Friday, January 27

Trip Report: American (South Fork "Gorge") - 1/27/05

Run: SF American "Gorge"
Difficulty: IV
Flow: 4000cfs

Golden oldie run on the Gorge at high flow. Some stomping holes and fun wavetrains all the way down to Salmon Falls with moving water until the take-out. Sweet.

Sunday, January 22

Pentax Optio WP Camera - Update on Problems

Back in May last year I posted that I bought the Pentax Optio WP digital camera. The camera is pretty cool for the price given the functionality you get, but the software in the actual camera is crap. The camera freezes up on me all the time meaning you have to pop out the battery to restart it. I also had some problems connecting it to my PC since it isn't always recognized as a device and sometimes the connection freezes once it is recognized.

I just had to send it back for a warranty repair since it will no longer boot up. It looks like it is starting up, shows the welcome screen, then promptly dies. I gave it a slight knock before this started when I dropped it a very short distance, but nothing that should have messed it up.

The other thing that many others have mentioned is the fact that the lens is hard to clear of steam and water droplets when you carry it in your PFD. I haven't found a good way to get around this yet, and I'm sure other similar cameras have the same problem.

I'll let you know if there's any improvement when the camera comes back. Would I change my buy recommendation? Probably not - but just be warned that it has some limitations. The new model might be better.

Saturday, January 21

Trip Report: Yuba (South Fork "E to P" ) - 1/21/06 (+Video)

Run: SF Yuba "Edwards to Purdons"
Difficulty: IV
Flow: 1000cfs (estimated due to potential 300cfs guage variance)

(Includes Video)

This was my first time on this run, I loved it. The crew was Brian T, Christine "Hannibal the Cannibal", Mike "Pie Face", Bob W, & David. The water is pretty clear, the rock gorges are really cool, and the rapids are pretty consistent for the entire run. Although it's only about 4 miles, we spent easily over 4 hours eddy hopping, playing, scouting and shooting some video. Even though the sun didn't hit the water much given the steep slopes, the weather was great. Interestingly enough the write up isn't very detailed and leaves out a lot of cool stuff on the run, the other book I recently bought "California Whitewater" also only has a brief mention of the run.

From San Francisco it took me about 2 hours to get to Auburn and then the put-in is probably a good 45 minutes or so from there off Highway 49.

Finding the put-in and takeout is a bit of a challenge. You have a non-optional but well maintained dirt road down to the take-out. There are several routes up to the put-in, one involves another dirt back road (in slighter poorer but good condition) if you follow the put-in road straight up the hill after the bridge, and the others involve heading back across the bridge and up to the paved road. The roads are wyndy and you should make sure you have someone familiar with run or good directions to make sure you don't get lost. If you bomb the short 4 mile run you might get frustrated with the fairly long wyndy shuttle.

Many thanks to Christine for editing this into a cool video, it shows us all sucking at the beginning since you have about 15 seconds to warm up once you put-on before you hit that drop, keep watching for some cool boof shots. Excellent music from Alpinestars:

This was a great training run for me, there's lots of eddy hopping, which is more often than not required to stay safe given its continuous nature and the frequent risk of getting pinned given the numerous boulders and drops.

There are quite a few great boofs. Brian T got a nice one on video which is part of the clip above. Unfortunately I don't have a good sense of the run to describe where they are specifically enough to be helpful.

Right below the put-in there's a short ugly rapid, pretty shallow with lots of barely exposed rocks. It starts with a short squirrelly drop into a couple of holes. We had a group of 6 and it flipped about half of us. A heart pounding start to the day given that you have about 100 yds to warm up. I guess you could walk it if you really wanted to, but if you are actually thinking of walking this first rapid then you probably shouldn't be on the run. I didn't flip but braced and flopped all the way down - a little tragic if I say so myself.

Shortly after this you get into the run for real, apparently some people call this "Entrance Exam" since you're still barely warmed up. It has a couple of fun chutes & drops but with ample eddies to boat scout and drop down.

