Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Little White Salmon Race 2011

This year the World Class Academy launched the largest Little White Salmon Race on record. At the takeout 27 competitors in 13 different teams of two or more grouped together to discuss the race. The first heat would be through Gettin' Busy, the first and longest rapid on the L-Dub. The second would be from below wood choked Island Drop to the bottom of Wishbone. The team with the fastest combined times from the first and second heat would be pronounced winner. My race partner, Ryan Lucas of New Zealand, had only been down the Little White twice before but he was faster n' hell and I knew that as long as I led him down the correct lines he would keep up. Aside from my spinning out in one feature, Ryan and I did well in the first heat and finished within a few seconds of the top team. The second heat was more than twice as long as the first and brought light to a different style of race than that of the first heat. Instead of paddling the continuous Getting Busy style of whitewater to be had in the top stretch the second section focused on technical ledge drops and the longer sections of mellow water in-between. Feeling exhausted below Wishbone, we grouped up with the other competitors and lackadaisically paddled the final section of river. At the take-out Capo, the main race organizer, announced the results:

1st Place and $200 Cash Prize- Locals Louis Geltman & Lane Jacobs
2nd Place and $100 Cash Prize- Ryan Lucas & Todd Wells
3rd Place and $50 Cash Prize- Jure Poberaj & Jeff C.
4th Place - Trevor Sheehan & Drew Austell
5th Place- Todd Anderson and Ross

I was stoked to walk away with second place, but I've got my sights set on first for next year. Big shout out to everyone who helped make the Little White Race possible. If you couldn't make it out this year, we look forward to seeing you out there next year. It's only gonna get bigger

Photos by Jed Weingarten

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Milner Mile: Snake River

A couple weekends back my brother and I, though forever in love with our backyard runs, were joanzin for some high water goods. There was little question over where we would go, and on Friday morning we packed up the suby for a five hour drive to Idaho, the whitewater state. On our way to Boise and at about 8:15 P.M. we arrived at the top of Jacobs Ladder. My brother, Brendan and I gazed down through the churning chaos of the 3,000cfs North Fork of the Payette and put on for one crazy ride. Brendan had never before paddled the North Fork, and I had only paddled it once before at about 600 cfs. Luckily I remembered enough of what Seth Stoenner had told me about the rapids a year ago to lead my brother down the much different river. As the night was growing darker we made out a figure on the side of the river, and pulled over to be greeted by Erik Boomer. Boomer, an Idaho native, gave us a ride back to the top of Jakes, and told us of some next day releases on the Snake River.

After a healthy sleep at our buddy Seth Stoenner's house we made our way to the Milner Mile of the Snake for the 10 A.M. to 3 P.M. release. Idaho Power let out something between 12,000 and 15,000cfs of water for us to enjoy through the afternoon. At the take-out we met with the kind folks from Idaho Power. Though thoughful, we did all have a chuckle as over his walkie talkie one Idaho Power representative declared, "Their okay. Everyone has safely made it to the boat ramp."

Seth approaching the edge of "The V-Hole"
Seth, Brendan, and me after "The V-Hole"

Boomer, Seth, Brendan, and me bobbing in and out of the scene

More goods...

Ryan Casey, another Idaho local who had requested the release, showed us all down the Milner. After a few very satisfying laps on the mile long stretch we drove a ways downstream to put in on the Murtaugh section to enjoy another 14 miles of classic Idaho high water. Though short, our weekend trip to Idaho was well worth the drive and I'm only looking forward to our next visit.

Photos by Erik Bird 

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

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Little White Salmon River at 5ft.

