Friday, June 22, 2007

Big Sands Creek: Idaho 07

Like so many water starved Oregonians, we headed over to Idaho with Jason Rackley this June dreaming of big waves, huge holes and high water on the Lochsa and anything else we could find. We tried last year and hit low water so we tried again this year, a month earlier and hit even lower water! Good news is we got a run on Big Sands Creek. Having Kris and her brother Ben "The Montana Connection" Litz along is always a good idea . A group of Missoula boaters were headed down the day before us and you can catch there experience on the American Whitewater Site.

It started with just Rob and I but we ran into a wandering but not lost soul at a local hot spring who we invited to join us for our run. As our conversations with him continued, and as the night moved on, Rob and I gave each other a lot of hard looks and had some serious thoughts about whether Matt, "Class V --", was up to the task. We decided it would be alright but were still a bit nervous on the hike in. Speaking of which, its one of the easiest 3 mile hike ins I have ever done, gentle up hills, smooth dragging and easy downhills... except for one quarter mile long section.

Kris and Matt hiking over the new deadfall. 'Que the fuck?'

Once we got down to the river, having never paddled with Matt "T-rescue" Reistetter, we started going over hand signals and river etiquette and he made a few more comments about not being a Class V boater and then something we never expected. "So, if I can't roll, do you guys want to T rescue me or just pull me upright?"


Till Rob said, "Just Roll."
Pretty much the only think the Idaho guide book says is 'Don't get in over your head on this one' and 'Hiking out would be nearly impossible' so at this point Rob and I were pretty worried but in true tempt-fate style we put on, Matt chagrined and floated on downstream to the first few splashy class IV rapids. Long-ish but straight forward drops with fairly easy to avoid hazards make up the first entry drops but once the river tightens and steepens up, we were in for a good time. The hits just kept coming though when at the bottom of the first Class IV drop Matt said "This is definitely a step up for me." A comment that was immediately followed by a long hard stare between Rob and myself but we kept on going. About the only thing I had to say was simply, "We just need to keep heading downstream, walking or paddling, just keep heading downstream."

Rob on the first 10 footer getting the boof off the right wall.

We all had good lines off the first drop and set the tone for me being the probe unit all day. We all portaged the drop below the logjam as there was log across it and Pancake and the drops below it. I ran everything else and Matt and Rob made one more portage above a sticky hole somewhere in the middle.

Reenacting the guide book photo at the end of one of the long technical rapid of the day.

Matt, Where the wild things are. Right above Pancake and the subsequent gorge seen below.

We all portaged this long boulder choked rapid starting with
Pancake at the top followed by two marginally runnable
piton filled ledges and some fast water.

After the portaging around Pancake, the gradient mellows out for a while and I was convinced we were done till we came around the corner and White Sands dumps in. From there on down to the take out, the gradient is pretty constant, and the extra water made for some big fun Class IV drops where I couldn't help myself and just didn't want to eddy out. It reminded me of coming onto Wooley Cr from Bridge Cr in Cali, or the bottom two miles of the Bald Rock Section of the Middle Feather.

Matt, class V-- wonder stud, did great all day never faltered, always made good decisions and stayed on the game the whole way down. Look for him in Seattle now.
With some takout beers, some bullshit talk, advice on getting a new helmet and a ride back down to camp in his Westfalia we made a friend and ended up boating again the next day on the SF Clearwater.
Turns out our fears were unfounded and I can't tell you how glad I am.

Check out more photos here


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