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!|
|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|