Thursday, August 16, 2012

Big Silver Creek

For a long time now a true weekend long mission to Big Silver has been on my radar, having been up multiple times at sub-zero temps and run portions here and there it was time for a proper firing up of sorts.

I'm going to save you some time and say that if you want a succinct description of exactly what Upper Big Silver is without a lot of story, check out the Liquidlore beta page: Here, and also refer to the linked Range Life post. There is a good video by Chris Tretwold as well covering the entirety of the Creek: Here ...for the rest of my ramblings and some decent pictures keep this is the single best thing I've ever fired up to date.

So a week after firing up Callaghan Creek in Whistler finally at a solid level I headed away from the 'sure thingness' to Big Silver Creek, which is in the middle of nowhere to a certain extent, at the moment more than usual even. Normally there is a road through to the Nahatlatch drainage, offering the option of Nahatlatch/Stein Rivers if the Big Silver (BS) level is no good, however at the moment there is a washout between Upper Big Silver put in and Nahatlatch that stops you from making that trip. Faced with the prospect of uncertain water levels, and a 2.5 hour drive one way from Chilliwack largely over dirt road and the possibility of bad water levels and the same return trip, despite the fact that there are natural hot springs in the area and amazing scenery and bush camping, it was difficult to find any takers. But I did.

We headed up Friday night and got a late start Saturday heading for the Upper after camping at Cogburn Creek, which unfortunately at this time is still gated. I got a bit of a headstart wanting to find a good place to hike out at the end, and I actually hiked in to get a look at some of the third (unrunnable) gorge, the portion I saw looked like a clean 10 footer and 2 little boulder drops with a pool in between, but knowing better kayakers than us call this unrunnable we didn't have any desire to find out today.

We got to the put in waterfall and didn't look too hard at it, deciding just to hike straight down to the put in pool from the road, in hindsight probably a bad idea as the hike was difficult, maybe hiking from above the falls is easier, and you can ponder running the falls, a nice 30 footer with a tricky lead in seive to dodge. We knew right away the level was in between at least 2 pictures of the falls I'd seen. After getting to the first rapid, it was obvious the level was low, but it turned out to be the better side of low. Most everything was padded enough and it wasn't pushy, great for our group of nobody who'd done it. I do wish we'd rallied earlier on this sunny warm day to keep the sun we had in the first canyon through the entire run...

Anyway, once you put on you immediately enter the first canyon which culminates with a good 8' double boof ledge and is somewhat short, we thought we were out of it prior to actually being out of it, but being very wary not to enter the third (unrunnable canyon) makes you be a bit more careful.

Then you enter the real star of the run, the second canyon is amazing, the single most scenic place I've laid eyes on. It contains such highlights as multiple fun sets of rapids, some really fun boofs and tight lines, a short crevasse and a longer very straight box canyon, the entire time with manageable rapids that are nearly all scoutable and portageable.

The entire run has this triangular canyon wall that seems to rise from the river, I've never seen anything like it, I imagine it would be a geologists dream in there. Straight canyons, pool drop character, many clean rapids, probably 15+ quality rapids at least with a few tighter sections with shorter pools. You can tell this is one that definitely gets tougher with more water though.

The quality of scenery and whitewater in the Upper rates it as a true classic in my books. It was so clean two of us fired up every drop besides the optional put in falls, which potentially could have been fired up if a person were so inclined. The one mistake we made was taking out at the wrong point after exiting the second canyon. There is a long stretch of flat water, and we were paranoid of coming around a corner and being gorged into the unrunnable, so we must've taken out at a bad spot, as instead of the 15 minute described exit we encountered a 45 minute scramble up then down then up again to the road with heavy brush to whack through. Best to follow advice and exit immediately after the second canyon or at the mouth of the third, not in between! All in all we spent about 4 hours on the section with heavy scouting and picture taking total I think.

The second day we fired up the lower section, which actually comprises what in Claudia Schwab's 'Whitewater of Southwest BC''s 'Upper' run and the Divided We Falls section as described in's River Guides. It was at a good juicy level for this section which was welcome, and a beautiful 30 degree celsius+ sunny day meant I was going to bring my drytop along in the back of my boat for this one.