The other rapids of note are "Esthers" (?) and "Easy Ugly". I'm not sure if Esther is really the name or whether this is just a play on words given that it is a tight "S" turn. There are three large boulders in the river showing a narrow deceptive sneak route on the left, the S turn around left of the second large boulder, and a sketchy middle line through the two largest boulders. The sneak route is rocky at this flow, probably not advisable, and the middle line looked suspicious. The S turn around river left of the main boulders in the middle is the popular line. Depending on how you line up, you can get shot against a rock wall with a great deal of current pushing off it and some pin risk against boulders slightly downstream on river left. There are big eddies right below on river right and slightly further down after the next drop. Scout on your first time.

Easy ugly is a definite scout on your first time. The line we took was around river right with a couple of relatively easy moves but with a nasty risk of getting pinned if you don't make them.

Like I said, this is a great run that you should try & do when there's enough water. Certainly not "epic" at this flow, but really nice if you get bored with everything else or need a change of scene. I thought it was a good run for someone like me with limited class IV experience. I wouldn't say that it is a good run for an introduction to class IV though.

I'll go back for sure.

Sunday, January 15

Trip Report: American (North Fork "Chamberlain" ) - 1/15/06

Run: Chamberlain Falls
Difficulty: IV+
Flow: 2,000+ (Estimated)

Had my first adventure on the North Fork American "Chamberlain Falls" run with the motley crew of Mike W, Christine "Hannibal" C, and Brian T. Although the gauge was bobbing around 1900cfs or so, there was some significant drainage from waterfalls and creeks so it had to be over 2000cfs, but hard to say how much. It's a IV+ run that people tend to talk up a lot, so I was apprehensive going into it. I actually prefer hearing less about a river rather than a great deal of hype.

The shuttle wasn't bad at all, the dirt down down to the take out is windy and narrow but in really good shape. The rickety suspension bridge at the bottom is a trip.

Anyhoo, it was a great run. The weather was chilly but beautiful, a nice sunny afternoon that was pleasant in the sun, but given the steep slopes of the gorge it was pretty damn cold when the sun was off the water. Given that it is snowing in the Sierras the water was freezing. Although I detest pogies, I may have to go back to them because gloves just aint cutting it.

My Jackson Hero performed nicely, it really punches through holes & drops well, although I still say that I could use a few more gallons of volume.

Slaughter's Sluice is the first rapid of significance. Not a bad intro to the day, a couple of straightforward moves in pushy water around some big boulders, but with some consequences of getting pinned if you missed a line. A swim wouldn't be pretty and boat recovery might be a nightmare. It got my beginning of the day jitters out of the way and it was a good confidence builder. has a pic that gives you a general idea, but I don't think it's a very good shot:

The run's namesake is next "Chamberlain Falls", one of the bigger drops that I've done but it was a lot of fun. The pic shows the boulder fully exposed, but it was fully covered when we were running it at this flow. We took a nice clean line down river right.

There were some other fun rapids but Bogus Thunder is the next thing worth writing about. We scouted this one and had lunch. There was a somewhat sketchy looking line down river center then off river left down a chute, but I didn't like the look of it. We saw some folks come through the center line, then over to river right just right of the main boof. We decided to give that a shot. My lessons learned were:

(1) Paddle aggressively, don't fuck around in class IV water at bigger flows.
(2) Kayaking 101 - if you stare at a rock you will absolutely hit it.

I made it through the first drop down the center with a bit too much momentum perhaps and then missed the line and didn't come in high enough to setup for the drop just right of the boof. There was a kicker rock with some wood stuck in it separating the boof drop from a narrow chute all the way far right. I got hung up on the rock just long enough to get sucked down the far right chute backwards - not nice. It could have gotten very nasty if there had been some more exposed rocks, I could've easily gotten pinned backwards. But I got washed through and flipped at the bottom and rolled up in one piece with no dents or bruises. I think I skipped a few heartbeats of those watching on the river bank though. I didn't freak out, just a slow motion sense of foreboding and "oh fuck - oh well down we go!". Going down rapids backwards adds that little added "spice" for those that need it.

