Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Slesse Creek / Cooper River

Slesse Creek

Now that the gate is open on Slesse Creek, it's finally accessible to paddlers. For a long time I've been touting this as a great training ground for class III boaters looking to step it up.

For those seeking a thrill Ben and I went in there at high water (1.8) in late June and it was a thrilling run at that level that we agreed a class III boater would not belong on. With continuous class III+/IV- and wood everywhere down to keyhole canyon which was a rowdy, somewhat full on class IV/IV+ section at that level with a stout riverwide hole at the exit containing an obvious boof in the middle. It should be said at any level you can easily scout keyhole canyon for wood on your way up, and should do so (there is a road off the right of the main FSR early on that leads to the entrance, and you can hike an established trail with a cable fence down the exit drop). We came out of the run all smiles. We also scouted the Upper above the regular run to find a long clean of wood from what could be seen (90%) continuous class III+/IV- section at that level going almost all the way to the border (Slesse drains off Mount Baker in the states, like the Chilliwack and Tamihi Creek as well), it also had a slightly stouter section with 3 more pronounced drops, but nothing individually spectacular, though it's all pathside but the path start is difficult to find as the road has washed away at the beginning.

I'd ran Slesse Creek early in my boating life at low flows having lots of fun as well, and this last Friday finally got in there at a good medium level with Dave. The level was ideal as Dave finds himself in the nether-regions of the class III to IV boater and finding it hard to find ways to step it up within his comfort zone. Not everyone is as lucky as to have a river with a wide range of difficulty of runs on it like the Chilliwack accessible 20 minutes from home/work that makes it relatively easy to bring it up to a certain level.

As he described it, Slesse Creek is perfect because at medium flows you run down braided class III with the odd optional boof (some good ones!) while keeping an eye out for wood until you get to Keyhole canyon. Keyhole canyon is incredibly user friendly as the entrance can easily be walked, the pre-entrance drop can even be walked, and if you want to the entire short canyon can fairly easily be portaged. Though be mindful at medium flows and up once you put in below the most difficult entrance drop you are committed to the short canyon section and exit drop. Below the braided Creek continues until it marries up with Chilliwack River and shares the Chilliwack Canyon takeout.

Slesse Creek video medium flow by Dave Gerbrandt

Now onto the goods.

Cooper River

Last year I was lucky enough to fire up 2 runs on the Cooper around 1100 cfs, it was amazing, but I was still learning to boat at the time so I was fairly challenged. This year we, along with every boater in Washington apparently, had the idea to hit the Cooper at a perfect medium flow, 1500 cfs. It was a blast.

I'd say the Cooper is comparable to Canyon Creek Lewis in ultra-classicness. It is super accessible, currently super clean with no portages, only a single limbo log, a short hike down to the put in from a paved road, and great camping and usually great weather in the dry non-coastal drainage.

It is a series of ledges spaced apart with medium length pools, medium sized eddies and a couple rapids and multiple move drops. The perfect run to perfect your fading left side boof stroke on. There is one consequential keeper hole, if you get stuck in it, called Norm's Resort, which comes up surprisingly quick. This run could take a long time to fire up with scouting everything if no one knows it, but once it's dialed, laps can be done in under a half hour. I think this weekends record was 14 minutes.

Below are some photos, there are plenty more at lower levels on my August 2011 post 'Washington IV+', or if you search the internet it is very easy to find!

Annie avoiding the undercut Wall of Voodoo.

A look up at the final set on our lower water second day.

Denny running into S-bend. By Annie Lagueux.

The author boofing the standard S-bend line. Photo by Denny Lunge.

Author eating the undercut. By Annie Lagueux.

Pristine cliff jumping directly above the takeout. Look at that water. Photo by Denny Lunge.

Props to O'Conner Chrysler with hooking me up a vehicle that can easily fit a kayak inside! By Annie Lagueux.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Little Wenatchee

Bentley and I loaded up and headed down to Leavenworth for a quick weekend of boating, taking creekboats and playboats along for the local goods. Our weekend was cut short with a bout of illness Sunday, food poisoning or otherwise that stopped us from getting out and sent us home early, but on Saturday we got to fire up a run I'd written off before, that being the Little Wenatchee River.

Little Wenatchee is a great class IV/IV+ run with a good potential for wood you should always be on the lookout for. I'd always written it off as not being worth doing because of the wood that was often at the end of the 'Flume', but after Annie and Denny fired it up 2 days prior and said it was worth it, we were pretty excited to hit it up.

It is a long drive, longer than I thought, as it seems to almost parallel Highway 2 along Nason Creek but just the drainage north of it. Once you get there it is a great area with awesome camping and some nice lakes on the road up, a very secluded feel to the general area.

We got on it at 1000 cfs, lower than the 1300 cfs they'd hit it at 2 days prior. It felt like a good level if slightly on the low side of medium though. There was wood in the Flume as well as some wood shortly afterwards in the same canyon that at the higher level they'd gone over, but at this level required a sketchy one boat eddy catch and portage. The Flume portage itself was a lot nice than I thought it would be, definitely well worth doing the run despite that wood, just keep a heads up for the canyon or have someone who's run it.

The first drop, a 6-8 foot ledge with a hole and undercut and wood after, was lots of fun! Let's Make a Deal was a nice drop as well, but the real gem of this run is the crux drop and runout near the end. An exciting, and not too difficult drop that looks much more intimidating from a couple hundred feet up than it is and features a nice pinch drop at the end!

On the drive back Nason looked inviting running around 800 cfs...but our health was no longer conducive to boating by that time...maybe next time! Also missed out on some Lower Icicle laps, which will also have to wait for another day!

Annie nailing the line on 'First Falls'. Photo by Dan Bentley.

The pinch marking the end of the crux drop from high above. Most fun part of the river! Photo by Dan Bentley.

