Saturday, August 27, 2005

ELF Boating: Little White Salmon

David Chatham drops Sprit Falls.

We've done our fair share of ELF boating this year, but now we're takin' it to the next level. In fact, I think Ultra Low Flow more closely approximates the water level we saw on the LWS. Most of the crew had been down several weeks before at 2.7 feet, which is a pretty stout flow for IKs. We guessed this was more like 1.7. I was glad to see the river at low water for the first time down, and this was the perfect opportunity. Our crew: David Chatham, Eric Klein, Steve Munk, Mike Novak, Scott Waidelich, and myself.

We opted for the hike in below Boulder Sluice, and we found the river extremely boney down to Island Drop. It was more hand-walking the boats down the rocks than "paddling" but still lots of fun. Most of the group portaged Island, but Steve and Fish decided to drop in.

Video: Little White Salmon

Fish in the entry move of Island Drop.

Yeah, I blew the video. Here's a shot of Fish's recovery.

Steve in Island Drop.

The author, below Island.

Island Drop provided some good carnage, and we were laughing our way downstream. I found a new respect for the old guard of kayaking who ran this kind of stuff in fiberglass boats the length of our IKs. Trying to negotiate these boulder gardens without hitting rocks is daunting indeed.

The boulder gardens were a hoot. We found a trashed Werner carbon bent shaft, and a swim or two may have occurred, but things were moving right along. We were very excited to see the bedrock start to replace the boulders and looked forward to cleaner drops.

Fish lines up on Sacriledge.

Sacriledge was fun and clean, and we spent a little time exploring the undercut on the left for fun. Soon we were at Double Drop and I think we ran it every which way.

Steve drops over Double Drop backwards.

Novak below Double Drop.

One of the most impressive drops on the LWS was S-Turn. This drop must be pounding at high water. I understand the normal line is far left, but we opted for center to take the right chute below the drop. I had the line I wanted but got surfed a bit too far right and got to run the bottom ledge backwards. Always fun.

Steve at S-Turn.

Novak boofs as Chatham sets his line.

The author, trying to get back left.

Unsuccessful. Penalty? Backwards!

Fish re-enters his boat after manning the camera.

We found a great ender spot, as Chatham demonstrates.

My favorite drop on the run was Wishbone. What a hoot! I loved everything about it ... the leadin, the move off the left wall ... it was just plain fun.

Steve shows the way at Wishbone.

Eric follows suit.

Horseshoe went well, and we loved the canyon scenery. Stove Pipe was just too low, though Fish and Steve ran it previously, I understand. A quick seal launch and we were on our way -- nothing to do now but get ready for the big one.

Spirit Falls. It's probably the IK photo in Bennett's book -- a Thrillseeker, paddled by Jeff himself, over Spirit. Certainly it's one of the most famous falls in the Northwest, and justifiably so. We scouted briefly and then Fish dropped in, and pulled an amazing landing off. He was quickly followed by Eric, who had a great line but a swim. Chatham followed, and that Sotar rocker took it's toll. After serious downtime and a standing somersault under water, he came up grinning, paddle in hand. Novak ran next, up with a roll at the bottom. That left Steve and I, so we rotated the cameras. I went first, floating through the leadin staring at the edge of the world. I just over-rotated, resulting in my turn at a swim. Guess I gotta go back! Steve came last, and somehow came over the lip completely sideways. I've never seen anything like it ... we were getting ropes ready, but somehow, he pulled it off and stayed in his boat. Unbelievable.

Fish drops Spirit Falls.

Note the busted foot peg.

Eric Klein over Spirit.

David's turn.

"My boat's got rocker!"

The author, amazed to still be falling after at least half an hour in the air.

Novak shows his calm demeanour.

"Can I freewheel Spirit?" Steve landing this is the most amazing recovery I've ever seen.

A few of the group opted to run Chaos but most went left. We bombed through the bolder gardens down to Master Blaster, which served up some amazing swims. The move at the bottom at this flow was unexpectedly tough. I remember fighting through the right side entry, working left, only to realize the slot I need is now to my right, and my boat is sideways to the guard rock. I nearly wrapped, pulled off some weird combo of rock brace, hand brace, and hip twist to make the move and ride a tailstand out of the bottom. What a fantastic day!

Thanks to Steve for his excellent photos.

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