Monday, January 17, 2011

My Worst Swim Yet (Mel's @ 2.5m)

Well it was January 16th, my 6 month anniversary since I first took Kay's course at Purple Hayes, and The Chilliwack River was almost in flood at 2.5 meters or just over 140 cubic meters per second of flow. This compared to the normal 1.2 meters I navigated it at to this point which equated to about 70 meters per second. My high water at the time was 1.5 meters or 85 meters per second. This makes a HUGE difference.

The original plan was to run The Chehalis and Statlu Creek in high water, but no one else was up for this, and chances were it would be in flood, same with our backup plans (Coquihalla, Frosst Creek)...Coquitlam, another idea, looked like it'd be too low after a spike (dam controlled). I still wanted to hit up Chehalis (me wanting to do things other people consider unsafe has seemed a recurring theme since I started boating...within some reason, some chalk this up to me not yet having a bad experience in my kayaking career), but at that point only myself and Merick even had any interest so we called it off.

Merick picked up Dave from Langley and they joined me at my place at the base of The Chilliwack River Valley. Our plan we were still thinking of was Frosst Creek or the classic run, I had a feeling to be a bit more on edge and gave Ryan a shout. Turns out a group of very good boaters was heading up to the canyon to do a high water canyon run...after missing out on the mid-December high water run I'd been itching for a month or so to get in on that kind of action. I told Merick and Dave about my thought and they agreed to follow me up and decide their fate at that time.

We got to Slesse boof (the canyon takeout) and the water was high, higher than I'd ever seen it. We looked at Slesse Creek, and the surrounding river and it looked gnarly for sure. The Abbotsford and beyond crew showed up and got changed, I agreed to get in on the run, Ryan was going in The Villain S and I would take The Pyranha Burn 2010 M (both boats courtesy of Western Canoe and Kayak) since I couldn't get comfortable and didn't like the Jackson. We headed to the put-in and my heart was racing more than it had ever been before. I knew this run would push my limit, but I also knew that I was on a good run and had been good with my roll and staying in my boat no matter what over the last couple months. There was also the fact that a road ran along the right side of the river so if I really wasn't feeling it I could always get out. Dave and Merick made the wise decision not to go for the plunge, and again I was in my usual spot as the least skilled, least experienced boater on a run that would push my limits.

We headed down the river, I felt confident, on my game, I loved the feel of the Burn off the bat, though slightly less, only slightly than The Pure. I was hitting holes and trying to get in the action on the easier early part of the run. The water felt big, but not too big, it felt like I could handle it without too much difficulty, if the odd time when I felt off balance more than usual, this is possibly because of the boat, which is edgier than most creek boats I've paddled, but overall I felt pretty sure of myself and my abilities.

Lots of the usual features were heavily washed out, especially noticeable at cocaine (double-whammy) and Carousel which were mostly flat followed by huge wave trains, but well placed strokes allowed you to land flat, and the real challenge was avoiding the odd huge hole. I probably didn't make the best decision eddying out above the headwall of gunbarrell (shotgun) on river left just before the restricting headwall which actually had water rushing over the right side of it, but my feet were dead, I couldn't feel them, I needed to adjust.

The guys thought something was wrong as no one heard me saying I was eddying out or why over the volume of the water. Ryan was out of his boat and up on the bank, river right of the rapid and motioned that I'd need to ferry far right to get around the feature. Once I saw him in his boat eddied out, and got clear direction I ferried over, making the move I needed without difficulty, this I found was made easier by the boat I was in, which surfed me over to where I needed to be leading to me feeling even better that day.

We were eddied out above Mel's where I had to stretch my legs, still not fully comfortable in the boat. Laura was debating portaging Mel's, but myself and the peer pressure from the rest of the group I think convinced her she'd be fine, I never even questioned it for myself, in hindsight not the best judgement. We discussed the line, this was definately looking like the most challenging part of the run so far, which makes sense since Mel's seems to be the pinnacle or apex of the canyon run, things get easier afterwards and less dangerous.

Before Mel's is a drop called pinball 2, which normally drops into a headwall on river right and at normal levels forms a stream that will squirrel you around to an eddy on river right directly above Mel's drop or is easily avoided altogether by going left of it. Today that was not the case. The headwall looked like something to avoid, though with generally the same principal as before if you played it right, there were a few holes prior to that point, and a zippering seam of an eddy line parrallel to the current just off the wall following the headwall that would not be pleasant to go into. Basically you wanted (this was my plan at least and seemed to be Ryan's as well since I followed him in) to ferry in, head between the holes using the hole on the left to ferry you over so you'd go left of the eddy line (otherwise the current pushed you right into it or the headwall), then head right to avoid Mel's hole. This is where I would go off line for the first time that day.

