Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Box Season Begins!

As Fall quickly engulfs the Northwest and water levels fall to the lowest of the year, the boating season in Squamish becomes ideal in so many respects. With runs like Fear Canyon of the Elaho, Clendenning, and the Box Canyon of the Ashlu all at near perfect flows over the past two weeks, I'm still finding as big of a drive for whitewater as I have all season. It's amazing up here right now!

The Box Canyon of the Ashlu is an absolute gem in the Sea to Sky Corridor. It has on the of the best access situations possible in this region, with the put-in being only 25 minutes from Squamish and a mere 5k of that being gravel. Even Drew's 626 can bust this BC shuttle out. The entry into the Box has to one of the most incredible places on Earth. As the clear green waters of the Ashlu gush over 50/50 into the carved out granite chasm of the canyon, mist feeds the dense old growth forest high on the canyon rim. It is a classic canyon landscape that makes every kayaker curious about the whitewater that lays deep inside the canyon.

Of all the runs on the Ashlu, the Box Canyon section was perhaps the most threatened by Ledcor's bid on the Ashlu for power production. It is great to see so many locals and visitors firing up this run right now. Anyone who paddles it or just hikes the rim trail along the canyon can see why so many fought hard to save this river. And while micro hydro is not in the immediate future for the Ashlu, watch out because it is sure to go back up for sale at some point.

The entrance to the Box

photo by Bryan Smith

Every trip up to run the Box begins with checking levels and then deciding weather or not to run 50/50. The gauge on the Ashlu was blown out during the big floods of 2003. The best correlation gauge in the Elaho between about 50-90cms. I have a pretty good visual by looking at 50/50 and then a couple of rocks up stream of the bridge.

the Box is perfect when these two rocks just upstream of the bridge are just uncovered to dry.

photo by Bryan Smith

The hardest part of the Box is getting past the first five drops. All of these are more or less unscoutable and unportagable from water level. The trail along the canyon rim will get you a good view of these drops from 200 feet up, but it pays to have a guide who knows the lines for this first section. If you put-in below 50/50, the first drop is a banked left turn that you want to be far right on. The next drop you run about a 8 foot low angle slide on the far left. After that comes engagement. A powerful 8-10 drop that has a meaty hole/wave train at the bottom. You run this down the main flow center/right. Then comes a triple drop that is one of the most technical drops in the run. I also think this is the most intimidating spot in the first canyon, as the wall rise up 300 feet and the river presents three big horizon lines. At lower flows you run the first drop left, the second drop center left, and the third drop you enter left moving right to avoid a big hole on the left. When the flows are on the higher end the first two drops have technical lines on the right and the last drop remains the same. After this series the river pools up before Kernage. I always have a huge sigh of relief here, as everything else can be scouted and walked the rest of the way down. Kernage is the largest vertical drop on the run and has a sweet entry boof in the center. After Kernage are three drops that all have lines but present some challenges for sure.

the last rapid in the first canyon

photo by Bryan Smith

the exit of the first canyon on the Box

photo by Bryan Smith

After exiting the first canyon the river opens up and lets a bunch of light in. After a short stretch of class two, the river bends to the left and picks up in intensity. The first boulder garden you have to eddy hop down carefully and execute a technical S move at the bottom to avoid a bad sieve on river right. The next drop is perhaps the sweetest on the run!

two clean 10 footers back to back

photo by Bryan Smith

Right after this drop comes a fun boof into a crack that exits into a pool. Then you get some class 4 water above "3 doors down". You run all three of the doors on the left and you have more or less completed the Box. The take-out is the dry creek you drive over on the way up that has washed out the road. The rapids below here have been run, but it is burly shit for sure.

I'll be back up there and bunch in the next couple weeks, so I'll post photos of more of the rapids here soon!


slickhorn said...

Thanks so much for getting a little documentation out about this run. Maybe I'm getting my beta confused, but I understood Box Canyon the be the bottom run, and the 50-50 to washout creek to be Committment Canyon. there's a rough map available at

Looking forward to more!


Shane Robinson said...

Nice post Bryan. To clarify for the other Brian, Committment Canyon and The Box are the same. Below that is called the Final Mile or Chutes and Ladders.