Sunday, April 09, 2006

SF Sky: David runs Eagle Falls -- First IK Descent?

Eagle Falls, SF Skykomish
3800cfs at Goldbar
April 9, 2006

This trip report written by David Chatham

Video: David runs Eagle Falls.

Eagle Falls was a long time in coming. I had seen the drop out of the corner of my eye while driving to Steven's Pass many times even before I started kayaking. It looks like a very scenic and pleasant drop from what you peek at over the guard rail while driving by at 60 mph. However, when hiking down to get a closer look, it is quite evident that this is a significant and consequential drop. A few months ago, when the Skykomish was running at 27,000 cfs at Goldbar, Eagle Falls seemed reminiscent of the videos of V Drive on the Grand Canyon of the Stikine. However, when we looked at Eagle yesterday with the Skykomish at 2800 cfs, Eagle looked relatively friendly. Today, with a 1000cfs more on the main Sky, the drop looked substantially harder.

After taking a while to scout, we decided to go run the Tye, and then come back for a possible run on Eagle afterwards. The group had a great time on the Tye, and then spent some time looking at Alpine Falls, before heading back for a probable run of Eagle Falls. Eagle looked much friendlier after having just spent time looking at Alpine. The foremost consideration for the run was to avoid a huge retentive looking hole in the center of the river below the first drop. Looking further at Eagle, it was certain that there was no way to boof the far left side of the second drop with an entry down the left side of the river. The line that Jeff Bowman had recently run starting on the left, angling back to the center with a drop over a 5 foot ledge, and hitting the bottom hole head on, seemed way too beefy today to really consider. This left the choice of running the right side as the preferred route. This line required hugging the right bank to line up to run directly over a 5 foot high haystack, and then hit the bottom hole on the right side, where it was much more forgiving. The nice thing about the right side from my perspective, was that as long as I didn't end up in the retentive hole in the center of the first drop, the rest of run was swim-able.

After doing a pre-run interview for the video, I went back to the car to get my PFD, and to top off my IK. I found Scott also getting suited up to do the run. It was nice to have company, and nice to know that everyone wasn't just having to wait for only my run. Scott and I headed back to the top of the falls, and discussed the line. He ran first, went over the haystack, and got pushed into the big eddy on river right above the second drop. He ended up coming out of the eddy sideways, and a little backwards, and flipped in the hole at the bottom, but was able to roll. I thought it was then my turn, but all of the cameras were still pointing downriver. Scott apparently flipped in an undercut eddy below the main section, swam, and got throw bagged. Still, it was great to see him make the meat of the run upright.

Scouting the entry move past the massive center ledge hole.

For my turn, I put in slightly farther up than Scott. I ended up hitting the same spot on the haystack, launching over, bracing below it, and getting pushed into the same eddy on river right. I then was having to lean hard to keep my left tube from getting sucked under, and came out of the eddy lined up fairly well for the final hole. I didn't have the momentum I might have liked, but cleared the hole. However, the next thing I knew, I was upside down and going for a swim. Apparently, I got flipped by the boil below the final hole. I ended up being under water for 8-10 seconds, but wasn't worried as I knew there was nothing below the falls to be too concerned about. Finally, I could see the water above me getting lighter and knew I would soon resurface. Once back on top, I got to swim one minor hole, before getting reunited with my boat a little ways downstream. I paddled to the side taking out next to some fisherman who barely acknowledged me. One of the guys setting safety (Mitch) had come down to congratulate me on the run, and I hiked back up to the road and exchanged high fives with Scott.

It was great to finally run Eagle Falls after having looked at it on at least five other occasions. Wish I hadn't flipped after making it through the bottom hole, but, that just leaves something to look forward to the next time (I hope).

This trip report written by David Chatham