Ryan headed into the current, followed by Laura who promptly got flushed back into the eddy, then myself. I followed Ryan through the holes, but instead of using the ferry and heading left found myself heading straight and getting pushed right into the eddy line parrallel with it (at the very least, this is the worst way to hit this feature). I knew going in this would be a battle, but was confident I had the skill to work it out. This was not the case. I found myself leaning 90 degrees or so left using my secondary stability and holding in the 'home' roll ready position (as I felt I would flip sooner than I did), I felt locked into that position, holding myself up barely when the current which had full hold of my edge finally threw me under (I must've held myself at that angle for 4-6 seconds). I was thinking 'why didn't I just throw out a wicked high brace, tilt my head and pull myself up!' ...but hindsight is always 20/20.

I rolled up only to get thrown down sideways in a wave, tried 3 more rolls but the current was just overpowering me, this is obviously something I need to work probably was a good idea to try rolling prior to the run, and it didn't help that I wasn't fully dialed into the boat either. I pulled out of the boat, felt it and my paddle immediately fly away from me as soon as I pulled the skirt, soon my elbow pads came right off my arms. I found myself already out of breath from the roll attempts and soon would be even worse off. The worst part about swimming in water like that is that you never have any idea what's ahead and when to breathe, when you can see anything, it's only 15 foot waves or pourover horizon lines (not too different from being in your boat at that level), you're in and out of the water whether you've got air or water in your mouth at the time, at times I felt myself held down underwater for 3 seconds or more at a time but it felt like an eternity. You run out of energy fast, and the most difficult thing is to avoid panache and focus and drive towards what needs to get done for your best possible outcome. Things related to your gear and necessary for safety might restrict your breathing a bit as well, and each little detail you'll notice at this point, from your helmet chinstrap digging in to your noseplugs (which could be good or bad), and the throat restriction of your slightly tight drytop/suit neck gasket.

I saw Ryan ahead and heard him yelling to grab his boat which I was well on my way to doing, swimming as hard as I could once I composed myself to river right I grabbed his boat as soon as I was close enough and started kicking.

That's when I saw Laura swimming, a little upstream and more towards the middle of the river she didn't look to be in as good shape as I was, soon after we got somewhat near the shore and Ryan asked if I was good, I said yes about 10 feet from shore and he headed off towards her. That last 10 feet was the hardest part of the swim, I was out of energy, out of breath and it was impossible to cross that eddy line. I must've gone through 4 or 5 more drops that were normally big rocks with no water going over them at regular levels. I finally grabbed at the fourth or so thing I could reach on shore and pulled myself up. I got on shore dizzy, and sat down on a rock to compose for a few seconds, then I headed off to make sure Laura was ok, after a few steps I saw Ryan up top on the road and headed up, Laura was up there as well laying on his boat recovering.

The main thing is that everyone was ok, 2 people swimming at the worst possible place in the canyon at a high level is not a good proposition, but despite that, things went well. We did quite a swim with out tandem effort! Going from above the eddy prior to Mel's all the way to just before cable pool, at the rate the river was moving, this didn't take long. My thanks goes out to Ryan for his quick action and rescue boating skills, there is no way at all I could have pulled off anything similar had I still been in my boat.

Thanks to a good samaritan driver who grabbed the demo paddle I was using and Shane recovered we made it back to the take out only to hear that about 10 minutes prior Denny and Shane had gone through chasing our boats still. It is very very difficult to push a boat ashore in such strong water. We headed down to find the other boaters around Thurston Meadows, thinking my boat was under a logjam the guys set out to recover Laura's which was stuck on a sandbar or something.

I headed down to Tamihi to wait and see if my boat would come through. Merick and Dave shortly joined me and told me they'd seen it go through 2 hole drop and Alison Pool, at that point I tried to get ahold of Ryan to get the stronger boaters with their boats downstream to intercept. We were quickly joined by Kiah and his dad who saw the boat go by Slesse Trailer Park, then it came through straight vertical with no bow bag or forward center pillar to keep the bow afloat. We then saw it plunge through Osborne Road narrowly missing getting stopped on a rock or bush and the giant eddy formed on river left. We then went to Vedder Bridge to wait for it then got a call from Ryan, they'd recovered it at Wilson Road.

