Sunday, April 09, 2006

Vancouver Island Pt. 2 -- The Lens

There’s something super appealing about being on an island, surrounded by water on all sides. Vancouver Island reminded me of a more temperate version of Hawaii without all the palms & coconuts & golf courses & … SHAKAS. So really, it’s not anything like a Hawaiian island at all, except for you know, it’s an island, with lots of vegetation. Anyway, the coastal route to PORT RENFREW is along a beautiful road that crosses many bedrock creeks that charge right out to the ocean. PR itself sits at the mouth of the San Juan River where it spills into the Pacific. Our cabin was a mere 4 km from the ocean. Johnny would wake up early & run to the BOTANICAL BEACH. And then he’d keep on running for a long time, cuz he’s a JOGGER & that’s what Joggers do … I’d wake up & lurch my way to the patio hot tub & soak out the soreness from the day before, while the juniors attempted to set new records for late sleeping.

It had rained the night before, so we knew that THE LENS would most likely be roostin’. It’s a relatively new run that hadn’t been really tested at higher flows, & Jan, who said that it appeared to be a good bit higher than he had ever paddled it, was keen to run us through there. All morning, my freshly broken/patched hull weighed heavily on my mind. Jan seemed unconcerned about my boat, or his own broken boat, for that matter, so we went ahead with the plan. The logging road to the put-in climbs dramatically as the creek enters a ridiculously deep gorge far below the road. At that point I am struck by the remoteness of where we’re at & the magnitude of the canyon we’re going to attempt to navigate. At the put-in Todd A. entertained himself & the rest of the crew by doing backflips from the bridge into the deep emerald pool below. Slipping into my dry top, the latex of my neck gasket stretches & pulls at the skin of my face before sadly surrendering in slow motion. With a welded boat & a freshly shredded neck gasket, I seriously began to question the soundness of my reasoning .. But a couple minutes later I’m wearing a duct tape collar & we’re on the water, rapidly approaching a granite gorge. I’m feeling lucky.

From the put-in the Lens goes immediately into tight complex rapids in a box canyon. The holes were plucky & the walls were undercut & kind of sketchy in places, but the level felt pretty ideal. Once you drop into the first gorge, you are pretty much committed for the duration of the run. It definitely had that overwhelming feeling of being remote, exploratory & “serious”, but the individual drops were all pretty manageable in this first gorge. As is often the case in NW rainforest canyons, there were huge old-growth logs wedged between the vertical granite walls overhead.

The second gorge features bigger, longer & more complex rapids, including the Stairway rapid (the bottom half of which is mandatory), a big boulder rapid with clean 10-foot boof into a sieved-out room, a 30-foot waterfall with a very complex lead-in & a death sieve on river-right, & an awesome triple ledge line. The flow in the second gorge felt big & pushy at times, & others it felt “in between”, as if more water might have cleaned it up, or conversely, less water would have channelized it better.

Jan D. setting the line on the first part of the Stairway. At lower flows this is apparently a slide. Our flow produced a pushy ramp into several big wave-holes & a huge backed-up hole at the bottom of the ramp.

Austin Rathman plugging the big hole.

Boomer setting up the shot at Stairway. The bottom half of the long rapid is visible in the background.

Utah approaching the mandatory part of the rapid with the really big hole.

Todd Anderson boofing into the sieve-y room.

Boomer battling out of the sieve-y room.

We opted to portage the waterfall. The lead-in is heavy classV with a horrible sieve on river-right, & the margin of error is slim. At lower water, the vertical part of the waterfall has been run by seal-launching into the left side. You can see that we had a beautiful sunny day, but the sun rarely reached into the bottom of the gorge.

The portage was a production involving live-baiting a swimmer into an eddy downstream of the LZ, then roping boats down from a slick ledge on the left wall.

Everyone got to huck.

The slackwater corridor below the big drop was amazing. It led into a killer triple set of ledge boofs, probably my favorite drop of the day.

It should be noted that our destruct-o-meter for the day included: my neck gasket, Jan's shoulder, my shoulder, my camera (which got soaked during a stellar swim out of a super-sticky hole in the very last rapid) .. & the loss of my other camera at the beach in the evening. Ouch ..

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