Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pyranha Burn Update

After 4 months and 3 days of life my newly purchased medium Burn bit the dust. On a medium-low water Chilliwack canyon run at the end of November I finished the run to find my boat full of water and cracked along the hull under the seat.

The worst news is that Pyranha offered little to no support in the way of warranty or subsidization towards a new craft. Maybe they ought to look at the great customer support companies like Confluence (Dagger/Wavesport/AT paddles) offer to their customers, even after prolonged use, something like this really sways a new boat buyer like myself as to where to spend my money.

The bottom line for me is that I can't afford to shell out cash for a new boat that will last through only 4 months of moderate class III to IV+ boating. If that's the case I'd stick to used boats, as my main motivation in buying a new boat is some level of expected period of regular use for the price, it shouldn't be a gamble like when a person buys used and you never know how much use is left. When this boat broke, I had it passively up for sale, it would have been bad for everybody involved if I'd sold it only to have it break 2 runs into life with it's new owner.

The warning labels and warranties on boats as they are generally written are like insurance policies, with loopholes for most cases of breakage, basically leaving it up to the manufacturer whether they decide it's worth it and in their interests to cover or not cover warranties at any given time using a cost based analysis, but part of maximizing profit is keeping a good reputation and happy customers that will keep coming back for service or products, especially with a mega-depreciable asset like a boat meant to hit rocks on a regular basis to some extent.

I understand there is the issue of abuse, misuse and also just plain wear and tear vs. manufacturer defect. My last boat (a Prijon Pure), got destroyed on the river without me in it because I swam, I don't expect a warranty to cover this. At least 4 people I know personally have bought new Burn's and had them break from wear and tear(or can we call this manufacturer defect?) within the first year, cracks on the underside of the hull, not smashed in noses or anything. Usually it ends up falling on the retailer to keep a customer happy. Maybe Pyranha needs to review their warranty procedure, and/or look at their plastics. Also, after these 4 months, the hip pads had already started wearing through the first layer of fabric!

I've never heard a good story about a Pyranha boat warranty. On the other hand, I've heard only good stories about Dagger, Wavesport and Prijon warranties. I've yet to hear anything from people I know about Jackson and I've heard mixed stories of Liquidlogic.

I will never buy another new Pyranha creeker unless they change their plastic and outfitting to last under normal creeking conditions for some period of reasonably expected time. I'm beginning to wonder how much use my Molan playboat has left in it...being 6 months old!

Luckily Western Canoeing and Kayaking has come to the rescue and offered to credit me back the purchase price towards a new creeker, and whatever it won't be Pyranha.

Maybe that new Stomper...or a Nomad or Mamba, or back to the Pure?...gotta think on this one...

...and I ended up going with a Dagger Nomad 8.5. There are a couple factors in going with it instead of the runner up (if it's even fair to compare like that) in my opinion, Liquidlogic Stomper 80. Though I prefer the hull design of the Stomper slightly, I simply could not get enough foot room with the centre pillar that runs through the entire length of the boat, and wasn't partial to the rubber backband. Whereas the Nomad has a nice cloth backband that adjusts to my back and a space at the bottom of the centre pillar for my heels, besides being a hull design I already know I love from trying it out on numerous occasions, falling short of the Prijon Pure this is the most comfortable boat I've used.

Another driving factor is the warranty, Dagger has that amazing 3 year 'step down' warranty that I've heard only good things about, and the Nomad has a rep for having good hull integrity as well.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Review: Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS Outdoor Camera

When I started kayaking I didn't have a waterproof camera...or any camera for that matter besides my iPhone I progressed one of the main goals of my kayaking became to capture the beautiful places a person can go that without pictures or film, most other people would not be able to see.

Eventually I plan to have a good SLR setup that I can take with me in my boat, but in the meantime I wanted at least a waterproof camera that I could carry on my person to get some quick, decent shots of friends as they styled lines and our beautiful surroundings.

I decided to wait until the new crop of 'outdoor proof' cameras came out and in May, got my brand new Pentax camera, when the new model was first released. Main features include 14 megapixels, 5 x optical zoom, good 16x9 shots, 780p or 1080i video, waterproof 33 ft., coldproof -10 degrees C, shockproof 4.9 ft, and crushproof. Also GPS pictures tracking, which I have never been able to make work. Like all newer waterproof cameras, it seems to have a myriad of customizable options, even more than most of the newer models, which is nice for people who know how to use them.

The reason I went with a Pentax is because it came the most recommended from people I talked to, followed closely by the Olympus.

Almost all of the pictures on my blog and video taken by me, and sometimes others, were taken with it.

It delivers very good quality pictures for the kind of camera it is, better than average of what I'd expect. I love the high quality 16x9 shots, which is the default setting I use. It is easy to switch between photo and video with the quick use customizable button on the back. Reasonable image stabilization when you use it. Most importantly, it seems to reload quickly to take pictures in quick succession. The flash also works very well for pictures at night.

Two major drawbacks, it does not have a lens cover or enclosure of any kind, I remedy this by storing it in a glasses sleeve. Also I have never been able to get a GPS fix, I thought maybe it didn't work just in Canada, but could not get it to work, even in open spaces, in Washington State, I think it worked one time I tried to use it, though at this point I haven't tried in a long time.

In October, the rear display on the camera shattered, I sent it back to Pentax with a letter and my invoice from original purchase after briefly talking to their customer service on the phone and they sent me back a new or the repaired unit promptly. For this reason chiefly I am very happy with my purchase and highly recommend it. I just wish they would put some kind of lens cover on these.

I'm not a great, probably not even a good, photographer. A great place to start for tips on paddling photography from some of the better people out there is the Vol. 13 No. 3 issue of Rapid magazine from Summer/Fall 2011 which has some amazing pointers.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Liquidlogic Stomper Test Drive

As a non-affiliated boater, over the last couple weeks it was awesome to try out the new Liquidlogic semi-planing hull creeker, The Stomper, in both the 80 and 90 gallon variants!

Not only was I excited to check it out being as it seems a logical boat to like as I currently run a Pyranha Burn M 2010, but also gave me an opportunity for my first try at Liquidlogics outfitting, of which I've always heard so much about and has looked so inviting to me. Western Canoe and Kayak has, for the first time, brought in Liquidlogic boats just as of September, giving me my first exposure to the brand.

In the past I've heard or seen bad things about their plastic quality, but after seeing some of the people I heard that from either purchase or become extremely interested and even intent on purchasing these boats, it signals that something has potentially improved.

First off there's the commonalities between the 2 sizes, that being the outfitting. I simply loved the way the couch seat was formed for comfort and to hold a person in. It felt great. I'm not sure the rubbery backband, as opposed to cloth behind the cushioning was as good, it seemed to want to form less to the shape of my back a little bit. The hip and thigh pads, once properly adjusted were awesome and gripped me right in. The padding between your knees and the boat is the best I've ever experienced. I'd heard some issues regarding the new backband system, where it would pop up and not be properly held in place, however on the boats I tried this had been remedied.

The one issue I did have with the outfitting ended up being a big one unfortunately, I might be able to overcome it, but I'm not totally sure. I wear size 11 Teva Gnarkozi creek shoes in my boat, which take up a good amount of space. My Burn has a centre pillar that leaves a large gap of space between it and the toeblock allowing room for me to stick my heels together (while still having ingenious foam attached in the nose for security and some boyancy), I even encounter issues with this sometimes. The Stomper's centre pillar ran all the way down the centre of the boat, maybe adding more rigidity and security, but at the sacrifice of a couple inches of space for my heels. In the 80 this was an issue for me, in the 90 there was enough room that is wasn't. I know...I'm finnicky when it comes to comfort, that's the way it is, lots of boaters are.

The boat was a thrill to take down the river! First to the 80, very comfortable for the most part, boofs like nothing I've ever boofed before, the perfect rocker it seemed like! Felt a lot smaller than it is...very stable, little edge grabiness. Seemed to self propel out of holes at the bottom of drops instead of sticking around, surfs well. A bit harder to keep on line than the Burn...though this may be because the seat was all the way forward in the 80, the 90 seemed much better off in this regard. Very stable on edge as well, and not as fast as the Burn but more maneuverable.

As for the 90...a sometimes wise man once told me if you can handle a big boat well, there's lots of advantages to one. Considering that, the 90 was great, more stable than the 80...felt like it could just float through anything with ease. It was harder to boof and get the nose up than the 80 for me which I really didn't like. Overall I'd definately go for the 80 for my 170 lbs if I could get comfortable in it.

Final observation I'd say it's a well rounded boat that marries the gap between the Burn and Nomad in a good way, though maybe not as groundbreaking to the point that I expected. If I had to pick a boat tomorrow for the next year at this point besides a Burn this would be a front runner...though I still haven't tried that new Mamba...

I recommend the Stomper, but not sure there's other boats I wouldn't recommend more. For lots of people this will be the perfect boat!


Ryan Bayes, Stompin'

Saturday, November 26, 2011

From Class III to Creeking / Winter Hibernation

A subject that's been coming up a lot lately is how to make the transition from a class III boater to a creeker. I know when I was learning initially, I found it difficult to find out how to progress beyond a certain point, the only things that allowed me to make the transition smoothly were my desire to run big stuff combined with strong support offered by people I boat with. Living in Chilliwack beside the river helps as well, as once I was good enough I was able to transition into the weekday canyon crew in time for the spring melt high water to quickly build my skills and prepare for class IV and up gnar on the weekends.

First step is to get a creekboat. If you really want to creek, you need a boat for it. It is great to learn and develop and hone your skills in a playboat for creeking, and chances are you learned up until now in one of those or a river runner, but ultimately you want a creekboat for creeking, and you want to be comfortable making the moves you'll have to make in that boat before you HAVE to make those moves. Buy a creekboat, and get used to it.

The most important thing to be able to do before you get into creeking is catching eddies, the second most important is boofing, these skills along with being able to read water will make things easier for you. These are beyond your basic skills, stability and roll, which should already be developed to a certain point if you're wanting to attempt creeking. Creeks involve scouting, horizon lines, wood and blind corners which require that you catch eddies to find out what you're getting in for. Creeks are often cramped, narrow canyons with not much water...meaning all the water might be going over a large pourover or waterfall that you have no choice but to boof in order to run successfully.

You might also have to leave your comfort zone and challenge yourself. Get a good support crew to show you how and keep an eye on you and get out there on your favorite run and have fun...but this time instead of looking for the easy lines through the rapids, hit that scary boof and think about your stroke and form while you hit it, make that ferry using a hole or wave, catch the single boat eddy, string moves together, challenge yourself while you have people around to offer pointers to make you better...and once you get comfortable, start doing it at higher water levels and see how the run changes and 'funny' water starts developing all over the place. Spend lots of time in your boat. These are the things that will improve your boating and get you ready for that next step.