Looking down into the Flume, unfortunately, as is often the case, currently clogged with wood at the end, mandatory portage. Photo by Dan Bentley.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ashnola River and Exploratory Kayaking

I haven't been firing up the ol' writing skills as often lately, mainly because I have been doing lots of kayaking, which is not a bad thing. Winter seemed to drag on forever here in South West BC. We got in a few trips down to Washington to fire up the Wenatchee the only time I've ever seen it brown and cold and high water Ingalls/Peshastin and experience some new rivers including Money Creek, high water Lower Icicle(sans myself) and the 'Middle Middle' Snoqualmie at a good flow. We've been trying to hit Cascade Creek in Mission with good water to no avail so far as well. Slesse Creek Forest Service Road gate here in the Chilliwack River Valley is now open, which let us easily fire up a high water Slesse Creek run which was an exciting change of pace from the daily Chilliwack Canyon as well since they share the same takeout.

A large amount of time has been spent exploring. Exploratory kayaking is definately my favorite type of kayaking. I love firing up something new, with only an idea of the gradient involved and some Google Earth snapshots, that looks like it has potential. This is what really get my hairs standing on edge. I always keep a 'mission list' handy for when I can find a willing group to go check something out.

A couple things I've been meaning to check out for awhile I've finally got around to, Upper Frost Creek by Cultus Lake is marginal at best. Liumchen Creek, also in the Chilliwack River valley, looks to unfortunately have an unrunnable mega-gnar canyon in the lower reaches, had a decent side of marginal run in it's Upper reaches that we hit last year and this year Paul Harwood and I finally got into the middle section to find a marginal run down to a technical 20 footer into a committing canyon before hiking out that I'd definately like to get into someday, but is worth a closer look with how committing it actually is. Along with Ben, I also had the chance to finally find the easy trail and check out Upper Slesse Creek which features lots of km of clean class III-IV rapids that will definitely be worth firing up at least once!

Along with the Western Canoe and Kayak/Fraser Valley Whitewater crew I've also spent a decent amount of time in the Skagit drainage above Ross Reservoir(Lake) and below it's headwaters, yes this is the same Skagit that fires into Washington State. We ran the Skagit's scenic but mostly flatwater and logjammed Highway 3 to Silver/Skagit section, and while we were doing our shuttle, discovered a gem of whitewater right beside Highway 3, a canyon next to the road with some quality looking visible rapids. Skagit Canyon was definitely worth firing up, starting at 'Skagit #2' bridge it featured some decent roadside boogie with some avoidable wood into a beautiful flatwater micro-canyon before getting into the quality roadside class IV and then dropping over a 12/75/35 foot triple waterfall combo within about 300 m river length to finish off the first canyon! After much debate we hiked out after running the 12 footer and before committing to the second canyon after the waterfalls.

We also made our way up the Silver/Skagit valley and after a quick look at the wood choked Maselpanik Creek, fired up nearby Yola Creek, chronicled on Fraser Valley Whitewater, this was an enjoyable end to an otherwise fun day of checking things out. There were also various trips out to Alouette  River, draining out of Alouette Lake, to check out a stout class IV/V section with a series of waterfalls...

Whether you define missions as arduous failures or good times or both, I'm always up for one. To finally cap off the last couple months we got to fire up Ashnola in it's prime season, with lots of the crew hitting it at high water along with a look at the 6 km marker trib 'Ewart Creek', about 10 paddlers and 10 tag alongs made it to the beautiful Ashnola valley and we fired it up in it's entirety. Three weekends in a row we made the trek and it was run around 4, 3 and 2 on the gauge. Such a quality run.

Ashnola River is an absolute gem. It features 21 km of roadside continuous class IV/IV+ with only 6 or so rapids that are not completely boat scoutable. If you don't want to hit it all, definitely save your energy for the last 6 km, which is the best part. Coming in a close second and featuring the most trying section of the run (Fantasy Island) is from the red 'Cathedral Lakes Lodge' bridge about 12 or so km up, which is my personal favorite section...yes all 12 km are amazing. The section from km 12 to 21 features, from the top, a km or 2 of great steep  canyoned in boulder gardens which turn into class III for a long time with a single really good distinct road viewable rapid and chances for river wide wood, not typically clean like the bottom half. The river usually only runs for a month or two at runnable flows each spring/summer and can be caught coming up or going down typically in May and June.

It's been an amazing and busy spring! Enjoy the pics!

Tristan and Bentley on Ashnola River around 3, typical boogie for the run. Photo courtesy Jen Eddie.

Tristan Oluper potentially first dropping the 12 footer in Skagit Canyon. Photo courtesy Ryan Bayes.

Myself boofing through a good canyon strech of Skagit Canyon followed by Ryan. Photo courtesy Tristan Oluper.

The Frost Creek 10 footer marking the end of the regular hike and runout at high water (yes this is high for super low volume Frost). Photo courtesy Adam Frey.

Paul Harwood scouting the technical 20 footer dropping into middle Liumchen Canyon in the Chilliwack River Valley. The first hundred meters or so of the canyon can be glimpsed behind through the crack. There is no decent seal launch point after the falls. Photo courtesy Adam Frey.

Middle Liumchen Canyon entrance falls. Photo courtesy Adam Frey.

Upper Slesse Creek features many kilometers of clean runnable decentness much like this example. Photo courtesy Adam Frey.

Ashnola River at low water in a calmer section still features amazing scenery and typical Okanagan sun and heat! Photo courtesy Dan Bentley.

The final rapid on Upper Liumchen before we took out. Also probably the most quality rapid. This is at much higher flow than the pictures of the waterfall were taken at. Photo courtesy Adam Frey.

Myself and James on Yola Creek. Photo courtesy Ryan Bayes.