Wednesday, December 22, 2010


It was the day after my first off Chilliwack run on Chehalis where I had no difficulty, not even a roll, I felt on top of the world, hadn't swam in about a month, it was September 29th, 2010 and I would learn a lesson this day...

The Mamquam is a far away river, by my standards so far, it's up just east of Squamish, about 2.5 hours from my place. I got the call from Merick that morning and headed into Vancouver to meet most of the same crew from The Chehalis the day before plus a few Vancouver Kayak Clubbers that I'd never met before, in all there was a good size crew with 7 of us on the trip..and as usual, I was by far the least experienced paddler, but today by far not the least confident.

We got to the takeout around 11 and scouted the more difficult 'Middle Mamquam' from the road 300 feet up, I was really looking forward to this part, it looked amazing from up so high you could tell it was big water (compared to what I'd seen) after the Skookum Creek confluence. The gauge read 45-50 at the bridge, we left a car at the bridge end of the 'Upper' and a car at the dam end of the 'Middle'.

Luckily I brought The Jeep today as it was the only thing that could make it the last 2 km to the put in, we ended up running two shuttles to get all the paddlers/boats/gear to the old washed out bridge put in, which looked mean as the entire river narrowed to about 12 feet across at this point! I remember Amy, our most experienced paddler saying to me 'aren't you scared?' as I was getting myself pumped up for the put in, and I said 'Not at all, just excited'...of course I was a bit scared, I was just trying to be the confident paddler. On the same note, when everyone was being asked about their rolls mine was 'fairly bulletproof', and it had been lately, this would not be the case at points this day.

Now, it should be explained, I have a crutch about me, if you could call it that. When I'm paddling with paddlers who I perceive as much better than myself at any one time, I am a much more conservative paddler, modest, and I seem to make more mistakes and not be as sure of abilities. When I paddle with people I don't know or people who I perceive as not as skilled as myself or who think I'm better than I actually might be, I seem to paddle more reckless, hit everything, show off a bit and be confident and try to lead on the river, I really pride myself on my river reading and line picking skills.

I remember at the beginning of the run, we had our order set up, with good paddlers up front to scout, myself and Gun, the two least experienced, in the rear surrounded by Amy and Tom. Gun was following my line, and I was hitting everything difficult I could find, I turned around and told him what I was doing, and it might not be a great idea to follow my line if he was on the safe side. I remember wanting to be up front with the guys I'd paddled with on Chehalis, and feeling we were being ultra conservative..oh how I would be proven wrong.

It was all working out great and we were having a great day with one small swim up until maybe the last third of the run, when I hit a big hole I was recommended to avoid, didn't roll up and swam into a rock in the middle of the river, my boat was a ways downstream. After a quick throw rope, pendulum rescue I had 2 choices, hike up and over a 300 ish foot canyon wall and back down to my boat...or swim down the same wall through some class 3 boulder garden. I hiked, it was horrible, soft, wet logs and wood, devils club in my hand that would last a couple weeks, there were a few points where I had to cross a crevasse where I could see down to the river below it...all 300 feet below. In hindsight it would have been smarter to swim I think. After the half hour trek I finally got down to my boat, and the guys with their long wait were cold and I'm sure not impressed though they didn't show it (maybe they felt more sorry about my hike?). Another rapid and my boat might've been lost they thought.

Either way, we got on our way and a couple rapids down encountered what I think was the most difficult rapid on the run, I'd say a class 4 double drop with messy lead in. I flipped and rolled after the first drop and landed the second larger one after a backwards blind run down...but I made it, I think our scouting team waiting in the eddy below were more relieved than I was! I was still a bit shaken from my swim (my boating always seems to suffer immediately after a swim or bad roll).

A short time later I would hit a little rock, get flipped and swim again! This time due to shallow water more than anything, either way I ended up doing the worse swim I've done through some big waves and rapids, struggling to breathe, and once again had a little trek to my boat...that I overshot and then had to hike back to!

Needless to say, by the end of the LONG run (took us about 5 hours all in all to this point) it was starting to get dark, we were cold, my hands were freezing (pre pogie era, pogies are like whitewater mittens, and glacial fed, lakeless river, lakes allow water to heat up a bit). We just passed Skookum Creeks confluence and your could tell the massively increased volume, for some reason Skookum seemed to be pumping, must've been the big rains the night before, the gauge now read 35.

It was rapidly getting dark and colder, Matt had to leave, but 4 of the seven of us including myself decided to run the much more difficult Middle section from the bridge to the dam, only about 2 km, but a rabid canyon with much higher water than the previous run. Merick, Tom, Ryan from up North and myself ran it. To this day, this is one of the more difficult things I've ran, at the time it was BY FAR the most difficult thing I'd hit. There were big, unavoidable, multi-directional crashing holes and drops, pourovers you had to dig out of or boof well (I don't think at the time I knew how to boof or what it meant?). I remember it being like what I imagine the 2 rapids leading up to and beyond 'Godzilla' on Chilliwack Canyon being at 1.6 or 1.7 but for 2 km. Though it was nice to have lots of water and no shallow rocks.

Despite the minor beat down and lessons I received, because of my success at the difficult middle section, I consider this run and overall success. But I learned a valuable lesson, not to get comfortable. Gun videoed the entire run as well, number 18 has the largest rapid. Unfortunately as you'll find in 2D video, it doesn't capture any of the gravity or size of whitewater, everything looks easy to me in video.

Our entire run on youtube HD in sections

Running shuttle
 Middle Mamquam from 300 feet up or so

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