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!

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


Andrew has been posting some videos on his vimeo account that were taken down when he discontinued his upgraded subscription.

Enjoy Andrew and John going big off Money Drop.  This line resulted in the following photo of Andrew making an appearance in Paddler Magazine.

Photo: Jeremy Lynn

Andrew says that by getting fully forward he was able to have a soft landing.  

The video.

Money drop from Andrew Bradley on Vimeo.

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 section 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 did a lot of research on canyoneering blogs and the like and felt we knew mostly what we were in for.

We put on to slightly less water but still good exploratory flows.  We again arrived at the gnarly rapids at the head of the gorge.  This time the Lucas's were fired up to run the near mandatory one and I decided to portage along with setting safety.

Glick went first and came through with nary a wobble.
Lucas 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.

 Reitman then cleaned it.  I did a throw and go and scouted the next corner giving 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 seal launching off it in the middle of the river.

We ate lunch at a cool 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.

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


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

Monday, August 19, 2013

Whitewater Creek: The low hanging fruit

With a name like Whitewater Creek, easy access off a major HWY, reliable flows and no beta we should have known it would be a suffer fest.

I guess in reality I did know that, in fact I was going to go on my own so that the suffering was applied to the fewest people possible.  In the end I decided to invite Willy Dinsdale as he had mentioned wanting to check out this creek before.

Willy and his brother Ben met me after work and we drove on up towards Detroit.

I won't tell the whole story as its probably pretty predictable.

It started out fine on a very steep creek with about 20 cfs, dropping around 500 fpm that we paddled and pushed our way down for a awhile before just hiking through the woods to a confluence. From this point on there was so much wood and the Dinsdales are such fearless and capable boaters that I found myself about as uncomfortable as I had ever been on a stream. We knew light was going to be a big issue and these guys were willing to charge.  I was following them under and over logs, ducking only to turn a blind corner and do it all again.  There were probably 20 corners I would have scouted if these guys hadn't just kept cruising around them.  After watching how well they worked together, I became quit confident if things went wrong they would be able to take care of whatever situation.

This proved true when they both boofed a sketchy looking log and I followed.  One of them got stuck and I had passed by the last eddy so was backpaddling not to run into him.  I didn't quit get back up to speed after the boater in front of my cleared out so did not clear the double log obstacle.   I boofed the first log, landing on the second log as a third log became dislodged and I slid back into the gap between the two original logs.  I leaned into the downstream log and within a few seconds the front half of my boat was shoved under the log,  there wasn't much to do besides hold on while I assessed how to get out of my boat.  Before any plan had come to mind Ben had ahold of the tail of my boat and yanked me out of there.  By the end of the day we had all gone through something similar to that.

I was continually impressed by these guys as they would paddle straight at log jams, yanking their skirt just before contact and leaping onto the jam before turning and pulling the other guy out, I generally took out a few yards upstream of these situations.

At one point Ben got pinned and swam, his boat lodged itself under a log and it took about 15 minutes of jumping on the log and boat before we got it out (mostly they got it out).   Now it was dark and the sketch factor went up a notch.  We tried hiking, but it was slow going and Willy had a busted foot.  Willy got back in the stream and headed off.  Ben and I tried to hike further but it got near impossible (one 30 yard section literally took us 5 minutes).  I couldn't see my hand in front of my face when the tree cover was abundant.

We put back on and in two separate occasions I crashed into an unseen log at chest level.  Eventually I was absolutely no longer willing to risk the river and Ben graciously hiked with me (though I could tell he was much more interested in staying in the creek).  Within ten minutes we reached the bridge!

Ben took off to get the shuttle vehicle and I waited with the gear.  Making a fort with two boats and Ben's drysuit, I was able to fall asleep a couple times but was getting pretty uncomfortable by the time the brothers returned.  The put in road had been so small Willy had walked right by it on the way up!

By the time we got back to the main HWY it was 11:30

This is a very condensed version of our trip that could really have been condensed down to "don't do the run", but I wanted to write it down as a reminder to myself that not every run is worth doing once.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

West Forkin' in the Wallowas

Wallowa Lake
Many people have seen the grandeur of Wallowa Lake; it's proud moraines and towering peaks.  People come from all over to swim in the clear alpine waters coming out of the heart of the Wallowa Mountain range, to take the tram up to Anaroid Peak and peer across Hells Canyon into the vast Idaho Wilderness, and to enjoy the bucolic countryside of Wallowa County.

So far as I'm concerned, that's stuff's cool and all, but it ain't the main event. There lies a hidden gem at the head of the lake that has been overlooked by tourists and locals alike.  The West Fork of the Wallowa has a trail that begins along a boxed in granite gorge that you can't avoid if you're on the trail.  As it nears the lake, it takes a turn to the West and drops over a hidden waterfall, with no good view points unless you're standing right over it.  It's hidden enough that the vast majority of  folks that I've talked to that have been up the trail have no idea there's a 40 foot series of drops right before the creek flattens out and hits the lake.  Amazing what people miss right under their nose!

