Saturday, November 26, 2005

Carbon River

Slot canyon on the Carbon.

Text by David Chatham; photos by Mike Hoover.

After running the Carbon river a few weeks earlier, Dave Moroles and I couldn't wait to get back in to this beautiful canyon for another run. With the lack of rain and cold weather, water levels had been dropping, but a rainy day elevated the levels to about 500 cfs and we became very excited about doing the run again. After planning the trip and getting others on board, we awoke to find that the level had dropped to 372 cfs, at 3 AM, and appeared to be dropping fairly quickly. Our previous run at 535 cfs seemed to have been at an ideal level, but we decided to do the run even with the lower flow.

We were joined this time by Scott Waidelich, recent converter from IK to hardshell, Mike Harms, Mike Hoover from the Olympic peninsula, and by James Bagley, Jr., visiting from Corvalis, OR. Looking from the bridge near the put in, there appeared to be plenty of water in the river. While those of us electing to rappel in below Rick's Slide were getting suited up, Dave and James went to mark the way with ribbons to our rappel tree. After helping us, they took off to run Welcome, Lobster Claw and Rick's while we went for our adventure.

Fish is stoked to check out the Carbon.

This time, we didn't have to traverse across an unstable slope, and were able to directly descend to our rappel tree. We did set up a fixed line to descend on to get to the rappel tree, though this was probably not really necessary. The rappel from here is about 120' with the last 70' or so being free hanging (need a 50 meter rope). I had advised everyone that this was the most sketchy part of the day.

Fish rappels into the Carbon Canyon.

Mike Hoover, who didn't have much prior rappelling experience, said that the rappel "wasn't sketchy, it was scary".

Mike Harms rappelling past a horizontal log about 20' above ground level.

While others were rappelling, everyone placed themselves and their boats out of the way to avoid being hit by falling rocks.

While we were rappelling in, Dave and James showed up with elated tales of a "full on" IV+ - V fairly continuous run in the upper gorge. They had both been pushed against the right wall in Welcome, and Dave had mistakenly run center at Rick's. He hadn't flipped, and after going for a spin in the whirlpool there, was able to paddle out over a ~3' high eddy line.

Shortly after the put in, there is a III+ drop, and soon after, a submerged log that's easy to go over, just before arriving at the 14' waterfall. Everyone got out to scout the 14 footer. Looking at this drop, with no easy exit, and with an obvious cave behind the waterfall, made it an easy decision for everyone to portage.

Waterfall on the Carbon.

Below the waterfall, we had some fun drops, one of which led to some carnage. While Dave was being thrashed in a large hole, Mike Hoover came in and pushed him out, only to be caught himself. After taking a beating, he ended up swimming and his boat came out a minute or so later. Unfortunately, he lost his paddle, but we were well prepared with break downs.

Arriving at the Classic Canyon, James got set up to shoot video.

James and Mike Harms looking towards the Classic Canyon.

This section was the only place on the river where we really noticed a big change with the lower water level on this trip. Where we had found a fast moving descent with some hole bashing on our previous run, this time, I got slowed on some sub-surface rocks. This canyon is amazing. It pinches down to about 9 feet and has vertical walls approximately 100 feet high.

Stunning intimate canyon on the Carbon River.

After some easier water, the river starts dropping again. There is a rapid that has a rock with high pinning potential in the center, which however, we were able to bypass using a cheat route along the right bank. Just below this, there is a class V rapid.

Scouting on the Carbon.

I flipped above the eddy pool, righted the boat just prior to the main drop, and stuck the landing bear hugging my boat much to everyone's enjoyment.

David's mid-rapid recovery on the Carbon.

Scott, on his attempt, flipped and whacked his helmet on some rocks in the drop, and was briefly dazed, and remained dizzy for about 30 minutes. Dave and James both stuck their lines, and the two Mikes portaged.

Dave acing the rapid.

Below this, there are a few more IV-IV+ drops. Soon after, the rapids decrease to class I-II until the take out. The run took a little under 3 hours from put in to take out. This write up doesn't do the run full justice. There are many III+-IV+ rapids that I can't recall the exact locations of, and where we do not have pictures.

Text by David Chatham; photos by Mike Hoover.

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