This section starts off at the bottom of the middle, upstream of the intended powerhouse location for the proposed run(ruin)-of-river hydro project, and you have the option of hiking up to run some quality drops to start you off.

Below here there is some flat water until you come to a rapid, this first rapid is the first and longest of 4 or 5 of a class III+/IV- section, though at this level I'd say closer to IV and might call the first one IV+. These are some fun rapids that run through micro canyons that are of the same extreme scenery experienced on the Upper, though much less impressive than those jewels, as good as they even are!

Following the rapids is a long flat water section, once you pass Clear Creek coming in on the left roadside you enter the Divided We Falls section, you shortly come to a class III rapid leading into yet another extremely scenic tight, flat water gorge then come around the corner to divided we falls! This river just keeps on giving the treats.

Divided we falls is an extremely user friendly waterfall, especially with water. There are actually 2 falls (which you can see from the road on the drive up if you stop at the right place..), divided by an island. The right side is a straight forward falls that at this level had an easily boofed flake and a soft landing. The left side is more slidey with a big tongue into a hole with undercuts on either side, so pick your poison really. Portaging is also an option. Following the falls is a large pool followed by a sloping drop into a short pool followed by a class VI sieved out drop that potentially has a line, but it would be so tight an consequential none of us were looking really, lots of the water goes under the rocks you portage over. We also portaged the drop immediately above as it just wasn't worth the risk, the eddy to get out at the sieve was a small one boater that you had to drive into some shallow rocks, which would be difficult at any higher flow to even get out, so be aware of this.

Portaging the sieve drop itself was a nightmare and required roping boats down to the lower boulders then a sketchy seal launch into the water beside the bottom of the sieve, where it was exiting from under the rocks.

After the sieve is another stretch of flat water until you come to the final drop, a 6 foot boof to chute. None of us ran it as it was higher than people had previously seen it, and lots of the water drove into the undercut right wall with a little room it looked like you could get stuck in. The seal launch portage on river left was some good fun however.

There you have it, the greatest weekend I've ever had, amazing scenery, whitewater, camping, weather, clean turquoise water. The bugs are bad though...oh are they bad! Bring bugspray! Enjoy the pics!

I will not be hesitant at all next year to head up there when I think levels are right based on gauge correlations, hopefully others will be more likely to come as well!

Amazing scenery adorns the canyons. This was the only rapid with wood in the usual line, it was moderately easily avoidable. Photo by Sylvain Sauvageau

Denny breaks in on the last portion of the first and largest rapid of the Lower. By Sylvain Sauvageau

Getting ready at the put in for the Upper. By Sylvain Sauvageau

Denny breaks in on a nice big boof. By Sylvain Sauvageau

Author fires up the second notable rapid of the Upper. By Leif Kirchoff

Annie hits the third notable while author watches and learns. By Leif Kirchoff

Author benefits from recent knowledge on the same rapid. By Leif Kirchoff

The action stacks up a bit more in the crux of the Upper first canyon. By Leif Kirchoff

Author makes the best of running the crux on French intel. By Leif Kirchoff

Author finishing the runout. By Leif Kirchoff

Annie's Crevice. By Leif Kirchoff

The tightest line at this water level. By Leif Kirchoff

Followed up with a nice boof. By Leif Kirchoff

Stacked entrance to the straight second canyon. By Leif Kirchoff

...and zoom out. By Leif Kirchoff

Sylvain runs the third drop on the Lower. By Leif Kirchoff

Denny on the main attraction of the lower, Divided we Falls. By Leif Kirchoff

The class VI seive one drop after the falls, there is a line, but much of the water goes under those rocks on river right. By Leif Kirchoff

The final rapid of the lower. By Leif Kirchoff

Denny takes a bath. By Adam Frey (author)

Denny is in there somewhere. By the author

Denny runs a cool drop with 3 distinct options entering the second canyon of the Upper. By the author

Beachside camping below the lower takeout, mind the bugs. By the author

Annie cleans the falls. By Sylvain Sauvageau

Author wishing we'd got started an hour earlier. By Denny Lunge

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