooter shuttle sans breaks.  It was now 2PM so we rallied back to the Lyons Bay slide and do that.  Its pretty hard on gear but worth doing once.

It is advisable to try to do this slide at high tide.  There were rocks poking out in the landing zone when we were there. 

The video from our trip.

Dipper Creek from Difficult E on Vimeo.

We did the run on Oct 26.

Squamish Gauge                            

Elaho Gauge

The following video is from the week before we were there when Dan and Jeff did the first raft decent with Willy for safety.
Vertigo Gorge Dipper Creek B.C. from Daniel Mccain on Vimeo.

Vital information for this run can be found here along with links to the story of the first descent.

A quick tidbit about locating the hike out: A good spot to start the hike is the first boulder bar encountered on the left when the Squamish gorge opens up ever so slightly. 


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Bomber Deal

Bomber Gear is doing 40% off all closeout drywear at until tomorrow!

Also, Vertigo Gorge post is set to be up Thursday.

Photo: Emile Elliot

Monday, October 21, 2013

Labor Day: The North Fork Payette

William Nealy stated that you should always do a quick spit check before you put-on a river or run a drop. The idea being that if you're to scared to manufacture saliva, maybe you should re-access your life choices. As I was gearing up to put-on the Upper Five I took his advice and confirmed what I already knew: my heart was racing and I was nervous. No spit wads were to be shot today! Having only seem flickers of white water on the drive to the put-in, and haveing witnessed a couple swims on the Lower Seven the previous day, my adrenaline was at an all time high. As we floated down to the top of Steepness (the first rapid on the Upper section) I remember thinking that I hadn't been this scared for a river since my early days of kayaking. Looking back on it, the idea of pushing my comfort zone and putting on my first big water river was probably fairly similar to my early days when I was pushing my limits and tackling my first class IV rapid. An impending new experience can often breed fear. But, as with all personal first decent, before too long, I was thoroughly initiated and had gotten my first taste of big water class V. Next up was Nut Cracker. We had put-on the creek with a group of over 20 paddlers, so I chose to hang near the back and keep close to Dan Rubado. Someone shouted "stay right" as we were rolling in and then it was on. Punching holes, crashing through waves, and trying to boat scout from the top of each pile! The NF is an exercise in reactionary boating and boils down to a big game of follow the leader.

The rest of the Upper 5 blended together completely. Somewhere in there I remember Dan describing a line as "Left, then Right, then cut left, then back to the right, and finish with a boof on the left..." It went by pretty fast and before long, we were paddling across the lake that separates the upper 5 from the middle 5.

Up until this point, things had seemed fairly manageable and despite my nerves, I was having a blast. Not that the fun we were all having decreased as we passed beneath the hanging bridge into the crux section, only that I noticed a serious increase in the difficulty of each rapid. Not only were the drops longer and more continuous, they also featured more dramatic moves. Bad Jose stood out to me as a particularly rowdy section in the middle 5, so did Bouncer Down the middle. Loose hips never flip!

After a particularly long rally, we came to a mellow section of river and Rubado announced that we had just completed "chaos, pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, and maybe some other named rapid?" Things can really flow together as a first time paddler on such a continuous river. I was really just following helmets all day. By this point I was really starting to get a feel for the river. Unlike creeking where the difference between a few inches can mean the world, the NF features fairly wide open lines and most rapids can be run a variety of ways. As a result, your paddling becomes more fluid and interpretive as you inevitably end up being thrown around the river.

I knew from the get-go that I wasn't going to run Jacob's Ladder, so as we approached the portage eddy, I quickly hopped out of my boat and made my way downstream to watch as several other paddlers in the group made short work of Rodeo Hole, Rock Drop, Pencil Sharpener, and Taffy Puller. Nice work boys.

I was now in familiar territory having run the lower 7 the previous afternoon. That didn't make the Golf Course any easier. This rapid has to be damn close to a mile in length and there must be a multitude of lines to chose from. I spent the first 1/3 of the rapid more or less on river right, before making my way to the center and then to the left to finish er off. So many holes to punch! A swim here (or anywhere on the NF) is a really big deal.