The boat wasn't in the same shape it was when I was in it, that's for sure, but that's how things go, I've got to thank Shane for recovering it regardless, and I know he and Denny tried as hard as they could to get it out prior. If there's anything any aspiring boaters should take away from this it's that you should be careful in making your decisions and mindful of the consequences as they rise in conjunction with the risks you undertake. Such is the boating life, it's all about what you're willing to push or gain and how much you're willing to lose. The best thing is to try to find a good balance of pushing your abilities and learning, but finding the fine line between that and going too far, and making sure you've got good people boating with you. If better boaters aren't willing to take you down a run because of your level, then don't do it. The case this day was that I felt I was on the safer side all factors considered if pushing my level and had the support of the people I was boating with.

Make reasonable decisions and have fun!

An example of the water that day (around Tamihi I think)

Shane, Denny and Laura passing by Carousel

Jackson Villain S and Pyranha Burn tryouts

This weekend thanks again to the good folks at Western Canoe and Kayak in Abbotsford, BC I was able to try a couple more creek boats in my continuing search for the creeker that best suits me going into my first season of attempting to be a strong whitewater paddler and get again to that next ledge of ability. The following boat 'reviews' are to be taken for what they're worth since varying levels of comfort within a boat drastically will affect how you perform in them I find. I will try to keep these reviews subjective and limited to my experiences when I was comfortable in each, and each boat I'm sure could be rendered comfortable if I were to drive them full time, and this is taken into account.

2010 Jackson Kayak Villain S:

The Villain S is not my kind of boat, it felt like driving a large version of the Medievil through the river, except without the funfactor of being in a small squirty boat that liked to surf everything. The one thing I found it did well was stay above the water, it seemed very buoyant and also very comfortable (I couldn't fit, but it is available with a smaller foot block which a guy like me would need, and also with the customizing you could do with your own boat I'm confident I could make it fit). It boofed ok, but not as well at the wouldn't snap into eddies and edge into currents the way the Pure would...basically it seemed to do everything a bit worse than the Pure or the Magnum. It didn't seem to ferry as well or use features unless you took it to an extreme angle to dig in it's tall side edge. It didn't surf well (neither did the Pure). It did however roll very easily and have amazing secondary stability (you could stand it sideways on pavement!). My verdict is not great, but that's not horrible! I'm an aggressive paddler, I like to lean forward and scoop the water ahead of me when going through features, staying engaged with the water (this I learned from the Medievil where you had no choice), in the Villain S I didn't feel catered to, I felt it was counterproductive and more for a defensive boater, and the biggest disadvantage I had was the lack of speed. In The Pure or Magnum I could slowly plod down a pool reading a line or scout a line where I needed to and then hit it with speed and power through it. In the Villain S I couldn't get this speed going, and it felt like every feature I hit just slowed me down almost to a stop! (much like the Midevil).

The Villain S might be for some boaters, but it's simply not for me, all I could think of the whole time was how much I missed The Pure.

2010 Pyranha Burn Medium:

The Burn was an interesting story, I only used it in high 2.5 m (145 cms) water on half of Chilliwack Canyon, but I found it a great boat. Fun to drive and responsive to my feedback, fairly comfortable, and I'm sure I could make it completely comfortable. It certainly surfed well and ferried better than The Pure, it didn't seem quite as fast, though quite fast and it was easier to keep on line, if slightly. Sitting inside it seemed like such a small boat and felt like a small boat going down the canyon, I really enjoyed the feeling. It does have extreme edges on it, and not as good overall stability as The Pure. I found when I was sideways on a strong eddy line for a good 4-6 seconds that it had great secondary stability. The Pure I found to be a great boat, and was by far the boat I felt the most at home with of all the boats I've driven my first day sitting in them (yes, if you remember The Pure was horribly uncomfortable the first day!). I only needed 2 adjustment/reststops to get comfortable and it was great, I would highly recommend this boat, though I'd give a slight edge to The Pure over it, largely for the intangibles it offers.

Western Canoe and Kayak

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2010 Prijon Pure Weekend Try-out

Thanks to the good folks at Western Canoe and Kayak in Abbotsford I got to try out a Prijon Pure this weekend. I'm not going to call this a review since I only used it a weekend, which I don't think is long enough for a comprehensive review, but I feel like I got a good feel for how it works at my level none-the-less.

It was a cold weekend to try out a new boat, but I got out both days as usual. The temperature hovered around 0 Saturday as we met at the canyon, it was Dave's first canyon run with myself and Merick along for support and guiding. Much like in my Magnum, I had a difficult time getting comfortable in the boat (this is not due to the boat, this is me having a hard time setting up in creekers). Every Eddy we hit I had to stretch my legs with my knees sticking out the cockpit to keep my feet awake. It worked out well since we were describing and running Dave through the easier lines on the run anyway. I'm not even going to count Saturday as a review day, though I did roll the boat into the freezing water to try it out and found it extremely easy to roll, even easier than The Magnum. Dave did great on his first canyon run not even needing to roll!

