Wednesday, February 20, 2008

TR: Sandy Gorge or: That Hole That Almost Kicked My Ass

It had been about a year since I last went through the Sandy Gorge. With the Marmot Dam coming out this past fall and limited time in my day I found myself interested in revisiting this section of water. Alan Douglas and Matt Haven met me at the put in and after a quick shuttle we were on the river. The gorge looked good and it was a beautiful day to be on the water.

Alan and Matt gear up for the Gorge.
We had heard that there was new wood in the first significant rapid, Boulder. I eddy hopped down the left side and scouted for a route through. The right line and the center line both had wood so we opted for the easy portage down the left side.
Matt sneaks down the left side at Boulder.
Looking back upstream at Boulder.
Below this the rapids get closer together with the next one being Rasp Rock. I felt pretty confident about running this drop so I charged ahead. It was only as I began to drop in that I realized the size of the hole. I disappeared into the foam and resurfaced a couple feet shy of breaking through. The rodeo had begun.
Rasp Rock aka "The Hole"
I quickly got pulled back into the hole and threw a nice compilation of boat ends and paddle blades as I struggled to gain control over my boat. I was just hoping Alan and Matt had decided to scout because it was looking like I was going to need a rope soon. After what seemed like far too long I managed to get a my boat under control and began a bouncy side surf in the hole. It was at this time I realized that the hole was backed up by a large rock and the exits were only on the extreme edges of the hole. It also quickly became apparent that this could be extremely difficult to swim out of and there still was no guarantee that someone was going to be able to hit me with a rope. As the gravity of my situation began to settle in I happened to look to river right and see the bottom of Alan's boat in the hole with me. OH SHIT!! Now there's two of us in here, what the hell are we going to do. Fortunately, Alan's time in the hole was relatively brief as he was able to grab some deep water and flush out the right corner of the hole. Unfortunately, there was no way I was going to be able to surf over to that exit without getting trashed and it wasn't a sure thing that I would flush out the same as Alan. My only option was to back surf out the left side. Working my skulling brace I managed to get to the left corner and begin to finally find some water that was exiting the hole. I pulled hard and popped free. I was immediately propelled downstream and flipped before hanging up on another rock just downstream. I reached around the rock with my paddle and pulled myself free. A quick roll and BAM!! piton into a rock. I drifted into an eddy, spent and happy to be free. What a ride. Lesson learned, scout Rasp Rock. (Not only for the hole, but it is known to collect wood) I walked back up to get a picture of the hole that nearly kicked my ass. It was strong and I certainly would have run it differently had I looked at it ahead of time. It did feel good to know that I was able to handle a tough situation. It was the first difficult hole I've ever been in with my Salto and it performed great. It also appeared to me that it would have taken Matt a while to get a rope to me if he could at all. It looked a little sketchy and I'm not sure he could have positioned himself in a manner that would have allowed him to pull me out.

A closer look at the backed up hole that almost gave me a beating.
After some pictures of Rasp Rock we continued on to Drain Hole. Drain Hole has an ugly sieve on river left that you must cut hard to the right above in order to miss it.
Matt runs through Drain Hole first.
Alan takes his turn making the "move"
Everyone had clean runs at Drain Hole and we proceeded to the last rapid on the run, Revenue Bridge. This rapid has cleaned up nicely with the extreme right and center lines looking really good. I went center while Alan decided to go right. Matt had portaged down the left. All in all, it was a fun run and I'm glad that I gave the gorge another try.
Alan at the top of Revenue Bridge rapid.
As a side note, it appears that Revenue Bridge is being replaced so parking is limited at the take out.

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