I've also been astounded at the amount of people looking for good paddling videos (paddleporn) who don't know where to find them, so here's my quick list of my favorite paddleporn sites to get you going in the morning before that sub-zero paddle, especially now that winter has set in and limited most of our paddling to just weekends!:

Five2Nine Productions do the best videos, they are smart and artistic, on top of promoting river conservation and stewardship as their goals. If you want a thinker and basically the opposite of Bomb Flow check out their 'Currents' series. These have got to be the best boating based conservation documentaries out there.

Bombflow offers some amazing videos, in addition to their regular series, they also showcase various other videos from other sources and get lots of help. Their main series is more 'sit back and enjoy', without much thinking involved, they are just having fun and doing some great filming. Not necessarily child appropriate. They also offer a magazine you can find in many book stores, taking from the snowriding mag 'Bomb Snow'.

For local classics look no further than Fraser Valley Whitewater, of course their is their regular site, but if you want simply to see their videos, they do have a Vimeo feed.

Fred Norquist had some good stuff prior to Bombflow.

Including probably my all time favorite.

Brian Ward (B-real) Banks Mag.

Also...not to be forgotten is Fluid's 'Whitebox' series of videos, these feature some of the awesome and some of the more accessible creeks in BC as well, which keeps me a bit more interested.

Enjoy! ...and don't take the winter off!

Klade about to jump into some low water, sub-zero desperation boating, courtesy Marvin Moedt
Edit (this is a later post I made which makes a lot more sense in here):

For those who think creeking is 'crazy', this is an amazing, safety oriented video of what is a grueling and awesome class V multi-day creeking run (Upper Cherry in Cali).

It demonstrates how the pros mitigate risk by bringing the safety, which combined with skill and good decision making, will determine the difference between a good or bad time on the river in many cases.

Most of the time when I go out on the river in my creekboat, especially anywhere gorged in, or where access in or out isn't easy or possible, I follow these basic satefy guidelines and expect the people I'm boating with to as well,  besides having the required knowledge to apply them when necessary. I will be the first to admit I haven't always done the safest things in hindsight at times, but in order to progress as a boater, I have taken the time to learn and become more responsible, safety is everybody's responsibility!

Beyond that, it will just give you some amazing boating tips in general that will make you a better, more confident boater, paying attention to how people lean, position their bodies, and paddle through difficult whitewater will teach you a lot and I don't care who or how experienced a paddler you are, we can all learn something all the time!

When you cover all your bases, you can concentrate on having fun!

Set aside 40 minutes to watch this amazing video that many people put some hard work into, grab a creeker at Western, along with a breakdown paddle, throwbag(s), first aid kit, put together a basic pin kit and get out there and have fun learning to make your way down something more than just a 'run', but an adventure! (don't start with Upper Cherry!!!!)


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Seymour Canyon

When I first started kayaking I bought Claudia Shwab's guide to whitewater in Southwest BC and briefly scanned through each run reading lots of the captions under the pretty pictures. One particular phrase that stood out was 'this is probably the most difficult run in this book', of course you can imagine what that referred to, Seymour River Canyon, class V as she described it in her conservative way (not a bad thing!), and I'm sure it quickly gets there with some water added.

Imagine you live in downtown Vancouver and you're a kayaker, trapped on the island that is a big city, you wouldn't think there is much in the way of runnable whitewater normally, but Vancouver is different, it has 2 almost downtown dammed rivers, and a third rainfed creek, these are the Capilano, Seymour and Lynn. Seymour river actually has 3 distinct sections (Upper class III, middle or canyon class IV-V, and lower class II with some surf) in addition to an pipeline wave before it enters the straight and out to the Pacific Ocean.

At the end of riverside road among all it's houses is a path that leads up the Seymour river, starting beside a bridge over a particularly gnarly you walk this path you'll notice you can't so much see the river except for one part until you arrive at the twin bridges about 2 km up, well the rapid under the first bridge is Final Exam, the part you can see from the path is 'the bony drop' I think it's called, and the twin bridges is the putin and possibly takeout for the upper run.

As you can probably tell from the hike along the well maintained and oft used path, it's a deep canyon, difficult to scout or portage in places and from what I understand very difficult to get out once you're in it, like many canyons. You actually hike your boat this entire way to the putin, which makes this run, as described in I think, like going to the gym...but better!

The run itself is amazing. The level was a great introductory just under 2 on the rock. I took a look at the entrance to mosh pit, which didn't look that inviting with the lowish water level. Tim and Geoff ran it on the right with moderate success, Annie ran a better left line. In the end I split the difference and boofed onto the middle nugget and ended up catching the small eddy immediately to the right of the entrance. Coming down the rest of the run was no problem following Annies or Tims lines most of the time. Before I knew it we were at Final Exam as I recognized the bridge...barely having taken time to enjoy the scenery up to that point. You can tell the pools in between the rapids could get very short very quick with some water on this one..

I got out at final exam to watch everyones lines, which were all about the same, then got in to run it, probably my worst run rapid of the jaunt besides the lower part of moshpit, but it turned out fine in the end.

All in all it's hard to say whether it's better as a kayaker to live in Chilliwack or Vancouver. Chilliwack has the Chilliwack canyon, which is much easier, but has an easy shuttle and is a longer run that can be had no matter the water level. Seymour canyon is a better workout with the hike, a shorter run, more challenging, and isn't always runnable with water levels. Though I'm told Norrish Creek runs more often, I'm yet to get on that one...I know if I'd run Seymour canyon with the frequency I've been running Chilliwack canyon at, I'd probably be a more proficient kayaker...but who knows!

