Monday, April 07, 2008

Low Water Salvation

It has been a weird Spring here in the Norfwest & BC -- one of the coldest months of March on record. For that matter, it has been really cold, down to sea level, all Winter long. What this has meant for us is lots of deep pow in the mts (90" in the last week of March at Baker) & of course, a healthy snowpack in the Cascades. Most interesting is, while we have a respectable, if not earth-shattering, snowpack (depth), the snow-water equivalents throughout the Cascades ARE pretty impressive. Throughout the winter, we've had very little boatable water available, & this has persisted into Spring. We got lucky on the Island a couple weeks ago with some warm weather & a bit of precip, but before & after that it has been full-on Winter. All that water has remained in storage, which can be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how quickly it warms up. I'd suspect that if we get any kind of sustained warm & wet weather in the next month, the flooding could be biblical around here.

This past Friday was TRL'r-by-marriage & matriarch of the Squamish Boaters Hostel, Lise-Anne Beyries birfday. Bryan & the local crew had a fete planned for her, so I blazed north after work with my boat on my roof. Bryan & I had talked about maybe Fear Canyon or else doing some bushwhacking/scouting, but it was clear that this weekend was more about LA's b-day, getting out of the city, & maybe getting lucky with some water.

Dragging from the festivus the night before, we headed up the Squamish road toward Fear Canyon to meet Madaloni & Greg. A little over halfway we got turned around by deep, soupy snow covering the road.

The Tantalus subrange of the Coast Range as viewed from the Upper Squamish valley

At a loss, I blurted out, "Let's drive up the Ashlu & just see what's going on up there .. maybe the Bottom Mile is scrapeable." Greg chimed in that 50/50 Falls is actually a fun double-boof at super-low water.

We found ourselves checking-in at Ledcor's hospitality office, where we heard over the truckers' cb radio, "Ah, looks like we got the first kayakers of the season 'bout to drive up.."

Not much else to report on this, so I'll let the pics/captions do the talking from here. The key takeaway is that even when everything else in the central/north Cascades & BC is bone dry, the Ashlu saves! Super-fun, super-accessible, super-steep, super-beautiful -- that's why we *heart* the Ashlu.

Til they get the project online, you'll be sharing the Ashlu road with a constant parade of massive machinery. Head's up when you're up there.

The first major rapid marks the point of no return. Hiking out after this would be pretty much impossible .. but if yr in at sane levels, you can walk around anything you don't want to run. Greg Dashper dropping into the granite zone.

It's a tight +/- 8-ft boof into a shallow runout with undercuts on both sides.

Ian exiting the room.

From here, it's a straight shot to the takeout .. just gotta get through a bunch of boulders first.

The Tantalus is one of the big ones. Sketchy entrance into a non-boofable pourover into a big backed-up hole with an elevated, super-tight exit. Here's Vancouver Kyle battling .. check out the granite.

Smith sneaking through by the hair of his chinny chin chin

Glory boof sequence

Kato contemplating the line

A quasi-waterfall of about 10 ft comes toward the end of the run. It's very tight, but good to go. Here's the dudes scouting.

I went first

Then Tim Loubier, who absolutely greased it .. I don't think he even got his face wet.


The bad thing that you think is gonna happen here .. didn't.

Couple more clean ledges & you're home free

Tim getting his grind on

The view back up into the Bottom Mile is pretty arresting .. it really is just a steep pile of car-sized boulders that you're boating through.

Beware the Aslu Sniper

So, the Ashlu is pretty much an industrial site these days. From before you even approach the canyon in your car it's obvious that Ledcor is in control of the valley. This is not new news. However, for the most part, when yr on the river, all that stuff disappears & it's just you & your friends in a beautiful granite-lined canyon.

Instead of beating our plastic on the shallow runout where the river splits & goes down to Twin Bridges, we took out at the super-convenient construction site where the powerplant is being built in a massive, environmentally-sensitive riverside pit. This is where they will carefully put the diverted water back into the river. This is also where diesel fumes, the loud drone of generators & the beeping of heavy equipment in-reverse welcomes you back to the reality that this river is being raped.


slickhorn said...

Nice post Todd!

That Ashlu graphic needs to be a bumpersticker.

Anonymous said...

Yo Gill Man,
What kind of digital SLR are you rockin' these days. I'm in the market and these pics look preety quality. let me know....

Todd Gillman said...

thanks guys.

bumpersticker eh? maybe ..

camera = canon 30D w/ canon L series 16-35 f2.8 & sigma 28-300 f3.5

Anonymous said...

I looked at this blog post on my desktop monitor at work and then again now that I'm home on my MacBook. The difference in the quality between the two monitors is wide. The photos are beautiful either way, but they really shine on my new MacBook. The rock in the photos from The Tantalus is incredible. What a river that must be! Nice work and thanks for sharing!