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)..in 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, whatever..it 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: http://www.youtube.com/user/SeattlePaddler#p/a/u/0/NCAvvIfWIe8