Sunday, December 02, 2007

Mystery Run Clean Out

As many of you know, I (Jason Hilton) am always on the hunt for first descents in our region, which is challenging due to the rich whitewater history we enjoy in Western, Pennsylvania and our vast preponderance of innovators in the steep creek realm. Having spent countless hours of my own time looking for these obscure runs, I was elated to be clued in on a first descent found by another kayaking pioneer, Scott Loveland (the creator of paddle grip). This run drops 182 ft in .4 mile giving it an average overall gradient of 455 fpm, and it was hidden right under our noses. It helps that the run is officially nameless, and doesn't appear on anything but the best topographical software, so throw your delorme away, you are not going to find it.

Follow The Leader

Of course inclusion in such a monumental journey does not come without a cost, as the first descent requires a large cleaning out of the run to make it navigable. We have completed 80% of the cleaning out, and what follows is a report from our group leader. Once the cleaning out is complete, count on a post on the run as we bang this bad boy out.

Cold Day For A Clean Out

The Work Ahead

Scott Loveland Writes:

It should surprise no one that paddlers associated with this site are eyeballing a new first descent located in a stunning steep-walled gorge. Nor would it shock anyone that this run is filled with tight, technical rapids and big, teeth-rattling drops. As per the norm, access to this type of hidden jewel is gained via the use of GPS, Sherpa porters, and miles of back country bushwhacking. Right? I mean, any first descents left in this region have to be so prohibitively difficult to access that only the most certifiably certifiable would be willing to attempt them. Well, not exactly....

What if I told you that this new gem is “hidden” right beside a densely populated urban area? Or that it is within 20 minutes of an insanely popular whitewater run? Or that the first major waterfall (*40 ft.!!!) is within 50 ft. of a heavily traveled highway? Would you believe it? Could it be possible? The answer is a resounding “YES”!

First Waterfall

This new classic, christened Mystery Run, has been hidden in plain sight. It is on the short side at a bit under ½ mile, but with a gradient of 455 FPM, it will thrill even the most die hard creeker. It is an unnamed tributary of a major river. Scot Loveland, founder of Paddle Grip and the soon to be launched (environmentally friendly kayak lifestyle products to include clothing, water bottles and jewelry), stumbled upon this whitewater roller coaster ride while driving around this past May. As stated, the star of this run is basically roadside. You put in at a 40 ft. 2-stage waterfall. This drop is probably unrunnable as a whole, but that remains to be seen. It looks as if the rock shelf, located about half way down, sticks out a bit too far and the pool at the bottom is a bit too shallow (about 4 ft.). You can walk behind the curtain at this shelf. The proposed put in is to launch through the curtain of the top portion of the falls, slide down about 10 ft. of rock and seal launch 17 ft. into the waiting pool below. This should make it the most spectacular and dramatic put in around. But there is no rest for the wicked once you have smoothed the launch. As Jeff Macklin stated, eddies are going to be “few and far in between”. What follows are about 600 yards of continuous class IV/V rapids. The first one will require maneuvering over and around an old-growth log jam. Another starts with a large undercut on the left followed by a tight S-turn with some definite piton potential. Next comes a pretty 14 ft. waterfall that will require you to boof hard left in order to miss a large splat rock that covers the right half of the landing zone. The lead to this drop is sloped bedrock, so momentum will not be a problem. After a brief respite in the pool below the falls, its pedal to the metal with two back-to-back class V's. One is about a 10 ft. slide and drop into what might be a thunderous hole (might also have some awesome boof potential!). The ledge forming the hole is somewhat uniform, undercut and boxed in on both sides. The next rapid, affectionately dubbed “The Squeeze” by Jason Hilton, offers a choice of two tight lines, a cave and more piton potential. This concludes the crux of the gorge. What follows is class II boogie water and log dodging as the walls gradually fade into bottom land and you complete the run to the take out.

Macklin Always Prepared

Opening Up The Second Waterfall

People Who Are Not Afriad Of Heights

On 12/1/07 Jason Hilton, Jeff Macklin, Derek Medved and Scot Loveland met for creek maintenance on this run. It was frequently blocked by decades old log jumbles. Lugging various implements of destruction to the bottom of the gorge, this crew began the work of removing tons of wood that had tumbled down the gorge's steep walls. Luckily, the liberal use of a chainsaw aided the process, but clearing all of the major drops still took more than three hours. The labor was halted at that point due to previous commitments on behalf of the crew and the fact that Jeff Macklin unfortunately crushed his right hand after slipping on some leaves while carrying a log. A trip to the emergency room confirmed a broken bone and he will be sporting a shiny new cast for 4-6 weeks. The remainder of the run will be cleared in the near future and after that we just pray for rain! Video documentation of our feats and follies on Mystery Run will be forthcoming.

Ready To Cut

Scott "Leatherface" Loveland

Stay tuned for updates on this new run.