Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Get your Leavenworth

With the drought like conditions we've been experiencing in the Pacific Northwest for around a month now, combined with the ending of the snowmelt season and lower temperatures, not much is running. There are a few options beyond class III that remain however few and far between. Dipper is in this time of year, along with low level Fear Canyon, which among our drunken exploits we've renamed 'Fun Canyon' below 70 cms. In the states you've got a couple gems including Upper Upper Cispus, Lower Lewis Falls, often the Green Truss and of course, Tumwater Canyon on the Wenatchee...

It was a stressful Thursday/Friday at work awaiting word on whether or not I'd be working Saturday, luckily I heard Friday morning I'd be off...made it tough for planning but I was glad to have the time. I decided to combine it with a day I was due from earlier in the month and make it a three day weekend along with some others, so with visions of Halloween whitewater dancing through our heads Josh and I headed off on the 3.5 ish hour drive from Sumas border crossing to Leavenworth with a fresh batch of Timmie's in tow!

I'd never done Tumwater and only ever seen it between 9000 and 16000 cfs, where it looks every bit the big water class V maelstrom that it is at those levels, so I really didn't know what to expect.

We found us a nice campspot up in the hills above the canyon where we luckily woke up to sunshine as it was a cold morning and started off on our own Saturday from the only put in we knew of at Swiftwater Picnic Site. By the time we were scouting 'The Wall', about 20 boaters started to float by, including Ash and Alison from our crew. Along with Kevin and Tom, who'd boated with Alison up on Cayoosh Creek earlier in the year, among a large group of other Stateside boaters. We made our way down and joined Tegan after the dam portage. It was a blast to run POW blind for the first time and hit up Exit Rapid, a very fun rapid with a straight forward line.

Saturday night we spent some time sampling the Leavenworth nightlife and enjoying some local Bavarian dishes (the whole town is like a Bavarian themed Whistler), it was a great time with some heavy alcohol consumption and designated drivers of course!

Sunday morning we met up with Annie and Scott who came down from Vancouver to join our already mixed group of Canadians and Englishmen from Whistler, Golden, Langley, Maple Ridge and Chilliwack and we did some extremely hungover boating. It wasn't sunny anymore and it didn't feel very good. Mistakes were made! Great times altogether though..props to Tegan for completing the entire run short of Exit, which was awesome, including charging into each rapid blind! How's that for a step up on Chilliwack Canyon for ya!

I took another quick look at Exit Sunday and pondered my churning stomach in the eddy above for awhile before charging it again and getting in a nice head dry lap thankfully.

After a more pedestrian Sunday night I put on my photographer hat Monday and grabbed pictures of everyone else running the cheeze. Josh and Kevin had gone home by this point so the group was a bit smaller and it was just us Canucks on the river that day, luckily it turned out to be the warmest and sunniest day of the three.

I highly recommend this low water class IV gem in the 'off-season'...or as off-season as it gets around here when not much else it going. Made a lot of new friends on the water this weekend and had some good times. Now just waiting for that sweet sweet rain.

Now just gotta come back for seconds in the summer with more water...

Taking down the Commonwealth Bastille

Scott finishing off The Wall

Boatercross at The Wal

Alison gets on her elusive near vertical stroke

Mango October resurfacing at Chaos

Tegan digs deep in Perfection of Whitewater (POW)

The rest of the girls coming down POWtown

Scott picking a fight with a wave

Ash nearing the bottom of Exit Rapid

Duckying down Chaos

A series of Exit Rapid shots with Ash

Victory! Quick back across the border before they naturalize us!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fall Ohane session? I think so

Thanksgiving weekend up here in Canada was happening, Riley was back in town and there wasn't a whole lot running locally so we looked to the South to take a chance on a beauty of a river we'd had our eye on for years but always seems to be in when Whistler is good and, at the same time, Ashnola season is in full flight...enter the Ohanapecosh. We hoped the US government shut down wouldn't affect access too much and we lucked out with that and levels it seems!

After a quick MF Nooksack gorge lap on our way down Friday afternoon we got into secret camp (one of the best camp spots in the state!) right near Mount Rainier proper and hunkered down for a wet, rainy night. Despite that the rain was falling as snow at Cayuse Pass a short drive away, I think the bit that did come down all night was definitely a good thing as the river looked low as it was when we got our first glimpse of the clean, clear blue water Saturday morning.

The Cowlitz gauge was reading about 1000-1100, and the water was pillowing up on the bottom end of the slab part of the gauge rock, I'm guessing a low level for the run, but everything went and there was minimal rock bumping happening. It ended up being a perfect day on the river with mostly cloudy skies and rain/mist on and off which kept the temperature relatively warm, I ended up getting some choice shots and everyone had good lines! This is a fun and friendly river to pick your way down when no one has run it and really take your time and enjoy it, all in all we spent about 6 hours on the river Saturday.

None of us had done the run so we took our time making our way down, a couple of us bagged complete D's which was nice as well, leaving nothing un-run except for the stuff upstream of the camp seal launch. By Ohane Falls, a group of 8 from Oregon/Colorado had caught up with us as well. It was a good sign that we weren't the only ones running it at this level.

You can find a ton of good tidbits about this run on Professor Paddle and American Whitewater as well as some great beta, videos and pictures, and let me tell you, they don't do it justice. This is not just a river, but a place that just begs to be experienced. It's lush rainforest greenery combined with beautiful forests and friendly pool drop character are just perfect. While this run is in it's prime in the summer around July usually it seems, it's good to know it maintains runnability at times in the non-summer Washington season...though I'm not sure to what extent. The camping is amazing, good idea to bring some dry firewood during rainy season though as we learned..

We ended up doing a much faster and less exploratory run on Sunday, the level came down 3 inches or so on the gauge rock and things were definitely a bit more boney but still fun. The sun came out but the clear skies made for a cold Saturday night/Sunday morning at camp and on the river! Sunday's run took us about 2-3 hours.

It was my first chance to get the new Mamba 8.6 out on something besides the Chilliwack as well, and it performed admirably. It refused to let me make it look bad by going off line unless I really pushed hard to do it... haha, no seriously it was awesome, coming from a Nomad 8.5 there's a few things I notice:
This boat has lots of volume, but it doesn't feel like too big of a boat to me despite that I'm at the extreme low end of it's weight scale.
It carries huge momentum, I pretty much expect to end up 10 feet further downstream coming off a boof than I would in the Nomad.
The front half feels like a wide L Burn and the back half feels like a Nomad 8.5 to me, which is awesome.

There are definitely some standout rapids on this run that I really enjoyed, some were intimidating but went fine at this level like Elbow Room and Butchers Block. The Ohane Falls/Petrified stack at the end of the run is one of the best series out there in my opinion as well! Go check this one out if you haven't...if you can, do it in the summer...if you can't and it's running in the winter, hell...why not?

Won't somebody please think about the boating!?

Getting ready at secret camp...the Mamba lies in wait, ready to pounce.

Scott takes a look

Riley drops in to Thirsty Beaver while Scott looks on

Riley on Rail Slide from above

Scott on Rail Slide from below

Riley with a good line on Butcher's Block

Super Safety Scott checkin' out Decapitator, this forest is as lush and green as it looks!

Just beauty.

Denny airing out Decapitator

Annie with a nice follow up line

Chillin' in the clear pools

Denny with a monster boof at Summit Creek Ledge

How do you scout your waterfalls?

Scott dropping centre line Ohane Falls as the Oregon/Colorado group catches up to us

Denny on the Petri-slide

Petrified with Ohane Falls in the background, classic shot