Being in Chilliwack now, the thing that's kept me from running the Seymour is the traffic, Vancouver traffic sucks! ..and we've got so many runs around here on our own drainage as well as the Nooksack and in the Fraser's often a tough call!

For a great description and amazing pictures check out .

The four of us peeling out, Tim boofing, courtesy Denny Lunge

Me heading into the rapid before final, courtesy Denny Lunge

Me watching as Annie runs final, courtesy Denny Lunge...notice the beauty of the canyon and the sun coming in

Tim and Geoff get ready in North Vancouver 'burbs to do a sweet canyon run, courtesy Geoff Dunbrack

Tim enjoying the hike in, courtesy Geoff Dunbrack

Me enjoying the scenery before the canyon encroaches, courtesy Geoff Dunbrack

Monday, October 3, 2011

Gordon River Trilogy

This weekend Dan Bentley and I headed off to Vancouver Island as is often the case in the winter as that's where the best boating often is.

Vancouver Island is amazing paddlingwise, and very unique. It sports a good amount of classics, beautiful deep canyons with amazing scenery surrounded by lush rainforest. The same things that contribute to long hikes to and from put-ins and take-outs, often partially bushwacked and loaded with gradient. It's a relatively unexplored place kayaking wise, but a few key people, most notary of them 'The island boater' Shayne Vollmers can get you directions to anything if you're willing to make the trek. As a less experienced boater the island scared me quite a bit with stories of sandbagging galore and difficult, rope requiring, sketchy single eddy portages abound. You just have to be prepared to get dirty and know what you're in for. If you're willing to put in the work, the reward can be amazing.

Island season goes perfectly with mainland season. There are a few things that run all winter long in the mainland, like Seymour Canyon and Norrish Creek...but it gets really cold sometimes, and snow can often prevent put-in access as well. For the most part mainland season is better spring through fall. Vancouver Island on the other hand is dry during the summer typically (though this year we were running things in July quite often with the oddly late season!), and starts to come in with the fall rains in October. This year seems to just keep on pumping with stomping high rainfalls occuring in late September putting lots of island runs in the forefront of peoples minds! The Puntledge River ran earlier than ever as there was a release this weekend (Friday night-Tuesday which is tomorrow, yes!). Very out of the ordinary in a good way. So basically, while the mainland is partially frozen over, the island experiences rain feeding it's rivers all winter long and decently warm 10-15 degree celsius temperatures much of the time, and it doesn't turn off normally until May or so.

I've had the pleasure of experiencing some of the great runs out there including Cameron, Lower Puntledge playrun, Upper and Lower Gordon at decently high levels, Koksilah which despite having lots of flatwater is one of the most scenic and history filled runs I've ever done, Mill Bay Creek which you can lap over and over. There are tons of runs I want to get on to this 'island season' including Upper Puntledge, Gold River, Ash, Chemainus Copper Canyon, Hemmingston, Harris, Alpine Browns, Upper Nanaimo...the list goes on! One of the runs on the list that I hadn't really thought of much was Middle Gordon.

Saturday a couple of Upper Gordon laps happened with the University of Victoria paddlers as well as Kiah Schaepe who just moved out there for school from Chilliwack. Then Sunday we met up with Ryan Bayes and Sandra Ramsey from Abbotsford and headed down to drop on the Gordon Trifecta!

Flows were low, lower than low. The Upper ultra-classic run was still fun with a bit of mank, so we thought it shouldn't be too bad, though after the extended low water portage around Entrance falls of the Upper, which Ryan ran, I was wondering whether this low water ultra-mank portage fest would be worth doing (turns out is was, once). I wish I'd ran the entrance falls in hindsight, especially knowing it'd get more difficult as the water rises, though the sneak would come into existence as well...Ryan browned it, made it look easy as a good paddler will often do.

Most of the run was, turns out, ultra-mank and low with a bit of portage-fest involved. Lots of rapids that go when it's higher have lines disappear with the low water. Sieve drop lost the push into the sieve, but developed more retentiveness to the hole prior. Rapids that normally just get run blind had to be scouted for lack of water. There were some standouts for me, including Minefield, one of the most fun rapids I've run, the falls drop, and mushroom drop, the last drop of the run. Bottom day is a bad day of boating is better than a good day of pretty much anything else! ..and I wouldn't call this bad either.

The lower run was mank and much easier than I remember, not surprisingly, the flatwater was not as good, but taking out at the end of the middle isn't that great either! Overall, this might sound like a not that great review, but don't get me wrong, the Upper is ultra-classic at any water level and you can spend all day running that. The middle is definately something I'll return to with more water to cushion things over, and the lower would be better with the water as well. All that and I think I'm running a fever, which doesn't help things. But go out and experience it with the right water levels, you won't be sorry, it's a rare feat to run the whole trilogy at once!

