Sunday, May 07, 2006

McCoy Creek

Mark Yauney cleans McCoy's signature drop B.U.D. while the crew watches.

McCoy Creek is a tributary of Yellowjacket Creek in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest south of WA-12. This incredible creek is reminiscent of Copper Creek with lots of shallow II-III separating classic bedrock rapids featuring steep technical drops. But compared to Copper, "steep technical" is taken to a new level!

Hugh Boyd, David Chatham, Eric Klein, Mike Novak, Mark Yauney and I met to run McCoy on Sunday. Yauney first ran McCoy roughly 12 years ago in his IK, one of the earliest descents of this stunning creek. Our hopes for a sunny warm day were quickly doused by the incessant drizzle, but hey -- we're creekin here, right? How dry do you expect to be?

Other Beta:
American Whitewater
AW Journal
Oregon Kayaking
Liquid Kayak
UK Rivers Guidebook

Cispus: 1790
Yellowjacket: ~500 virtual

Video: McCoy Creekin'

Special thanks to Mark Yauney for sharing his photos.

Out putin plans were derailed as we waited nearly an hour and a half over the course of the drive to meet up with everyone. Shuttle took longer than expected -- all of which meant we launched at nearly 1:30 with ambitions of spending time on video in this remarkable canyon.

The run began with a bang and a small ledge. Water level was low, but the big stuff was filled in nicely. After some nice warm up, we came to two straightforward portages, which look like they've been in place a long time. Both were portaged on the left.

Novak runs the putin drop. (MY)

The second portage would be a great drop beginning with a clean 4-foot ledge into an s-turn move before another ledge below the wood. (MY)

After this, we quickly found ourselves at the first big drop: a sliding ledge with a big pothole. The "high and left" line wasn't really in play, so David and Mike lined up and gutted the hydraulic. Nice clean runs by both. The rest of us made an easy portage on the right.

We knew we were coming up quickly on the crux section of the creek, and sure enough, the next horizon line was upon us fast: Tom's Slide offered a typical slick bedrock wall for scouting. A class IV entry ledge led immediately into the slide itself. I've run many 15-foot drops in my day -- if this was one, the rest were 8-footers. Everyone ran the line along the wall on the right, and nobody had any carnage. Clean, steep, and fun!

Chatham just ... sailed right out there!

The author on Tom's Slide. (MY)

Mark Yauney, McCoy veteran.

Eric Klein right on line on Tom's.

This is the first time I'd had the pleasure of boating with Hugh. He seemed game for all the camera work, diving right into running the camcorder then throwing an impromptu spin move on Tom's. Stylin!

The next drop was an amazing double drop with a technical s-turn entry. At the lip of the first ledge, a good portion of the flow went right over a large boulder into a churning trough against the wall that flushed under the boulder. The line was right down the gut -- boof with a little right angle and hang on tight for the bottom hole! David was the only IK to stay upright and in his boat. There were also some shoulder-endangering "vertical draw strokes" employed to claw out of the bottom hole. Good times!

Yauney, Hugh, Eric, and Novak waiting to see Chatham's entry move on McCoy.

Chatham styles the sticky ledge drop.

Yauney drops in.

Hugh lines up on the double drop.

Novak, the man with the bionic shoulder.

After a short time and more fun boogie, we arrived at B.U.D. (Backwards and Upside Down -- glad I wasn't that guy!) also called Chinook Falls. I don't know how to describe this rapid. From the scouting eddy, you hike a steep canyon wall past the entrance. The entrance is a chute into a big eddy on the right that leads into a tricky s-turn move with a horribly placed rock and odd hydraulics. I didn't hike much farther than this, as I knew what the rest looked like. Others kept going, eventually making it to the lip of the next two drops. The leadin s-turn led immediately into a 8-foot ledge with a big curler/rooster tail on the right. A big eddy on the left below the ledge offered recovery space to those in control, while the rooster tail fed directly over the final 20-foot big plunge into the pool below. This last drop was a nice slide on the right and a big double drop through a pothole on the left. So there it is -- one of the most fantastic rapids I've ever seen: clean, technical, steep, multi-tiered, and virtually unportageable.

Novak stepped up first, calmly moving into the eddy above the entrance. A few strokes later and he was sailing over the 8-foot ledge. He flipped and rolled up just in time to catch the eddy on the left. At this point, we still thought it might be possible to make the right line over the bottom drop. Mike gave it a huge effort and dropped into the pothole anyway.

