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

White Salmon: Lower sections (Below Husum)

Richie Slocum gives Rattlesnake a go



Lower White Salmon

 This run starts out in the town of Husum, and can begin either above or below Husum Falls.  Below the two bridges in town is a flat pool where those not interested in the waterfall can put in.  Immediately downstream is Rattlesnake, the first and most notable rapid on the Lower section.  Below Rattlesnake are a string of nice rapids of the class II-II+ variety before things off for awhile, keep an eye out for a castle-esque building on river left.  There is also a nice surf wave called the Cave Wave that is green, extremely friendly and with eddy access.  This also makes a nice spot for a lunch break.  Things ease off below here and gravels bars continue through the area where the old reservoir used to be, with houses t bank.  A bridge here marks the optional take out for those just running the Lower section.

Anna Herring and Priscilla Macy take a dynamic duo down Husum Falls.

Lower, Lower aka Bottom White Salmon

I have only continued downstream of the bridge in Husum in the Summer, so this description is for flows under 3'.  I have heard the area around Steelhead Falls becomes challenging to negotiate as the flows increase, but am not familiar enough with those flows to give useful insight over 3'.  

Downstream of the bridge, rapids are fairly continuous class II+ and maybe some areas that dictate class III skills.  The stream moves along through the portion of the stream that used to be underNorthwestern Lake Reservoir.  The rapids stay pretty easy as conglomerate walls start to rise up on either side as the stream approaches the historic Condit Dam site.  Below here the scenic value goes up quite a bit.

Before they removed the dam.

Photo: Shane Conrad

Scenic floating and rapids of a similar difficulty, but different style than those found above the dam continue for awhile, ending in the crux of the run.  The crux can be a bit challenging to describe, but if you are not with people who know the run you can still figure it out.  The crux move is catching an eddy above Steelhead on the left.  Just above this eddy the river makes a sharp turn to the left, then quickly a sharp turn back to the right and enters what is the largest rapid below where the dam used to be thus far (class III), downstream the canyon walls are tall and before the river settles down it turns to the left and out of site.  It is important your first time down not to go around this corner, and error on the side of eddying out too early as the closer you get to this corner the smaller and more challenging the eddies are to catch.

After beaching on the left, walk down the bank to take a scout of Steelhead.  If flows are not low, you may be wading through the river, ropes have been installed to help with this.  Steelhead is about a 5' pour-over ledge into a sticky hole, and is a large step up from the rest of the run.  It has been run successfully numerous times both left and right, avoid the middle.  As levels increase, so does the challenge and consequence of this rapid.  I have not done this section above 3', but hear as the water increases, this area gets challenging to navigate both for people running the rapid and those wishing to portage.

The stretch just below Steelhead is beautiful.
750 cfs on the Underwood gauge, a great flow for the Bottom White Salmon.
Sept 24, 2017
Paddler:  Nick Hymel                                          Photo: Priscilla Macy

More class II and one stretch that could be deemed class III continue downstream until the river becomes backed up by the Columbia.  If you are coming from upstream it can be satisfying to paddle under the bridge and into the Columbia before returning to the take out.

Flows:  There is a foot gauge in Husum, monitored by a local who reports regularly to This Facebook Page.   The lower sections never get too low, but above 3' caution is urged around Steelhead for class III-IV boaters.  For these lower sections, the online White Salmon @ Underwood works.  750 was a padded level, and while catching the eddy above the Narrows required attention it was not stressful.  

Access:  Take out on river left at the mouth of the White Salmon River at the intersection of Hwy 141 and Hwy 14.  
An access point between the Lower and Lower, Lower/Bottom exists.  To get there turn left 4.1 miles upstream of Hwy 14 onto Northwestern Lake Rd, drive down and cross the bridge.  Then turn left into the park.

The put in is 6.4 miles upstream of Hwy 14 in Husum (or 2.2 miles upstream of the Northwestern Lake Rd/Hwy 141 intersection) along Hwy 141, where parking is abundant.

 Access:  Before the dam was removed, Steelhead at the de-watered flow was 5-10' tall and a nice vertical boof.   A couple hundred yards downstream a logjam full of trash stretched wall to wall, the portage was done by walking straight over the wood and said trash.  Downstream another 1/4 mile was a powerhouse that returned much of the diverted water to the stream.  From a couple hundred cfs to 1,000 or more the stream would go in an instant.  Downstream were a couple fun rapids, the last of which was what some considered the best rapid downstream of BZ corner.  It was a series of pushy hydraulics and waves, class III+ in nature.  When the dam was breached, the surge of water deposited a lot of sediment in the location of this rapid and it no longer exists, a small price to pay for a free-flowing White Salmon.

