Finally got to posting the stage correlations between water level and CMS flows for the Ash River in Port Alberni.  What a jem!  Also let out the reservoir spill level secret I’ve been guarding so jealously for two years now! You can find it all in the Upper Ash write up.

Got to paddle the Ash twice in the past while and it continues to thrill me.  That lake ramp is just a hoot to run, and the higher flows we had this past weekend put this run easily into the 5 star range of quality. The only down side in a bit of flat water for 2 km after the lake start, and the longer shuttle needed for this run.

With our snow pack, this river will be running into July for sure.

Dave had a run he wanted us to explore. What a wonderful surprise it turned out to be! Max, Mac, Geoff, Joe, Dave and myself all found it to be better than expectations, with Max even touting “favorite run“, and Joe snickering ”this is QUALITY!

There was an air of excitement as we drove up the Browns Main. It goes up, way up, before leveling off and entering the upper reach of the Browns, just below Paradise Meadows. We got to the take out bridge… Yes, easy take out! The big round boulder on the down river side of the bridge was not quite covered, with 2-4 inches of height, and is a good indicator of flows. Flows on the lower Browns guage was 11-12 cms, which I would consider to be medium flows. I think optimum flows will be around 14-16 cms at the Browns River guage.  We had nice views with snow covered mountain ridges all around. It has an almost alpine feel there because of all the logging and the snow covering the stumps.

We then drove up to the put-in. the gradient started slow, then ramped up on the road.  The road is a little washed out, but in generally good shape.  Looking down on the river, it went form boulder gardens, to constant rapids, to a falls, and another set of falls, all visible from the road. It got quieter in the vehicle, and comments about difficulty surfaced. Joe made the comment ” We’ll have to hop-skotch and not botch!” Apprehension set in and a nervousness settled into the bottom of the stomach. Yet we had a great crew, lots of time, and nice weather. An excellent combo for this kind of adventure.

We got to the snow line, and Dave our fearless leader, explained the other bridge put-in was another 400 m further. We started to walk, but only went another 200 m before deciding to go to the river’s edge. We got to the first significant drop and had a look. The drop goes, but has a very tight line with some serious consequence river right. We all opted to walk it with an easy, river level portage. There is a river wide log, just under the surface, 75 m downstream of the drop that is invisible. Around the corner and some boogie water later, we got to a fun 2 tier drop that is narrow at the top, and sticky at the bottom. Go river right, then center. You can scout river left.  After, it’s a short rapid and then longer rapid to a corner. At the corner watch out! there is a log sieve on the right side of the main water channel. There is a clean line on river left into a big pool above the gem of the run. Eddy out on the center island. Be prepared to to be stunned.

A 20 to 25 foot falls, dubbed Rochambeau falls, lands in a small pool at this crux section of the run. The rapids below go on as far as the eye can see with whitewater the only thing in sight. A creek-boaters paradise! The falls have a very clean, easy to hit line. Dave went down and set up safety.  Joe won the Rochambeau to go first and nailed it, but had his skirt implode on landing, and appreciated Dave’s presence and help, when his boat filled with water. Then I went off, followed by Max.

There is a log sieve on center right a rapid down from the falls that would be dangerous if swimming. The river just goes downhill at a very steady, highly busy gradient, that is all boat scoutable for some 400m. The river then eases off for a bit, for some fun 3+ boulder gardens. The next horizon line is the last significant drop. You can eddy out river left to scout, and see a line off the center channel, going left. It is a double boof over two holes. The bottom hole will get stout with more flow.  I would take out in the pool below this drop if the flows are low. It would be a short 50m hike to the road, some 15 m up from the river.

The rest of the run is technical, mostly open boulder fields. At our flows, it was boney and we hit lots of rock. It would be a very fun section with higher flows (5-10 cms more). The river has one more small series of holes as a nice surprise, before getting to the bridge and the simple hike off the river. Ohh fun!

Hoots and hollers at the take-out followed by statements of 5 star run were bantered around. The discussion of run difficulty  was around 4+.  A quality run with short shuttle, easy on and off of river, and super high fun quotient! Oh and did I mention the falls…beautiful 20+ foot falls.

Well shit, things went south fast, half way down the Upana falls.

We put on after a run on the Ucona, which was medium low. The Upana, though was high, and full of holes. It was a hole hopping fast action run. Dodging, miniboofing everywhere. At least most lines you could see boat scouting! I had one roll in the upper section, at a sticky technical drop that is the crux of the top part. I was feeling off then. Next, we get to the class 6, walk it, and put in just about the lip of the 20+ footer falls. Steve and I rock paper scissored and I lost.

He went off center, and I went off right. On the way down, I hit a rock on the right. It turned my boat, and I landed in front of the curtain in what felt like almost sideways. I then started the trashing of the century. I stayed in the boat about 30 seconds, getting ended and flipped at least twice in both directions. I got a big gulp of air at one point and the decided it was time to pull out. I got out and then instantly got flipped, felt my face, arms and chest get huge pressure from the curtain, I can toward the surface again, and then got hit from the back with the full force of the water from the falls. this time I felt myself go deeeep. I was fine with air, and let the life jacket do the work. I came up against the left wall, some 15-20 feet from the boat. It ws then easy work to the ledge at the end of the pool. The wait for the boat to free itself began. We waited about 5 minutes while the boat chundered on at the seam of the curtain and the boil, standing vertically and doing all sorts of neat moves. It finally cleared itself toward the left and I could grab it from shore to empty it.

Lesson learned, go center off Upana falls, and boof 1/3 of the way down. Still gotta drink a beer outta my bootie though! :)

After paddling the Upper Upper, Monkey Canyon at 55cms, the middle Gold at 1165cms, and (more…)

I got a call from Shayne on July 22nd asking if I could paddle on the 23rd, living at the Strathcona Lodge it is hard to get back to people because the e-mail doesn’t always work and the phones are the same. But things worked out and I got ahold of him. (more…)

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