I knew I was running the drop, but I wanted some safety on the second ledge. Hugh said he'd run down to the eddy and be ready. We dropped in to the committed eddy together, said some words of encouragement, and he dropped in. I watched Mark on the scouting trail for clues to his fate. Mark only winced once, so I figured Hugh was alive. Mark gave me some details, then ... it was time. I knew there was nothing between me and the drop but time, so I took a moment to compose myself. I'd never run anything this technical and vertical, and I really didn't want to flip on the 8-foot ledge as both Novak and Hugh had before me. I took the entry slow then charged left to clear the f-u rock. Got right where I wanted to be, but put me on the left wall more than I expected. As I approached the 8-footer, I knew I couldn't get the strokes I wanted, so I strong-armed the left wall to control my angle on the ledge and took one stroke at the lip. Next thing I knew, I was lined up on the pothole, got a couple good strokes into it, and then I was sitting at the bottom with Hugh grinning at me. One of the best lines I've ever hit, and a great feeling to run a rapid I've been looking at for a long time. Unfortunately, we had some camera problems and the boys missed my run.

Mark came next and styled the drop. He just grinned at the bottom, as if to say "What's the big deal?" IF you're even in an eddy with Mark, ask him about his first run over this drop.

Mark Yauney getter 'er done on B.U.D.

Eric came next and pulled off a great brace below the 8-footer that sent him off line for the final drop. He made it through the pothole and spilled at the base.

Eric Klein runs the meat of the pothole.

Chatham ran sweep and got pushed into the pocket eddy on the left just a few feet above the 8-footer. He peeled out and sailed down the right side over the rooster tail then charged the pothole, only to flip at the very bottom. I always say if you're going to swim ... do it at the bottom!

Duckie runs the gnar!

As we were waiting for David to hike back to his boat, Hugh looked up at us and yelled "It's 5:30!" -- we'd made something like 30% of our mileage and now had three hours of daylight left. Cameras were stowed and we went into attack mode.

The section below B.U.D. is very fun. There were at least three very clean 6-8 foot ledges before we reached the next drop: Coho Falls. This one has been called everything from 18 to 30 feet. It didn't look like 20 feet to me, so I'm gonna go with the 28 feet I've seen elsewhere. Novak thought it looked about as tall as Behemoth on the Upper Upper Cispus. Regardless, it was another big technical drop. Much of the water pasted into the wall on the left at the bottom, and most of the flow was working that way. A thin line ran against the right wall into a diagonal hole that kept you pushed right to avoid the left wall at the bottom. Yauney cleaned it up, and Novak did pretty well too. The rest of us swam with varying degrees of grace and Hugh broke a paddle to boot.

The author drops Coho Falls. (MY)

Hugh about to take a big hit. (MY)

Novak styles Coho. (MY)

The Coho Falls swim team: Chatham, Brian, Hugh, and Eric. (MY)

That was the end of our whitewater day. We spent a few minutes helping Hugh get his breakdown together, then started hunting for the portage trail for the big falls below. No one considered the ledge above the falls. By the time we attained the high ground on the portage, it was 6:45. We had no plan to get back to the river. At about 7:15 we made the call to start hiking up and out. We knew we were on the same side as our shuttle road and closest vehicle. We also knew hiking out of Yellowjacket would be tough going and with even less daylight and warmth by the time we returned to the river. We worked our way up perhaps 1000 vertical feet of an old clearcut before finding a logging spur road. We made this spur road with dusk settling in, but still plenty of light. Novak took my headlamp and Chatham to go find the car while the rest of us told stories in the moonlight. In an hour, we were packing boats, and by 10:30 we had shuttle run and were on our way home.

I don't think the exit from the gorge could have gone any better -- the logging road we found was the only spur road between us and the putin, and saved us at least another 500 vertical feet of groveling up the hill in the dark to the main shuttle road. It was tempting to keep moving down river, but I think the decision to hike out was the right one. Great teamwork and cooperation made it as painless as possible. Over the course of this trip, every person spent a little time manning the cameras. Everybody was too busy talking about how fun this creek was, even after the hike out. If that's not a testament to the quality of this creek, nothing will convince you.

So -- an epic day of spring creeking on a classic run full of signature drops. If you like technical, vertical, and committing -- don't miss McCoy Creek!

Thanks to everyone for helping with cameras, and to Mark Yauney for his great photos.