Thursday, September 24, 2015

Chelan Media Drop

There was a very strong showing from the Oregon paddling community at this year's Chelan Gorge Release. In addition to Scotty and I from Central Oregon, we had Emile Elliot, Ben Mckenzie, Lucas Reitman and Brian Butcher from the Willamette valley. Dan Rubado, Ryan Young, John Edwards, Logan Farrell and Tony Skriv also made the trek from Portland.

The Chelan experience is notably different than most other kayaking adventures for three major reasons. The first reason is that the put-in/camp site is a 15 minute walk from downtown Chelan. Chelan, despite its small population base, is a pretty hopping little tourist town. This fact lends itself to a pretty rowdy scene as countless dirty kayakers descend upon the numerous bachelorlette parties the roam the streets of Chelan at night.

The second major difference that sets Chelan apart from your typical kayak mission is the number of people involved and the manner in which we move down river. Unlike other trips that usually feature smaller groups moving down river in a coordinated fashion, everyone on the Chelan moves as one giant group. With over 35 participants in attendance at this year's release, that meant each drop took a long time to progress through, one by one. Everyone sets safety and gets a front row seat for the inevitable carnage.

Speaking of carnage, that brings me to major difference number 3. This river dishes it out like none other. I'm not entirely sure of what the major contributing factor is for difference number 3, but the holes are stout and the sheer number of folks routing leads to quite a few beat downs/swims. Good thing there is tons of safety!

There will be tons of media coming out in the next few weeks as every other person had a GoPro rolling.. But for now, here are two videos that have turned up online. Nick Baughman put together quite the carnage reel and the profesh videographers did great work with their drone. Enjoy.


Chelan Gorge Recreational Release from on Vimeo.

Chelan Gorge 2015 Whitewater Kayaking from Nick Baughman on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Callaghan (Upper)

The day started with an easy 1.5 mile walk along a mostly flat snowmobile road.  As we approached the Callaghan Lake Fork the whitewater was audible through the trees.   We checked out this stretch of V+ whitewater, and decided to pass on this section. 

After some time spent considering where we would begin our bushwhack, we settled on entering the woods about 100 yards east of the Callaghan Lake Fork and held this proximity for the remainder of the hike.  The bushwhack was easy going with Emile leading the way, dragging our boats down the slight decline we took time to pear over the gorge walls when it was convenient.  Eventually the stream became easily accessible and we descended to creek level shortly below this point.  

Where we put in.

There were a couple hundred yards of boulder gardens and a log portage before we reached the confluence with an unnamed stream (originating near Powder Mountain) that marked the beginning of Callaghan Creek proper, discoloring the clear stream and creating the tan colored water those familiar with Callaghan Creek are accustomed to.  This is where we had intended to begin paddling and felt good about flows.  From this point there were no mandatory portages.

The first 15 minutes were easy boulder bar floating before the river showed its true character and entered a gorge reminiscent of the ones found on the lower stretch.  A couple of smaller rapids led to the first ledge, a five-ish footer with a twisting lead in.  We set some lax safety at the hole guarding the pool below and took turns paddling this rapid.  

Things picked up below here with a couple of boulder gardens and sliding rapids.  Shore scouting was always possible at the water level we were running the creek at (-0.05 new gauge/2.45 old gauge).

Ben and Emile cruising.

The signature rapid of the trip was a short ways into this gorge where the walls rose a little and the river dropped out of sight after some slides.  There is a scouting eddy a short ways above the entrance to this rapid, adjacent to a notable mid-stream boulder.

This rapid started off with a 6 foot ledge best run far left to avoid a hole and pocket on the right.   Just below is a 20+ foot falls, a slide to vertical on the left and a double drop on the right.  We spent some time scouting before deciding the right side looked better with the amount of water in the creek.  The hazards were the first part of the double drop had a hole/eddy combo that recycled behind the falls, then another hole/pocket combo below the second ledge that would only be a major hazard at higher flows.  We felt confident that we could hit the line and set about running this fun drop one at a time.  It is worth noting that a portage appeared possible through a gully on the left.

Emile drops the double.

Pretty excited about the run so far, we continued downstream.  Finding mostly class IV boulder rapids as the gorge continued on, we were a little stressed that we might get gorged in above an unrunnable/unportageable rapid.  Before long the walls got more vertical and an ominous drop presented itself as the stream entered a gorge.  We went for an extended scout on river right through the Devil’s Club and determined that while the next fifty yards was runnable, it was contained in a vertical walled gorge and the first drop was more dangerous than any of us were comfortable with.  Here, Callaghan Creek divided around a midstream boulder and dropped about 6 feet.  About 10% of the water went right over a runnable ledge.  The rest of the water went left into a siphon that was not conducive to human survival.  Just downstream was a boulder that would be a hazard at higher flows, we did not see anywhere to set meaningful safety.  Ben and I decided that running the drop was the correct course of action for us, but did not question Emile’s decision to make the exposed and semi-laborious portage on the right. 

We did not get any pictures of the siphon from upstream.  Here Emile Elliott looks back upstream at the crux move at the head of the gorge.

Both Ben and I made the easy, but necessary move to the right.  Emile had a couple sketchy moments on the portage.  The three of us felt a weight lift when we had all reached the eddy below this rapid.  Immediately downstream the gorge took a sharp right turn and we ducked a log that would require a portage at higher flows (I think you might be able to get out between the two drops if necessary and portage).  

The gorge walls recede immediately below the log duck, where a boulder rapid that we ran center to left was next.  Then as I recall the remainder of the run was class III-IV read and run with a short and splashy mini gorge thrown in to mix things up.  I took out on the left side of the bridge to do shuttle while Ben and Emile continued through the regular Callaghan run.


Access:  Most who would do this stretch would use it as an extension to the regular section, those paddlers can take out in the Cal-Cheak campground just south of the Hwy 99 (Sea to Sky Hwy) bridge over Callaghan Creek.  To only run the upper section, turn off Hwy 99 onto Callaghan Road toward the Olympic Park.  In 4.7 miles (7.6 km) a bridge over the Callaghan is crossed.  This is the take out if you are not continuing through the lower stretch.

* Between the upper take out and lower put in is a ledge, class II/III bouldery rapids and some gravel bar doldrums.*

Put In:  Continue up the Callaghan Road from the upper take out bridge towards Callaghan Lake, 1.4 miles (2.2 km) later (within the Olympic ski area), turn left onto the gravel road towards Callaghan Lake. 1 mile (1.6 km) past the Olympic Park a spur road will branch off to the right (stay on the main gravel road), a very short ways further the road makes a left bend, then a right.  Find a pull-out ASAP to park.  

 click on image to enlarge

Bushwhack downhill a hundred feet (30 meters) to a snowmobile road, turn right and hike 1.7 miles (2.7 km) to a point where you can hear the Callaghan Lake Fork.  Once you have confirmed where you are, enter the woods 100-200 yards/meters east of the Callaghan Lake Fork via a small rivulet.  Stay parallel to the Callaghan Lake Fork at this proximity for a little more than a half mile (1 km) to a point where it is easiest to drop into the Callaghan Lake Fork and paddle down to the confluence of the Callaghan Lake Fork and Powder Mountain Fork.  This confluence marks the beginning of Callaghan Creek Proper.  Be conscientious of wood above the confluence.

Click image to increase size.

Water Levels:  We had about 2.45 meters on the old Callaghan stick gauge (-0.05 on the new one) and 2.1-2.2 on the Cheakamus gauge.  This was enough water for our first trip with plenty of eddies, being from Oregon this felt like a friendly side of medium flow.  Knowing that up north they like their rivers full, this would probably be considered low to the locals.  A positive, those who paddled both sections of the Callaghan this day felt that the water was better channelized up high.  

Callaghan Gauge the day we ran the upper stretch.
It has been run lower.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Little Klickitat