Someone disappears in Terminator while Andrew chills out

Upper takeout with our 12 watercraft

Ryan taking Entrance Falls to Brownschool

Bentley showing us the second best line on this drop of the day

Ryan stomping into Mankfield (Minefield) with the new Liquidlogic Stomper 80

Tim and Ryan going for the Minefield runout, this was my favorite rapid of the day

Tim sneaks the rapid above the falls on the left

Dan Bentley drops the falls with Tim waiting at the bottom, this is after my camera display broke, shooting blind
Pics by me

Sandra has posted up her first video edit of this trip!: Gordon River Upper/Middle video

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Whistler Classics

Three weeks ago I went to Whistler for the first time ever and had what was probably the worst paddling experience I've had. First off on the Soo river I went to roll about 3 rapids in and popped out of my boat only to find the nuts holding the ratchets to the thigh braces ripped out of the plastic. Luckily Ryan from Western Canoe and Kayak was coming out that night and able to furnish me warranty replacements to get my boat going again. The next morning we were putting on the Upper Cheakamus at about 2.65 and I had my first swim in the new boat after blowing the eddy before bridge drop under the suspension bridge and biting it in the left eddy line after the hole. I lost my paddle but luckily Ryan and Dave were able to recover my boat intact. My paddling, however, was done for my 4 day weekend. Luckily there are lots of things to see and do in Whistler, especially for a first timer, what a beautiful place it is!

So with a better result in mind and lower water levels I came back for a nine day stay (my first real dirtbag kayak trip lasting longer than a weekend) armed with an AT2 Superduty paddle as well.

First off was to get back on the Upper Cheak, which I did with a clean run at a less pushy 2.4 ish level. This river is amazing, a pool drop barrage of fun drops at low levels that gets continuous quickly with some water. Fun rapids like cobra and bridge drop build it up to the tougher triple drop, of which in classic fashion the 2nd drop is the kicker. You come in and get blinded going through the first drop to find yourself near the second, but at lower levels it seems as long as you get some speed and punch it with a strong boof stroke left of center there's no problem, however I did see some people swim out of there during the week. Setting safety or walking it is fairly easy as long as you get out on river right before the first drop. I remember feeling a lot of relief after hitting this drop successfully each time! The most fun drops I thought on the run were the one further down where the river constricts a bit around to the right around a big rock that juts out and the final drop with a neat boof at the bottom right just below house rock that I enjoyed running off the right of. It's a quick run after you know it. There is also an optional waterfall at the start, which looks awesome when run correctly, and offers beatings when it's not.

Next was Callaghan. I wasn't too happy to come to Whistler the weekend prior and not hit this one up. This was my favorite run of the week by far, it starts off with a 10 foot bowl type drop that everyone portaged and seal launched, the seal launch is a bit sketchy and the second time I did it I managed to find a slightly submerged rock with my bow and piton in, which didn't feel great. Next up at these water levels is a mank fest rapid before the first waterfall, a 16 footer that comes up fast. The first time I ran the rapid above, I eddied out in a bad spot on river left and flipped upon my return to run the last half upside down and roll up before the waterfall entrance. The first falls gives you a sweet autoboof, so just get a bit of strokage in and lean forward. You want to hit it near the rock in the middle but still be able to make it to the eddy at the bottom on the left, which I didn't do the second run.

The rapid between the falls is one of the more difficult ones, with the water nozzling through some odd rock formations, I actually found it easier to enter on the right the time I missed the eddy and just comitted to running it coming in from the falls. Then you eddy out before the big one. The main event waterfall at Callaghan is one of the cleaner, most popular falls out there, coming in between 20-25 feet with a beauty rolling lip it is something to behold. You can get out and scout it and watch people run it, you can even hike in and just see the waterfalls if you want, though not a hike I'd like to do with a boat, especially out. The idea is to run it just to the left of center, and I found a left boof stroke will keep you away from the wall you otherwise get pushed into on the left. The first time I ran it I was too far left and the flake surprised me, I froze up a bit and burning man'd myself down to plough through the water and surface upright. The second time I was more prepared, but still came in too far left but managed to get in a bit of a stroke to right my trajectory and braced up at the bottom heading into the left wall. The rest of the run is fun boulder gardens with a class V drop that we all portaged, and another drop of note, island drop, where you try to stay away from the hole on the right. Callaghan was the most fun, and I thought most cruisy of the 3 classics at low water.

Lastly is the Soo. I finally got onto this run after we'd gone out to look at Rogers Creek and spend some time at Skookumchuck hotsprings. The Soo feels different, it is bigger water with bigger holes and boulder gardens, also more technical. I think I'd have a much better time on a second run, but it felt more difficult to me. Most of the holes the you run near the edge of the river I managed to do backwards after coming in with too much speed and hitting the wall. I also got stuck in one of the bigger, wider holes, but bumped out thanks to Dan. Overall it was a bad run, and I wasn't very on my game that day...I still got through it without flipping though, and found Linda Lovelace, the typical hardest rapid, to be one of the easiest with the sneak line. Miracle Mile at the end was also lots of fun to run around in and explore.

On the way home I joined Sandra and Jean Luc to run Ashlu Mini-mine near Squamish while Ryan and others went and hit up Tatlow Creek. It was the first time I'd actually seen the Ashlu run of river private power hydroplant in person. Also first time I'd seen any of Ashlu box canyon and 50/50 waterfall, quite the sights to behold! Unfortunately I hurt my ankle a bit on the hike down to mini-mine so took off the river after the first drop and a half. Too bad, I really wanted to run the final rapid, last tango, without getting into 50/50!

Overall it was a great week spent with good friends in an amazing place with great weather, so I can't complain. I got 3 Upper Cheak runs, 2 Callaghan and 1 on the Soo. It'll be great to come back next year and hit things like the rest of Mini-mine, and perhaps Balls to the Wall on the Cheakamus and Upper Birkenhead, but running Callaghan, which is something I never thought I'd get to do this year, was enough on it's own to make the trip worth it and put a smile on my face! It was also great to have a totally succesfull week after the botched prior weekend.

...and I got my paddle back!