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

White Salmon: Middle


Stream: The Middle White Salmon is a fantastic resource near Hood River.  The river is consistently class III-III+ and consistently flowing - it is never too low to run.  At the beginning and end of the run are two rapids that are more challenging than the rest, if they are not to your liking you can put in below the first and take out above the other.

A day on the Middle White Salmon starts with a pleasant walk down a nice trail with built in rails for sliding your boat down, talk about convenience!  Near the bottom the rails bend right, while a less used trail goes left.  Going left gives you the option to put in above the class IV Maytag rapid, right leads to the option to put in part way down or below that rapid.  Maytag is easy to scout.

Watch for a cave along the right wall early on in the run, after a short bit of warm below Maytag.  At the cave rapid, paddling left of it is easy but necessary.  Once past that cave the rest of the river is read and run class III.  Everything aside from that cave rapid can be run where the water is going, a handful of the rapids stand out as more exciting than the rest but never really reach class IV until Husum.

Husum is recognized by a long flat straight-away, and a sign warning of the falls.  Most people scout this drop at the beginning of the day when running shuttle, but it can be conveniently scouted from the left and only slightly less conveniently by stopping well upstream of the falls on river right and taking another look from the Hwy bridge overlooking the drop.

Photo: Priscilla Macy                    Paddler: Alex Hymel


All the channels and all the lines have been run successfully, the middle channel is most common.  Over the years the hole has gotten a bit hungrier, and as flows rise over 3' it's not necessarily the friendly waterfall it is at the end of summer.  Scout and make the decision that is right for you.
Flows:  There is a foot gauge in Husum, monitored by a local who reports regularly to This Facebook Page.   Summer flows are between 1.5'-3.5'.  In the summer  you can ballpark flows by dividing the White Salmon @ Underwood gauge by 400 to get the level on the stick.

This section never gets too low to have a good time on, for class III boaters ready to take the next step it is reasonable to follow someone down below 3'.  On the other end of the spectrum, if you are showing yourself down for the first time this is a reasonable rule of thumb: Over 4' be a class IV boater.  Over 5' be a class IV-V boater.  This run can handle plenty of water without getting to class V.  Husum is friendliest under 2.5'

Access:  Take out in the town of Husum, WA.  Parking is available across the street from Wet Planet Rafting.  It's worth taking a quick peak at Husum Falls from the Hwy 141 bridge in town at this point.

The put in is 4 miles upstream/North along Hwy 141 at the BZ Corner Launch Site.  Remember to take the 2 minutes to fill out your trip information at the kiosk.



I have found myself running the Middle White Salmon after a day on the Green Truss.  Or as a start to a trip ending on the Columbia.  Or when it is flowing in the 4-5' range, when it becomes fast flowing class III-IV wave trains with some fun features.  Or later in the summer on a lazy day, when there isn't water elsewhere.  Or when showing a newer boater down.  Husum Falls was also the first waterfall I (and many others) ever ran. The point is this is a versatile run and a resource PNW paddlers are happy to have.

Maytag @ 6'

Photo: Kory Kellum

Story:  Two of my cousins (Mitch and Braden), had been asking me to take them kayaking.  One summer things lined up, so Priscilla and I put them in duckies and took them to the Middle White Salmon.  They are of the athletic type and did well, I think they both made it through Top Drop and they stayed in their boats through all the rapids.  We spent time in the cave and ate lunch at a spot on river right I hadn't stopped at before.

When we got to Husum, I figured they would look at for awhile and we would call it a day and head for dinner.  They started asking how to run it and it became obvious they were considering it seriously.  I didn't think I was going to be able to describe to them well enough how to boof, so gave them the most useful information I could.  I told them to take a big stroke at the lip, but more importantly a big breath, and informed them it would be chaotic but the falls would let them go and they would pop up into the pool about 10 seconds later.
To my surprise this didn't deter them and off we went, both of them having predictably chaotic, but safe swims.  Popping up with smiles, we collected all the gear save one paddle and headed back towards Portland.

Husum has proven many times to be a good place (at low flows) to paddle above your comfort level and learn the power of the river in a relatively safe environment.  Yet it gets pretty serious as levels start to rise.

A personal note: I have swam out of Husum paddling a raft, hardshell and inflatable kayak.