Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hucking Illgen Falls

My second run of Illgen

I awoke late Wednesday morning to a text message asking if I wanted to run Illgen Falls. Having the day off of med school I figured...why not? The sun was shining and air was warm as the three of us paddlers converged on Lester Park and car pooled Northward; myself, Jeremiah Peck, and Anthony Abalsliger. We also brought a trusty camera man to document the action.

Arriving at the Baptism river we stopped and checked the gauge which read 2.2 ft. It was not by any means high, but definitely meant Illgen Falls was runnable. Parking near the falls we hurried down to take a look. It had much less water than I had seen earlier this year, but was clearly runnable. We scouted the already obvious line down the falls and went back to the car to gear up. I readying myself in silent contemplation of the events ahead. Carrying our boats we headed back to the Falls. We each went our individual ways of getting ready and nervously scouting the line.

Finally I said to Jeremiah, "you wanna rock, paper, scissors for it?" in regards to who was going to huck it first. Anthony chimed in, "I'll go second". I looked at the two of them, no one really wanted to go first and I had enough willingness..... I exclaimed, "screw it, I'll go first". There it verbal proclamation had cemented it. I slid into my boat and made myself comfortable while the others on safety had cameras poised. I push off into the current and intently paddled to the arching lip just right of center. As I came over the top, I looked down from the precipice to the water below with the whites of my eyes likely showing. As gravity took hold, I made myself attempt an Oregon tuck, trying put my paddle blade in front of me and ducked my face just before impact (which in actuality didn't happen as my brain thought, as seen in the video). When I hit I was surprised that it was not as violent as I would have expected. I was under water for only a split second before I emerged upright and paddling.... and equally surprised that I didn't have to roll up. I raised my paddle triumphantly and smiled. Here's the video of the run:

Next to run Illgen was Anthony. I waited at the base of the falls with a throw rope in one hand and video camera in the other. Jeremiah was standing ready above the top of the falls on the river left cliff face. Anthony came over the falls slightly more left of center and penciled into the falls. His boat resurfaced at the base of the falls getting beat and held by the falling water. Here's Anthony's run:

It flushed the boat a split second later, just after he popped his skirt. While swimming he was pushed to the left cliff wall. Jeremiah promptly dropped his throw rope down to him which Anthony quickly grabbed. Jeremiah then instructed me to throw a rope from my vantage to pull him away from the wall and down stream. I ran up as close as possible and made a frantic toss that didn't reach him, then another attempt still worse. Jeremiah holding the rope walked the cliff band until he could pull Anthony more down stream and away from the cliff till he could swim ashore on his own. It was a little frantic at first, though it must be said Anthony at no point was in life-threatening danger and had adequate safety ready for him. But he was glad for our help to get him out of there. Meanwhile the next problem was that Anthony's boat was trapped against the cliff in the current beside the falls and was staying there.

It was clear I was going to need to rappel down to the boat in order to free it from Illgen's grip. Myself being a rock climber, I was well aware of the capabilities of my gear. I knew my throw rope was spectra rated to at least 1600 lbs and we had another throw rope of similar strength. I also knew I was going to need to make a harness...we had no webbing though. So I ran up to the car and grabbed a 12 ft NRS car tie down strap and brought it back and made a harness as I was taught in my American Mountain Guide Training.

Myself getting harnessed up and ready for action with the NRS strap

We formulated a plan for us. I would rappel down on one line while having another line tied to my releasable tow-line belt which would be manned by Anthony at the base of the falls onshore and downstream. I then would rappel down, clip the boat to my tow line, then rappel off the end of the rope (into the water at that point) and be pulled/swim ashore by the line attached to my belt manned by Anthony. Jeremiah anchored the rap line a tree and I rappelled down the cliff on a munter hitch (another climbing trick, when you don't have an actual rappel device). I reached the boat flipped it over and clipped it. Dropping into the water, Anthony pulled me swimming and the tethered boat ashore. It was gratifying to put my rock climbing training and rescue skills to the test and we as a team smoothly pull off the extraction of the boat. Here's the video of the action:

After regathering our ropes, the sun came out as Jeremiah ran Illgen next. He took more right line down the falls, tucked nicely, was flushed, and rolled up triumphantly:

Anthony was not phased and was determined to run Illgen clean. He took another stab at it:

Then Jeremiah then took his second run of Illgen:

I was pretty content with my first run having not even needing to roll. I only hoped that my second run would be as clean as I shouldered my boat, walked to the river, deposited it on some rocks, and slipped into the cockpit. Getting the all clear, I again paddled for the lip of the falls. I threw some good strokes off the lip as a passed over the edge an down the falls. While descending, I conciously tucked thereby pulling the boat angle less vertical and attempted to place my paddle blade to spear the oncoming water. I hit much harder than the first attempt and braced off my right side having barely even submerged. My goal was achieved, I again had escape rolling (not that rolling is a problem). Here's my second run of Illgen:

We left the river like excited school children; smiling brightly and unabatedly talkative. We packed up and had ourselves a celebratory beer and headed home. It was the perfect way to top off the creek season which was rapidly coming to an end as spring runoff wained. I had had Illgen on my tick list for the year and was happy to have reached and surpassed my goals for the season. Only a year ago in April, I had run my first river and now found, a season later, myself in a whole new place of confidence in my paddling.


Nora said...

WoW Burgess! Looks like you're having a great spring!!

Andy said...

Great runs! Good story as well. Nice work on the hucking!!! You're BAPTISED!!

A quick word of advice: watch where your paddle is going when you land. Either you stomp it with your paddle out front arms extended or refine that tuck. At 30', a paddle shaft hitting your face usually will break a nose... ask Kiffy this year.

But again, stellar work!

Snow_King said...

That is rad. Cool stuff.

So you're in Med School, eh?

You certainly are on a rapid learning curve. You must have had a very capable roll instructor. Ha!

You should rally the North Shore paddlers and see if you can scrounge up any spare change for the Eddy Flower Vertical Challenge: google it. It is for a good cause. I just poached your comment box.

At least cheer on Team Sneak. We are in a heated battle with our Spicy Corn Rivals:

The North Shore creeking season is on the down, the Ark is coming up...come on out!

I should probably get back to work.

Jenean said...

Hey Burgess, Happy Birthday!!! And I'm glad to see that you have a trusty camera man along, you (at the wedding) and me (for sledding adventures) have definitely played that role before. Stay safe!