Corey May on high water Upper Cheak Falls. Photo by Adam Frey

Luke Morris on Callaghan island drop. By Adam Frey

David Sitar on the rapid between the Callaghan Falls. By Adam Frey

Sandra Ramsey on Ashlu Mini-Mine. By Adam Frey

Sandra dropping a mini-mine boof. By Adam Frey

Me dropping Callaghan's 16 footer. By Montana Wes

Me and Dave watching people drop the Callaghan 25 footer. By Montana Wes

Dan Bentley laying a massive boof on Callaghan's big one in a Topolino! By Montana Wes

Me set for the big one. By Montana Wes

Ryan Bayes dropping low water Upper Cheak Falls. By Annie Lagueux

The amazing hand paddler hitting Upper Cheak Falls. By Adam Frey

Topo puts a smile on Bentley's face. By Annie Lagueux

Callaghan's big one from the bottom. By Annie Lagueux

Looking upstream at Ashlu's hydroproject that they don't call a dam, yet it somehow dams a lot of water. By Adam Frey

Me dropping the big one on Callaghan. By Annie Lagueux

Good video by Luke Morris of The Upper and Balls to the Walls sections of the Cheakamus:

..and the Callaghan:

Andrew Quinn also did a good Cheakamus video:

..and the Callaghan:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Clearly Clearwater River

With a three day weekend again Dan and I headed up to meet Annie, Denny and some others to run Clearwater River at Clearwater, BC.

Not to be confused with Clearwater Creek in northern Washington State, which is a low volume steep class IV+/V creek, Clearwater River in middle British Columbia is a big water tributary of the Thompson River, which eventually feeds into the Fraser and runs down to the Pacific.

It is a good class III+ run with a few sections on it that I've heard of. It is located in Wells-Gray Provincial Park, which is a waterfall park including the 300ish foot Helmcken falls first of all which in itself is awesome. It is fed by 2 distinct lakes, one of which has a 15ish foot waterfall drop that becomes the river and another falls entering at 'Falls Creek'.

Each lake runs down a distinct run including some good canyons that I'm not clear on the difficulty of into a rapid called 'Sabertooth', after Sabertooth is some easier stuff then a class VI rapid rarely run at low water levels called 'The Kettle'...just below the pinch ending of Kettle is the classic playrun we did. You start right beside the pinch hole ending of kettle in your playboat and run 2 cool rapids '3 fingers' which featured a nice eddy boof and 'the wall' where you run left to right between 2 holes.

After the 2 notable singular rapids are some great catch on the fly and eddy fed surf waves including Tsunami, Little Pink and the star of the show, Pink Mountain, which unfortunately required a bit of a hike. I spent most of my time there running Little Pink, which was an awesome wave that catered more to my level of paddling and barely surfing, it seemed at a perfect level for it as well being right around or just under 2 for the weekend!

Overall it's a great place to go and would be an amazing backyard run, but being 4 hours from Chilliwack makes for a bit of a drive...especially when competing against other big water playruns of similar or less distance and arguably better quality and with better creeks in their respective areas including Wenatchee and Puntledge when it's running...a good place to go though! And the camp spot was amazing..!

A pack of rabid Red Necked Grebes invades our eddy space!

Denny tumbles in on Pink Mountain

Monday, August 22, 2011

2010 Pyranha Burn M Comprehensive Review

After my Prijon Pure M finally bit it with my Ashnola swim it was time for a new creekboat. I was looking for something less expensive than the Pure, and wasn't sure whether to go edgy or not so edgy. I had owned and paddled, though briefly, a Burn before and liked it quite a bit (maybe should have stuck with it instead of the Pure??). On the other hand, the one boat I never paddled that I always hear good things about was the Dagger Nomad, partly because I didn't like the Jackson Villain S. So I decided it would be between the Burn and the Nomad.

I paddled the Burn first on a high water Chilliwack Canyon run and really enjoyed it, as I reckoned I would. I was automatically predisposed towards the Burn since I like it previously and enjoyed the Pyranha Connect 30 outfitting found in my Molan M playboat.

Second, I tried the Nomad 8.5, thinking I wouldn't even like it...but I actually really liked it, and it became a very difficult decision to my surprise! Unlike the Villain S I found, the Nomad had enough of an edge to grab eddies and current without needing to be completely driven into it. In the end I decided to go edgy(er) with the Burn, and with outfitting I knew I liked and less weight also made a difference. I also liked how the Burn volume comes in between the 2 sizes of Nomad's. The Burn seems perfectly attuned to my 170 lb 6'2" frame, and I'm still one footpeg from the end footrest wise.

I wasn't sure when to write this review, but now I feel like I have a good level of feel and responsiveness with the boat so it seems like a good time. This review is based on the following rivers and is a follow up on my Burn first look published back in January:

- NF Nooksack Horseshoe Bend (specifically ledge drop down @ 1550 cfs) my opinion the most difficult thing I've yet paddled.
- Chilliwack Canyon, Classic, Beginner run at medium and high levels. (1.2 to 2.4)
- Nahatlatch River Upper and Canyon @ 1 on the new Upper gauge, 1.65 on the new canyon gauge (high water)
- Fall in the Wall @ 310 or so cfs
- Cooper River @ 1100 or so cfs
- Canyon Creek Stilliguamish super low

I bought my Burn on July 23rd on my way to Horseshoe Bend, and promptly almost lost it...after putting on at the bottom of ledge drop by the bench at almost 1600 cfs and boofing onto the other side of the river, Bentley and I realized this wasn't the best idea with just the 2 of us. We went down and scouted the next corner and lead in to SAT rapid, it looked like as long as we stayed on the right of the river we'd be ok. Though there was one log in the middle that looked to potentially give us trouble.

