Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Another day in the gorge...with a helicopter!

I can't think of a weekend this whole year where I didn't go on some sort of adventure, from back country skiing in the Northern Cascades to kayaking trips around the Pacific Northwest. I'm blown away by how fast the year went by, and now that I've completed all of my final exams I finally have time to kayak and work full time. I know it's a bit late, but here's a post from a few weekends ago.
Rush told me that over the weekend, there would be a helicopter filming some of my favorite rivers and waterfalls around my home town of Trout Lake, Washington. I was super excited to see a new perspective on kayaking, especially on the rivers that I have grown up with and have shaped me into the person I am today. 
We started out the weekend by driving to one of my very favorite drainages that runs off the east side of Mt. Adams-- the Lewis River. The all too classic Upper Falls was at a perfect level and something like fifteen paddlers rallied to the falls for a glorious huckfest in the sunshine. The falls went much better for me than the last time I was here, when I ended up behind the veil of the waterfall in a nasty undercut cave.

Here's a sequence of me running Upper Lewis River Falls (Photo by Max Blackburn)-

Here are some my favorite shots I took of the day-

Jared Seiler boofing into a rainbow 

Fred Norquist, rolling upright as he comes over the lip of the second drop. Somehow he even managed to pull off a boof stroke on his way down and stick it! 

Erik Johnson at the point of no return

Fred Norquist on round two, sticking it a bit better this time.

The following day, Eric Parker, Kyle Hull, Rush Sturges and I drove to the notorious Skate Park Falls on Summit Creek. I hadn't been back to Summit Creek since Griff Griffith savagely shattered his spine on Summit Falls, and I hadn't run Skate Park Falls since my brother Todd Wells and I made the first descent of the creek a few years ago. 
Although I had a good line a few years ago, I was super nervous for this drop after a number of people injured themselves running it. Nonetheless, I was fired up to drop back into the steep, beautiful gorge again. We waited for about forty five minutes before we heard the beating of the helicopter come roaring up the gorge. Inside the chopper was a crazy pilot who actually got so low, he was chopping off tree branches, and the talented Cineflex operator who filmed most of the footage for possibly the greatest action sports movie made, All. I. Can. 

Rush led the charge off the falls with what appeared to be a good line. I followed him, and as I rolled over the lip, my stern caught a rock on the flake which caused me to start to go "over the bars," or sent into an inverted position. This is not ideal for any waterfall, especially the unique Skate Park Falls, which drops vertically about forty feet then transitions out into a flat slide for maybe ten feet. As I felt my momentum rotating in the direction of landing on my head, I took a useless stroke to try and correct myself. I ended up riding the transition out with only the bow of my boat, rotating and landing backwards looking strait up at the sky. Not the ideal line, but I rolled up uninjured and after emptying my boat out from an imploded skirt, I paddled straight into the drop below called "The Well," a narrow 25ft. slide that pinches into nearly a boat width wide at the bottom. 

Myself, just before hitting the transition at the bottom.

Kyle Hull followed me with a sick line and right behind him, Eric Parker came flying off almost doing a complete kick flip. 

As soon as we got off Summit Creek, we drove straight to the Little White Salmon River while the helicopter filmed something like fourteen people drop over 80ft. Metlako Falls and another group of ten or so paddlers fire off Upper Lewis River Falls. 
The Little White was at an exhilarating 4.2ft and having a helicopter roar overhead the entire time adds a little something extra to the experience. At a few points during the run, the heli was so low that the force of the wind from the blades was so strong it made it difficult to take forward strokes, as my paddle blades felt like a feather in a wind storm and there was so much water blowing into my eyes I could barely.

Here's a shot of me running Spirit Falls at the end of the run. Thanks to Eric Parker for the great photo!

The footage from the day was some of the best I have ever seen. Apart from the epic amount of kayakers paddling over some of the most massive drops runnable in a kayak, the Cineflex captured some of the most awe-inspiring shots of the beautiful rivers around the Columbia River Gorge, epic shots of the Cascade Mountains and even some rarely seen views of Osprey nests, huge Elk running through the woods and giant machines destroying acres and acres of wilderness. Look forward to seeing this footage in River Roots newest film!