Sunday was a different and much better story altogether, besides the -4 temps! We had a strong group out of about 9 boats and 10 paddlers with the tandem canoe on the river. In an odd twist, most of the people usually in smaller boats had bigger boats and vice versa, leading to a good chance for some action!

Let me tell you, this boat is a boof machine! I was instantly comfortable this time around after positioning my feet differently and putting an inflatable baloon between my arches giving my feet a more natural forward facing position, this made all the difference. I have never been so aggressive and sure of my boating, I was hitting everything, things I would hit only the odd time or think about in The Medievil I was running with ease in this boat. Every rock in sight I was trying to boof running across the river like a madman (using more energy than I had in awhile!) looking for the perfect ferry, boof and combo move. I was tying things together like never before, hitting a boof into an eddy, ferrying upstream across, and jetting across a hole to the next boof and so on, with ease like I never had before. Even on rocks where your boof stroke isn't bang on the boat would seem to auto boof, and if you nailed your stroke off a larger drop you would find yourself propelled through the air, landing well clear of the hole at the bottom.

It did feel like The Magnum in that it would grab the flow of water to 'auto-eddy', that is if you were going forward, especially in a defensive position and hit any water going upstream you would find yourself turning around off your line, or at the least it would affect your line, hit an eddy and you'd find yourself instantly facing upstream. But lean forward and plant your strokes at your bow and use some smart draw strokes and rudders when needed and you'd find yourself staying on line, it was not as extreme in this regard as The Magnum either as it had softer, but similar edges.

This boat makes you feel incredibly aggressive but at the same time incredibly stable as it seems to keep you stable and afloat in any situation. Another thing to consider is that it is a very long boat at 8'6", about 8" longer than The Magnum for example, but it feels much smaller! I fall well withing the 187 lb weight range as well. But despair not differently sized people, soon there is an XL and S version coming out (like within a couple months!).

Not to mention Prijon has been making boats of the best plastics in the industry for over 40 years, HTP blowmolded designs give their boats 8 more molecules per strain in the plastic, making their boats thinner and lighter (5 lbs or so compared to Villain S and Nomad 8.5). That all combined with a 5 year limited warranty and these are the best built boats you can find. If you want a boat for the long term it's not a bad idea to consider these strongly. I intend to boat up to 150 days + per year in my creek boat each year, so this makes it very attractive to me. Another thing to consider is a replaceable nosecap it comes with...and speed, let me tell you, this boat is fast, so fast that if you are driving forward not paying attention you could potentially get yourself into trouble!

I strongly recommend taking a look at this boat, especially if you do a lot of boating and want to be a good creek boater, or anyone who wants a boat that will simply last, you could conceivably get this boat to start your training and run it through for many years of advancing your skills if you wanted!

It'll be hard to top it.

Western Canoe and Kayak

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Boats and Reviews

I need a creek boat. BC is renowned as being one of the best places in the world for steep creeking, one of the most difficult, technically challenging forms of kayaking, if not THE most. While I'm here, and while I'm fairly young, I want to take advantage of the opportunity to explore and run these creeks, also before they put IPP's on all of them.

In the coming couple of weeks I'll be trying out a few creekers in an effort to find the one that's right for me. Before I start these reviews I figure I should put in some basic reviews of the primary boat I learned on and still paddle, my 1998 Dagger Medievil, the other creeker I own which is now repaired again and about to go up for sale again, a 2003 Riot Magnum 72, and the boat I briefly paddled during my training course, a 2001 Necky Blunt.

One thing to note is that boat reviews are often by very good boaters and/or sponsored boaters. I am neither, at best I'd rate myself at the point of writing this article as a kayaker who's been going at it 6 months, and a decent class III+ boater, and I'm not sponsored. Most boaters who are looking for their first serious, focused boat aren't the best boaters in the world, and have learned maybe on a makeshift package of equipment put together without too much cost, not sure if it's something they'll really pursue, these reviews might cater more to those people. It should also be noted it seems, that since 2003 boat designs really seem to have changed and advanced.

There are 2 boats that really have my eye for purchase as front runners, but I may try a few others just in case, 2010 Prijon Pure and 2010 Jackson Villain S Elite Series. These boats are two of the strongest with the best warranty, and that is one of my biggest focuses for my next couple years of kayaking, along with comfort, which is always paramount in something you'll be spending a lot of time in. Before I try any boats, it should be said I am leaning towards the Prijon Pure because of it's milder version of The Magnum's lines, easy rolling and great boofing combined with good reviews, solid construction and a great warranty and good looking outfitting, it seems like my kind of boat.