Bentley ferried to the other side, and I started heading down stream moving to the right, I passed under and underhanging tree with branches, boofed a ledge to find my bow resting on the wood and my boat getting typewritered to the left, exactly where I didn't want to be. As I was now faced with a series of unflattering alternatives with the horizonlines ahead already moving in what seemed like quite aerated water I just had to pick my adventure and throw some huge boofs. I got over some nice holes when I hit a diagonal boof compounded by another rock just behind which flipped me over, I rolled up to find myself going over a ledge sideways into what I remember from shore being the biggest hole on the river with no speed. I got tossed and endered a couple times before leveraging myself up just enough for the corner of my mouth, one eye, and my paddle blade to be suspended in the wedge of the foampile to see Bentley floating on by the right side of the river, fresh from his little trashing I understand he took. I went back down one more time and came up upright more on top of the hole facing shore and with a big surge of river managed to scoop myself over the lip and was prompty deposited into a waiting eddy.

Tired and not sure if Bentley was in his boat or not I starting making my way downstream by foot only to find Bentley on the opposite side making his way upstream by foot. We quickly rendezvoued at the bottom of the run once I made my way down and after completing the class III portion below, reflected on our day over beers at the local pub (forget what it's called, but new ownership and no longer has the fish taco's).

Anyway, I guess the point of that whole story is that the Burn handles itself well and very predictably in holes, as I found I was very stable while surfing and chundering my way out of that one.

The edges on the Burn let you grab current, surf and ferry with ease, I find it easy to keep on line much more so than the Pure. The only advantage I really like about the Nomad was it's hole punching, the Burn won't punch holes as well. Boofing is amazing in the Burn, though not as good as the Pure. If you are not careful and mindful of the edges, they will take you for a ride, so you must maintain control in this boat and stay 'one step ahead of the current' I find, as long as you do that, it will reward you handsomely.

I've heard lots of people complain about the Pyranha Connect 30 outfitting. I love this outfitting, the hip pads are easily shimmed, though they loosen between uses a bit, the contours of them firmly and snugly grab my hips making the boat very responsive. The seat is comfortable, and the backband sits nice and low as opposed to the Pure which sat higher up.

I haven't done a waterfall in the boat yet, but I will be more sure to lean forward with the flatter bottom than I was with the Pure I'm thinking.

One thing I notice with the boat is how light it is, to carry on the shoulder, load and unload from the Jeep, weighs so much less than the Pure. Even in the water it feels easy to manipulate and throw almost like a playboat! This is also a huge advantage compared to the Nomad as well.

I am interested to do a multiday in it as it has nowhere near the room of the Pure or Everest or Nomad 8.5 for that matter, but that is lower on my priorities at the moment, and I'm sure it will suffice.

The one negative thing I fear with the boat is the wear and warranty. Though I don't have any first hand experiences, I have some friends who've got cracks in their large Burn's, one within 3 months, one within 11 or so. Each one wasn't from any unusual use of the boat or swimming. I know another person who's had his Burn for about 5 months and it seems to be wearing thin, though no holes or cracks have developed. When I shell out a cool grand or so for a boat I expect to get more than a year of regular use out of it under normal circumstances, barring the unusual of course. I guess I'll find out how well this boat holds up to punishment, and if need be, how Pyranha stands behind their products.

Overall I'm very pleased with the new Burn and have had nothing but great experiences in it. I'm not sure I could change to another type of creekboat, then again that's what I said at one point with the Pure too. I highly recommend it and am now a full on Pyranha paddler having the Burn and Molan. I'm also considering a look at the new Loki once it's available to demo as a slicey, old school style river runner...I do miss the Medieval some days.

This boat makes me forget how much I once liked the Pure...odd how things change. Though they are very different boats, and I still recommend the Pure for what it is.

Day 1

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

High Water Nahatlatch

Head up the scenic Fraser Canyon about an hour and a half from Chilliwack on the '1' to Boston Bar and, after a quick river crossing, you arrive at the Nahatlatch confluence.

Nahatlatch is a beautiful river with beautiful surroundings in the transitional area between the coastal and interior forest (yes, you will find many Saskatoon berries). REO rafting runs raft trips regularly and is based out of the river which drains 2 lakes down into the Fraser. There are 2 awesome sections of whitewater as well as some training ground between the 2 lakes. This being the first time I've seen and ran it, I've only glimpsed it at high water, keep that in mind with my following descriptions as I understand the river takes on different character at lower levels. It is all roadside for the Upper, which adds a certain degree of safety to the run.

The Upper run starts off with a bang as the first bend out of the put in lake contains a long, class IV- hole garden called 'Rose Garden' which leads into a big headwall on the left where 'Meatgrinder' is found. Rose garden itself feels much like a much longer version of 'Trailer Park' rapid on Chilliwack River at higher water to me. The rest of the run is quite continuous class III+ wave trains and holes that is read and run. I did this run in a playboat first, then twice in the creeker. In my opinion it was the most difficult thing I've ran in my playboat, especially not knowing anything about the river.