Next up was Screaming Left, which seemed to be one of the 'thinner' lines on the entire river. And finally Jaws I, II, and III. I had witnessed a swim on Jaws the previous day out of a particularly sticky hole right at the top of Jaws I. As a result, I ended up boating scouting the entire series while trying to retrieve gear amongst the chaos. All had gone well, but needless to say, I was happy to have some folks to follow for my second trip through. After making the mandatory move to the right at the bottom of Jaws III and looking back up river, I came to the conclusion that for me, Jaws is the most difficult rapid (other than Jakes) on the Payette.

We blasted down the top bit of the lower 5 before taking off at our river side camp site and enjoying a few adult beverages in the shade. As the group dispersed (some went to hot springs, others to do another lap) I decided that I wanted to put back on and finish the full top to bottom run (minus Jakes). Brooks was kind enough to join me on a quick route through Juicer and Crunch all the way down to the confluence with the SF Payette.

The weekend as whole was truly top notch. With warm weather, warm water, beautiful camping, beer, friends, more beer, and amazing hot springs, the Labor Day Payette experience is one for the books and a trip that will become an annual pilgrimedge for me. What an amazing river and what an amazing weekend.

All photos were taken by Catherine Loke.



Thursday, October 3, 2013

This is a test

     Emile has made a trailer for his entry into the upcoming PDXkayaker/Next Adventure film fest.  It looks like we are going to see some really well edited footage this year and for me it will be worth the trip to see his and Ryan's videos alone.  Then when considering the many the other talented editors in the PNW this is an event I am truly looking forward to!

Info for this event is located here.

This is a Test from Difficult E on Vimeo.

Friday, September 27, 2013

BC Beta

Looking back on my 3 kayaking trips to BC, there is one outstanding part of every trip that I wish I could avoid.  That is driving through Vancouver.

Vancouver is a beautiful town that is reportedly a delightful place to spend time in.  The issue for me is my destination has always been beyond and when nearing the end of a sizable drive, one of the last things I enjoy doing is finding my way through a large city with many stop lights.  Even when conditions are ideal (2:30 in the morning) I find this part of the drive trying on my patience.  5:30 on a Friday afternoon is indescribable.

Fortunately the last time we were up there we received some solid beta from Dan Patrinellis that avoids Vancouver proper altogether.  The first thing to realize is that the sign system appears to make the assumption everyone who travels into BC has the goal of visiting Vancouver, even if they are on their way to Whistler/Squamish or beyond.

The way to circumnavigate this fate is to follow the route indicated on the map below and avoid the Peace Arch border crossing.

Same map zoomed in to show the border crossing.

Driving hwy 15, you will eventually see signs that warm you are about to cross a toll bridge.  While it is indeed a toll bridge, a sign just before you cross will inform you must go online if you wish to pay the small fee.  If you do not, sometimes they will send you a bill in the mail, sometimes nothing comes of it.  For me, it has been 6 trips over the bridge and no fee.

Now that you have arrived at your destination faster than anticipated, maybe you have time for a quick lap on the Box!

Another enjoyable edit by Ryan Cole.  This one of our September trip to the Ashlu.

TheBox from Ryan C on Vimeo.

* Willy Dinsdale has taken the 543/15 route a number of times.  He said one of the times he received a request in the mail to pay his fee.

* Nate has also received one request in a handful of trips to BC


Thursday, September 5, 2013


Tatlow, very much like the Little White, has been accurately described in lore and on the internet.  1 mile of 95% very high quality bedrock rapids, and thanks to the internet there are no surprises on the river aside from a trashy boulder garden near the end.  The hike in is steep but short, Willy and I missed the place to descend (my mistake) so hiked too far and followed a rivulet down that put us in just above the normal put in.  All the necessary information for this run is already well documented.  The only info I would like to pass on here came from a person visiting from Germany named Bobby.  He let me know that Wall Drug is very soft so it is not necessary to tuck, both Willy and I agreed after our turn on the rapid that afternoon.

