Saturday, June 07, 2008

Van Island Revisted: Do Not Forget Your Sixth Sense

The most recent adventure to Vancouver Island was my first, and while Todd provided an excellent wrap-up in terms of a trip report and the usual eye candy, I thought I would chime in with a little verbal musing of my own.

Filming the previous rapid, I was the last of the group to catch the large eddy behind a house-sized boulder where everybody was pondering the next step. I could feel this tingle in my body and wondered why the pace of the group appeared to have stalled more than the usual approach to another horizon line. That tingle was not fully realized until I drifted over to Bryan who then stated, “We’re boxed in now!” Ah-ha ... the extra acute sensations I was experiencing was in response to the sudden change in river character – vertical walls on each side with very limited scouting and portaging options. This “spidey sense” is important for boating in the Northwest and indispensable when dropping into rivers on Vancouver Island – don’t forget it!

This was my first trip to the Island, but I had heard the many rave reviews from Mr. Gillman’s previous adventures and this one promised to include many of the same antics. Gold River would be our “Zone” (an apparently NW dialect) for this mission and after dropping Jakub’s car off, we had a huge list of classics and potential first and second and maybe even third descents thanks to the gracious beta from Vancouver Island’s Shane. Readers should be reminded at this point that the Northwest and BC in particular is notorious for beta that is light on important details such as marginally runnable rapids that are difficult to scout and portage, and rather the beta takes the “its all good … go get it,” tone.

So it should have come to no surprise when on our third and final day – the day we were supposed to be busting out three classics – we encountered our second fully boxed-in and vertical-walled junk pile of a rapid. And we were still on run numero uno. The spidey sense had been running on hyperactive for the last 36 hours and maybe due to fatigue this early in the season, almost allowed to us to get ourselves in a real bind.

As the dealing unfolded, an hour later we had not progressed much. Todd was still upstream making room on the camera memory card for many more incredible pics; Shertzl had not said in word in the last 45 minutes and still had not found a egress less than 5.11c; on the other hand Ryan had verbally dissected every possible line we could make out from upstream and none of those options sounded good to me; Jakub kept giving the signal of nervousness by pretending to chew his fingernails and pounding his heart; and Bryan had decided to go get a second opinion from Jakub’s perspective on the other side of the crick.

Heading home on the ferry, spidey sense back in recovery mode until it will surely be called upon in the coming weekends, we all relished in those memories. Some of which were not fun in the moment, but all of which worked out in the end with reasonable options for safe travel. Standing on top of boulder in the middle of the river, not knowing if I would be paddling downriver to the next eddy or attaining upstream to the top of the gorge; throwing my boat from a forty foot cliff and jumping in after it; portaging through the dense underbrush of the BC forests where the ocean on the other side of the mountain is closer than the nearest road; and getting deep in the sh!t – this is why I will go back to the island and love every minute of it!

If you read/skimmed all of that hoping for some pretty photos, you will have to just go back to some of Todd's posts ... and you should:
Van Island:Gold River Zone:Day 1
Van Island:Gold River Zone:Day 2
Van Island:Gold River Zone:Day 3


Anonymous said...

is the range life dead?

Travel Agents India said...

Amazing scens in images

Anonymous said...

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