Monday, July 04, 2005

Jarbidge Bruneau Days 2-4


Welcome to the Bruneau Canyon.

I'm going to wrap up the rest of the trip into this post. We didn't shoot anything on the last day, from Miller Water down. I had hoped for some good Five Mile photos, but, well ... read on.


Shaun is ready to get on it!

We were up and on the water early on day two for the bulk of the whitewater. First up was Wally's Wallow, which had a fun technical entry into a small ledge hole before offering a clean but tricky left drop or a steep sharp corner on the right. We had a collection of entertaining runs here, with only Tony really styling the drop. I had to pull a seat-of-my-pants pivot, Herb got surfed, the raft really got surfed, Shaun pinned in the shallow rocks, and Nick ... well, it was a good thing we had a spare paddle. Take a look:

Video: Wally's Wallow.


Mike and Bill scout Wally's Wallow.


Herb gets a little surfin' in.



Tony drops in to Wally's Wallow.



Here comes Nick, opting for the left drop.



Shaun tries left, but winds up right. Upright and in his boat ... but pinned.


Looking down the right-to-left move in Wally's Wallow.

I'd hoped to get some shots of John's Jollies or the Maze, but on such a short trip, we couldn't stop long enough. The river below Wally's is a very fun collection of class III-IV. At this flow, there was plenty of room, a little wood in play, and many fun moves to make. We stopped briefly at The Maze thinking it might be the falls, but were quickly back in our boats. We ran quickly through the drops before pulling into the eddy above the falls.

And what a falls it is! The middle section, after a long, congested class IV entrance, features a tricky move left of a horn rock to set up for a move left around an undercut boulder. The right slot, a clean-looking ledge from above, splats onto a hellish boulder, and you really do not want to be right. Below this move, you've gotta get back right for more tight slots, undercut rocks, steep drops into big holes, and general class V mayhem.


Jarbidge Falls. Class VI? Not at this flow, but I'm portaging!

We took a lunch break in the shade just above the crux move in the falls. After this nice break, we were ready to make for the WF confluence and enjoy the upper canyons on the Bruneau. But first, we had to clear the final class IV section of Jarbidge Falls, which include a four-foot ledge, the steepest drop we'd seen. Bill and Mike dropped in first in the Puma, and got tossed left against the guard rock of the steep drop. A nice pivot and they were off around the corner. Herb and Tony quickly followed with nice lines.


Bill and Mike find the left guard rock below Jarbidge Falls.


Herb cleans the ledge.


Tony follows with a nice line.

Once the CA Crew was done, I hopped in my boat. It should be said that at this point Nick was seriously ill, and not in good shape. Rather than make the move above the ledge, he opted for the uber-low water left channel, which looked positively evil. I made my run with no problems and caught an eddy with Tony, laughing as we waited for Shaun's run.


The author lines up on the right side entrance as Nick opts for a fatal low water channel.

And here's where it all went to hell. Shaun took the right channel, but opted for the left rather than the right entrance. He couldn't quite make it back right at the lip, and hit the same guard rock the Puma did. Only this time, in the smaller boat, he wrapped instantly. Tony and I ferried to river right and started the quarter-mile scree climb to get to Shaun, who had managed to get from the boat to an adjacent rock. We quickly got a line on the boat, but it was clear we'd need the pin kit. Tony and I soon had a z-drag set up, and got out the spectra bag. Pulled on the bow, but were blocked by a rock. Pulled on the stern, couldn't move the boat. About this time Herb joined us, and the three of us finally managed to get Shaun's boat up off the rock and into the eddy on river right. We gave a rope back to Shaun, and after a daring leap, he was with his boat, safe on shore. Elapsed time: 2 hours.