2001 Necky Blunt:

This was Kay's boat that I learned my first whitewater kayaking on, I didn't know much at the time, but since trying a couple and getting a bit of experience, it seemed like a solid creeker. It wasn't very comfortable, but it made my Medievil seem very difficult to run, and I didn't have much difficulty on the class I+ water I learned on. Unfortunately that's about all I can remember about it.

1998 Dagger medievil:

I bought this boat before I started kayaking, for one reason, it was only 180$ and it looked cool, aerodynamic, slicey, like a kayak I'd wanna drive. Well let me tell you, it had a real learning curve with it. It took me some time to learn it and learn what type of boat it was, but I can tell you it was probably the best move I made. The boat was amazing, I grew with it, and it made it very difficult at times, amazing primary stability meant I'd be fine if I could stay flat, but as soon as I got on an edge I didn't have much time or flexibility to change it up or I'd be upside down fast! At 6'9" it was a longer boat but with very low volume 58 gallons, slightly more than lots of tiny playboats people use these days, but still definately more of a river runner. It has a long, flat front and back and you MUST maintain a positive paddling position in it, or down goes your stern, instantly and in anything. It's not the easiest boat to roll, but not too difficult. Overall I think learning in it really advanced me faster than otherwise because of the dynamics of the boat. There's also next to no outfitting in it except a basic plastic seat, adjustable foot pedals, and a floating backband, I still say it's the most comfortable boat I've ever been in.

2003 Riot Magnum 72:

The Steve Fisher creeker! That's what I thought for sure when I picked up this boat. I took a chance on it, at the time I was looking for the best deal creeker I could find, and I thought I found it. There was a welded Magnum for sale for a low price, and I jumped on it taking the chance that it wouldn't break again right away, anyway, the price was right and if it didn't work out I could always sell it and absorb some of my losses. It was a very interesting boat, at first it took a lot of getting used to, it would spin automatically, grabbing every current that touched it, eddying out was automatic and you better be ready! I found it easy to roll, and it boofed pretty good, but very hard to keep on line. It seemed forgiving despite it's aggressiveness though and once I got used to it I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately I only got maybe 5 runs out of it before it broke open again. Those are the chances you take!

 Necky Blunt
 Riot Magnum 72
Dagger Medievil

Slesse Creek

If you really want to do something, you'll often end up doing it. Ever since the August throwdown when I'd heard Kay mention Slesse Creek and Keyhole Canyon within it, thinking I'd be able to run it by next year, it was on my list of things to do in the shorter term.

Slesse Creek is the biggest tributary to the Chilliwack River and flows in just a bit downstream of the salmon hatchery from the southeast. It actually starts a long way away in Washington State and is known there as Silesia Creek. It flows through military land just before reaching the river and up until recently has been accessible to everybody. As I understand it was a year or two ago a locked gate was placed on the road up to the put-in at around the same time when many gates were sadly put in place in the Chilliwack River Valley.

Rumor has it there are some great class IV/V sections and waterfalls up above the regular put in...but that's another scouting for another day!

The regular put-in is near the military demolition range for Chilliwack. From there the creek is a wider, shallower class III run down to the river, you have to watch out for a couple drops and lots of wood, there were one or two places we had to portage the wood. There is one notable feature on the run and that's keyhole canyon.

Keyhole Canyon is an amazing canyon near the end of the run which you should scout from above on the way up for wood, as it often collects in there. It is an amazing class IV- series of 2 or 3 drops in a short bedrock canyon that from the downstream side looks like a giant classic keyhole! How I wish I had a camera! There are tons of salmon spawning in the pools below. When we ran it we did have to go through a narrow river left chute at the bottom as a log spanned the main run of the river.

Above Keyhole is where the military engineers based in CFB Chilliwack used to practice bridge building...if you ever get the chance to see up there, it would be a pretty scary place to build your first bridge! Probably a good 200 foot + drop to the bottom.

The bad idea was running the creek at a super low level, 0.86, which we knew wasn't too wise, but did it anyway, and most of it was a boat drag over rocks. It was still nice to see and keyhole canyon was still lots of fun, but I'd recommend not running it below 1.4 (which I've heard from a few people) if you're ever heading up that way!

