Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bottom Mile of the Ashlu // Box Season Ends

Wasn't much of a "season" for the Box this year, as lower BC is now officially paying the price for an extremely dry 04-05 winter. With flows as low as they've been in years, and with beautiful late-summer weather, the low-flow runs have been poppin' recently. Johnny "Utah" Minerich coerced me into a spontaneous blast across the border, where we stayed at his cousin Anik's little piece of paradise in Squamish .. & where we linked up with the usual Squampton suspects, Bryan Smith & Jonaven Moore. A leisurely pace after a late wakey delivered us to the Bottom Mile put-in well past the cracka-noon.

Scores of outta-towners have craned their necks for a peek into the abyssmal chasm that makes up the Bottom Mile, as they have driven up the Ashlu en route to its classic upper reaches. Brief breaks in the dense foliage yield fleeting split-second views of the chaotic mess of whitewater hundreds of feet below, but never enough visual to come close to satisfying the curiosity. What you do notice is that from the edge of the road, merely inches from your tires, the canyon wall drops at an uncomfortable, nearly vertical pitch down to the river far below. As the road levels out from its steep climb, it rounds a bend at river-level -- this is where you get your first real view of the Ashlu. For much of the year, this run has way too much water in it to be considered, so most people stop for a minute to check out the maelstrom here & then keep driving up the valley shaking their heads in disgust.

The Bottom Mile starts off kickin ass & bruisin egos outta the gate, with a big boof into a tight slot followed by a tricky runout under a piece of wood (all of which is clearly visible from the parking turnout at the bend in the road), & doesn't let up for the entire length of the run. In fact, if you're not feeling it based on what you see at the put-in, you're not gonna love the run -- it gets much more intense shortly downstream. I think we got it on the low end of good. We encountered a lot of little lurkers & sleepers, & were forced to portage 2 or 3 things that probably would have gone a little more smoothly at higher flows .. most noteably, a 12-foot notch/waterfall that is the common line on the 3rd or 4th rapid -- this drop looks straightforward enough (boof right off the flake & drive hard right at the bottom to avoid the cave & undercut) . However at the flow we had, a less-than-perfect boof resulted in a scary sub-aqueous vertical pin at the base of the falls. The paddler was able to free himself after a couple tenuous seconds .. his boat got kinda wrecked, but he was unharmed. Lesson learned: no matter what level you're in there at, you gotta land that one *flat*!

It's a stunning sight to see after the river bends & you come to the first major rapid, where hundreds of feet of gradient lie before you you, stacked & lined-up straight as an arrow to the troutwater a mile downstream. As we made our way, picking apart every eddy, boof, slot & slide, I got the feeling that this run is pretty much just a ginormous pile of house-sized boulders strewn about at random down an incredibly steep canyon, and with some pretty tourquoise-colored water flowing over, between & under them. The farther down we went, the more impressive the view back upstream became. I tried to capture the vibe on my camera, but the photos just don't come close to communicating the scale & grandeur of this place. This is, after all, the Ashlu's "last hurrah" -- a "farewell" from a river that is made up of one unbelievable & boisterous gorge after another, for many many miles, before joining the Squamish on it's slow march to the Howe Sound.

My only regret is that I didn't make the boys stop for one last photo opp looking back up into the heart of the shit from the pool at the bottom .. maybe next weekend. Here are the pics, since I know that's all you guys really wanna see anyway ;-)

All Photos: ToddGillman -- 09/27/05 --

Bottom Mile put-in. Low flow is key on this run .. but we coulda used a little more.

Smith readying the GL2. A true professional hard at work.

... And speaking of "true professionals" ...

Typical Bottom Mile move. Typical poorly framed TG photo ..

Most of the moves were followed by nice eddies & pools .. all with a view of the finish line downstream.

This was a sweet 3 or 4 move series with a plucky hole to clear. Look at how "safe" Johnny is...

Johnny Utah buried deep in the Tantalus Drop. Obviously, the rock in here was amazing.

Utah in the shit.

Bryan with his modified M3.

Sweet 8-footer that starts another great triple-set.

Utah lovin' it.

Couple more classic ledges & then it's beer-thirty.


Kevin Jackson said...

Well, this is interesting. I did a blog search for starbucks barista and found your site. When I get some time I'll come back and find out where starbucks barista appears and how it relates - if it even does. Take care - nice work.

Shane Robinson said...

That is interesting considering we all shy away from starbucks. However, I think there may have been a post refering to a hot starbucks barista.

Todd Gillman said...

Shane -- you just bit the troll's bait.

Since blogging is so pop-fab these days, it's become somehow e-lucrative for other bloggers to go into the comments section, "congratulate" you on a job well done & then encourage you to log onto their site. Spam-tastic!

By the way, I really enjoyed your blog. You should check out this one, & bring your credit card: ...

Anonymous said...

Mountain Biking down here has been sick...bastards. TG, let me know when flows are going and your schedule is free. I'm all about trying to fly up for a couple of days if anything is running that is worthy. No, I'm not too picky. Yes, I want to run some shit. I haven't paddled in 3-4 weeks.


full circle said...

i can do all this shit!!! i gots skills yo!!! my boat is yellow.

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