The first day we put in to run the canyon, I wasn't quite sure so I hiked out just before the entrance at 'Nozzle'. The second day I man'd up and ran it, it's an extremely exciting class IV/IV+ fairly continuous section of whitewater in a huge canyon, eddies, especially near the beginning, are few and just off to the sides. There are a few eddies you don't want to catch on this run as well as they are big, boily and swirly and difficult to break out of. The entire thing is fairly read and run, though it is easier to have someone showing or telling you the lines. The first day we took a look at Nozzle. There are massive waves and huge holes in there to avoid, but they are not too hard to avoid as long as you have a good ferrying ability.

The canyon is definately a step up on Chilliwack Canyon at high water, though short, it is over before you know it. You can continue beyond the takeout into the Fraser from what I understand..I'd love to hear more or try this out sometime! In the end, not knowing the level of the Stein river, and knowing that Nahatlatch was at a nice, high level made it worth it just to stay in one place for the weekend. Much like Ashnola or Cameron, it's a river you can spend some time at and run over and over, at least at my level! Nods to Dan Bentley for bringing his Dagger Agent 6.2 down in there and tearing it up too!

I would say the upper in a playboat was more challenging than the canyon in a creeker though for myself..

Photos by Dave Gerbrandt, Rob Morris and Adam Frey.

Running down towards Headwall

Getting tossed in Meatgrinder

Typical Upper boogie

It's a big river

Encountering the nozzle

Rosegarden/Meatgrinder is a bad place for a swim as some boats and people can attest to

Will getting nozzled while Dan gets ready to sub out in his playboat

Merick heading into Meatgrinder

Chillin' after the canyon takeout

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Washington IV+

As last week moved along plans were being made for the weekend, a couple of different ones were out there, but Tanner had the best idea with some great Washington weather, the fact that it was a Canadian long weekend, but not an American one, and some stuff was still running down there. It was decided.

Our original plan was to hit up Fall in the Wall, Cooper and maybe Icicle. We ended up changing our plans a bit so we wouldn't have to drive as far to camp on Friday night and stayed at Granite Falls to run Canyon Creek of Stilliguamish drainage as a morning warmup, despite the super low levels, lower than last time when it was my very first class IV creek, and lower than I'd ever recommend, it was a good and fun run. We walked the seive drop this time as the sneak and part afterwards didn't look as clean at the lower level. The warm, sunny weather more than made up for it. If anyone finds a green shirt with a zippered collar and long sleeves at the takeout by the way, it's mine...

We finished around noon and headed down to the I-90 to find Fall in the Wall, which we'd all been excited about a few weeks prior when visiting the Wenatchee area, but didn't know if we should make the extra drive with the high flows on a run we'd never run... We got there Saturday afternoon to find it at a good low recommended runnable level and, after some of us finding our balls slowly, picked our way down.

Fall in the Wall is amazing, like a rollercoaster you could do over and over again, it is quite a sight from the top of Fearsome Foursome looking down at the pool below it all, which must be about 40 feet of gradient in what is basically a waterfallish thing divided into 4 sections with small pools in between, at much higher flows they would all run right into each other, at these flows they presented some manky slide opportunities which were fun. The run reminded me much of Mill Bay Creek on Vancouver Island, but smaller drops and more of them. About 6 more fun drops follow Fearsome Foursome.

The first run took about 3 hours to pick our way down, the next morning we ran it in about 10-15 minutes knowing all the lines...not much to remember in there. The second run, sadly was at a bit lower level. There is the namesake entrance falls to the run as well which we looked at, but isn't the most inviting 20 footer out there. Also, after the main run is another fun, taller, slidier rapid into a very short pool before a manky falls called Little Franklin, afterwhich is the certain death jumble that is Franklin Falls.

Running around noon we decided, in our efforts to redefine creeking by running things that had been run a million times already and style them, to head up towards The Cooper, a classic IV+ creek running at a perfect medium with a slight touch of low level. We got there just as a group was about to embark and they agreed to guide us down turning what would've been probably a 3 hour scout-fest into an hour long boof-fest. We looked at 3 rapids (S-bend, Voodoo Wall and Sharks Tooth with a new boat in it) and ran everything else blind.

After cleaning most of the run I flipped twice at Voodoo Wall in front of a crowd of about 50 spectators. The next day we ran the entire run, just the three of us, without scouting except for Voodoo Wall at my request, and the opposite happened as I flipped 3 times, didn't quite hit my perfect lines on Shark's Tooth and S-Bend, but cleaned Voodoo Wall. The run was shorter than our guided run I think.

There are not enough awesome things I can say about Coopers! It is beautiful, a complete classic, although much shorter and lacking the waterfalls of Canyon Creek Lewis. It's 8-10 foot ledge after ledge, slides, boofs, and the odd rapidy rapid with moves, tons of fun, one notably dangerous hole called 'Norms's Retreat' is of note, and as a general rule of thumb pretty much everything can be run on the right!

Dan after cleaning drop 2 of the fearsome foursome

Tanner dropping into drop 3 of the FF

Tanner stroking some rocks

Tanner dropping Shark's Tooth on Cooper, now with more boat

A little audience awaits after Voodoo Wall

Dan boofing a perfect line on Voodoo Wall's entrance

Dan safely heading left on Voodoo Wall

Tanner in Fearsome Foursome

Me after drop 3 of FF

Tanner on Fall in the Wall

Getting ready for Cooper at the base of the unrunnable 50

Me running a slidey early drop on Cooper

Tanner getting mean

Me looking like I know how to kayak some days on S-bend
In all it was an amazing weekend, and  I am loving the Burn!

Photos courtesy Adam Frey and Dan Bentley

Sweet video, some footage from a run we did with these guys: