Monday, February 21, 2011

Chilliwack Lake Down

Since early December I've been meaning to hit the first 3 km out of Chilliwack Lake to Post Creek, I'd heard it was a short, challenging run and after hiking the bank along it's length saw why, it's clogged with lots of wood along the shores as logs come out of the lake, and has the hardest drops found on the river.

Kiah, Jordan and I made it up there Saturday following a canyon run and a pool session. It was about 4 o'clock by the time we made it to the put-in (any shore along the lake really) and interesting to see the run with only an inch of snow as compared to the 3-6 inches that were there the previous 2 times I'd been.

As I put on at the shore near the mouth of the lake a fisherman and his son saw Jordan and Kiah heading down to the river and were extremely surprised, saying 'you guys heading to kayak the RIVER!? You kids are crazy! Have fun!'.

After heading down the river (at a low 1.1), we eddied out after a couple drops as there was a river wide log, impassable at the current level, causing our first portage. We took the chance to scout a little further down as well. We ran a few more drops before another river wide log, it looked like you could get under the log, but then river right fed a bit into a big sweeper death-log, so you had to stay river left. Kiah and I portaged while Jordan ran it with us keeping an eye out for safety. Jordan had no problem running it and if I were there again I'd probably run it now, seeing the obvious line.

The rest of the run waas read and runnable with some really fun drops that kindof feed into each other, and it ends so abruptly, one of those short and sweet things! More than anything I'd say, as I'd heard as well, that this is a run where it is important to have good eddy catching skills and be able to ferry well with the changing wood situation. It also really demonstrates the importance of being able to boof constantly as there aren't many pools and some sections are drop after drop where it's more difficult to build up a lot of speed and keep it when you want it. The most fun section of the river there is despite being so short, it feels a lot like Mel's drop of the canyon sometimes the left side, sometimes the right.

We almost missed the takeout when we noticed Post Creek coming in on the right, keep an eye out for it if you run this or you'll find yourself with a long hike out!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The New Pure on Slesse Creek

I finally caved in and bought a new Prijon Pure in a nice green color at Western Canoe and Kayak!

After taking a quick swim being loose in the boat to test to make sure I could get out of it ;), I did a canyon run
with the boys Saturday in an attempt to dial it in, a very conservative run feeling very uncomfortable in the boat.

The next day was a different story altogether, I outfitted it some more with knee pads and changed the thigh grip
placement along with building myself a more robust foot block. This made it much better...though it still needs
work. The Sunday run was on Slesse Creek which had a good amount of water in it Saturday at 1.4, but dropped closer
to 1.2 for Sunday unfortunately. We had a good mix of crew with Dave taking his first ride in a creek boat trying
out the Pyranha Burn.

The run started out good enough with most of us hitting lots of little boofs, the stronger boaters up front to
scout for wood which always changes and is usually plentiful on the creek, the seven of us set out.

Slesse Creek is a short run at 7 km compared to the canyon, and not nearly as difficult, maybe a bit more difficult
than Chilliwack classic run except for one short part, Keyhole Canyon, which is a beautiful canyon with 3 good
drops in it including a nice headwall into a sticky hole at the start and a little chute at the end to finish off.
There is a really nice feel to it and it's all portageable, once through the canyon you can look back and it looks
like a perfect classic keyhole shape, hence the name. It's too bad this run is now gated requiring somehow a key or
a long hike in.

After the first few drops was a larger drop leading into a big rootball, we had a swimmer headed for a rootball and
Tanner swam trying to save them. Everyone ended up being alright, though Tanners paddle was briefly lodged in the
rootball and needed recovery. The next challenge was keyhole canyon, one person portaged, I took pictures while the
rest of the crew ran it, Tanner skirting the hole on the right, Jordan surfing the hole a bit, Kiah was getting
sucked back in a strong eddy right beside the hole for awhile. Dave did the hole upside down then rolled up, Merick
had less luck being stuck up against the wall and stalling longer in the whirlpools he swam in the sticky eddy and
ended up needing a throwbag to rescue him. His boat went downstream and he hiked out with us having no idea where
it had gotten to. I also managed to avoid the hole going river right.

