Monday, July 29, 2013

Big Silver 2013

I probably went up to the Big Silver drainage 6 times this year since March. It is my favorite place in BC so far not just for boating but the exploration aspect, hot springs, camping and just general unique beauty of the place, which keeps me driving the 50+ km dirt road to get there. It continues along a faultline that runs along the base and largely forms Harrison Lake, which is 900 feet deep in spots. There is a road over Kookipi Pass to the Nahatlatch drainage but it has been slid out often in recent years restricting access to only certain bikes and off road capable vehicles despite a shiny new bridge that's been put in over Shovel Creek.

The Big Silver drainage is also unfortunately soon scheduled to be the site of some new private hydropower projects, with two soon scheduled to be on the class V middle Big Silver stretch and Shovel Creek which tribs in just upstream of the upper run.

Ash and I spent some time this spring attempting to explore the Alpine Big Silver, above the upper run and unfortunately found too much wood and mank for it to be worthy continuing on. We also spent some time looking at Shovel Creek as well, which contained some marginal sections, but still has some potential.

We also got the chance to camp up there with snow on the ground this year, check out the hot springs, and explore another little tributary called Snowshoe Creek, which tribs in between the Upper and Middle run. What we found was some steep narrow canyons with a few waterfalls and enough volume to run as well as a nice bridge put in..this is definitely one to come back to, just got to see what's downstream before linking it together.

We also took a day to hike up Cogburn Creek and see what we could spends a lot of time away from the road in a deep canyon where you can catch various glimpses of clean class IV pool drop character...I've heard many different things about this run depending if you put on in the right place, be great to get in there one day.

Twice I got on Upper Big Silver to actually boat it as well with two distinct groups of people. Levels were low, the second time around luckily a bit higher which padded in some of the mank enough to make it more runnable. It is extremely difficult to get on this creek at a medium or near medium water level without a proper gauge. I thought I had it all dialed in based on the Stave and Nahatlatch (above the lakes) gauges but I was wrong after going up there a few times to find the Upper too high and even too high for the lower! At least now I think I can figure out the low runnable levels of this creek based on me a point to work from next year.

Upper Big Silver itself is my favorite run I've done, based on a combination of great whitewater, great scenery, and clean runnable rapids. It features an extremely pool drop run with a very interesting mix of rapids, 17 major rapids in all adorn it's three distinct canyons, each one different from the next. The first canyon is fairly classic with high iron content and very red rocks, the second is super narrow (4 feet at points) and more granite, the third has a mile long perfectly straight stretch with walls perpendicular to the water featuring amazing triangular outcroppings reaching downstream and also an increased flow as Gold Creek has tribbed in by this point. The rock in the third canyon is a combo of the first two.

There are also a plethora of good boofs on this river and flat water through large sections of the most scenic canyons so you get a good chance to soak in the grandeur. It is surprisingly clean of wood, all of the rapids are runnable despite some sievy stuff here and there to avoid, and all but a single rapid near the start and a few smaller ones in the final canyon can be scouted (the one unscoutable is actually the only rapid that can be seen easily from the road). Only those same rapids must be run, everything else can be portaged if desired.

It was great to get another complete descent (in addition to last years) of the run and finally figure out the proper takeout hike, which is now flagged on river right at river level thanks to Sylvain Sauvageau, and you just need to follow the gully to some large rocks up to the road, takes 15-30 minutes to do.

The first time you run this you will think it's a very long run as well, it just keeps going and changing before it finishes. There is also an optional put in 35-40 foot waterfall! The creek that keeps on giving..unfortunately there is a large sieve on the left side of the top of the falls that collects wood and currently has an unfavorable piece trapped in it that extends out into the middle of the flow diverting lots of water right, it is still runnable if someone really wanted to fall off of it though.

Instead of continuing to go on and on about this amazing place I'll again let some of the pictures and video speak for it..Cheers!

Here is a great video by Josh Plankeel of Upper Big Silver! - Really exhibits the character well

Mason and Quinney scout the crux rapid in the first canyon

Mason shows off the Colorado mank lines on 'Options' in the third canyon

Quinney on the left line of Voodoo at the beginning of the straight box

Mason tidying the tongue, the last major drop of the run

Author on a nice random boof in the second canyon. Photo by Mason Lacy

The narrow crevice entrance to the second canyon. Photo by Mason Lacy

Ben early in the first canyon. Photo by Mason Lacy

Ben in the takeout hike. Photo by Mason Lacy

Ben Holzman gets a fuzzy gopro shot of the straight box, it is captured perfectly in the video above the photos.

Mason lines it by Ben Holzman

Getting out to scout El Capitaine, the only drop with wood in the main line. Photo by Ben Holzman

Author dropping the boof drop. Photo by Ben Holzman

Quinney on the un-un ish pourover. Photo by Ben Holzman

The beauty entrance pool. Photo by Ben Holzman

A different view of the entrance pool and optional waterfall. Photo by Mason Lacy

Ash dropping into Alpine Big Silver on a day when the rest of it was blazing high

Alpine Big Silver was short lived with lots of manky wood choked drops like this...maybe another time.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ashnola 2013 / Callaghan Race Reminder!

This year marked the third year I've been able to take advantage of the Ashnola River near Keremeos, BC. About a 2.5-3 hour drive from Chilliwack or about the same distance as Whistler or Robe Canyon. We had five weekends out there, which seems to be about on par with the last few years. Flow ranges were from low to medium high and groups ranging from 1 to 16 people. It was the first year a few of the heavy hitters who were up in Whistler got out, and they seemed to enjoy it. The weather hasn't been as consistently good as in past years out there but for Canada Day weekend it was amazing!

If you're unfamiliar the Ashnola is 22 km of fairly continuous class IV/IV+ depending on flows, almost all roadside and almost all read and run. Definitely a favorite for Fraser Valley boaters. It presents 5 or 6 more distinct rapids and changes character from low volume creeky at the top to medium volume boulder gardeny at the bottom 6 km. It runs at a range of flows though when it gets low the bottom 6 becomes the most viable option. This year the entire 22 km could be done with between 2 and 4 portages depending on level. Putting in at the 12 km mark, the most common put in, provides a very continuous 12 km of class IV/IV+ where you don't ever need to get out of your boat! It also starts you off with the longest and steepest rapid of the run, Fantasy Island, which used to have a 300 foot tree growing in the middle of the river at the exit of the rapid, which has since broken off, but the stump remains.

Typical flow range is focused around June but can include April through July, possibly even August depending on the weather and snowpack and how low or high you're willing to run it. It will get very high with lots of rain and peak snowmelt and very low the rest of the year. There is also a prime dirtbag campspot right at the takeout!

Also a reminder to make it out to Whistler for the 3rd annual Callaghan Creek Race on July 20th! Information can be found at

Ben Marr sails Final Exam

Marcos Gallegos, Sandy MacEwan and Corey May in the thick of it

Ryan Bayes, every the veteran, showing people how it's done

Marcos with a sweet boof around the corner from Sabertooth

Ben, Marcos and Sandy enjoying a second lap while everyone else is enticed by cold beers at the takeout. Photo by Ryan Bayes

Ben following Marcos over Pyramid Boof. Photo by Ryan Bayes

Typical Ashnola boogie. Photo by Ryan Bayes

Author sizing up Sabertooth at a low level. Photo by Dan Bentley

Author with Mason Lacy and Matt Iwama down typical Ashnola boogie at low levels in the bottom 6. Photo by Dan Bentley