Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mexico Part 3: The Tomatas

Coming to the end of our trip we decided to focus our efforts on running the Tomatas on the Rio Alseseca. On the first day, Iker, my brother and I all fired up 65ft. First Tomata. Iker went first and had a super clean line. Despite Iker cleaning it, I was a still intimidated by the stairstep style of First Tomata. When I paddled off the lip I thought everything was going well, but as soon as I tucked I felt myself go sideways, and when I hit with a powerful angle my skirt imploded making for a 'not-so-clean' line. My brother was next and styled the drop with steez. A few hundred feet downstream we arrived at the take out directly above Second Tomata. The take-out wasn't easy but after a while we had our boats back up to the road. As we were hauling our boats up we all spent some time scouting Second Tomata, a seldom run a 60-70ft. waterfall with a very narrow and technical lead in rapid. After analyzing the drop Iker and I decided that if we were feeling good the next day, we'd both fire it up.

Scouting First Tomata

My 'not-so-clean' line the first day

We woke up the next morning, spirits high, and drove back to the Tomatas. I wanted to redeam myself from the previous day so I joined Nate and Heather on First Tomata. I had a better line than the previous day and this time paddled out from the bottom. Nate and Heather went next and unfortunately both had imploded skirts. Before I knew it I was standing at the lip of Second Tomata with Iker ready to paddle one of the most technical and consequential drops I'd ever seen. Iker went first. He dropped into the entrance rapid, maintained good speed and angle until he hit one of the final waves which pushed him sideways and flipped him over. Iker rolled up just feet before the lip and slid backwards off the waterfall. Luckily he resurfaced at the bottom un-scathed. I was much more nervous after watching Iker's line, but I was still confident that I could safely paddle the drop. As I paddled through the entrance rapid, I was able to maintain forward momentum and keep my nose strait. At the lip I took a few adjustment strokes then fell into the boily pools below. Running Second Tomata clean, for possibly the first time, was the perfect ending to an amazing kayaking trip in one of the most beautiful parts of Mexico.

Firing Off Second Tomata

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mexico Part 2: Rio Alseseca

Because Nate's foot still wasn't a 100% Iker, my brother and I spent the day after his injury paddling the Big Banana section of the Rio Alseseca. This section of whitewater was one of the best I had ever paddled and rates up there with the Little White. After a half mile hike down a lifestock trail we bounced our way down a manky creek and finaly arrived at Big Banana. Big Banana is an awing 100ft. waterfall that cascades out of the side of a mountain and marks the start of the run. After paddling through a couple manky boulder gardens we dropped into the first canyon. Right off the bat we followed Iker off a clean 25ft. waterfall and then strait into a fast 30ft. slide, each drop bringing us deeper into the canyon. Eventually the canyon walls were so tight that the river was about a boat length wide and no sunlight could reach the water. In and out of more similar canyons we paddled more class IV and V rapids until about halfway through the run we came up to a 45 footer. We spent a long time contemplating this drop, but the rapid above the drop and caves below were enough to turn us all away. We decided instead to throw and go off the 50ft. cliff below the drop. After this we paddled more class IV and V drops, including Meat Locker a fun double drop, until we reached the the take-out.

Throw n' go

Brendan on Meat Locker

Another drop on the Big Banana

The next morning, after a night of heavy rain, we woke up to high water levels. We knew this would be perfect for Truchas falls, a 60 footer on the Rio Alseseca that we had scouted a few days earlier. The difficulty in this waterfall wasn't so much running it, but rather getting to it. We spent a good three hours macheteing through thick jungle until we reached the cliff walls above Truchas. We then spent another hour repelling beside a huge waterfall 90 feet down to the river. Once we were all down at the river bank with our boats we portaged a manky slide and finally prepared to run the waterfall. Iker was first to paddle the 25ft. slide-to-boof that led directly into the 60ft. freefall. He had a sick line, and my brother and I were quick to run it after him. Truchas was a super fun drop especially at such high flows, and getting to the drop was equally exciting.

Scouting Truchas before the rain...
...And again after the rain

Photos by Sheer Madness Productions

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mexico Part 1: Opening Days

International travel and whitewater kayaking are possibly the two most important aspects of my life, but until this trip I had never combined the two. Over our extended Thanksgiving vacation my brother and I joined Iker Dusen and Nate and Heather Herbeck for a kayaking vacation in Mexico. Upon arrival in Tlapacoyan, Mexico my brother and I met Iker, but found that Nate and Heather were paddling the Filobobos, a nearby class III-IV river. After some tacos and later realizing that it was getting dark the three of us met up with our driver Israel and drove to the take-out. We hiked as far as we safely could up the river, about three kilometers, with no sign of Nate or Heather. Unsuccessful, we drove back to Tlapacoyan to get some rest. Early the next morning Iker my brother and I put in on the Fliobobos to look for Nate and Heather. Again we were unsuccessful and went back to Tlapacoyan to form further plans. Luckily when we arrived in Tlapacoyan we found Israel, Nate and Heather alive and well. Hearing their story we found Nate and Heather took out in a small town halfway down the run because it was too dark. Apparently Nate and Heather had met a very kind family that housed, fed, and even clothed them for the night.