The run is very short so a good option is to use it as an alternate put in for the Ashlu.  There is a class 3 stretch between Tatlow and the Mine run that allows a paddler to regain any energy lost earlier in the day.  The mine run starts with two large ledges, the second of which had a powerful hole.  Below here is the entrance to the Mine Rapid.  This rapid is very large and is not commonly run.  The portage around the whole thing on the left is in the top ten hardest portages I have done.  As it turns out I took the less common route, there is a shorter, less strenuous portage where a boater can walk only the crux and run the bottom.  Willy ran the whole thing and I watched through the trees from high above as he charged into the largest hole I have ever seen anyone paddle into.  He was violently thrown around for 10-15 seconds before flushing and rolling up.

Below this are a handful of quality rapids with powerful features.  I felt this section was a step above Tatlow in difficulty, but my impression may be skewed by my discomfort with large holes.  As I made the mental transition from low water creek to powerful river I began to thoroughly enjoy the run.  Willy remembered the rapids well and did a great job leading me down.  I feel this section is overlooked and believe if it were in the states would be highly sought after.  There is one very sticky hole at the bottom of a ramp, but it allows passage on the right side.  This feature is located just after an 8' broken slide/ledge.  There is also a portage a ways into the run.  This can be identified by a tiny creek coming in from the right at the apex of a slight left turn that had flagging (a common and appreciated practice in BC).  The portage isn't too long, 15ish minutes with a trail.  It is time to head back down to the stream when you see a fixed rope heading down a gully.  Below here were a few more fun rapids before the reservoir.  The mini mine run had a really pretty gorge and a couple rapids, then we were at the 50/50 bridge.  I had enjoyed our long day and was not interested in tainting it by making mistakes in Box Canyon.  Willy had been kind enough to get out and scout with me a couple times on the Mine run, but now that I was no longer part of the picture he was able to return to his style of boating and rallied from the 50/50 bridge to the take out without getting out of his boat, nearly beating me there in my car. 

The day before we got there Dan and Robby rafted Tatlow.  They reported having a very fun trip aside from a spill in Wall Drug.

Bob from Germany photo credit.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Wiki #7

My roommate Pat and I headed north to visit our Earth Science friend Kara in Rainier, WA over winter break. I thought maybe Ill bring the IK and see if there is anything worth exploring. An hour or two looking at the maps and an exploratory run had been paved out complete with clean 25'er.

The run required a 2.5 mile hike in past a Weyergaeuser gate, then a short bushwhack once passed the abandoned park and some smooth talking to access. The falls was great and totally worth it! Below the gorge the stream gets FLAT with some wood portages. I saw an old dirt road on the right after a mile so took out and hiked back to the main road, followed by another mile hike out in order to meet Pat and Kara, but there is bridge access too.

The next day we rounded off the trip with a day at White Pass before a 6am departure the next morning to get Pat back for a day of mountain biking in Monmouth.

Deschutes and Rainier on the same trip! (I'm not just talking about the beer)

Video on Vimeo

Wiki 7 from Jacob Cruser on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Trouble at the Alter

The Little White Salmon River, with it's legendary status and easy logistics holds a special form of respect in the PNW.  Many paddlers aspire to one day travel this special waterway.  The crown jewell of this run, Spirit Falls may hold even more allure than the run itself.   Some paddlers run the Little White many times before finally finding themselves in the pool below this falls.  With a number of pro paddlers moving to Hood River specifically to run this river (for which most probably don't even have the word portage cross there minds on this river at normal flows) and the saturation of media from the canyon there has been a loss of mystique regarding this stream for kayakers.

With the recent resurgence of the rafting community however, this river and waterfall have become a true proving ground for the best in the business.  Only a few years ago I witnessed more than once, and heard many more accounts from kayakers telling Dan it was a terrible idea to take a raft down this river.  He took no heed and today has logged over 50 successful runs down this stream.  There are many other rafters who also run this stream now, with many having logged in the double digits.

