Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Upper Norrish Part 2

The plan that morning originally was to hit the classic Norrish run, bit of a shame it didn't happen, as the creek was at a sporty level of 4.8, higher than I'd run it, and the weather was cooperating. So Tegan and I decided to spend our Christmas Eve day dropping in to the second half of Upper Norrish Creek..

I have to admit, I had mixed optimism for the run. To our knowledge, like the first half it hadn't been run since at least the mid 2000's, and at what level we had no clue. We set our same takeout vehicle at Rose Creek and headed up...instead of following the horrible logging spur into our extraction point from last time we decided to park at the bridge over the creek that tribbed in just above the canyon entrance and bushwhack down that, this also looked to be where the road was closest to the river. This was right around the 11 km marker on the FSR, meaning we had about 4 km of river to run.

Now normally I'm the gung ho lets go exploring person of whatever group I'm with, but I wasn't so sure about this..after the less than ideal conditions encountered in part 1, now this time we were starting late (1130), going into a canyon, there was now snow everywhere, and it was a crew of just Tegan and myself. Tegan was gung ho to get in there one was or another and got spirits going, good on 'er! So we set off into the notorious BC Hell****.

It was generally ok getting down until we got to a big slide about 200 feet vertically down to the river, we found an adjacent gully and managed to scurry our way down, but it wasn't easy, it probably took us 45 minutes to get to the river. Neither of us knew though, as my PFD watch had broken! Either way we ended up just above a fun class III boulder garden that lead into the canyon. Realistically the only issue I'd have going back is the access, there has to be an easier way in, and you could get in to anywhere that the river gravel bars out above the canyon between the 11km and 13 or 14 km point, above which is where all the portaging is. It also looks like they are building new logging spurs at the 11 km mark, which might help access.

Into the canyon we went! We were being very careful not to get gorged in and taking it slow with myself eddy hopping out front and signalling to Tegan things were good to go and pointing out ideal lines, always being mindful of extraction points, luckily of which there were lots! I didn't take many pictures of this canyon thinking we would be short on time, but it is the pinnacle and crux of the trip! Beautiful scenery, waterfalls coming down, and around 5-6 class III pool drop rapids, everything very clean and fun! There is a crux rapid, harder than the others and without an easy available portage as well to be prepared for.

Then we came around the corner to see two obvious horizon lines, and a giant room, and I got excited.

As we got up on the high ground to take a look, the scene was better than anything I'd expected to find! One of the more stout rapids with a glory boof led to a pool above a technical 10 ish footer with a bit of a hole at the bottom and a massive and easy runout and pool that would be fairly carnage friendly! The falls had multiple possibilities, either trying to boof the hole straight on or from the right at an angle, or drive left and try to fall down the shallower left and avoid the hole which would be difficult as there was a ledge that could catch you and feed you right into the hole.

Tegan decided to portage and take pictures while I ran the left. Sure enough I caught the ledge and fed into the hole, I managed to dig myself out and dust myself off and was stoked. Early Christmas present indeed.

Basically after the falls are fairly continuous, sometimes steep class III boulder gardens right to the dam, completely clean and fun with no portages or unavoidable wood. There are one or two notably steeper sections with great boofs as well. I class IV boater could read and run their way down this whole thing catching little eddies and watching for potential wood.

After portaging the dam was another big surprise! A stout little canyon with some awesome big drops! Including a river wide horseshoe hole that is backed up by a ledge which I'm not sure you'd ever come out of if you ran into trouble without safety. That was the problem with this one, to set safety someone has to get to river right, meaning they need to run the first drop without issue and catch the eddy on the right above the bad hole, or rope their boat down below the hole and ferry across. I suppose they could also get out on river right above the dam and hike down that side maybe too, though I didn't look at that. It was getting dark so we finished up our mission and set off. Below the mini canyon is another series of good read and run class III pool drops until you reach the confluence of Rose Creek. If you're not interested in the hard stuff below the dam and don't mind skipping the last bit you could just take out there as well.

This 4 km section of water, minus the put in access difficulty, is classic class III with a beautiful pool drop canyon and the optional class IV falls and IV+/V mini canyon below the dam. It also features about 2-3 km of great, at this time clean, boulder gardens. I wouldn't hesitate to go back in there at all. It reminded me a lot of another underused classic section we found this year on Chehalis River out of the lake. Our level of 4.8 seemed medium low, though the canyon and some constrictions were quite fluffy and boily. It almost seems like a step down in difficulty version of the classic lower Norrish run, which is not a bad thing at all, especially as it would be awesome when the lower was too high! I personally wouldn't hesitate to go in here at a level of 6 or 7 at all to check it out, though I wouldn't bring class III boaters at those levels until I knew what to expect. This opens up the Norrish drainage to a much wider level variety which is great!

Only the most difficult 1.5 km left on Norrish proper that I haven't yet's getting time to jump into the middle!

Getting ready for a boat hike! Mamba's unite!

The class III rapid above the canyon, great class III.

In the heart of the canyon. Scenery that parallel's the lower classic run.

The biggest rapid in the canyon, fun!

Is this the 8' 'learn to fly your kayak' drop Claudia talks about in 'Whitewater of Southwest BC'?

Sure enough, the ledge fed me into the hole. Surf's up!

Happy to be free.

Some of the better boulder gardens...kilometers of great boulder gardens!

This is probably the biggest pool you'll find in the gardens, it's fairly continuous

Typical downstream view.

How can you not see the stoke on her face.

Just below the dam exiting a mini-canyon, a stout backed up river wide.

The dam and a sweet rapid right after...swift water feeds into the river wide with little room for error.

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