Keyhole Canyon calm bottom at super low flow

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Independent Power Production Run-of-River Projects

The elephant in the room, Independent Power Production (IPP) Run-of-River (ROR) Projects (often just referred to as IPP's). First off here I'm going to explain to non-paddlers who might stumble upon this article why they should care about this issue, then I'm going to get more in depth into the subject, maybe, just maybe I can drag some people to the point of spreading the word or taking some kind of action. That is the difficulty.

What are IPP's?

IPP's are the privately owned projects mandated in BC since around 2002 when Gordon Campbell's government put into law a program preventing further expansion by the publicly owned BC Hydro except with regards to massive projects. Basically any new smaller than a single massive dam on the Fraser River type power projects will be privatized with power purchase agreements with BC Hydro. That's right, your public dollars are being used to fund private, for profit power projects in BC instead of government owned and run ones which would not be for the profit of private corporations.

Not only that, but often the rates which are agreed to in a 40 year term fixed purchase contract on these are not even disclosed to the public, even though public funds are used to buy the power. The companies don't even need to be Canadian. Your tax dollars are being used to purchase power at a rate often 3-4 times what we normally pay through BC Hydro from large corporations that are making huge profits and are often linked to the politicians that are entrenching this act, sounds a bit like Enron right?

This has created a 'gold rush' of sorts with companies snatching up all the water rights to BC rivers and creeks that are steep enough to generate power so that they can maximize profits off of our tax dollars.

 An older map showing many of the proposed 800+ diversion projects

Aren't run-of-river projects 'green' power?

No, they are not. In fact California, the greenest state, considers it illegal, dirty, and unfeasible to build and operate these projects, and also will not buy power generated by them. Hundreds of kilometers of powerlines and transformers are needed, massive construction projects including tunneling through mountains, rivers are basically dewatered leading to destruction of fish breeding habitat or lack or sedimentary flow to create downstream fish breeding habitat, a lack of water and natural barrier created by rivers for animals, loss of natural water created erosion. Waterfalls are literally destroyed, natural beauty is removed from the area, places once accessible to people become inaccessible.

There is very little environment consideration or assessment for these projects as the only mandatory step for a project under 50 MegaWatts, which most are or claim to be (though some seem a lot bigger), is to have a federal environmental officer oversee the project. Provincially an environmental assessment isn't even required. Some groups of projects also can have a single environmental assessment even though there have been up to 4 projects under this single assessment.

The worst part is that the energy cannot be stored, there is no or very little backlog unlike a full scale dam, and the only time these projects generate enough power to be viable is during spring runoff, for about a 4 month period of the year.

Also the track record for construction and operation on these projects is horrible environmentally, with very little people to monitor companies basically have a green light to do whatever they want environmentally once the project is approved. Also situations like 'why legally get rid of this pollution which would cost a million dollars, when I could just dump it and pay a 10000$ fine' can potentially arise. The only thing we can do is try to hold them accountable as citizens, a tall order.

In fact, none of the power is being used in BC, and not many people want to buy it at this point, the price it is being bought from BC Hydro at is a lot lower than what taxpayers are under contract to buy it from the IPP for.

Another hurdle faced is recent changes to the federal Navigable Waters Act, which basically don't classify kayaks as vessels, so even though you can navigate a waterway, they can omit that fact based on the new rules. It is very important to look at the recreational loss, also on tourism of dewatering BC's world class steep creeks.

What if a municipality doesn't want one of these projects in their backyard?

Well, they better make a LOT of noise about it...and even then, the BC government, thanks to Bill C-30, can go ahead and put one in anyway...or 14, like are proposed in the Chilliwack River Valley alone. There was massive opposition to the project on Ashlu River from all the surrounding municipalities (excluding after a certain point the First Nations which reversed their view after they came to an 'agreement' with Ledcor, the company operating the project), and the provincial government went ahead with it anyway.

Basically with Bill C-30, passed in 2006, just before the Ashlu project was approved, the provincial government isn't required to consult municipalities for projects like these, but it also extends to other projects such as the gravel pit they are seeking to put in by Chilliwack River currently.

Another interesting fact is that these only create on average 6 sustained jobs for up to 6 projects as they are run remotely.

What can I do to seek facts and voice my opinion?

There are many links under 'links' on the right side of the page which you can look at, also at the bottom of this post. There are a few things a person can do. Talk to your members of government about it at all levels, the more they hear from concerned citizens the better, and find out parties positions on the issue, make it a factor when you are voting. When projects are being evaluated, there are periods of public commentary on the issue, place comments, this cannot be stressed enough, comments can be through the BC Environmental Assessment Office and/or the federal officer assigned to the project.

