Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Slave ate my pants

Not only did the Slave claim my pants today, but also my boat and my paddle.  But loyal fans, the mighty river did not eat me and so I live to tell the tale.

So, the Slave is very high right now, the highest we've seen it and I found this new epic epic epic wave with John Blyth.  Fast big and furious. See below.  Yet unamed.  (options: intimidator, medusa, fear itself, terror, hyra, leviathan, the punisher, panty snatcher)

This wave actually has eddy service, which is odd for such a large feature.  If you flush it just takes about 10-20 minutes to navigate back to the wave depending on how many times you mess up the multiple ferries.  

To get on the wave, you just have to enter surfers right through that big aerated pile of goodness.

Like this (see above).  I was able to get on the wave with no problem about half of my tries with the other half starting and ending rapidly in some nose flushing.  Unfortunately, on one of those nose flushings I got pulled halfway out of my boat and my skirt imploded!  But all was not lost because I was still able to roll up with my right leg, which was still securely in the boat.  I started paddling for the eddy and this  decision was my downfall.

Me paddling for the eddy vortex.  MISTAKE!!! don't do it Natalie, stay in the current!!

 What you may not be able to tell from this photo is that while I am technically still in my boat, I am actively paddling a swamped craft into a vortex.  Leif is just off frame in his boat to the left.  I am exiting some current that continues on downstream and the section of river I am going into is hemmed in by two lateral currents that come in from the left.  As I pirouetted around in my swamped craft yelling help! help! Leif valiantly tried to come to my rescue, but the ferry from where he is at is harder than it looks and he missed the move and had to go on tour for another go.  In the meantime my boat finally gets sucked off of me as it is pulled deep under the water.  I then try swim paddling with my paddle but am just getting tossed by the water and sucked down and up just barely catching my breath between submergences.  John on shore upstream (way too far for throw ropes) is putting on his gear as quick as he can.  I decide that maybe I'd have better luck without my paddle.  Leif is still trying to get to the eddy vortex area- I told you above it is a long tour...  I'm not sure that letting my paddle go was a good idea since after I let it go, I was no more effective at swimming and now I was getting sucked deeper into the undercurrents.  At one point I get sucked so deep that I was almost out of breath and wondering if the surface would ever come.  It was a long time, and I've got some pretty big lungs.  Finally I pop up and go for some more somersaults.  At one point I see that I am closer to the current and I make a big push to swim into it and I am free!!!  As a last offering, the river took my pants just as I broke out to the main current.  Leif gets to the area I was at just as I was leaving it.  He races after me downriver and I gratefully grab his stern as he paddles me to the nearest Island (no small feat, it is a good thing Leif is incredibly ripped).  John says that my boat stayed in that vortex for a bit longer than me and just as he was getting there it got flushed out and he was too late to chase it or my paddle.  To get to take out on this big river, I doggy paddled the stashed Pirouette (which is strategically placed on one of the islands for situations just like this) down the nice easy class III lines.

 It is a good thing that I brought two boats to the Slave this year.  My Dope (now lost forever) and my new Medium Element.  Tomorrow I'm going to take it easy in the element on a nice gentle wave named Chico.  Can't wait.  The Slave is big and powerful and still incredibly awesome. 

Me putting my gear on in the morning. Notice the track pants from my college volleyball days.  They were very effective at blocking the bugs, I'm going to miss them.
Me taking out doing the bug dance all smiles.  Saskia has already told me she's got some extra pants I could have.

If you come to the Slave, don't worry, we won't make you do the scary stuff.  There is plenty of fun easy things to do as well (see paddlefest promo and jackie's video below).  In fact, we are taking someone out tomorrow in the Anvil (It is a river board with flippers).  That should be pretty fun.

Slave River Paddlefest Promo (Come on up!!!!)

Slave River Paddlefest Promo from Leif Anderson on Vimeo.

Jackie's video

Slave River 2009 from Jacqui Whitehead on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Boxelder creek, Wyoming

This post is long overdue, and I am not going to do this run any justice, but here is a video and some photos of our Boxelder season from this spring.

Boxelder Creek, Wyoming from Leif Anderson on Vimeo.

