Monday, February 25, 2008

Upper Wind River: IV+ (WA)

After having a good day in the sun on the Washougal River, Will, Ryan, Danielle and I decided to try out the upper Wind River in the Columbia River Gorge. The weather wasn't as good as the day before, but we weren't deterred by snow out our way to the take-out. The All-Trac leading the way through mud and snow with a sweet new alternator.

The well-known gage rock at the take out had water sloshing through the horns, which indicates a good medium level. We dropped my car off and headed up to the put-in.Getting ready at the put-in.

The first mile or so was mellow class II leading up to Initiation: a long class IV boulder garden. Ryan was the only one who had done the run, so we were mostly following him. After Initiation, the action kept coming for several miles. We moved quickly without scouting anything and bombed through dozens of class IV drops. Ryan chose great lines and we would regroup in an eddy to watch Will come through. Will nailed everything and we would peel out again once he was through the rapids.
Will dropping through Ram's Horn

Eventually we got to a steeper horizon line and eddied out. Ryan was just above the lip boat scouting and I found a parking spot on the right. Ryan gave me the "go left" signal, grinned and dropped out of sight. A few seconds later I saw him re-appear in the pool below and followed. It was a fairly tall ledge with some big hydraulics, but the left line was a fast, clear tongue.

"That was Ram's Horn" declared Ryan when I caught up with him. Personally, I love not learning learning where the well-known rapids are until after I run them. It kinda takes the edge off. The experience was similar at our next big drop.
The author negotiating some of the "in-between" stuff

The river resumed it's normal character of continuous class III with periodic class IV drops for another mile or so (it's hard to remember because it all went so fast). Eventually, the river disappeared again, only this time Ryan disappeared with it. Where the hell did he go? I grabbed an eddy and looked over my shoulder to see him signaling left. I aimed toward the slot he indicated and paddled hard. This was one of those drops with a boof flake you want to find to help clear the hole. Well, I found it. It was right there, two feet to my left as I dropped into the gut of the hole.

I pulled the best boof I could without any rock to launch off of and it went surprisingly well. I landed flat and kept paddling downstream to clear the hole, but all in vain. The hydraulic stopped me dead. I changed my strategy and spun around, then paddled full-strength back INTO the hole. Strange, I know, but I drove my bow deep into the green water, launched into an ender, and it was just enough to shoot me out the backside of the hole. I rolled up the the moving pool below, and, to my astonishment, saw Ryan upside-down against the wall. I guess while I was getting worked, he signaled for Will to stop, which was just enough to flip him. Ryan rolled up and Will came through with a good clean line. "I think that was 'Climax'" said Ryan.

Climax marks the end of the real whitewater on the upper Wind and we made our way through a few miles of class II boogey water to the take-out.

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