When you do find it and you stand over it, what you see is a beautiful piece of whitewater, technical, big, and consequential.  The drop consists of a 5 foot ledge into a 8 foot ledge, kinda like double drop on the truss, but smoother and smaller, and the second drop slams into a giant boil, turns 70 degrees to the left, splits into two flows, the careens off a 25 footer that's sloping on the left with a reconnect and spouting on the right out of a bath-tub slot.  Add a deep cave on the left and a nasty pocket on the right and you've got yourself a nice little stout, one we lovingly call "Boy Scout Falls"  for the boy scout camp just downstream. 

I've stood above the falls and stared into the canyon dozens of times, at all manner of flows, and only a few times have I decided to go back to the car, gear up and go for it.  When it's too high,  the boil off the wall consumes the whole flow and the pocket and cave combo at the bottom looks marginally survivable at best.  When it's too low, the top ledges get chunky, the reconnect looks painful on the left, and the bath tub line would do an aweful number on your elbows and/or face.  That leaves a limited flow window that's fortunately pretty reliable before and after Lostine season, so we always get the chance to run it in early spring and mid-summer.

Connor Ross and I mustered up the gusto to go for it this summer, after all our other local runs had last their water to the long hot days of summer. With a great support crew, sunny weather, and high spirits, we went up there and had a good time of it, with some extra excitement thrown in for good measure.  More on that later.

But now, Con and Matt's guide on how to run boy scout-   you start the trip with a 5 minute walk then lowering your boat down a steep cliff into the canyon (if you don't run the gorge, which is unfortunately full of wood at the moment (on my winter to-do list)).

Once you get down to water level, you boat about 50 yards of mank then catch the scouting eddy at the lip.

Once you get to the eddy, hop out, take one last scout from river level, and feel your heart beat faster.  You didn't realize how big it is until now.  And that turn of the second ledge looks like anything could happen.  And although you can hike out from here, it's difficult, and you've already got your buddies set up for safety and media, so you might as well give it a go.

You hop in your boat and splash some water on your face.  The fear melts away and all that's left is commitment and pure presence  (Jacob once told me "you know you're running something really hard when you aren't scared anymore," so true).  You peel out of the eddy, ride the ramp in the first ledge, whiteout, boof the second, whiteout, line it up, stroke at the lip, land, and WAHOO!  You've made it to the bottom! 

Matt King First Ledge

Lining it up.  Note the thin line between the fuck you rock on the left and the bathtub.

Loving the late stroke!

Connor Ross First Ledge

Connor Boil Bashin'

Lining it up, bathtub just off his right blade

Coming off the lip, looking good.

Now, as you might notice in the photos, this line is pretty thin.  You don't want to go into the bathtub (at least nobody has tried that line yet), and being out of control/upside-down would likely result in a hospital visit if you bounced off the reconnect on the left.  Not to mention getting through the top two ledges.  This particular day illustrated the thin-ness of the line; Connor came off the lip looking good, but ended up a little bow-right on landing.  He subbed out (which pretty much always happens on this drop), and came up in the water from the spout on the right (underwater).  He felt his skirt implode and was able to come up upright.  Much to our dismay, he was in the nasty pocket on the right, and had to swim.  He was able to get stable on a shelf, and we started to work out the extraction.  

Connor stable on the ledge.

First we got a bag to him from river right, and we got his kayak and paddle roped out of there.

Safety spot/rope throwing ledge.
Boat Recovery.
Once we got his gear out, he decided to free climb a portion of the wall to a vantage point, from there he would either continue up, or jump into the main flow and thus avoid a scenic undercut swimming tour from trying to rope him out of the pocket.

Once he got to this ledge, he paused to take in a new view of the falls (the second new view since nobody has seen it from river level on the right) while we set up a belay for the second, and much steeper and exposed pitch.  We used a hodgepodge of gear to get him on belay, and he climbed out without issue.  All in all, it was a pretty textbook rescue, and actually kinda fun.  Even Connor enjoyed it (although he was bummed that we didn't have time to do another lap)!

The La Grande Branch of the Into the Outside Crew

All in all, another great day on the river, big thanks to Aaron and Damiana Maxwell and Silje Christoffersen for their support and safety and media.  We wouldn't have done it without you! And thanks to Kathie Baird for remembering a couple hours later at Terminal Gravity that Connor needed to do a booty beer, which he dutifully drank, the first ever in the TG grotto!

The dogs decided to not R2 it this particular day.  Maybe next time!

A trailer style video showing some of the classic whitewater in the Wallowa's