Saturday, May 07, 2005

Selway Day 2: Rattlesnake Bar to Wolf Creek

Ladle at just over 3 feet at Paradise. [click for larger view - 5.6 MB jpeg]

Selway, Day 1
Selway, Day 2
Selway, Day 3

Saturday dawned to a cold drizzle and a few more inches of water for the Moose Juice section we were soon to face. As we ate breakfast and packed gear, conversations turned to the big drops ahead. Where would we scout? What were the general lines? How much of the rain had found its way into Moose Creek?

Photos from the second day are available in the gallery.

We got on the water around 9:00 without a hurried pace in camp, and shortly came to Ham after only two more false sightings. We ran left, with one right side run. It was a good warm-up for the juice, and neat to see the rapid in person. As I'm sure is quite common, I was left wondering just how low those pictures from Garren were!

We made short work of the numerous class II drops above Moose Creek. Moose itself had water, but wasn't big. It didn't look like 50% of the flow above the confluence to me, but it did change the feel of the river -- immediately. After a friendly chat with kayakers camped on river left below the bridge, we drifted down towards Double Drop. Hans was leading, and looked over his shoulder to tell me he normally didn't recognize the drop until he was in it. I responded by staying right.

After a few minutes of floating, Hans turned back toward me with his eyes wide-open, nodding vigorously: we had arrived. After passing the message on, I checked my thighstraps, prepared for a major swim, and committed to the rapid. The first wave was huge. I hit it hard with a little left angle, and it surfed me left just a little before I punched through it. The move had bought me enough room to clear the rapid, and I quickly caught an eddy to watch the rest of the runs.

Scott dropped in behind me, but the first wave surfed him right instead of left -- so hard, in fact, that he turned and pulled for the surging pocket eddy on the right, just above the monstrous hole against the right wall. Scott quickly assessed the situation, charged to the top of the eddy, and deftly let the current swing the heavy end of his boat past the hole, clipping the left side of it as he rode the remaining waves into the pool below.

Thrilled with this first taste of the juice, we quickly went in search of Ladle, which was to be our first scout. Due to poor lighting and intermittent rain, we didn't stop for pictures until Ladle. After a quick stop above Wa-Poots we arrived in the pool above Ladle and hit the scouting trail. At flows of just over three feet many routes were available. The right was the obvious line, but several diagonal routes were present, and in the IK, the move left looked like an interesting challenge. In the end, we all ended up running right.

Hans runs Ladle.

Chuck drops into Ladle.

Bill cleans his run in Ladle.

The author IKs Ladle.

Scott runs Ladle.

Below Ladle we quickly dropped through Little Niagara, Puzzle Creek, and No Slouch, boat-scouting all the way. Talking about these rapids later was pretty funny. "Which drop was Little Niagara?" I'd ask. Someone would answer with a description: "It had that big table rock in the center, and remnants of a high water logjam." All I could remember was a pool, then a wave, then exploding white piles that launched my kayak airborne as I frantically dodged holes 30 feet wide.

No Slouch came up so quickly that we barely had time to get our spacing together. I dropped in too close to Hans' cat and, worried about crowding him, I tried to slow down. This quickly led to the first huge wave -- for which I was backward. I managed a quick brace, a quicker pivot, and just had time to take a stroke before the next wave hit. I fought up the face only to be dumped at the top. Climbing back in quickly, I saw I was headed into a hole. I had time only to throw my weight downstream as hard as I could. I broke through the pile, but was dumped unceremoniously in the runout. Glad not to be getting worked in the hole, I looked up just in time to see Chuck enter the rapid.

No Slouch has a fairly straightforward line, moving right then left to avoid large hydraulics. Chuck figured why zig and zag when you can punch the hole? Well, the hole had its own plans, which including giving Chuck's drysuit a thorough rinsing. After he had regained his seat and cleaned the rest of the drop, we continued downriver looking for Miranda Jane, which provided a fun ride to round out the Moose Juice section. I took my third swim of the day in the boils below the final hole. Crossing the "eddy line" (also known as the "move of death") I was promptly leaning, bracing, and generally fighting to stay upright. Thinking I had achieved stability -- HA! -- I had just long enough to enjoy the huge tailstand I was riding before again being dumped out of my IK. I wasn't letting go of that boat till I was out of the boils, which were the most interesting swim of the trip, and provided the smallest hint of the power of the Selway canyon at higher water.

Thrilled to be on the Selway, and even more thrilled to have survived the Juice, we floated down past Tango Bar and camped just above Wolf Creek, completing over 20 miles of river in just over four hours of river time. One scout, a few minor swims, and to complete the best Saturday of the year, the rain clouds departed leaving us with a lightly cloudy but very warm afternoon to dry our gear and enjoy the views of Wolf Creek rapid.

Wolf Creek at just over 3 feet at Paradise. [click for larger view - 14.8 MB jpeg]

Scott and the author above Wolf Creek.

After lunch, we hiked up to the trail to watch two parties run the drop. One cat and several kayaks made the run, all running the right tongue charging left; the cat opted for the left side entrance, which was an easy run threading some medium sized holes. For some reason, several of these guys missed the great clean wave in the runout of the rapid.

A member of another party, floating through the canyon below Wolf Creek.

As were enjoying the evening in camp, we had a local show up on the opposite bank, obviously displeased to find us in the way. After walking up and down the beach, she at last decided to swim across -- just above Wolf Creek Rapids. She didn't make the ferry though, and was forced to swim the rapid. She made the same line the big boats were taking, kept her nose above water the whole time, and climbed out in the pool below, shaken but intact. It was quit a feat, and put the pressure squarely on us. If she could swim it, we had no excuses for a blown line!

Our moose friend joins the elite Selway Swim Club. Taken shortly before she dropped into the rapid.

We spent a great afternoon in a great camp, enjoyed a fire, and retired to our tents and to our dreams of tomorrow's canyon and its mysteries.

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