Trip Report: American (North Fork "Chamberlain" ) - 1/15/06
Run: Chamberlain Falls
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. www.cacreeks.com has a pic that gives you a general idea, but I don't think it's a very good shot: http://www.cacreeks.com/photos/amer-ch1.jpg
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 www.cacreeks.com pic http://cacreeks.com/photos/amer-ch2.jpg 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