Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Metlako Gets Topo-Duoed

In recent years Metlako Falls on Eagle Creek has become the most frequently run 80+ ft. waterfall in the Pacific Northwest, if not the world. Metlako is about as close to a perfect waterfall as anyone could ever imagine. The calm current above slowly falls off the rolling lip to the deep pool below. After having claimed three descents on the spectacular drop, I knew that she was yearning for someone to take the next step. Yep, that's right Metlako was ready for its first descent in a two man kayak. The idea of running Metlako in a Topo-Duo had been running through my mind, and I'm sure the minds of many others, for a good while, but it wasn't until Sam Freihofer and the BDP boys showed up that the stars finally aligned. Sam and I discussed the idea for a good while, and we concluded that one way or another we were gonna make it happen.

Plans had been brewing for a crew of paddlers to meet up with Steve Fisher and friends for an outing at Metlako, so Sam and I figured we would make that our day to huck. As soon as our good friends at Next Adventure confirmed that they would not only let us use, but also deliver from Portland to Eagle Creek, a demo Topo-Duo, everything was in line ready to go.

In the crowded Eagle Creek Parking lot, Sam and I hoisted the awkward vessel onto our shoulders and made the most grueling mile long hike of our lives. What seemed like an eternity later we finally arrived at our put-in above Lower Punchbowl Falls. From there we paddled upstream to the base of Upper Punchbowl to practice a few roles. After some successful and not-so-successful roles, we determined that yes, we would be holding onto our paddles for this one.

Confident, Sam and I stomped Lower Punchbowl and paddled the last few rapids before Metlako. In the pool directly above the lip we met up with Andy Walker and Evan Garcia to discuss once more our plan. Evan was first to give it and from the lip we could tell he flew a bit over the bars. In the pool Evan struggled with a few hand rolls and eventually ended up swimming to shore.

Sam and I were up next. One final time we discussed our game plan, then peeled out into the current. We approached the lip slow and in control, made our last adjustments, then let gravity take over. From the back where I was positioned, I felt our entry angle couldn't have been any better. Upon impact we went incredibly deep. When we reached the surface I righted the kayak to find Sam missing from the front of the boat. Being in the front of the boat and having gone so deep Sam took a savage hit and was ejected from the boat. We had done it, we had just paddled the tallest waterfall ever before in a Topo-Duo. Soon I met up with Sam, my co-pilot, and shared with him the euphoric state of mind.

Safe and sound, Evan, Same and I watched Andy Walker style Metlako for his second time in a week. He threw his paddle at the lip and emerged from the pool upright and stoked. It had been a successful day. With only two paddles between the four of us we hurried down stream to find the rest of our equipment. Luckily before long we had gathered all of our paddles and at the portage drop were able relax some, taking in the spectacular surroundings. We had just completed yet another satisfying day of paddling one of the most amazing rivers in the Pacific Northwest.

-- Photography by Bryon Dorr
-- Video contributions by Andy Walker and myself 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Outlet Falls 2011

Outlet Falls is to myself a very special waterfall. I've spent all of my eighteen years growing up less than a half an hour away from this beautiful drop, and since before it had been run I fantasized what it would be like to one day paddle off of the 70ft. monster. After hearing about and watching footage of Erik Boomer first D Outlet Falls in 2009 my anticipation only grew. Finally, more than a decade after laying eyes on this drop for my first time, this year Outlet Creek had enough flow to safely paddle the falls. On day one at Outlet Falls my brother Brendan, Erik Johnson, and myself set off to attempt the drop. Along for support were a couple long time Trout Lake friends, Erik's buddy from Bozeman Cody Rapp, and photographer Bennett Barthelemy.

We were quick to set up in the marginal weather, and before I knew it my brother was hiking up to the put-in to be the first over 'er. Brendan came into the drop with total control and with one slow stroke on his way down the drop had one of the cleanest lines I had ever seen on a waterfall of that magnitude. Unfortunately his skirt imploded and his paddle broke upon impact with the violent boils. I was next up and decided to take a different line. As I neared the lip I drove hard left through the last few laterals and caught an eddy about 10 ft. from the lip. I chilled out there for a short bit to gaze over the horizon line and then slowly peeled out into the current and off the lip. With less speed than the water beneath me, I was quickly enveloped in the waterfall. I let my paddle go and melted into the pool. After some violent churning, the boils spat me out upright. I was stoked to again be with my brother at the bottom of a new big waterfall. Erik was last to fire her up and came through, like my brother, in complete control. Erik tossed his paddle and pulled off a solid double-hand stroke before he tucked up and went deep. One hand roll later Erik was upright and soon chillin with Brendan and me on the banks of the river.





Radio Communications
Post-stout Euphoria

The following day Tyler Bradt rolled into town and without much question we returned to Outlet for round two. On the second day we decided to hike further upstream to paddle the lead in rapids to the falls. Tyler, Erik, and myself hopped in our boats and followed each other down the first easier double dropping falls. The next drop was a little more dynamic. In the lead-in we navigated between some large boulders and then lined up to hit the "moose-knuckle" boof. Directly after the moose knuckle we were thrown into a gnarly but flushy hole. All three of us flipped in this hole, but with one last large eddy before the final rapid we were able to chill out and get our shit together before complete commitment. Knowing how forgiving and rather mellow the drop had been the day before, we decided we would give 'er the old blue angle on day two. I lead the way and caught the lip eddy again to watch Tyler and Erik paddle past me. As soon as they had disappeared, I turned myself around and slowly peeled out into the current and off the lip. Tyler ended up breaking another paddle and I swam, but all in all it turned out being another successful day.

The Horsecock Himself: Day 2 Tyler Bradt leads the way off Outlet

With footage from both the first and second day, I was able to put together this short edit of Outlet Falls. Edited to "Flux for Life" by Mimosa, I hope this video gives an idea of the power this place presents. Not just in the waterfall, but in the towering cliffs, the thick rain, and the lush greenery that surrounds. Big shout out to Nate and Heather Herbeck for letting us borrow their camera for the couple days we were out at Outlet. Enjoy.

-- Video contributions by: Cody Rapp, Brendan Wells, and Erik Johnson