Monday, February 4, 2013

Chelan Gorge Goodness

Well after about 4 months without boating while I did a course in Quebec followed by an extreme lack of anything running in mainland BC over the winter along with a strong aversion to cold weather paddling with my previously frost bitten hands I got to take in a couple Norrish laps recently to get back in the groove and start the season, then I remembered I still had something I'd written up back in September so thought 'why not put it out there':

Following up a great weekend run on Cayoosh Creek we had our sights set on another daytrip as Tristan Oluper only had the Sunday to lay treats the following weekend and it's always good to boat with T-biscuit! With designs on the fall classic Upper Upper Cispus as our number one destination, despite me having a hard time selling the around 4-5 hour drive one way for it, at the last minute that all changed...I was throwing out feelers for options and learned through Mike Harms that Chelan Gorge was releasing that weekend, so we altered course, and with the great footage from years past, guaranteed prime flows, forecast sunny 30 degree Celsius weather combined with warm water in a clean class V pool drop run with friendly options for scouting and portaging the biggest rapids, and only one weekend of availability per year at this point, it was an easy sell on the whole party. Turns out Tristan and Ryan Bayes had their eye on this one last year but didn't get to it for whatever reason.

We headed down Saturday evening for the 4 and a half hour drive through the beautiful North Cascades highway in Washington and unfortunately some forest fire activity happening coming into the Chelan region. We dirtbagged it in classic style alongside the reservoir that night not really knowing where anything was, who would be there or what options we had for camping.

In the morning after a quick breakfast we found our way to the put in where around 40 boaters and rafters were camped out and just starting to stir from no doubt some good activity the night before. In classic Washington fashion we ran into many of the same great people who appear to follow the Washington classics route through the summer hitting many of the same rivers in sequence as flows come and go through the season, Washington seems great for this, you could go there and plan months of pretty surely good flows on classic staples of the state.

For those unaware, Chelan gorge is a rarity in a class V section of river that dam releases for the purpose of recreation one weekend a year, this has been secured through the hard work of some core boaters and American Whitewater, who I strongly recommend donating to as it is a class organization out to protect and expand the places we can do our sport. To get on you must register by 5 PM on the Friday before the weekend and sign a waiver form. There are lots of eyes on you in this very public event in the gorge so be sure you have the skills to put some style into your form!

With the great weather and warm water Tristan and I decided to go topless on the river, a fairly easy decision with how nice it was!

What a treat this run is! You start with a mile long class II float to a fun class III rapid leading into the first big rapid 'Entrance Exam'. This is an amazing technical 4 drop stacked rapid (though some put in below the first drop) that finished with a stout hole requiring a mega-ferry and good punch to get through where the entire river pinches through maybe a 10 foot wide drop. I looked at this rapid for a long time before I decided to run it, I knew the hardest part would be getting through the bottom hole, but my worst worry was getting through the first stage without getting tripped up as I wanted to hit up the entire rapid if at all. Things went great until the mega-ferry at the end, where I ended up getting stuck in the hole and took a dip. In hindsight I should have stuck the ferry a bit longer before committing to the hole, I think I could have made it all the way over instead of going for the speed into the hole route as I got slowed a lot by the pillow on the right then bounced back into the hole by the slack water just beyond. Tristan in true fashion cleaned it. About half the people ran this, and about half those were successful, it was amazing to see the rafts fire this up!

After that I would portage meatlocker, a tight, steep drop, as well as throne (a 15ish foot steep slide drop to late boof flake) wanting a bit bigger pool before Pinnacle that day to fire it up, and Pinnacle (the 2 stage 25ish footer only run once prior to this weekend). Especially after watching someone come very close to hitting the diving board off of Pinnacle.

Super boof was an amazing, straight forward boof that Bentley had an amazing line off of! Boulder seive had a good sneak on the left with a nice landing provided you got your bow up. The couple manky boulder gardens to the end I thought were lots of fun as well, though some would disagree.

It was great to see so many people come out for this, the great enthusiasm Chelan Public Utility District exhibited and good relationship with the boaters participating! Awesome that 3 or so people including Tristan fired up every single rapid on the run and styled it, kudos to them! Always great to boat with the amazing Washington crowd, I cannot underestimate how much I recommend this run to anyone with the skill to do it. Next years release cannot come soon enough!

I really wish we could've caught the Saturday 375 cfs flow as the extra 25 cfs made a marked difference apparently in some of the drops as well, I will be making sure next year to try and catch both days! This weekend kept going the streak of 'best day of my life' boating that has run through much of the summer, gotta love it!

All the shots by Tristan Oluper, except for the one of Tristan, which is by Dan Bentley. I'm just gonna post em up sans description. For a great many many more photos and videos look here:

Fluid as a Lifestyle - Chelanigans 2012

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