Sunday, April 1, 2007

Upper Trout Creek

Well, this weekend presented us with some beautiful spring weather and what better way to spend it than on the water. After a few calls, we decided to go give the Upper Wind a go. Two of the guys hadn't done the run before, Ryan C. had done it once and I have done the run a handful of times. So, we pulled into the take out at 11:00 AM and took one look at the gauge rock and quickly decided that it was not a good first time level. The water was going over the rock and only one horn was occasionally visible. We began to ponder what else we could run. The EF Lewis, the Hood, even the Upper Upper Wind was thrown out. Then someone mentioned the possibility that Upper Trout Creek might be in. Well, why not. So, in our infinite wisdom, we headed for Upper Trout Creek. "It's hard to catch and the water seemed like it might be at a good first time level, so let's go check it out." We cruised up to the take out and took a quick look at the gauge rock.

The consensus was that it looked good, but lets go upstream and see what the run looks like and if we can get up the road. The road quickly pulled away from the creek so we didn't get to see much. We eventually hit snow deep enough to bottom out my Subaru. However, Pete had his truck and we pushed on coming just short of the bridge that marked the put in.

We quickly walked down to the creek and determined that there was adequate water. The sun was out, a new creek to run, life is good.

We geared up and put on. It was now almost noon. I went first to scout followed by Tyree and Pete with Ryan C. taking sweep. We bounced along through nice class II and III water for about a mile or so when I rounded a corner and saw what looked like the end of the world. We eddied out and took a look.

Pete hops out of his boat to scout the beginning of the gorge section

This was the beginning of the really steep gorged out stuff we knew would be in here. This was clearly the steepest stuff any of us had run. So, after some time scouting, I peeled out and forged on until I could no longer see where to go and eddied out again.

Ryan C. somewhere in the upper section of the gorge

The group then descended to where I was and I told them the lines, and peeled out again. We progressed this way for about a half mile before we got to a very tough move above an unrunable sieve. I'm sure that more water would have made this good to go, but with the low water we had, it was pure death.

The author giving the line to the guys

The sieve is just out of view in this picture

We talked about the lines and I probed the drop. The moves were harder than I had thought and catching the eddy was extremely difficult. I got out, set safety as best I could and took pictures. Pete came down next.

He did good until the cut for the eddy. He bounced off a submerged rock, spun around and proceeded to go right into the sieve. I quickly dropped the camera signaled to Ryan C. that we were in deep shit and started jumping from boulder to boulder to get to Pete. The boat had wedged hard in a powerful slot on the other side of the river. Swimming where he was could be fatal. As it was, his boat was getting worked deeper into the slot and time was everything. He was on his way to getting trapped in the boat and things going from bad to worse. Fortunately, as I reached Pete he was able to get out of his boat. We quickly got him secured and put a line on his boat. Apparently, the boat was beginning to collapse on him just as he got free. Ryan C. and Tyree made it into the eddy where I had left my boat by now. There was little they could do from the other side of the river and the sketchy boulder crossing I did was one of last resort. With some work, Pete and I managed to free his boat. Pete was pretty rattled and took a hard up and over portage line to the next pool about a quarter mile below. With some difficulty, I crossed back over and we continued on. It seemed to take Pete forever, but given the terrain it was understandable. The creek continued to serve up very technical and demanding drops one after the other. Pete had decided not to get back in his boat by now. Tyree was helping him work his boat down river while Ryan C. and I were scouting ahead for the best lines both on the water and on the land. We knew we needed to at least get Pete off the creek, but we were gorged in.

After a couple hours of slowly working down rive, the crew was getting tired. We spotted what looked like a path of egress at the next corner. We also knew we should be getting close to the end of the gorge. We also needed to find a way to get Pete on the road side of the creek.

Ryan C. somewhere in the steep section of the canyon

Tyree takes his turn

While Ryan C. and I were trying to figure out a way to get Pete across and us out of the canyon, Tyree was getting ready to boat down to us. We set safety as best we could. Unfortunately, he hit a rock spun around and flipped as he went over the last ledge above the eddy. He subsequently swam and none of us could get to him. Thankfully, he was somehow able to self rescue not only himself but all his gear. Just after Tyree had gotten out of the water on the far side of the creek we heard whistle blasts from upstream. Pete's boat had gotten away from him. It hung up on a rock just upstream of Tyree. After some tense moments, they were able to retrieve the boat.

Ryan C. runs the last rapid before we exit the canyon

It was now 4:00 PM. Time to throw in the towel. When I kayak, I have an agreement with my wife. I write down all the important information as to where I am as well as when I'll be home and when to call for help because something is really wrong. Remember, we had planned on doing the Upper Wind so she doesn't know where we are now. I had also told her that I would be home by 5:00 PM and if she doesn't hear from me by 6, something is really wrong and needs to call search and rescue. Ryan C. had a similar set up. With that in mind and the rapid deterioration of the team, we were going to hike out. Now. We ended up roping the boats and everyone across the biggest pool we could find without a problem. Given the time and our energy levels, we elected to leave the boats in the canyon. Then we began our climb up a very steep hill in the only place we had found it to be possible. I flagged our way out with some surveyors tape I had with me in my pin kit so we could return for the boats. We slowly worked our way toward what we thought to be the direction of the road. After about an hour and twenty minutes, we popped out on the road just above the take out. Ryan C. hiked down to his car and went out to call everyone's wives and girlfriends. The rest of us hiked the two miles or so to my car which we had left when we hit the deeper snow. After a very long day, we headed home for the night.

Pete and Tyree came back the following day to pack their boats out. It was an exhausting three hour ordeal, but a success. Ryan C. and I came back the day after that to try and paddle out. With a couple portages due to the low water we made it out of the last of the steep stuff and cruised down to the take out. There was some pipe and cable in the creek near what looked like an old bridge abutment.

Ryan C. all smiles near the end of the run

It took us 30 minutes to hike in and an hour and twenty to boat out the remaining .8 miles. Definitely easier and more rewarding than packing the boats out. Not that I blame Pete or Tyree for their decision at all. It's a tough creek and I'm sure they had had enough. All in all, it was a great experience and a real learning opportunity for everyone involved.

No comments: