Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Summer Surprise

Mike showing off the gradient of Rasler Run

After doing a little light creeking on Monday 8/20 (an unheard of date to do any type of creeking on in this region), we were amazed to check out the radar and see a weather cell 400 miles wide preparing to cross Southern PA. Predictions called for 2-3 inches on top of the 1.5 we already had, and the phone started ringing. I must say it was Christmas in August, and a few of us went to sleep in utter anticipation of what Tuesday could be.

Tuesday morning, the Ohiopyle area received over 3 inches of rain, and it was on. Folks began calling off work, and we decided to take a shot at an obscure steep creek that drops into a pretty regularly run creek near Ohiopyle. The name of the game: Rasler Run, and at a max gradient of 310 fpm, it was good to go.

Zach and Jeff Put In

After setting shuttle on a road that makes Rockville Road (Lower Big Sandy) look like the autobahn, we put into a swollen patch of flat water below a downed tree and off we went into the gorge. Our group included, Matt Pascal, Zach Frederick, Jeff Macklin, Mike Whaley, and myself (Jason Hilton). The first part of the creek involved some high-speed waves, as we made a gradual departure from a few local homes and into the gorge. We knew that this run runs once every few years, and that trees were definitely going to play a big part of our journey, so we followed all of the general creeking safety tips (like not leaving an eddy until you can see the next), and proceeded cautiously.

Mike @ Wife Beater

Matt @ Wife Beater

Then came the gradient… The first rapid which we affectionately labeled Wife Beater was a nice series of low angle s-turning slides that instantly reminded us of Daugherty Creek in WV. The length of the rapids often called for extended scouting sessions, and memorizing lines upwards of ten moves and the negotiation of wood hazards around generally every corner. At Bridge to Nowhere, the line included some boulder hoping, skirt a strainer, a nice S-turn, a drop through a Sluice, and catching an eddy which allowed you to limbo a rather low bridge. Memory for lines was key.

Mike and Matt in it

Zach @ Bridge to Nowhere

Matt @ Bridge to Nowhere

Jeff @ Bridge to Nowhere

Further down the gradient continued to increase, and the gorge switched from dense rhodo cover to a more open rhodo and pine mix, allowing us to see further down and how deep in this gorge we really were. We continued on to Unchained Melody, a nice two-tiered set of waterfalls set tightly between immense undercut boulders. Here we spent about a half hour clearing out a strainer from the line to allow us to fire this bad boy up.

Matt Slot Move

Zach Slot Move

Zach @ Unchained Melody

Further down we came to a stretch of about 300 yards that required portaging around two large, river wide strainers blocking a nice 10-foot sluice drop and some good boulder gardens. One day this might be a good one to clean out. More rapids, more scouting, and more exclamations of amazement brought us to AK47, a nice boulder garden drop ending in a steep boxed in drop into a sticky hole lined on both sides by nefarious looking rocks. Two lines presented themselves, and while neither one made it look clean, I give credit to Jeff and Zach for choosing the smoother line than mine, and was glad I had enough energy left to keep from getting sucked into a bad place.

Jason in some gradient above AK47

Jason @ AK47

Matt @ AK47

Mike @ AK47

The last rapid, Submarine involved a tight sliding move down a sloped rock and into a chamber lined on one side by a 20 foot cliff wall and on the other by two ominous undercuts, and then an exit down a series of quick bedrock slides, and out into Indian Creek at 4000 CFS. We quickly made our way to our shuttle vehicle and remarked on the awesome opportunity we just had. It is creeks like these that remind a number of us of why we boat.

Mike @ Submarine

Jeff @ Submarine

Job Well Done!!!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Intro To Creeking Course

On Sunday, August 5th, some members of TRPC and the Got Boof Crew showed up to help me (Jason Hilton) put on an introduction to creeking course for class III-IV boaters from the Three Rivers Paddling Club. We met at 10:00 AM at Valley Falls, West Virigina with around twenty students ready to go. I knew it was going to be a good day when I saw how nervous some of the students were as they came back from looking at what they were about to run.

Instruction began with a discussion of boat design, and characteristics that make a creek boat different from a “normal” kayak. We then moved on to a discussion about safety and some specifics relating to creeking. Then off to the falls we went.

Jason giving the talk

Everyone got warmed up in the pool above the drops before we all took out on the center island and the instruction began. I decided to break the rapids down into single drops, and then use each drop to teach one principal. The best introductory drop is the middle top drop, as it is pretty hard to mess it up, and is a great place to teach correct creeking posture, which is the most important lesson. The students took turns getting up the nerve to run the drop (and for a lot of them this was their first waterfall), then all of them executed near perfect runs.

Dave First Drop

The day continued in this way moving from drop to drop becoming successively harder, and with techniques that also become more difficult as we went. As the students ran each drop, I was able to discuss with them what they had done right, and what they had done wrong, and they often chose to run the drop again to enhance their understanding of the particular skill, with the almost every student showing marked improvement over the day.

Katy Right Slide

Astrid Right Slide

Jason Group Instruction

Jason and Jeff B 1 on 1

Jason and Rob 1 on 1

Jarrett boofing it up

Jason and Aaron 1 on 1

Group Instruction

Steve firing up the spout

Jarrett and Jason 1 on 1

Freddy firing up the spout

Shawna firing up the spout

Shawna and Jason (Good Job)

Rob M. firing up the center drop

After running all of the drops, and working with the students to perfect the various skills, we took off down the river to go for the remaining two rapids. While the waterfalls are visually impressive, the rapids below are generally harder, and allowed the students to get a feel for the push of creeks, and the dynamic nature of vertical water that they will find when they enter the creeking realm of kayaking. For the most part, runs were good with a bit of carnage here and there, which is to be expected when you drag 20 fresh boaters to a location such as this.

I was sure to finish the class on a good note, by showing off a rarely seen waterfall on a side creek, and then letting the students fend for themselves on the walk back to the vehicles. To all of the students and safety boaters, thanks for making this a great day for me as well as yourselves, and I will be looking for you the next time the water is narrow, pushy, and falling off of a cliff.

Jason showing how to get it done

More photos of the day can be found here