Jordan and I headed down to the end of the canyon, surprised to see no wood blockages, we saw Merick's boat, eddied
out right there sitting on a log! After Jordan did a nice seal launch into the creek at that point we headed out,
me tethering Mericks boat behind. We met Merick at the bottom and finished off with Slesse boof! Always a good

Slesse Creek isn't much of a challenge except for Keyhole Canyon and the wood, maybe it would be better with water,
but still a welcome change from doing Chilliwack canyon every single day and welcome!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Gear...why take it up?

Expense. That's one of the first things considered when looking into a sport, there are lots of sports, and they all cost lots of money. Hockey is expensive, you buy gear, lots of gear for your kids and replace it constantly as they grow up, you pay each season, camp or year for them to be on teams, it adds up. Perhaps the best  example is skiing, with skiing you buy the gear which costs quite a bit, then each time you go out it costs money, you pay for lift tickets, food and drink at the hill in the middle of nowhere...over and over again all season, which is only about 6 months long each year. If you're adventurous you go backcountry skiing, which takes more gear though costs less to do over and over.

Using the river costs nothing, you simply get on the river, a navigable waterway guaranteed (for the most part) by the law of the sea, though lately they've bent the rules for the entrepreneuring capitalist Independent Power Producers for the reason of corporate profit at the expense of the general population for private enterprise at the loss of navigable water. For the most part you drive up, leave a car at the take out and head to the put in, run a waterway and go pick up the other vehicle. Like skiing without a lift (this is probably the main reason it's not a mainstream sport, which is good or bad depending how you look at it).

There are a few things you NEED to kayak; a kayak, PFD, paddle, spray deck (skirt), water gets colder you can add a wetsuit, drytop, drypants, drysuit, fleece liner, headcap...then as you get into more risky water things like a full face guard helmet, elbow/forearm guards and a creek boat for increased safety and buoyancy..or specific equipment for playboating like a playboat and possibly a shorter paddle with less feather if you prefer.

The basics used can start you around 300-500 dollars if you buy used equipment, then as you develop a taste for what you want and where you're headed you might want to upgrade for specific purposes and get specific styles of equipment, also once you are at a high enough level to do so you can demo boats on demo days and compare models against each other, this is always a good idea when considering a new boat.

Geographic location is something to consider as well. If you live near mountains you might pursue creeking or a place with lots of waterfalls. If you've got high volume rivers you might need equipment catering to that, if you live in a flatwater area of the pairies you might want a playboat to go hit that whitewater park in the middle of your city. Another thing to look at is higher quality paddles at this point (hang on to 'em!).

As you progress and get better there are safety items to consider having as well, things like a pin kit, rescue vest, overnight gear, breakdown paddle, properly outfitted creeker with steps to get out of a pinned boat, extra webbing, rope, carribeaners, a larger throwbag or two. Also extra equipment like an SLR camera to take high quality pictures of your runs, a GPS to scout new creeks and all the accessories you'll need for a multi-day river trip like sleeping/bivy bag and food.

The money you spend on the sport will typically equate to the time you devote to it. Getting into it I thought it wouldn't be bad, it does add up and you keep thinking you're done but there's always more gear to get! It doesn't help if you lose or destroy boats and gear!

You'll get books, guidebooks, equipment for scouting canyons, equipment to explore caves along the way, name it, the possibilities are endless!

Bottom line is when you compare it to other sports, if you keep it manageable, it is one of the best bang for your buck activities out there...and who wouldn't rather do a flatwater playboat session at the lake or park and play surf session on the river or lap a sections a couple times than hit the gym? Much more fun!

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Gordon

I know, it has been awhile since I updated my blog, longer than ever, this is because I don't currently have internet at home, so I'm relying on the 'ol iPhone tether system which isn't bad, keeps me off the computer 24/7.