Boxelder is a strange little creek near Casper Wyoming. It has sort of a Cali feel, with a fair amount of exposed granite, but at the same time, it keeps that manky feel that Colorado is famous for. This year, we completely missed the good flow window because we were gone for a competition in Montana, so all we got was the ultra-low water shoulder. However, even at low water, Boxelder is a fun run, and we had a blast mobbing down this creek.

There are a lot of challenges associated with Boxelder. The first is access. In the past, we have been able to use a nice easy putin at a bridge across the creek. You had to hop a fence and take about 10 steps over private land to get back to the river, and as far as I know, this was pretty much ok. However, somewhat recently, the landowners changed their minds, and we are no longer allowed to take those crucial 10 steps. Natalie and I were informed of this by the sheriff's department, when we narrowly avoided a trip to jail.

There is a more legal putin, but I'm not very good at describing how to get there. From takeout, you take the next dirt road to the left, and follow it down and to the right until you are within sight of the river, at which point you scramble down a steep hill to put in.

Do not put in at this bridge.

The next challenge is the fun part: the whitewater. Most of my runs have been at very low water, and at those flows, Boxelder is a bit of a chess game. At high water, I remember it being a rollercoaster, but at low water there are a good number of slot boofs and boulder mazes.

On this trip, I had fun inventing names for all the rapids, especially the tiny riffles. The new names (in order) are:

Well of Souls
Gentlemen's Club
Bird on a Wire
Trapeze act (left channel. Right channel has NEVER BEEN RUN to my knowledge)
Bank Robbery
Getaway Car
Cosmic Ballsack
Eternal Hangover
Triple Scoop
Turtle Dick
Four Move Checkmate
Wild Turkey
Exploratory Open Heart Surgery
Crack Whore (right line. Left line, high water, is Sunshine)
Unnamed Riffle
Electric Slide
The Thing After Loaf
Hairy Beaver
Bonus Boof

The newer, more legal putin puts you in just above Eternal Hangover, so you get the majority of the rapids. Unfortunately, I hate Eternal Hangover.

Here are a couple photos.

Brian Bank gets sprinkles on the third scoop of Triple Scoop.
Me working the frets on Electric Slide.  Photo by Nathan Werner.
Electric Slide from river left.
Scouting Loaf.
The main event of the run is definitely Loaf. Immediately after Electric Slide, the bedrock surfaces big time, and the river goes off a surprisingly technical slide/falls type thing. The rock right at the lip of the last part of the drop, on the left side, is undercut, which tended to flip people as they went off. The drop ends with a pretty sticky hole in a walled out coliseum. The hole has an especially sticky pocket on river left that has claimed many swimmers, probably because that side of the drop is backed up by an underwater rock. Things are better on the right, but there is still a shelf under there that Conor was able to find. If you run this drop, be sure to have some safety set up, since at least one person has needed the rope extraction from the hole at the bottom.
The crux of the Loaf
Chase Nobles entering the dessert slide (below Loaf).  Photo by Natalie Anderson.
We had surprisingly motivated crews, and there were around 16 descents of Loaf over our 4 different runs, with minimal crashes. There were one or two surfs, some rolls here and there, but no swims and no rope extractions needed.
The portage around Loaf is almost as sketchy as the drop itself, and certainly taller.
Conor on the Bonus Boof.  If you run this boof, you have passed takeout.
After Loaf, there are just a few more rapids as the creek approaches the middle gorge. The middle gorge has been run before, and will be run again, but it is highly sketchy. It basically involves one drop: a medium height waterfall with rocks on the left and a cave on the right (actually, I oversimplify. There are rocks center and right, and a cave right, but the left falls off a shelf that looked pretty hard to get on top of because of the entry to the drop). Almost everyone takes out above the middle gorge, and begins the next challenge of Boxelder: the hike out.

Boxelder is one of the few creeks I know of where the takeout is higher elevation than the putin. As we described it to Conor Flynn while we were driving in:

"See that highest point on the canyon wall there? That's where we hike out."

There are a couple trails up to the parking area, and the laws of physics dictate that they all gain about the same amount of elevation. The first time climbing out, it seems unbelievable, but with each new lap it gets easier and easier. When you finish, you really feel like you've accomplished something.
The end of the hike out.
Here is a slideshow with more photos from our trips.