Where was Nick during all this? Besides periodically disappearing behind the boulders, Nick was on river left with all his gear. He wasn't going anywhere though, as he had blown his right tube in that low water channel. An 8-inch tear, right on the hip. Once Shaun was stable, I took off to get the repair kit -- back in the boat, of course -- then hiked back up to Nick. Herb and Tony decided to go looking for the Puma, as it carried the only pump, while Shaun started drying gear below the drop. I sewed up the rip and had the boat patched in about 30 minutes. Another half hour for safety, then light pressure in the tube and we were off.

It took a true team effort and the right gear to overcome this disaster -- everyone kept their cool, worked together, and communicated effectively. I was proud to be part of a group so able to handle this kind of challenge.


Looking back up at the last drop of Jarbidge Falls. Or, as Nick christened it, "Jarbitch Falls."

We had hoped to camp somewhere between Cave Draw and Clover Creek, depending on time. After the midday fiasco, however, we had to make time to reach Cave Draw by dark. We set a quick pace and covered ground fast.

As we passed under the old jeep trail bridge near Indian Hot Springs, we heard the distinct sound of a motor. Just below, on river left, was a couple in a jeep wrangler, totally bogged down in the mud. Quite glad to see us, their faces fell when we said we'd be getting to town in three days. I hope they got out all right.

The entrance to the Bruneau canyon is truly one of the finest sections of canyon anywhere. It was sad to be rushing it through, and I don't have the shots I'd hoped to share. But I guess that means we just have to go back. The only major rapid in the upper section of the Bruneau is Kendall's Cave, which we recognized from above this time.


Dropping into Kendall's Cave.


Nick in Cave.


Everyone took the line under the wood. Brought back great memories of being under that log in my raft last year.

The late afternoon light was quickly turning to twilight, so the camera got put away and we hauled ass down to Cave Draw. We even ate dinner before dark ... almost. Everyone slept well, anyway. The next morning we were up early and agreed that Miller Water was the logical final camp spot, making for a 21 mile day. That meant we had enough time for a quick reconnoiter of Cave Draw. If you haven't been, I won't spoil the surprise.

I also took a moment to try something new. The waterproof case on my camera was giving me trouble; it didn't want to turn the camera on, making on-river shots difficult. I decided to rig the tripod in the boat itself and set the camera to shoot a picture every minute. This actually worked out great and I wish I'd kept it in place for Five Mile. The rest of the shots in this TR were taken from by this system.


A new photo technique ... the boat cam!


Herb and the crew enjoy the easy water in the heart of the Bruneau canyon.


A great corner above Clover Creek/EF Bruneau.


Do they all look the same? I just love these walls, so here's another one.


Early afternoon shadows in the canyon.


Herb and Shaun are looking forward to lunchtime.

We stopped for lunch at Clover Creek, and had an enjoyable seven mile float down to Miller Water. Not much hiking at this site, but it's a quick sprint to Boneyard in the morning. Five Mile is such a great section of water. Full of tight chutes, steep drops, boulder slaloms, and fun holes. It was a great way to wrap up our trip. Everyone had great runs, though there was a little slop making the left chute in Boneyard. Wild Burro was clean and fun as well. The sad thing about running this stretch so early (we were on the water a little before 7:30) is that the whole canyon is in shadow, so photos would be very challenging regardless.

When we arrived at the takeout, we found a note from our shuttle driver. The boys had had another flat on Nick's truck on the return shuttle. We now had our spare and Tony's spare on the truck with no other spares available. The note assured us that the tires would be fixed and waiting for us at Jumbo's. We were a little skeptical of such a thing on the 4th of July, but drove into town hoping for the best. No such luck, our man was out on the lake with cold beer, and wasn't interested in fixing the tires. It took a few hours, some strange logistics, lots of phone calls, and, of all places, a Wall-Mart in Mountain Home before we were back on the road.

I don't think I've ever been on a single trip where so much went wrong. That nobody was hurt, all but one paddle survived the trip, and group dynamics held up is a testament to everyone on the trip. Thanks for everything guys!

I can't wait to get back next year.

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