Spread the word! Let people know how they are being swindled, if nobody knows, and unfortunately it seems not enough people care about these waterways or realize what's happening with their tax dollars, nothing will happen.

If you see a project, protest it. There are a few examples of projects in the Kootenays which have been stopped because thousands of local residents have protested at once time, garnered media attention, and the pressure has forced the public representatives to actually DO WHAT THEIR CONSTITUENTS WANT! What a concept.

As paddlers, we can paddle these rivers and document it. At the very least we can seek mitigation on the projects in the form of mandatory recreational releases, gauges, and better access IF the projects go forward. We cannot be silent. As a paddler and someone who now cares about the environment, my blood boils every time the subject comes up or I even think of it..and I'm the last person you'd think would care as a red-blooded Albertan raised in the industrial heartland of Fort Saskatchewan where most production from the oilsands goes to be refined I grew up thinking nothing of the environment.

BC Environment Network
BC Creek Protection Society
Save Our Rivers Society
IPP Watch
Vancouver Sun Article
Vancouver Sun Article relating to Keyhole Falls
Good editorial 'Mad as hell'

 Dewatering The Ashlu
Keyhole Falls on The Upper Lillooet, one of the next proposed diversions

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lynn Creek

Since I started kayaking, I have continually reset my goals as I've accomplished them. Each one seemed unattainable until I did it, so this is a continuously changing process. Until this point, at this point, realizing I have lots of work to do still and lots to learn, everything finally seems somewhat realistically within reach. The kayaking videos I watch of pro's like my personal favorite, Steve Fisher, finally make sense and I can understand why the things they do that seem impossible, look so easy. I can read articles on advanced moves and techniques and understand the concepts and practice them in the once more difficult runs that I now run on a regular basis.

This is something beginners should definitely keep in mind. If you want it and are willing to learn and put in the time and effort, anything is attainable. With that said comes my tale of Lynn Creek.

By now I'd done about 10 runs in Chilliwack canyon, so I figured I was well prepared for Lynn Creek when Ryan and I set off Boxing Day morning (much better than fighting the crowds to waste money on things that would keep me in the living room!). This was the first new run I felt like I would be able to handle, and didn't feel like was over my head, but instead within my ability.

After finding the takeout we met with about 20 paddlers, many of whom I'd never paddled with, which was amazing. I finally got to meet some of the and Vancouver Kayak Club people that I'd heard about and watched videos or read trip reports about. Imagine a minor hockey player meeting their Wayne Gretzky and Gordy Howe, this is how I felt with some of these people (maybe a slight exaggeration :).

We finally set out to the put in. Without really realizing it, I'd been there before with a friend for a beer and to lounge on the beach in the summer, at the time completely innocent to the idea that I'd one day be putting in to kayak the creek. It was a bit of a walk from the parking spot, more than I'd done for my previous runs, but no problem none the less, though I can see now the value of a good 'backpack' system for a boat.

For the first 20 minutes in and around the put in (just below the lower double falls with the non-suspension) people scouted the falls, a few with the idea to run them. Half the people had gone down already as the first group, and the rest of us thought nothing was going on, then it happened. With about 8 of us running good safety Ryan and Steve ran the falls, it was amazing, the first time I'd ever seen anyone run a waterfall in person. I couldn't believe how fast it was.

After that the run seemed anti-climactic. We ran down on what seemed like a low water, slightly more restricted version of Statlu Creek (the lead in to Chehalis). There were a few spots where some moves had to be made, and one hole to break through, I could imagine it being difficult at high water. I misjudged a rock at one point and ended up rolling up, but overall it was only slightly more difficult than Chilliwack Canyon.

The point of the run though it to remind people of what the sport is often all about, which is to bring people together to have fun, and it was fun! I felt the rush of experiencing a new run for the first time in over a month, a very welcome experience. I watched my first waterfall descent in person as well as a manky IV/IV+ rapid run afterwards, and I enjoyed a challenging run that I was well prepared for (much better than the alternative!).

Lynn Creek opens up many alternatives, it was the first run distinctly pegged as one beginners cannot run by the people I ran it with, and it opens doors. The next steps are things like Chilliwack Lake down to Post Creek, the creeks besides Slesse feeding into the Chilliwack, Sowaqua Creek, Silverhope Creek and finally Norrish Creek and Seymour Canyon. I hope to be running these in the next 6 months at the very least. Chilliwack Lake down was the run Ryan originally intended on running with me the day we did the Lynn, so that will probably be coming very soon regardless.

