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.

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