Our team and our truck

The next day our team went on a park n' huck mission. Our first stop was at a 30ft. waterfall on the Jalacingo River. With easy access we ran this clean drop each about four times before packing up and moving on.

Boofin a 30 footer on the Jalacingo
Our next stop was at San Pedro, a recently discovered 50ft. waterfall that had only been run by one team. A fast and narrow slide didn't allow for many strokes before the lip, but launched each of us through the air and into the pool below.

Paddle toss and tuck on San Pedro
After we all fired off San Pedro we had a quick, but action packed paddle to the take-out. The rapids between San Pedro and the take-out were all a little manky and we only ran a few of them, but as we learned the portages weren't much better. On one portage Nate seal launched in and pitoned his boat, injuring both of his ankles. As we were close to the take-out we decided to continue on. Nate had a tough time on the portages but we were able to get him safely to the take out and home to heal for a while. Our first few days in Mexico were sick and the rest of the trip only gets better...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Grays River

The Grays River lies in the Coastal Range on the South- western tip of Washington. It's a seldom run river, but after paddling it this weekend I wonder why. On Sunday Nate and Heather Herbeck and I met up with some Portland paddlers to explore this amazing river. We arrived at the put-in with overcast weather, but the water levels were at a comfortable 700 cfs. Once on the river we paddled a couple class III rapids before dropping into the first gorge. The first gorge was filled with lots of thrilling class IV ledges, most of which we scouted but had no problem running.

Josh boofs the first ledge

Johnny navigating his way through the first gorge
As soon as the walls along the first gorge began to fade away we saw the first large horizon line. To scout Superbowl, the first class V rapid, we had to climb over a 30ft. tall log jam. Most of us decided to run this rapid and in the end we all ended up having relatively smooth lines.

Johnny on Superbowl

Nate Boofing Superbowl
Less than a quarter mile downstream we came to the second class V, picnic table. We spent much longer scouting this rapid, but after a while Justin Japs dropped into the rapid. After boofing his way through the first steep boulder garden and over the first significant drop Justin flipped over and rolled back up just before the final hole which led into a steep but short gorge. After Justin's line I dropped in and navigated my way through the tight rapid and into the deep gorge. From below Justin and I watched everyone else seal launch into the gorge, and paddle on to the next rapid.

Scouting the lower section of Picnic Table

Myself on the crux of Picnic Table

Heather in the Gorge after Picnic Table

Directly after the gorge the river banked to the left and we came across broken paddle. This rapid was similar to the ledges in the first gorge, and after it there were continuous read and run class III-IV rapids until the river finally leveled out. In the last part of the river we floated through a slow braided section, reminding me of Alaskan rivers, and took out on the river left bank. At the end of the run I was glad to have paddled a new and exciting river, and now I look forward to going back.

The Crew: Brian Youngs, Heather Herbeck, Me, Justin Japs, Nate Herbeck, Josh Armagost, and Johnny Ott

Photos by myself and Heather Herbeck

Sunday, November 1, 2009

High Water Halloween

This year Halloween brought crazy costumes and high water to the White Salmon River. Over a dozen local paddlers met in costume at the Green Truss section of the White Salmon for a Halloween paddle. And though the weather was pleasant, the previous days of rain had brought the water levels up to nearly 3.5 which provided for some of the best autumn flows I've seen. Everyone enjoyed the high flows in costumes of all varieties. Erik Boomer and Christie Glissmeyer stood out in their Power Puff Girl costumes, while others of us followed the "scary mask" trend. At the end of the day Greg Hoskins as Elvis took home first place for best mens costume, and Kim Russell in her Miss America costume took home first place for best womens costume. The participation, enthusiasm, and water levels were all great for this years' Halloween Truss Paddle.

Power Puff Girl Christie Glissmeyer on May Tag

Myself on May Tag... After some aging

She Devil Heather Herbeck
Greg Hoskins: The King... of the White Salmon

Photos: Ethan Smith and Heather Herbeck

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Green Truss Freestyle

No one likes to paddle the Truss when water levels fall below 2 feet, but switching your 80 gallon creekboat for a low volume playboat can really liven up the run. The majority of warm-up drops aren't too difficult, but in a playboat the class Vs offer a whole new challenge. Launching off 20ft. Big Brother in a 6ft. playboat is always thrilling and 10ft. Little Brother is a great waterfall to throw freewheels and kickflips. After a couple laps on Little Brother you'll paddle down a couple hundred yards and boof Double Drop (the second hole is stickier at low flows so be cautious in a playboat). After Double Drop the river flattens out for a while and the next class Vs you'll come up on are Upper and Lower Zig-Zag. If it's your first time in playboat on this run, or your first paddling the run at low flows the Zig-Zags are worth a quick scout (scout right for Upper Zig-Zag and left for Lower Zig-Zag). From here on out it's frothy class III and IV rapids with occasional play opportunities. A quarter mile before the take-out at BZ is BZ falls. Running this drop in a playboat at low flows is just of the dice. Get right and take a big boof stroke before you throw some ends in the hole below. Playboats can make the Truss much more exciting, but having a knowing the dynamics of each rapid is important before trading in your creekboat.