However, Spirit has posed a problem for rafts in the past. With a handful of descents, only one attempt was successful.  Most resulted in lots of pain, followed by some downtime.  Dave Saquety and Doc Loomis reported taking the hit of a lifetime on the earliest attempt of this drop.  This low success rate keeps many rafters away, but also creates a draw for the daring to attempt following the few that went before them into one of the most special pools in the PNW for whitewater boaters.

Josh Sheldon is one such boater who wanted his own Spiritual experience on the Little White.   The following account is from Brandon Bloomquist, who was on the trip where Josh took the risks involved with reaching the sacred pool.  Not all went to plan, take what you will from this account.



Sunday was a fantastic day on the Little White, at least once things got organized.  Nice weather made the three hours we were waiting for the final member of our party to show up more bearable.  We finally got on the stream a little after 1:00.  Jacob, Brandon Lake and I put on a little earlier than the raft and we all had nice lines through Gettin’ Busy.  There was a quick scout of Boulder Sluice, and I followed the green tongue in front of me to a porn star finish. 

Brandon ran Island, with a degree of success.  He made it halfway down when he pitoned the nose, which spun him into a tail piton.  He rolled quickly and we kept moving downstream.  Sacriledge and Double Drop were awesome.  I walked S-Turn and had a creative line over wishbone where I didn’t get square to the drop until I was 5’ from the lip.  It wasn’t good, but it worked out.  After watching the raft get hung up sideways on every rock and hole in the gorge, I was happy to see them catch the eddy on right below Horseshoe, which cleared us to follow into the gorge through which I was happy to have a stylish run.   I haven’t run the right side of Stovepipe before, but, wow, that’s a cool rapid. 

We got to Spirit at 4:00 with the sun shining.  We knew the rafters were going to take their time to consider the drop, so we broke out a lunch of smoked oysters, salami, cheese, crackers and snickers right at the lip.  We wave to the gathered crowd of about eight who hiked in from milepost 2, including Paul Thompson, Josh’s Mom and the Manimal, Trevor Sheehan.  

I turned to Jacob at one point and said “this feels civilized.”  I gave Spirit a lot of thought, but decided that I can’t afford an injury right now and told the boys I’d be at Chaos for them.  I was able to lower my boat into the Chaos eddy, where I delicately got in, then ran the ledge to the left of Chaos straight into the proper eddy. 

By this point in the day, I was feeling like the river was actively helping me be a better boater. 
When I got into position, I was surprised to see Jacob standing on the rock on river right in the pool (The Alter as some have called it).  He’d already styled the big drop thinking I was positioned at Chaos.  We were glad it worked out well, because I was a few minutes late.  Jacob practiced his throws, both into the boil and into the current past him.  I uncoiled my ropes a little in my defensive position slightly below Chaos and we wait. 

Jacob approaches the pool.

At 4:51, Brandon signals from the lip that the rafters are paddling.  Dan was on the right, Josh on the left.  They look good coming over at the lip.  One second and twenty-five later, the over-rotation was obvious.  They hit, the boat just went deep, then rebounded straight up with the paddlers still in.  Their weight pulls the boat down on top of them.  Dan and the raft are kicked out to the eddy on the right.  Josh goes deep in the boil and surfaces behind the curtain.  We don’t know it yet, but he didn’t square up his feet on the front thwart at the landing, and severely rolled his ankle (crutches for two weeks). 

Even seemingly good lines don't always work out.

As a recap, we have Brandon at the top, John the Grizzly on the left, Jacob on The Alter and me at Chaos with Josh’s Mom freaking out at the viewing area.  