Here's a GoPro video of what the Little White Salmon River in Washington looks like when it reaches flows of 5ft. Though for the most part the lines stay the same, the river becomes an entirely different beast. Each ledge hole becomes bigger and more turbulent, instead of a shallow river bed between drops, tall waves guide us from one rapid to the next, small rocks become covered with water and turn into keeper holes no paddler would have never imagined possible at 3.5 ft. That said, as long as you know where in the river you want to be and anticipate where features will change these flows are amazing.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Winter Life in the Gorge

Life for a whitewater paddler here in the Columbia River Gorge is pretty impressive year round, but the Winter always dishes out our favorite flows. So far both the Little White and White Salmon have provided us with many quality days above 4 ft., and many surrounding creeks have finally filled in with enough water for us to navigate. A couple weekends back a crew of my friends from Montana showed up to throw down. Griff Griffith, Sam Freihofer, and Erik Johnson kept up with my brother and me during numerous laps on the Little White and Truss, then at the end of their stay we decided to check out Summit Creek. Summit Creek is one of the lowest volume creeks that I have ever paddled, but still has a solid collection of class V slides as well as two unique 50+ ft. drops. This particular mission turned into an epic when Griff landed flat off the first 50 footer and broke his back on impact. At the bottom of that 50 footer our mission quickly went from paddling both the first and second canyon to safely getting Griff to a hospital a.s.a.p. Griff was okay to walk so while Johnson ran up to find the car, Brendan, Sam, and I helped escort him to the top of a steep scree field. Fortunately we were able to get out of the canyon before dark, and Griff to the hospital shortly after.

CRG Paddling Winter 2011 from Wells Brother Productions on Vimeo.

15 year old up-and-comer Ethan McLeod at the lip of Bridal Veil Falls

Brendan charging Bridal Veil

All in all it was a tough situation, but we managed to get through it safely and at the end of the day we all came back having learned a thing or two. 

Photos by: Paul Thomson

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cerro Chirripo & La Perla First Descent

When I first laid my eyes on the Rio Chirripo Pacifico I was entranced by it's power and beauty. My original reason for visiting the Chirripo Pacifico was to scout out a few waterfalls I'd heard about and to climb Cerro Chirripo, Costa Rica's tallest mountain. I had planned to climb Chirripo with my buddy Nate Davis, and just before leaving for the trip Chris Baer, whom I had never met, got a hold of me to say that he was in the area and that he'd like to come along.
Once we arrived at the town of San Gerardo de Rivas, which is located base of Cerro Chirripo, we spent a day running around looking at all the incredible waterfalls of the Chirripo Pacifico. The next day we packed our bags and set off for the summit. 
In our first day on the mountain we walked 14km through some of the most beautiful ecosystems I had ever seen, from the most dense cloud forests to barren tundra. During that night we slept at a park hostel to gain what little sleep we could before summiting the following morning. In the morning we woke up to heavy rains and winds, but non the less made our quick 5km push to the summit. This section of the trip was rather miserable, and my dream of being able to see both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans from the summit was quickly replaced with dense clouds that allowed for a maximum visibility of 100 meters. After spending some time at the summit we turned around and made the equally beautiful walk back to San Gerardo. 

The cloud forests were quick to engulf us...

... But the sun still shone through 

Last pitch to la cima

Slightly frozen at the top of Costa Rica
Back in San Gerardo we planned to get back to paddling the drops we had just looked at right away, but the day after we got off the mountain I came down with a gnarly week long illness. As I had pre-arranged obligations for the week after getting of the mountain, my dream of spending time paddling on the Chirripo Pacifico was put on hold. 
Luckily before too long I was able to return to San Gerardo in pursuit of stouts. When I got back, the majority of the river was looking low, but one drop still looked good to go. The drop was La Perla, a 50 footer with an off angle boof that led into steep slide below. I knew that as long as I was able to get up as far as possible on the right side boof flake that I would land comfortably on the slide and be in the clear. I also knew that if I didn't make it to the top of the flake and was pulled towards the center I would probably hit one of two boof flakes and possible land flat after a good 40ft. free fall. Confident I hopped in my boat and worked my way to the right. I came over the lip with a good stroke right where I was hoping and smoothly landed on the slide. The landing was soft, and in the pool I was stoked to have nailed the line. Chris, who had been shooting photos, quickly made his way upstream and paddled the drop without any problem as well.

Dropping in
Chris's line 

The entire area surrounding the Rio Chirripo Pacifico and Cerro Chirripo are incredible and I only look forward to further exploring in this part of the world. La Perla in particular went super well and I'm amped to return and check out the rest of the drops on this steep river.

Photos by Chris Baer