Sunday, April 24, 2011

Season Opener....?

If last weekend was a send off for winter, this weekend was the kick off for summer.

When I finally made it back to a computer after running around in the mountains I had to check the USGS gage for Sixmile Creek. The weather had been warm and the sun was beating down and it was about time for the creek to open up. As it turned out there was enough sun last weekend for the river to start a rising diurnal trend. Later in the week I talked to some people that had been down to the gage and they reported that the channel was open and that there was shore ice along the banks. Sounded like a good adventure.

Yesterday I met up with Timmy, Jorge, Jeff, Johnny, Roman, Travis and Brian for a season first descent. With rain pouring down on the Kenai Peninsula and the snow quickly retreating from the pullouts in Turnagain Pass, it was a perfect day to get wet on the water.

After scouting The Nozzle and Suck Hole from the road we headed up to The Elbows to put on the river. Second Canyon looked good to go, but there were two big ice bridges in the Suck Hole stretch, one upstream of Suck Hole and one in Zig Zag. We had a feeling we were in for quite a day of portaging and scouting.

There were no ice bridges in second canyon, although there were some ice selfs creating for an interesting run of The Anvil. Jorge and Brian bailed after Second Canyon due to recent surgeries and confidence and Johnny, Timmy, Jeff, Travis, Roman and I headed down into Third Canyon.

There was a lot of ice still left in Third Canyon which made for slow going, lots of scouting, portaging and large seal launches. There were approximately six portages due to ice bridges. It was really cool to be on what was essentially a new river. The channel was different due to the ice shelves and it was changing as we were on the water. At one point as we were getting out to portage a seventh ice bridge and it broke before our eyes and we were able to boogie under it before it decided to collapse for good. After nearly 5.5 hours on the water, probably the longest run any of us have had on Sixmile, we were back at the cars celebrating the first run of the season with some snow chilled beers.

Roman was out paddling the new alpacka design, and has a good write up on the trip and how the new boat handles on his blog. I've got one on the way and after watching Roman paddle the Llama with no thigh straps yesterday I can't wait to get mine. His lines looked clean and effortless, and he was able to make some surfing ferries in the new boat. It looked like the new alpacka held some speed and an edge and behaved more like a kayak than in inner-tube. I'm stoked to get in mine!

It will probably be another two weeks before Sixmile is good to go.

A video is on its way at some point. In the meantime enjoy the pictures.


Unknown said...

Nice photos! What drop was that in the last 3 pics with Tim, Johnny, and Jeff? As jealous as I was that you were paddling whitewater while we were on flatwater, 60 degrees, sunshine, Alaska Range scenery and lots of birds felt pretty good.

Roman Dial said...

Hear a rumor that there was a packrafter with you on that run. Was he just way behind all day?

Unknown said...

@Roman: Nope that packrafter guy was always up ahead leadin the way. Hard being the photographer bringing up the rear. Not sure how you do it.