Saturday, November 17, 2007

An epic adventure on Canyon Creek, WA

2 broken boats, 3 walk-offs and 4 swims later,
we finally reached the takeout in the dark....

Uldis, Joe Stumpfel, Joe's girlfriend Rachel, and I put on above Fly Creek at around 2 in the afternoon. None of us had run Canyon Creek before, but we had all heard that this was a IV to IV+ run, and we thought we were in for a pretty mellow day.

Uldis breaking his boat at the get-in.

Right at the get-in Uldis was doing the seal launch and his boat hit some of the sharp volcanic rock, putting a nasty crack in his Rocker. "No worries," I said, "just go grab my All-Star and playboat this one." After some deliberation he decided to go for it and we were off. 195 pounds is pretty heavy for the All-Star so we figured he would be in for a pretty exciting day. The run starts off as an awesome play run - great surfing waves everywhere with some perfect kickflip and wavewheelin' waves. Just watch out for random pick-up trucks in the river.

Good scenery as we start our (mis)adventure.

After the first few rapids we ran into a couple boaters putting on at a different get-in. Mark from Idaho and Tyson from Eugene hooked up with our group. Shortly after this, Joe noticed Uldis stern stalling down the river and they came to find out that my All-Star had a huge crack in the bottom and was funneling in water fast. Boat number 2 down. Luckily this happened before the canyon because Uldis was able to hike out.

Cracked All-Star - not my baby!!

Working our way into the canyon.

After entering the canyon, things were going good - it was pretty juicy in there, but we were making good downstream progress. We came to a rapid and Mark gave us the line, "Ride up on the left and punch the seam." Mark and Tyson made it through fine then I was up. I punched through upright but didn't have enough momentum to the right so I was getting sucked back in from the left wall. "Oh, that's what he meant by ride up left!" I threw a couple ends in the Mega Rocker and it flushed me out. Rachel was approaching the drop while I was getting rodeo'd, Joe yells to her "Catch an eddy!" But it was too late - I flushed and rolled up in time to see her come through. It was a pretty sticky hole and it took her for a good ride before she popped out. Now we're in a mini canyon so trying to get the equipment together and back to its occupant was a challenge. The only way for Rachel to get down to her boat was to swim, so she held a rope while Joe belayed her around the corner into an eddy with a nasty undercut. She basically slingshotted around slamming into the wall. After some more swimming she was finally reunited with her boat and paddle.

One of the mini canyons that Rachel had to swim through.

Shortly after this, Tyson swam out of a sticky ledge and his boat went for a long ride in another sticky pourover while we all watched and hoped it would come out. After a few minutes we all cheered when it finally was free. We gathered his gear and headed downstream, quickly coming upon a stomping rapid. It was a long rapid with huge waves and holes ending in a sticky pourover. As the group pondered the pourover, I decided to fire it up. I made it through the big stuff fine, but was coming towards the pourover backwards. I had time to get a couple quick strokes off and tried to push my bow up, and I was through! But wait a second, my skirt imploded and I was squirting down river into some continuous class III leading into the 17 footer. So I punched out and made it to shore with my boat floating downstream. After watching this, Rachel and Tyson decided to hike out there - hike-outs 2 and 3. Joe's boat was at the top of the rapid and Rachel's Solo was the only boat at the bottom. With some fast thinking Joe tells Rachel to hike out with his boat and he'll take the Solo. Joe ripped out the bulkhead of the Solo so he could fit, switching from C-1 to two blades, and went paddling after my boat.

Watching Tyson's boat take a ride in a sticky hole.

I thought for sure my boat was going over the waterfall, but luckily it was breached on one of the only exposed rocks about a hundred yards above the falls. Joe ferried out and clipped the boat in as Mark and I held a rope on shore. Okay, I got my boat back, let's go check out the falls. At this level the falls was pretty burly. It requires a delayed boof and if you miss it you're gonna go deep, maybe coming out, maybe taking a serious thrashing, and maybe going into one of the undercut walls. We all ran it with good lines and were off. After the falls is a stomping section with HUGE holes all over the place. I got stopped and went for a long sidesurf - it's really hard to surf the 93 gallon Mega Rocker out of holes. Finally got out of that one, made it downstream a ways and took another long surf. This time I had to just rest in a sidesurf for a minute before I built the energy to work my way out. These holes were massive! After this I was pretty tired. I took a break in an eddy for about 60 seconds before continuing.

Joe buried in the falls.

Looking back up at the falls - it was getting dark fast at this point.

Next up was the double drop - a pair of 6-10 foot ledges about 10 yards apart. I scouted it and it had some nasty recirculation, but it looked good to go. Joe and Mark ran the first drop and then I was up. I guess I was just really tired after all of our (mis)adventures up to this point and was a couple feet too far right. I dropped off the right side of a finger rock right into a nasty seam. I held on for a while trying to keep my head up which was hard in the extremely aerated water. After surfing for a while I realized there was no way I was getting out of there so I pulled. "Wait a second," I thought, "I'm not surfacing!" I was getting recirculated in the base of the falls. Flailing and trying to get out wasn't doing anything and I was down for a while, so finally I curled into a ball and went so deep that all I could see was darkness. I wasn't getting chundered anymore so I hoped I was free, and as I came towards the light at the surface I rejoiced. Sweet, sweet, air!!! As I collected myself on shore I saw my paddle float into the eddy that I swam into - hooray! The second drop is all cliffed out so I watched from the cliff as Joe was trying to unpin my boat from under a log in a pourover. Luckily Rachel had a pin kit in her boat and Joe set up a pulley system to get my boat out. From the cliff there was no way down except to jump into the dark water of unknown depth. Luckily I was able to lower myself down the cliff to a point where it wouldn't have been too bad if it was shallow when I jumped.

By now it was getting really dark. Joe had my boat free and ferried it across the river right above a rapid where someone died. Mark and I both walked this one and Joe decided to run it in the dark after he got the line from Mark.
Mark: "Boof the left side of that rock"
Joe: "Is that the line where the guy died?"
Mark: "Nope"
And Joe was off - having an awesome line in the dark on the death rapid. "Best boof of the day," he later recalled.

Then a short spurt of class II and a 1.5 mile paddle out of the reservoir by moonlight. We were all powering ahead and there's a sign spanning the reservoir. "I wonder what that sign says?" says Joe. "I dunno, but I hear running water up there," I say back. Then we realized we were about to go right into the dam... that would have been a fitting ending to our day! "Oh yeah, we're supposed to go left here," Mark chimes in. We finally made it to the takeout 2 broken boats, 3 hike-offs and 4 swims later. Definitely an epic day.

Paddle safe,


Alex said...

Damn bro, that sounds pretty rough. Bummer about the all-star.

Bryon said...

Sounds like a Big Water Zone Dogg special. I'm glad your all safe. I'm itching for some creeking sitting here in Hawaii!!!