The other point worthy of note was Staircase. Apparently after the recent high flows it has gotten a bit easier. We scouted and there was a nice clean line that was clearly evident. Thereby I learned the next lesson of the day:

(3) Don't get cocky & complacent in pushy class IV water.

I get flipped after the second small drop and don't quite get up before going over the last drop into a hole upside down, getting just enough of a mouthful of water to make me swim. In retrospect I could've setup and rolled just fine, but I bailed and swam, much to my chagrin but much to the entertainment of the rest of my party - who are a bunch of losers who happily giggled all the way back in the shuttle as they watched the video of my misfortune over and over again. I love those guys like a dose of the crabs.

All in all, it was a good (fairly) solid day on my first Chamberlain run. Got my ass whooped just enough to stay humble and come back for another shot.

This video was from another day when I wasn't there, but here it is anyhoo: NFA Video

Saturday, January 14

Trip Report: American (Arroyo Seco ) - 1/14/06

Run: Arroyo
Difficulty: IV
Flow: 400cfs

The description of the run describes the fact that no shuttle is required as a really positive aspect, but the 3 mile hike up and down a dirt road carrying your kayak is BRUTAL! Pleasant my ass...but the run is worth the hike. I should seriously consider a little cart or wheelie thingummybob if I do this again. They also have some decent pictures on their site including a comparison of high vs. low flows.

This was my first real "creek run". The gorge section is very narrow and very cool from a scenic perspective. The river water was remarkably clean given the heavy rains that had been occurring that day and the night before.

The first drop is deceptive, looks like an easy move but the currents are strong and hole kinda sticky. I got popped against the wall on the left and had scraped along on my arm for a few feet before getting away - fun. Note to self - buy elbow pads.

The run continues with lots of nice drops, but given the constricted nature of a narrow creek type run, getting pinned is definitely possible and a swim would be potentially painful. There's a really fun drop described on cacreeks before you reach Mucho Cojones - we portaged this. I guess 400cfs is considered a fairly high flow and this run looked plain ugly, in fact, maybe they should rename it that.

There's an undercut in the pool after the drop on river right and some nasty rocks on the left very close to the possible boof line river left. If you missed a clean boof line or got flipped, you'd likely be sucked into the reversal and get too close for comfort to the undercut. So we "oooh'ed", "aaaah'ed" and then walked.

There's this "boulder choked" garden towards the end of the run that is barely class III, it claimed two for three in the swimming competition. Unless you want to get pinned or do a geology exam close up and personal of the bottom of the river, or just thoroughly embarrassed, you might just want to walk around this - if your pride will let you!

This is a fun run and good experience, but the drive all the way down to Soledad is a good three hours, and the 3 mile walk to the put-in makes it a little less attractive. I'll do it again, but probably not soon.

Monday, January 2

Trip Report: American (South Fork "Gorge" - Flood Stage) - 1/2/06

Run: Greenwood to Salmon Falls
Difficulty: IV (Given flood stage & consequences)
Flow: 12,000+ (Estimated)

Map of the River

We put-in at Greenwood Creek, using the newly constructed parking lot & facilities. Very nice. The gate was open however the gate to the Salmon Falls lot at the take-out was actually closed. We had a group of five - Bob, Amy, Eric & Alex plus me.

Greenwood Creek was dumping a lot of water into the river and all of the tributaries were flowing including some waterfalls. A run that can take 4 hours took us only 1.5 hours, if daylight wasn't running out we'd almost have done it again!

