Thursday, January 25, 2018

Notes from an Oregonian: Whistler Classics

These runs are described better here than I would be able to do.  What I have are some notes, as Oregonians may perceive things differently than a BC local.  I have gone up there a number of times over Labor Day weekend when the water is low, but the trip was still completely worth it.  Written for the weekend warrior, class IV-V boater type without a guide.

I have found that if the Cheakamus Gauge is reading over 2' it is worth making the trip to the area, with 2.5' being ideal (excluding Tatlow).

Camping at the Cal-Cheak campground or past it is the go-to move but can fill up quickly.  There is also camping up around and past the Upper Cheakamus put in.


Similar to the Green Truss from the put in through the Springs (below Double Drop), but if Big Brother was super clean and straight forward.  There is a new gauge with "0" marking the lowest locals will run it, though I consider "0" to still be pretty fun.  I have even enjoyed running it a little into the negatives, and while I wouldn't recommend driving up there for it at that flow, if you are already in the area it might be worth it especially if you have never run the ultra clean 20 footer, the boulder gardens will get rough though.

The first falls goes on the right when levels are low enough that the left line closes out. 


If you are looking for something new in the Whistler area, and don't mind hiking a bit, the Upper Callaghan is a good option.  This section is better at lower flows than the classic section. 



This is the most stress free run on this list, and perhaps the most fun.  Boaters from Oregon will still feel that there is plenty of water to enjoy the run at 2' on the gauge.  While the put in drop is generally run on the left, at low water the right side is a better option.  From below the falls (easy to put in below it) to the take out is fantastic read and run whitewater.  There is one rapid early on that I got a moment of "whoops, should have scouted" as I entered, but it actually flushes beautifully and there is no need to scout.  A sign on the right bank warns to "not get bit" just above that drop.  Triple Drop, the next rapid downstream of the one under a high foot bridge, is worth scouting on the right your first time down as there is a sticky hole at the bottom.

Right line at the put in falls.


This one takes more time than the upper, it requires decision making and has the feel of a relaxed adventure.  This one goes lower than the Upper Cheakamus, and I doubt it ever gets too low by Oregon standards in the summer.  One of the beauties of being here at low water is the waterfall (Balls to the Wall) is stress free and the pockets in the run out are not much in play.  Everything can be scouted on the run.  One note, as soon as you see a wood deck below Balls to the Walls Falls, eddy out on the right for an extended portage along a trail.  You are getting close to the point of returning to the creek when you find yourself near a railroad track.


Non-nondescript rapids that are fun.  Everything is scoutable and portageable at the low levels we had.  Upstream of the normal put in is the Railroad Canyon, a short class V section that can be scouted and portaged on the left.  It was at a reasonable flow on our latest Labor Day trip in 2019. (Cheak was at 2.3' that weekend).

Railroad Canyon, Brandon Lake



If this run was anywhere else it would be done more often, since it is the section upstream of the Box Canyon of the Ashlu, some of its glory is stolen.    Most people put in at the Mine the run garners its name from. The rapid is as hard as it gets for the day (aside from the portage), so its a good barometer for how the rest of the day will be.   It is also un-portageable, so come ready for a class V rapid off the bat.  From there down there is loads of good rapids that can be scouted and portaged at regular/low flows.  The crux of the run is recognizing the portage, the location of which is described adequately in the Liquid Lore Report.  On that report they also describe the semi-tricky way to ascertain flows.  I have done this run at 13 cms (they were releasing all they had into the Box), and at 55-60 cms.  Both were fun, but I would not have enjoyed the high water run if I wasn't following someone who knew the lines at that level.   That time we were coming off of Tatlow Creek, so ran some rapids above the normal put in as well.  I recall two big ledges with big holes, then portaging a mega rapid (The Mine Drop) that Willy Dinsale ran, this rapid is visible upstream at the Mine put in.  He was online through the rapid, yet spent 10-20 seconds in the crux hole that eventually spat him out (still in his boat).  13 cms felt low, but was still plenty enjoyable.

Priscilla Macy run the bottom of the Mine Rapid at 13 cms



Classic class V canyon, Dan Patrinellis led us down when I did the run and he showed us a great day on the water.  I recommend scouting as much as possible before putting on by using the trail on river left, the whitewater was not a style I was accustomed to at the time and rolled 4 times that day.  The first section of whitewater you can see from the trail is par for the course for difficulty on the run.  Because I wasn't looking, I am not sure if there are un-scoutable rapids, but the high walls make me think its highly plausible.  If you want a warm up before 50/50, the Mini-Mine section is just upstream and good class IV fun. 

TheBox from Ryan C on Vimeo.



The rapids are more fun than I would have expected from boulder bars.  Fast moving water and some large waves.  We did it for the camping, which was fantastic. 


Very committing, but you don't need to be a world class boater to enjoy it.  However, good decision making and competence are required.  Having a guide or researching the location of rapids and the lines before getting there will greatly reduce the stress level, there is sufficient video and literature out there.  Wood can render the section a no-go, so current beta is paramount.  The drops on Dipper were good, but my favorite part was floating out on the Squamish, fantastic canyon there, and the whitewater is low stress at that point.

Emile, on what I would consider the best part of Vertigo Gorge.

Our trip down Vetigo Gorge

Dipper Creek from Difficult E on Vimeo.



Scouting isn't usually an option, so have the lines memorized before going (plenty of GoPro out there).  As of 2016 the road into Tatlow washed out many miles short of the take out, people stopped doing the run for a few years.  In 2019 I heard of a few groups making the long hike in, often camping at the Nymph pool.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Heard it's been done

A "just for fun" page for those curious boaters out there.  These are runs in the area that I have heard have been done, and are included here for communal knowledge because I cannot find information about them in any guides, online or in print.  This page will be stored in the "Tutorials/Miscellaneous" tab.

Jeff Compton paddling into the Washougal from Canyon Creek, just above the Mercentile take out.

Upper Hagen - One fun double drop about 10' tall, nothing else of note.  Started about half a mile above where the Oregonkayaking crew started. ~ Ryan Cole

Walupt - Lots of wood, a couple bedrock ledges that were portages (choked with wood).  Take out above or big portage around Walupt Creek Falls.

Mill Creek (Hwy 26) - Class III, illegal.

Upper Skamania Mines - some bedrock, lots of wood. - Hans Hoomans, George White, et all.

Outlet Creek (below Outlet Falls) - Ben Mckenzie ran below Outlet Falls to the Klickitat in 2017, lots of portaging through brush due to lack of eddies and wood at the end of long bouldery rapids.

Drowned Out Creek - Nate Merrill and I ran the slide just upstream of NF-3348 on the way back from our first trip down the Illinois in 2010, Hunter Connolly also ran it in 2016ish .   Priscilla and I hiked a ways upstream to scout in 2017 and it turned to steep boulder jumbles pretty quick.

SF Salmon (Mt Hood) - My dad and I ran the lower mile of this once.  There was a nice, kinda tricky ledge at the put in.  The rest of the run was III+ and pleasant.  We had the family dog with us, she ran down the banks until she got cliffed out at which point we would rope her to the other side of the river.  Rinse and repeat.