Tuesday, May 12, 2009

MIchael's Time was Due!!

Last Sunday, May 10th myself, Devin, Shannon and Michael Williams went out to the Tilton River to run the Gorge section. A fun class IV run that we all enjoy for several reasons. It's got several quality drops spread out through the gorge. The river is usually ours alone as few from the PDX area trek the 1.5 hours to get there. It's one of those runs that you can take your playboat if your adventurous at normal flows to catch the many quality waves and holes along your way or you can bring your creeker so a safer passage downstream. We tend to find ourselves on the run in the Winter with low 30 degree air and cold water so the creekboats come out.

This trip was in the Spring which is a rarity for us so all four of us were in our playboats. The lead in to the run is a few miles of class I+/II till you reach the gauge and the gorge and the action begins! Flows were around 1100 to 1200 cfs. I little lower than we tend to find ourselves there but that brings some of the play in with good eddy service. I don't know any of the names but the main play hole we usually stop at. It's a near riverwide hole was the best I'd seen it. It was retentive enough for Michael and Devin to throw down in but exiting it on either side or simply flipping and you were free. It was my first time dropping into it and after being away from my boats for a few I really found myself enjoying the rivers again.

We made our way down river to what we joke as the "last rapid" on the run. It's an inside joke from when Michael took me and Devin down it for the first time a couple of years ago. We ran the drop and he looked back at us and said, "well guys, that was the Tilton! What did you think?" We were all excited and were kinda bummed it was over. OK, except the fact that is was 20 degrees out and the water was freezing on our gear. The run was amazing!!

We float around the 90 degree corner to all see the biggest boulder garden that is longer than the eye can see as it drops down some 100 yards of hole/boulder dodging goodness. Michael then looks back and says, "OK, I think that was the end of the whitewater!" We all laughed and paddled the 1/2 mile of flatwater across the lake to the take-out at the day use park. A memorable trip that has kept us coming back every since. :)

OK, so back to the day at hand and we're all at the top of the "last rapid". Michael as normal heads towards the river center towards a island boulder that we run just off the right side of the rock with a right flair boof. Michael drives at the rock and what happens next I can only tell from my perspective, the next few seconds. He drove up, running dry onto the rock and launching his playboat vertical in dropped out of my side, off the ledge in a inverted burningman! We all laughed as he'd ate s**t on it. We watched and waited for him to come into view downstream. The rapid drops some 8' at a near vertical drop where we run it at. The right side goes but the right gorge wall is badly undercut so this line is fun and deemed safe.

It usually is, but what happened next is told to me via Michael Williams and Devin. When Michael did his "inverted burningman" off the drop it placed him into a low head style horseshoe pocket hole. We quickly found the pourover ripping the paddle out of one hand and then both. He tried handrolling but that didn't work and we soon was out of his kayak. His kayak, paddle and himself got to go for a proper cleansing cycle. He'd ball up and try to go deep but kept finding his shins slamming into a rock underwater. Resurface for a quick breather and repeat the cycle. Anyone who has spent a time in Bob's Falls knows the feeling! Been there! :( It's a bad place to swim and with everything Michael said he was doing right. Nothing was working and we were all out of sight above the drop that you can't set safety on, scout or portage! We assumed we would pop out in a sec or so we all hoped but nothing changed for the duration of maybe 30-40 seconds in real world time.

Devin was close to the drop and had been ferrying upstream waiting for the "all clear". After some time he decided to go ahead and run the drop. Michael missed the line so I think he was confident in making it so off he went. Me and Shannon sat on river right in a eddy waiting to see Michael. Devin hit the flake off the right side of the island and he was too out of our sights! Eek!!

According to Devin, as he approached the flake and was digging in to take his boof stroke his saw Michael's black Sweet helmet starting to surface right where he was about to boof to. I quick adjustment and next to no boof and he landed just off of Michael. Michael hesitated to grab the shiny new Biscuit playboat Devin was in to not pull him in with him. Once Devin was out enough Michael grabbed onto the stern grabloop and Devin pulled him free of the nasty hydraulic. Best even was at the same time Michael playboat and paddle came free. Weird!

Me and Shannon then ran the drop in the same spot as the others had and joined the two recovering the boat to run the "real last rapid"

It was Michael Williams first swim in 15 years in which we wasn't able to self resue himself and he got rescued by a 14 yr old who thinks of him as a big brother and mentor to all that is kayaking. Michael said he knew that day would come but he hoped it would be a few more years down the road.

I'm just happy everyone was ok and our Eddyflower Vertical Challenge team is still complete. Go Team Midget Torture!! Oh a quick vid of Michael booty drink out of Devin's shoe which was filled with Rum and fruitjuice! :)