The Chili Bar guage was around 8,000 cfs and it always difficult to judge how much additional flow is added by the time you reach the Gorge. Given the flood stage and the width of the river banks it could be an additional 4k, but that is a guess based on little evidence. Apparently (so I'm told) Chili Bar drainage is about 598 sq. miles and Greenwood is 673 sq. miles, not counting additional drainage through the Gorge. Don't quote me on that, 'cos I don't know for sure.

Not surprisingly there were many wave trains, some not as big as I expected. Fowler's made us hesitate before heading in. It was hard to see a clean line at that flow, but I felt that the far left line to the left of Fowler's was the best bet. I ferried across river right to catch a moving eddy right before the rapid but didn't hit the eddy far enough up so quickly became committed to running some kinda line without a good plan! I took a quick look then went with the far left. I was worried about the possibility of a huge hole behind Fowler's that might suck me in and one was there, but it was avoidable with a bit of care. I eddied out river left immediately afterwards, raising my paddle to let the others know that I was alive! The hole right after Fowler's was one of the biggest I've seen, definitely worth a look and definitely worth avoiding. It was a crazy sight. Possibly the second biggest hole after the one at Fowler's was at Scissors just left of center, we ran it right rather than the normal left line at lower flows.

Satan's was mostly washed out and completely covered. We went around to the right and Son of Satan's was almost sketchier with lots of wierd currents a two nice sized holes, one of the left and one on the right. Some nice waves.

Bouncing Rock was fun, but the hole was definitely worth avoiding, we were quickly into what I think is called "Double Dip" which was fun wavetrain before Hospital Bar with yet another man eating hole.

Hospital Bar was basically washed out into a moderate wavetrain. The lake was fairly low and so we had current all the way down to Salmon Falls. Surprise was washed out but there were some fun wavetrains after that.

All in all, my conclusion was that the run was a lot of fun but I almost think it is more fun at a few thousand cfs less when some of the rapids have more definition. The weather was reasonably kind, but there was moderate rain for the entire run but fortunately no wind.

I was running the river in my new boat - Jackson Hero - rather than my Wavesport EZG. I need to get comfortable in a river runner/creeker for bigger water. Unless you're a good paddler I wouldn't recommend running the river at this flow in a small boat given the squirly eddy lines & holes.

Consquences are high in the event of a swim. It would be very difficult to recover swimmers and gear, and the hike out isn't easy in many spots. some of the holes look very retentive with high drowning danger so staying in your boat is really important. I didn't roll at all, and frankly didn't want to experience a roll in the middle of some of the powerful rapids since trying to get up, even with a good roll, could be a challenge.

Can't wait until next weekend! No pictures this time unfortunately.

Sunday, January 1

New Boat - Jackson Hero

I got boat #3 this past weekend which is a Jackson Hero. I'm at the top of the weight range at 5'10" 155lbs, but the boat sits high on the water and handles my weight very easily. The Super Hero goes up from 150lbs to 240lbs, which is just too big. It seems that I end up right in an awkward spot in terms of weight range for many boats.

Most of my friends have been getting the Dagger Mamba, with mixed reviews mostly positive. One of the criticisms was the quality of the plastic & construction. I demo'ed the Jackson Hero from a local store and liked it, and also liked the price, $599 for a demo in excellent condition vs. $995. I took the plunge and bought it, so far I like it. I'll let you know how it holds up. It has a little bit of a retro look given the pointy bow but at 64 gallons has decent volume, so far I wouldn't mind if it had a couple more gallons. Oh well, nothing is ever perfect.

Weight: 35.0 lbs (16 kg)
Length: 8'0" (246 cm)
Width: 23.75 inches (61 cm)
Height: 13.5 inches (35 cm)
Knee Height: 12.1 inches (31 cm)
Volume: 64.0 gallons (242 L)
Max Inseam: 34.0 inches (87 cm)
Max Foot: Size 12.0 (mens)
Optimum River Running: 80-150 lbs
Optimum Creeking Weight: 100-150 lbs
Cockpit Dimensions in inches: 20 x 34
Price - US $995