The folks up top can see Josh moving around behind the curtain, but I can’t.  All I know is that they aren’t panicking, so I’m just staying put.  In any case, I can’t leave my station in case one of them comes around the corner.  Brandon tries to throw his rope gamely over the lip, but because of the undercut, it wasn’t going to work.  John tries to throw through the column of water from the right, but is rejected.  Jacob gets in his boat to paddle over to Dan, and they get the boat flipped over.  Jake gets back in his kayak and paddles over to river left, just below the left side of the falls.  There is an eddy there, where he gets out, then throws a rope to Dan and pulls him across.  It is already 5:15.  Jake has Brandon come to above him to lower a line with the intent of pulling them up the convergence zone and then into the undercut area.  They clip the line onto the raft, have Brandon walk back upstream on the cliff and start paddling, but the rope gets snagged in two places on the cliff.  I’m the only one who can see both halves of what’s happening.

At 5:30, they give up on this approach and move to simply paddling upstream directly.  Dan decides to first pump up the thwart and adjust it back to paddling position.  15 minutes later they make their first attempt and only get to the nub that sticks out on the right, and Dan is getting pounded by the waterfall landing on him.  They are within ten feet of the point where the current flows into the wall, but just can’t do it.  Over the next fifteen minutes, they try four more times and are rejected each time. 

I can’t see it from my post, but John managed to get a rope to Josh behind the veil.  He attempts to pull him up, but can’t.  Josh can’t climb, either, with a bum foot and an overhung wall.  He eventually cuts himself off the rope, landing on the bad foot, making things worse.  He’s getting cold, too, with the constant mist.  It’s been almost an hour.  Jacob switches boats and paddles his kayak through the veil, only to realize there is a secondary room and he cannot contact Josh from this lower room.  He paddles back out through the veil and down to Dan to further discuss. 

At 5:45, Jacob gets back into his boat, to the massive disdain of Dan.  For the first time, I can hear him through the roar.  Jake comes back to the river right eddy to study the situation, then gets in the current to catch the left eddy above Chaos.  He misses, but knows it and turns to face the challenge directly.  I’m relieved to see him simply style it and carry on to get out at the left, where we normally put in after the portage.  He runs up to where Brandon is, where they confer.  They pass a single line down to Dan again, but I know this won’t work.  I frantically motion to Jake and Brandon to clip the lines together.  They do, and start walking.  I blow a short whistle to stop them.  I get Jake to stay put, holding tension on the line, while Brandon walks around the curve of the falls to where we had lunch.  This keeps the line from snagging on the left wall. 

It’s 6:00 by the time that Jake walks to meet Brandon at the top, then with Dan in the raft.  The boys at the top start pulling, with Dan simply highsiding to keep the boat upright .  They are able to pull the raft straight in to meet Josh.  I can’t see this for a long time, as there was mist from both sides of the falls jetting across my view.  Eventually I see a second piece of red clothing, and from the positions infer that it has to be Josh.  Then things get weird, and I see Dan break out the K-pump.  It turns out that they’d deflated the raft a little for the drop in an effort to make it taco on landing, but it is just confusing from my post.  I’m starting to dance to stay warm, and I haven’t been getting blasted by mist. 

Finally, at 6:15, with the left falls pouring on them, I see the raft emerge with two paddlers.  We all cheer, but they are just ten seconds from Chaos.  Dan knows it, and is shouting at Josh, but Josh is so cold that he can’t paddle well.  I see the look of a shelled soldier on his face.  The boat keeps turning to the right with Dan’s power.  They drooooop over the main drop at Chaos.  Josh falls out of the boat, right into the main pourover and loses his paddle.  I’m ready to hit him with a rope, but he grabs the chicken line.  He stays there for a few seconds, yelling at Dan that he can’t get back in.  The fear reaches through the air.  Dan hesitates, as he’s keeping the raft from flipping in Chaos, but pulls Josh back into the boat.  After a few more rounds while Josh retrieves another paddle, they are able to carry on downstream.  I watch the paddle make rounds in the hole for another two minutes before it finally spits out.  When I get back to my boat, it was waiting for me in that eddy. 

We run Master Blaster blind and catch up with the raft below the hatchery.  We drink beers on the float to the take out, where we carry Josh up the hill to the road and analyze how we can deal with situations like this more efficiently in the future.  
Brandon Bloomquist