Freestylin' Little Brother

The little brother on Little Brother

Monday, September 21, 2009

September Sun

For the 19th and 20th of September, my brother and I joined Nate and Heather Herbeck for a trip to the Tieton River. While Heather taught kayak lessons or guided rafts Nate, my brother and I ran laps on the upper section of the Tieton. The run is continuous with standing waves and catch on the go surf waves the whole way down. After throwing dozens of wavewheels and kickflips on the standing waves, we came up on the Bridge Wave. The Bridge Wave is a relatively slow river-wide wave with a sticky left side. After I figured out the dynamics of the wave I was able throw consistent blunts and spins and occasional loops. Because the river is dam controlled it only flows in September, which means large crowds show up each weekend. Watching cat-rafts, paddle rafts, and inflatable kayakers surf the bridge wave was always entertaining, and the bridge over the wave provided for a unique viewing angle.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

WCKA Summer Session: Part 2

After a week of paddling around Missoula the Summer Sessions crew finally started our journey to the Skookumchuck Narrows. Along the way we picked up our instructors girlfriend Blake and former WCKA student Adriane Levknecht. On our way to the wave we stopped at the Nahatlatch Creek in British Columbia for a quick class III run. Despite the long windy road to the put-in, the endless boulder gardens and occasional playspots made for a great break during the long drive.

Bluntin' Skook

As soon as we'd reserved a campsite at Brown Lake we drove 15 minutes to the Egmont boat launch and paddled another 15 minutes to the wave. Surrounded by 10-15 other paddlers we watched the wave build and shrink, and for three hours surfed the glassy surface. At the end of the day we locked up our boats and hiked the 2.5 miles back to Egmont. For the next four days we hiked back and forth to the wave, surfing it for 3-4 hours at a time between 12.8 and 14.4 knots. A couple days into our session at skook team Wave Sport showed up and showed off their quiver of aerial tricks. Brian Kirk and Kelsey Thompson held most of the attention throwing down helixes, airscrews, and huge pistol flips. Though I was far from being able to land any of these moves, by the end of the trip I was throwing consistent air blunts and occasional backstabs. Everyone in our group improved over this short session and without instruction from our coach or the helpful locals we still would have been straight surfing at the end of the trip. Skook was the biggest and best wave I'd ever surfed and I can't wait to surf it again in the near future.

Friday, August 7, 2009

WCKA Summer Session: Part 1

After some time on the Clark Fork we decided to drive to Mesa Falls in Idaho for an overnight park and huck. As soon as we reached the parking lot we began the quick hike to the waterfall. One mile and 50 mosquito bites later, we arrived at the Mesa and thoroughly scouted the falls. I wasn't able to convince my coach to let me run the 65ft. drop on the right side, but the 10 and 30ft. consecutive waterfalls on the left side still got my adrenaline pumping. Along with my own thrill in running the drop, I was able to watch Karsten Thompson run Mesa, his first waterfall, with a clean line. After we hiked through a steep scree field and back up the trail we set up camp, ate a quick meal, and got some sleep. The next morning we headed back to Crystal Springs, and arrived with just enough time to load the boats and gear on the van before heading to the Skookumchuck Narrows...

My brother boofing the top drop...
... And launching off the second one

My brother and I looking downstream after a successful huck

Photo Credits: Mike Malament

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lewis River Falls '09

For the 4th of July my brother and I joined Nate and Heather Herbeck for a Liquid Kayak mission to the Lower Falls on the Lewis River. We arrived at the drop at about noon, and within an hour had set up good media coverage and reliable safety. My brother and I were the only ones really keen on running the drop, and as usual I was made to go first. I approached the first 5ft. ledge in control and was able to stay right before boofing and dropping over the 35ft. waterfall. With everything in tact I rolled up and paddled through the turquoise waters to the take out below. Because of a not-so-perfect experience on this drop last year my brother was a little more nervous than I was. Fortunately right after I set safety I watched my brother fire off the drop with an incredibly clean line. He reserfaced soon and threw up a fist in satisfaction. Later we all jumped off the 30-50ft cliffs that surrounded the falls. - A killer 4th of July.

My brother's line last year... ---------- ...But he cleaned it this year

Heather Herbeck, my brother, and I taking a victory jump