-By Nate Merrill

Hanging out with friends on Friday night, I expressed my feeling that the following day was going to turn into a circus. I had to laugh when my buddy Skip replied "When was the last time you went Kayaking and the trip didn't turn into a show?" It was true! After spending Tuesday driving up to the Olympic Peninsula only to get skunked and leave the area without putting boat to water, I too was having a hard time remembering my last trip that went off without any unforeseen problems. That being said, we had hatched a semi-cunning plan to ensure we were able to take advantage of the recent rainfall. With levels sky high around Portand and the Western Cascades, the group set our sites on the Little Klickitat drainage just outside of Goldendale, WA. Despite the LK being known as a run that only comes in with immense rainfall, the gauge for the rairly run creek was actually around 300-400 cfs higher than recommended flows. Given this fact, we decided that are backup plan would be to run Canyon Creek (LK trib) if indeed the LK was too high.
The next morning rolled around and as the group assembled and began loading boats, the rain continued to come down in sheets around Portland. Dan Rubado, Emile Elliot, Ryan Cole, Jacob, and myself all piled into Dan's new VW Sportwagon (45 mpg!) and headed east. After meeting up with Joe Stumpfel, John Edwards, and Matt Horton in Hood River, we beat feet up past the normal LK takeout to inspect Canyon Creek. With no eddies in sight and thick brush lining the banks, we decided that Canyon Creek was far too high to run with any regard for safety. It was the Little Klickitat today and it was juicy. (1300cfs? - The gauge was doing funky things when we put-on the creek) We quickly rallied back to the takeout, met up with some other paddlers from Hood River, and set shuttle.
The group, which had now ballooned out to nearly 20 people, opted to break up into smaller platoons to better handle the high water and the potential scarcity of large eddies. Sticking with the crew from Portland, we geared up and were just about to put-on the creek when another boater came into view walking up river. The conversation was brief but it I did catch the words "Swim", "Lost Gear", "No Eddies", and "Unscoutable". He was gone in a flash and everyone was left just a little less confident than they had been a moment earlier. This is where Ryan Cole stepped up in a big way. Having run the creek several times before, he offered to lead the run and delivered excellent beta throughout the day.
As soon as the boats hit the water, the true nature of the creek reveled itself. The creek, which was in the bushes, was colored a murky brown (probably had a lot to do with the copious amounts of cow dung in the surrounding area. yum) After floating for only a few minutes, we found ourselves rounding a bend and floating into the first big rapid of the day. Ryan had warned us to stay as far right as possible to avoid being swept into a nasty crack in the middle of the river. At this flow, there was no viable eddy above this drop and it snuck up quick! We all made the move to the right without difficulties and were able to catch a small eddy downstream and regroup. (I believe that the group we encountered hiking off the creek ran into trouble when they attempted to run the far left side of this drop.)From this point on, the creek never really let up. Big rapids were separated by fast moving boogie water. There were times when we would travel over a mile without seeing an available eddy to slow down.
A short distance below the initial drop, we came to the single most technical drop on the creek. This long boulder garden was scoutable on the left and had several pushy lines to chose from. After discussing the different options, Dan and I decided we had seen enough and returned to our boats to probe the center line. We pealed out and ran the lead-in without any problems. The next part is a little fuzzy in my memory: it all happened in the span of 3-5 seconds. After boofing over a rock near the top of the drop, I attempted to take a left stroke when agonizing pain shot through my shoulder and I realized that I couldn't move my left arm. I had somehow dislocated my left shoulder (not really sure how, but I didn't throw any brace) and was fast approaching the crux of the drop. After nearly rolling over in shock, I was able to reset my shoulder using a paddling motion and finish the drop upright, but in considerable pain. I consider myself very lucky to have gotten the shoulder back in so easily.
After catching an eddy and watching the rest of the crew come though, we took a break and discussed to option of me hiking off the creek. Several folks volunteered to help me with the hike out, but at this point, Skip's words from the night before were resounding in my head: "When was the last time you went boating and things didn't turn into a show?" After resting for a good twenty minutes, I decided that I was going to keep paddling. The shoulder hurt, but my range of motion wasn't being hindered and I felt I could continue on without putting the group (or myself for that matter) at risk.

John Edwards and Jacob board the freight train.
Ryan Cole is In Like Flynn

We got back on the creek and started bombing downriver. The next two drops came up in quick secession. The first we scouted from the right. It featured a nasty boulder pile in the middle but was fairly clean down the right bank, with only minor hole punching required.

Extra Frothy.

The second drop (we refereed to this one as the slide) was scoutable on the left but required committing to the rapid and catching a last chance eddy. It looks scary, but I promise, there is a large eddy on the left! You just can't see it from above. Faith! The drop itself featured a giant slide that feeds into a horrible looking hydraulic. This thing was massive! Fortunately, there was a narrow brown tongue that just missed the worst of the hole. We all attempted to ride this tongue with varying results. Matt Horton even got some rodeo action in on this beast. I could only watch from afar as he whipped off cart-wheels and loops at warp speed before calmly surfing out of the hole towards to center of the river. Well done!

Dan Rubado: "Hey diddle diddle, right down the middle"

It wasn't far down stream from the slide that we came upon the largest vertical drop on the LK. The falls is very wide and features a plethora of possible lines. Be careful when approaching this drop, it would be very easy to get swept into the falls when boat scouting. Ryan was able to recognize the drop 50 yards upstream and we still had some trouble stopping to scout. The drop is marked by a heavily wooded island that splits to river right down the middle. The easier scout is on the left and requires that you run down the left channel. If you run right of the island (like we did) expect to have some trouble stopping above the horizon line). Everyone had clean lines off the falls, which wasn't a gimmie on this day. If you failed to get your bow up, the uniform hole at the bottom promised to smack you around for awhile.

John fights gravity. And wins!

After the falls, the creek kept boogieing, but everything from this point on was easy to scout from within your boat. There were a few ledges towards the end of the run that could hand out a whipping if you weren't on your toes, but for the most part, the creek just rushes down stream. Right down the middle. Somewhere between the falls and the takeout, the sun actually made an appearance and I think we all took a minute to sit back and appreciate the unique area. Being local to the Willamette Valley, it is certainly a stark change to venture over in the central region of the state. Wide open rolling hills as far as the eye can see! As we arrived at the takeout, we met back up with the group that had put-on before us and there was a general feeling of success. Having knocked off such a rarely run creek at such an abnormally high level left everyone feeling pretty stoked on the day. I'll certainly be back the next time levels spike! Despite my shoulder injury, I still classify the LK mission under "Not at a complete circus", which is an upgrade over recent weeks. Thanks again to Ryan for sitting shotgun on this roller coaster. And Jacob for offering to hikeout with me when I injured my shoulder. Until next time. Nate

video from Emile from that trip

Little Klickitat from Difficult E on Vimeo.