My new goal for my first year of paddling is to do two things, the first is to finally huck a waterfall, the second is to run some kind of class V rapid or section of river. I am about to buy a new creek boat which will help me to more safely attain these goals. This just goes to show you that if you want something, with a little bit of time and work, you can do it.
Lynn Creek from above

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The (Chilliwack) Canyon

I put Chilliwack in brackets since people who live in the area and do it as their 'backyard' regular run just refer to it as The Canyon.

Chilliwack Canyon was actually the first whitewater I was ever on in a raft in the event that got me thinking of kayaking. But I tell ya, it's very hard to watch the river when rafting down it at a decent water level, you'll spend most of your time simply trying to remember what to do as the guide barks instructions at you while your heart beats wildly! least that's how I remember it. It was also impossible after that to remember anything about the run and correlate it with kayaking once I started, especially seeing as how I didn't kayak at all at the time.

Aaah The Canyon, as a budding beginner boater you constantly hear about Tamihi as the big one, once you've done Tamihi, The Canyon is the next big one. It's all you think about in those early first couple times going down the classic run and running Tamihi wide eyed, preceded by the dodgy trailer park and campground rapids. I remember wondering how anyone could possibly kayak the canyon, of course I'd thought the same of Tamihi when all I could do was the beginner run.

I'd had a good preparation for the canyon, everyone said I'd run rapids and stretches on other rivers that were quite a bit more difficult (this was apparent in hindsight). I'd run Tamihi maybe 20+ times leading up to it. Kay would say you should be able to run Tamihi backwards and do 3 clean descents from Slesse to Raft Ranch before it was safe to go in the canyon, I agree, and I was probably close to this before I did it. All you ever heard was canyon this and canyon that, it really had a lot of lead up to it.

I remember heading up there to do it the first time, it was a fairly cold Saturday in mid or late October if I remember correctly, I'd been running Tamihi for a bit over a month. I could barely sleep the night before and my heart was pounding in my chest, constantly thinking 'what am I doing', 'am I ready', 'what am I getting myself into'.

I got to the takeout just after Slesse boof and the 6 other paddlers were there already, there were Marvin and Klade that I knew, and 4 others I'd never paddled with before who had a laugh at the fact that it was my first canyon run and I'd only been paddling 3 months! It turned out to be a really good run, Marvin was giving me the lowdown as we went and showing me the easy lines if I chose to take them, but I found myself most of the time reading and running on my own, it was at a good 1.2 level, not too pushy and not too bony.

That's it, it was done! I'd done the canyon, now I was on my way to being a bona fide class III+ boater! (you'll hear lots of different ratings on the canyon from III- to IV, and of course it largely depends on water level). With all the prep and fear I'd had going it, it was very anticlimactic, which is a good thing when you're doing something dangerous, better safe than sorry! I remember finishing the run and thinking 'that's it?' and that it was not too difficult, if sometimes more continuous whitewater than I'd experienced. I was really on my game that day too which made a big difference, and I had rolled 3 times as well.

The second run, not so easy, it was at 1.34 or so and I found it a completely different river, pushier, bigger holes, very challenging..I swam that day, into the big hole after godzilla, and that run really humbled me.

Since then I've done about 14 more canyon runs including insane pre-work 7 AM runs before it's even light, multiple runs a day, even 3 one day which started at 7 AM and went until about 330 before I got home..I've done it as low as 0.86 and as high as 1.5, most of the time in my Medievil, 2 or 3 times in my Riot Magnum 72 creekboat which I found took lots of the fun and challenge out of the run. I've gone with just 1 other person at a time when I probably shouldn't have, I've guided 2 kayakers at or just below my level and a tandem canoe down, which probably isn't the best idea either. I now know everything that's coming in the canyon and can tell someone what's coming up and what lines to take all the way down, which is nice. But the canyon will often throw surprises at you in the forms of wood or you being off your game, you can never be too complacent.

The canyon has colorful names for it's rapids and is very pool drop which is nice, with a few more sustained sections, and things can beef up between 1.4 and 1.6 quite a bit. One persons died in the canyon (due to the river), an Olympic swimmer by the name of Mel Zajac back in 1986 at a hole now called Mel's hole, which is probably the biggest, most dangerous feature of the canyon.

There is only 1 more difficult section of the Chilliwack River, but you don't hear about it as much, and that's the first 2-3 km right out of Chilliwack Lake...that's hopefully what's coming next in the near future!

Until then, I suppose I'll spend a lot more time in the canyon until it warms up a bit and I get another creekboat!

 Cocaine drop (also known as Double Whammy)
 Slesse Boof
 The bridge over the put-in
 Klade boofing Carousel
 Sitting a drop above Mel's (me in the big orange Creeker)
Marvin surfing surprise wave