Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tanner Creek; Above Wahclella Gorge


Stream:   After hiking about 4 miles you reach the powerlines and the put in.  It starts off steep and bouldery, keep an eye out for wood but don't be surprised if there are no portages either.  It's pretty narrow and fast so there might be a couple places you want to scout up here, most of it is boat scoutable though.

The first bedrock appears in the form of a small class II slide, eddy out immediately on the left after the slide to scout Volition Falls.  This is a unique drop, shaped like a quarter pipe before dropping 5' more into a hole.  It looks like an abrupt transition but two of us ran it in an IK and it was smooth, it's yet to be tested by a hardshell though.

Next are some more boulder gardens before Coppertone, the largest non-waterfall rapid on the run.  A big wall on the left marks this fun rapid.

The next small rapid is best run in the shallow channel on the left.  Below here keep a look out for a horizon line that is a long slide as the river bends left, historically it has ended in a dangerous logjam and should be portaged left.  It's not too hard to stop above this, if you are paying attention.

Next up is Caesura Falls, a low stress ten foot boof in the middle or a narrow chute on the right.  If it were easier to lap I'd spend some time here.

Just around the corner is Sundance Falls, a 40 foot falls with a variety of lines.  

Exiting the pool at the base of Sundance is the pinnacle moment of the run.  A class II builds to a class III rapid as the stream bends left, and drops into Wahclella Gorge via a large waterfall.  It is imperative to get out before turning this corner.  While they are far from generous, there are eddy options on the right before the point of no return.

Photo by "northridge"

This is a good spot for a lunch break as if you are not going to run Wahclella Gorge you have your work cut out for you.

Wahclella Gorge is about 1/4 mile long, starting with a large waterfall into a narrow landing and immediately dropping over a small boxed in ledge.  There are a few more chutes and slots before at least one more waterfall, Tanner Creek then exits the gorge over the impressive Wahclella Falls itself.

It may be possible to portage Wahclella Gorge, but we chose to hike out at this point.  From the stream we climbed to the base of a cliff, followed along the base of said cliff upstream a short ways and roped our boats up a break in the cliff.  From there we grunted the next 900 vertical feet up to the road.  The underbrush wasn't so bad, but small alders proved to be a pain in parts.  Once you hit the road, it's just a couple of downhill miles back to the gate.

Flows:  We had just under 1,000 cfs in the Bull Run nr Multnomah Falls.  That's about minimum for the boulder gardens in the upper part, though the waterfalls are runnable much lower.

Access:  Take exit 40 off I84 and turn South (away from the Columbia).  If you are running or portaging Wahclella Gorge (instead of hiking out) take out options will be obvious at this point.

The start of the access road is marked on the following map by a red circle, but is absent from most maps.  It is right next to a water tower.

Follow the road 4-5 miles until you see the powerlines crossing the creek, put in close to those.  I believe we put in right under them but my memory could be wrong.  The powerlines are shown on the following map.

Put in at the powerlines:  45.5976, -121.9452

On the walk/drive up the access road you will cross a number of micro creeks.  Just after the second one is where you return to the road if you hike out (pretty strenuous, if Wahclella Gorge has a portage route that would be preferred).  The hike out is marked below.

Original write-up


Photos by Lucas Reitman unless marked otherwise.

Most people who have spent time hiking in the CRG has been to Wahclella Falls.  The trail ends at the scenic and intimidating waterfall run only by the Honey Badger himself.  That event has become legend.

I am no honey badger, so was more curious about the stream above the waterfall that Boomer ran.  Nick and I tube scouted the creek a few years ago and found some really nice waterfalls followed by a challenging hike out of the gorge.

This year Nick and I met up with the Lucas's from Corvallis to try Eagle Creek.  Paul and Jean came along to take photos and hang out.  I didn't bother to check the gauge as it had been a low water year and Eagle usually stays in late.  The lack of rain in Monmouth led me to believe levels would be fine, but unbeknownst to me (should have at least checked the gauge) rain up in the Portland/Hood River area brought Eagle to a level we thought would leave Skoonichuck too high.  And as Matt would put it "we are lifestyle boaters, not pro boaters" and as such were keen on coming back when the whole run was good to go, not just the iconic Punchbowl and Metlako.  

It was at this point that I remembered about this other creek Nick and I had scouted and had wrote off as I didn't think anyone I knew would be interested in the long hike in, a day of boating, then Oregon's version of the South Branch's infamous hike out.  However the Lucas's are very ambitious and it was surprisingly easy to convince them this was a good idea.

We arrived at the start of the hike and realized that there was going to be a way to drive straight to the put in (if a future explorer is ambitious and lucky they may encounter the same circumstances).  By the time we were half way up the road we were really glad not to be hiking as it took awhile even in the car and light was going to be a concern.

We put on and while there was water, the rocky upper section could have used a bit more.  This all changed when we got to the waterfalls though!  Just when I could tell the Lucas's were starting to doubt my memory of the run, we slid down a small class II bedrock slide and eddied out on the left to scout our first waterfall.  This turned out to be Volition Falls, the most unique drop on the section we ran.

This waterfall goes vertical for ten feet before reconnecting with a flat shelf which flumes up and over a large wave before dropping another 4 feet into a hole.  This transition looked questionable and there was a log that was very in play penetrating the pool, waiting to entrap a swimmer.  We looked and discussed for awhile before Lucas Glick decided that he would take my IK over the drop (in theory the extra padding would soften the transition).  It was his first time in an IK in many years but he made the drop look smooth as silk.  After seeing that I couldn't walk away so using teamwork got the IK back to the top and I dittoed his line.

Lucas doesn't regret his volition.

It was too good just to watch.

Below here I recall more boulder gardens with one standout drop that started with a smooth sliding ledge with a big wall on the left below.  The second part of the rapid was steep, ending where the wall outcropped into the stream.This was to be the most distinct rapid of the day (Coppertone).  Below Coppertone were a couple more rapids (the one just below was a bit sketch due to wood, a line all the way to the left was the way).

Even without the sun, I felt like I was getting a little tanner in Coppertone rapid.

Not too long below here was Caesura Falls.  This falls is proceeded by a long bedrock slide on a left turn that ended in a pile of wood.  Caesura Falls is a low stress ten foot boof in the middle.  Or a fun/unique looking slot/slide on the right.  We saw Nick and Paul on the shore who informed us the hike out wasn't going to be too bad and the next falls was just around the corner.

Glick goes first.

Almost as much fun as it was in a tube the previous summer!
(Paul Thomson photo)

As Nick and Paul had told us, a short distance below here we were out again scouting Sundance Falls, a beatiful 40 foot waterfall into a nice pool.  I thought I saw a reconnect opportunity right of center so sailed off over there for a clean, but jolting landing.

IK's for days

 The Lucas's took the tuck line on the left and while both their lines looked heavenly, they also reported taking hits.

 Lucas is one of the few people who has written academically about the Oregon tuck, it appears that extra effort paid off.

Exiting this pool is the crux of the run, as there are not really any full eddies between here and Swaawa Falls, a 60+ foot falls that would commit you to a class V+ gorge with waterfalls.  Nick had hiked in with Paul to this point (thanks so much guys, that made a world of difference) and pulled us onto shore here.

The initial pitch of the hike out was tricky, the thing to do was hike straight up to the base of the cliff-band, traverse back upstream until an egress point presented itself.  We chose to rope boats up this cliff-band.  After this it was time to lower our heads and grunt over a thousand vertical feet up the 30+ degree slope.  I would be inclined to repeat this trek were it not for the willows.  Small and sturdy, they were constantly in the way, getting worse before getting better.  Soon enough we were at the road and ready to head out after a memorable day of boating.

Happy exploration.


1 comment:

Columbia River Gorge Productions said...

Nice!! Stoked you guys got in there!!