Monday, July 15, 2013

The "New" Upper Willow Creek

Upper Willow Creek is like a friend that has had a serious brain injury; it is essentially the same, but it isn't quite all there.

Brief rapid descriptions from a resent descent at ~350 cfs for those of you who are curious.

(Note: I have not run Upper Willow Creek at this low of a flow and do not know exactly what it looked like before the floods in fall of 2012).

The Shire: Essentially the same.
Trip with a nice boof in The Shire

Gazebo: The entrance is probably going to be run on the left as there may be a few new hole scattered above the top drop. The top drop is essentially the same. The second drop is about 5' taller (again I haven't run this at 350 cfs before) and the left size is jammed with rocks creating much more of a sieve. The right line is the way to go. The bottom portion has a bunch of rocks that moved around and doesn't drop as much as it used to.

Boogie water between below gazebo to Three Stooges: Essentially the same.

Three Stooges: Pretty much the same. Maybe a little more of a sticky hole at the very bottom above Spider Monkey (you would still run that part far left).

Spider Monkey: Completely different. The sweet boof on the left is gone. The line at the top is on the right. Who knows if the waves at the bottom will come at you from all sides during higher flows.

Sieve 57: Completely Different. See the photos. There is no more slalom move above the big boulder, but the bottom is essentially the same. The top is definitely easier.

Top half of Sieve 57 at 350 cfs.

 Bottom of Sieve 57 at 350 cfs

 Looking up from half way at Sieve 57, 350 cfs

 Looking up from river right at Sieve 57, 350 cfs

Pancake: The top boof has some funky water and perhaps an undercut close to the landing. There is a "sneak" on the far left against the wall that sets you up for the bottom half. A new boulder has fallen in on the left above where the final ledge used to be, blocking the old line. At 350 cfs there is a snaking tongue that leads through boulders/holes where the ledge used to be. Curious what this will look like at higher flows.

Triple Drop: I believe the sieve has opened up at the bottom. There is A LOT of water going under the bottom boulder. So much water that there is a spout of water coming up at the base of the boulder on the downstream side. The left line has a big triangular rock at the bottom splitting the flow, diverting the majority of the flow under the bottom boulder. There are several boulders at the bottom on the right that have shifted moving more water to the left, under the boulder. There is one rock you can see hiding under the water upstream of the river right triangular rock that feeds the nasty sieve (that has recently gotten bigger). Between the bottom river right triangular rock and the wall there is another rock hiding under the surface that you can't see (hit it with my boat paddling through). It would not be a good idea to do the low water river right swim (like I have heard of packrafters doing at low flows)! We portaged on the right below the top portion slipping in under the top river right boof boulder and hugging the river right wall for dear life. The Bottom Line: It is REALLY hard to tell what is going on under the water. There is a lot going on in this rapid. But one thing is for sure, there is A LOT of water going under the bottom boulder. Any ideas on a better portage option? Zip-line?

River right side of Triple Drop, 350 cfs

River left side of Triple Drop, 350 cfs.

River left sneak below Trip Drop: It looked like you could potentially run this rapid (that we previously couldn't) on river right. The river left sneak is still there.

Rapid above Aqualung: This rapid is essentially the same. There may be some potentially river wide ledges in here at higher flows at the bottom (But those ledges we ran into could also be a low water feature).

Aqualung: Essentially the same. There is a big boulders piled up on river left making it much easier to get on top of the big boulder at the bottom and thus set safety.

Boof below Aqualung: Where the sweet boof once used to be in the rapid below Aqualung, there is now a pile of rocks. This rapid is probably best run on river right the entire way down.

Maxwell House: The boof on the top right seems to be gone. The bottom drop is now a manky boulder pile. Where there once used to be a sweet flake right of center, there is now a manky rooster tail. The once fairly uniform ledge looks to be more like a pile of boulders with a flat sticky ledge at the bottom. It did not appear that the majority of the water in the creek was going over the boulders at this flow. It did look like you could probably run this one with more water.

Bottom ledge of Maxwell House, Early May 2010, at about 250 cfs

Bottom ledge of Maxwell House, 7/14/2013, at about 350 cfs

Sunday, January 20, 2013

2012 Media Bomb

2012 had plenty of water, I might start to venture to say too much water. Some things raged nearly out of control all summer, while others would hang out of control for most of the season just to plummet to less than ideal. All in all it was a good season, that always had something to do. Between the endless water and endless light there was a lot of kayaking.

Archangel Creek this spring was a prime example of the water (and kayakers?) raging nearly out of control:

I finally made it out on the Talkeetna with Paul Forward, John Cox, and Will Lyons this summer. The Talkeetna is definitely an Alaska whitewater classic and a must do if you are in Alaska (definitely made sweeter after an epic on Bench Creek, which is NOT an AK whitewater classic). The river isn't hard, it is just plain fun; miles and miles of class III/IV wave trains.

I didn't get a lot of video in 2012 mainly because most of the new runs I did turned into a misadventures that typically consisted of crawling through the devil's club in a giant sweat bag dragging a +50lb kayak. Here's the good stuff from all of that, the B-Sides per se:

With the late fall high water a bunch of the crew headed north to run laps on Upper Willow. I'm really thankful that we were able to get out and route the run multiple times, as the major flooding that occurred in the fall of 2012 changed all of the major rapids. So in a toast to the old Upper Willow, here are a few shots of the guys on Alaska's class V gem.

Timmy lining up for one of the many unnamed rapids in the Upper Willow canyon.

Upper Willow boogie brought to you by non-other than Timmy J

Tim getting his boof face on at Tripple Drop, Upper Willow

 Henry Munter at Tripple Drop, Upper Willow, defining how to boof

Henry showing everyone how it's done...again, running the left line at Gazebo, Upper Willow

Matt Peters locked and loaded, left line at Gazebo, Upper Willow

Xavier Engle getting ready to launch the left line at Gazebo, Upper Willow

Matt in the top third of Sieve 57, Upper Willow

Henry setting up to finish off the second half of Sieve 57, Upper Willow

Xavier, Matt, and Henry all lined up blue angeled Sieve 57, probably the longest and most complex rapid in Upper Willow. This shot is looking down the second half of Sieve 57 with both Matt and Henry.

Xavier with a nice boof at Pancake on Upper Willow

Henry having as good a line as you can hope for at Maxwell House (good until the last drop), the last rapid on Upper Willow

The remaining few shots are of Bench Creek. My only words of advice on Bench Creek is, only go up there if you are really ready to fire some stuff up. There are only four rapids and they all mean business. The run is pretty remote by South Central AK standards and any injury out there could start a major epic. We had far too much water when we went in there and all of us walked everything, except for Henry, who ran one rapid. I don't think I'm every going to go back. The majority concluded that Bench Creek is not an Alaska whitewater classic.

If you get to the bridge and the channel looks like there is a good amount of water in the channel, put in there and save yourself a world of hurt!

Also, I hope you're not allergic to cow parsnip, as there is A LOT of it on the hike into Bench Creek. Henry hiding among the giant cow parsnip.

Where's waldo (aka Will Lyons)

With that 2013 is off to a raging start. Tim Johnson, Matt Peters, Tyler Dyer and I are off to New Zealand for a month. Update to come in February (maybe that will keep me honest).