Two weeks ago now Dave, Merick, Dave's family and I had a plan to head out to the island for some good 'ol ocean surf, which I'm not a huge fan of. I am, however, a huge fan of hanging out with my buddy Dave, Merick and Dave's cool family, which drives me to sacrifice a bit of my own intentions to often join them where they want to congregate, and if you've never met Dave...he loves a good surf session! (Especially being a surfer before he kayaked).

Merick and I headed out to Jordan River and set up camp that Friday night, I was without creekboat being as the Pyranha Burn, acquired by circumstance the week prior, was still in the shop, so I was stuck in the familiar, but forgotten having not paddled in about a month Medievil. Merick had the right idea having a creeker and a river running playboat in his DragoRossi Mafia 7'10" (which actually measures 7'8" oddly) and his newly acquired Jackson Fun.

Saturday morning after my sleeping in we headed up to Port Renfrew to check things out, there we ran into Shane Vollmers, the penultimate island boater from Nanaimo, also the boater who recovered The Burn from my adventure the weekend before on the high water Chilliwack. Shane was finishing up a surf session in his fiberglass surfboard kayak and ready to hit the triple crown of the Gordon. He was willing to take us down the lower stretch (the easiest), which was awesome, though I had a little reservation being in the edgy Medievil and with the water being a little high for what I would prefer at my level.

Merick and I waited for a few hours while the creekers did the upper and middle runs. We were surprised to see about 13 creekers sneak up behind us on the hike in to the lower to put in the boats. Turned out with the water levels most skipped the class V middle run except for three people and headed straight to the lower.

It was getting late in the day and everyone started heading downriver. Merick and I had the enjoyment of watching Shane and 2 others run the exit falls of the middle run, what a sight. I had a bad feeling about the run, which was weird, it was my first time ever having a bad feeling about running anything. After deciding on things, we headed down late, without much light left, Shane leading myself and Merick. Shane will tell you The Lower Gordon is a class 3 run, I've also been told Chilliwack classic is a class 3 run, and this was of much more difficulty, it just goes to show the difference in rating from one person to another. Island boaters live up to their names it seems of underrating things compared to the mainland...which underrates compared to most of the rest of North America from what I understand....everything else is practice for BC creekers the 'River Gypsy Guide to North America' will tell you, highly recommended by the way!

We headed down, and I found myself in a bind, the same thing that gave me trouble on my high water Chilliwack run was giving me trouble here, the most basic of features, eddy lines. Much of the Lower Gordon is in a commited canyon of restricted space...similar but more difficult I found than Lynn Creek. I found I was getting flipped on eddy lines against the canyon walls on my role side and couldn't get out in time to use my roll, this amplifies the need for an offside roll which will be my new project...along with some other basic boating skills. I doubt I would have had this problem in a bigger boat, but who knows. It was an odd feeling to be fine through big drops then have trouble in the recovery pools below on a pool drop run. I was not having a great day for the first time. These things happen!

Everyone spent the rest of the weekend surfing at the ocean while I watched, my foot hurting from a drop I swam through, and neglecting to bring a second set of next to skin paddling gear and lack of a drysuit stopping me. Finally Sunday night we headed back. It was a fun weekend, but hardly worth the exorbitent ferry prices BC now charges when I didn't have a creek boat and Chilliwack River was at a good level (1.6). It was a great time hanging out with friends on the island though, and being on a river that wasn't Chilliwack with 15 other boaters was cool and a good first too, met some good people as well.

Since then I've been dialing into The Burn in the canyon and man does that boat let you know when you do something wrong, I think driving it a few times will really improve my paddling fast, much as The Medievil did from the start...regardless, this week I think I'll end up caving in and go grab that nice green Pure they've got at Western, after all I have to pickup a paddle anyway, and yesterday was my birthday! 29 deserves a boat right?

Last weekend got to see an interesting sight as the tandem canoe we often boat with in the canyon had a swim, that was interesting, and also marked the first time I've actually seen someone recirculating in a hole...looks just like in the safety films!

Until next time...when I report on the new Prijon Pure I just bought!