Tuesday, May 31, 2005

BC High Water Mission

With Shane gone to Wyoming and a truck full of gear to move to Squamish, I convenced Drew and Justin that BC was a proper Memorial Day mission. We all rallied up late on Friday night after two days of 80 plus weather with a plan to boat as many things as possible in three days. BC is the land of no gauges, roads that make you wished you owned a truck like Big Purple, and what has now been coined "hellafuck"... endless amounts of devil's club, thick undergrowth, and deadfall between the road and every put-in. It makes even simple things an adventure. Something I have actually grown to love as a kayaker, because you end up calling it fun at the end of the day.

We set our sights and a trio of BC classics for the first day. We left the Brakendale coffee House with plans of Callaghan, Upper Cheak, and the Soo all in one day. It was 80 plus, not a cloud in the sky, and snow covered peaks in every direction. We got to the take out of Callaghan and water looked like what I called "the high side of good". The river has changed so much at the take out over the past two years and has gotten harder to determine what the flow is. We decided to give er' and headed up the drainage. At the first big drop it was evident that the river was high. The boof on the right was completely covered with water and the run out below was frothy for sure.

Bryan dropping into the first ledge of Callaghan

photo by Andrew Oberhardt

In a very short time we reached the rapid above the first waterfall. The line was the usual right to left move through a boulder garden before the falls, but it was filled in and started raising some hairs. After scouting the first falls there was only one eddy before the next rapid which was just above the big falls. It still looked good and the lead into the first falls was much cleaner at these high flows.

Bryan going for the delayed boof off the 15 foot waterfall on Callaghan

photo by Andrew Oberhardt

Once all three of had run the first falls clean, it became apparent that we need to have close look at the next rapid and the lead in to the big falls. We counted a total of three eddies between the two falls, a huge river wide hole, and realized that there was no room for error here. Justin did the smart thing and portaged the normal "class 4 boogie" on the left, while Drew and I thought we saw a clean line that would still get us to the river right in time to scout the falls. We both had terrible lines. I managed to flip at the base of the rapid and scramble to a micro eddy on the right just above the river wide hole, while Drew got typewritered straight into the hole and all I saw was the bottom of a blue Jefe. He managed to flush and role just above the lip of the big falls and scramble into a micro eddy about five feet above the lip of the 25 footer. With Drew and Justin on river left and me on the right, we all looked into the cauldron below the falls. There was a massive 6-8 foot boil that feed back into a huge hole on the right, but the left line still looked like it would go with a good boof to clear the base. I fired it up first, followed shortly by Andrew and Justin. We all had sweet lines, but I think each of us craped our pants when we were looking into the boil a the base.

Bryan engulfed in the big falls on the Callaghan

photo by Andrew Oberhardt

Justin about to encounter the boil from hell at the base of the big falls on the Callaghan

photo by Andrew Oberhardt

The rest of the run is usually a lot of "class 4 boogie" with two big class 5's towards the end. What we encountered was very unfamiliar. Water was still rising and we were forced to scout rapids that had some holes no boater would have any interest in discovering. To sum up the rest of the run, I'll quote Drew..."There was no pool between the boil from the falls
and the next rapid. The ensuing must-make river-wide ferry was typical of our day. "The sneak on the right goes." "I agree, but I don't know if we can get there." (awkward silence)... "Well, we have to try." We had a small solid crew and we make it down the rest of the rising river successfully and with surgical precision."

With Justin having some shoulder issues Drew and I looked to the Upper Cheak and the Soo on Sunday. We were now on the fith day in a rom of 80 plus sunny weather, so things were "roosting". Drew and I bombed a couple of 15 minute runs down the Cheak and then headed for the Soo. The Soo was higher than either of us had done it, but we decided it was a go.

Bryan threading the needle past a big pourover on the Soo

photo by Andrew Oberhardt

Bryan in a typical fast, pushy Soo rapid

photo by Andrew Oberhardt

Monday came and with only a crew of two, we decided that Skookum Creek was out despite optimal flows. With the road into the upper Ashlu stuff being blown out from a big landslide we decided to have a look at Culliton Creek. After scouting the lower box canyon section we decided it was too high and went to have a look at the upper section. There was more BC "hellafuck" than I can ever remember trying to get down to the creek and after finding no reasonable place to get into the canyon we decided to head back to the Upper Cheak for a few more laps.

It was a great weekend of big water in BC. I'm officially living in Squamish now with Lise-Anne and I gotta say it is more than exciting to be calling this place home!


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