Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Clearwater Creek, almost

Tuesday Clearwater Creek dropped into range. And I almost ran it, twice.

Everyone in Bellingham has been keen on getting back on this creek after the heavy floods last November altered the river bed. Winter rains have been moving wood around, alternatively plugging up and blowing out key drops. Rumors abound of freshly opened undercuts and gravel filled eddies, a less than pleasant combination at 400 fpm.

Ryan and I waited patiently while the Middle Fork Nooksack gauge dropped from 3500 cfs to 1500 cfs, and headed up mid morning on Tuesday to check it out.

Since the actual gauge on Clearwater blew out in the big floods, we had a hard time telling what the level was. I thought it looked pushy, Ryan agreed, but half heartedly, and we backed down.

We rallied again for a post-work attempt, giving us time to gather backup and wait for the river to drop a bit more. By 5 pm Hale, Jon, Ryan and myself were standing at the take-out, while the skies dumped freezing rain and snow on the only slightly lower creek.

Don't ever boat with Hale, he brings horrible weather.

Did I mention that it was snowing? That North Cascades terrestrial lapse rate can be a real bitch. Fifty in Bellingham, and 32 at the put-in.

I quickly assessed my lack of recent boating (an excuse that will soon run dry), the heightened hypothermia risk, and backed down for the second time in one day. While I could cite all sorts of logical, obvious reasons not to run a steep, recently flooded creek at 5 pm in March with snow accumulating at your feet, I think I really just need to wait for my testicles to drop back in after such a long cold winter.

Jon and I waited for a while at Slippery Slit and watched those clad in drysuits make their bold descent. Then we headed to the take out and waited in warm trucks with beer while Hale and Ryan did all the work of assessing the Clearwater situation.

When they finally joined us slightly after dark they reported that:

The river was actually a little low (MF Gauge at ~1000-1100)
Most things were pretty similar, but at least a handful of drops (island drop, orange slice) are different, and orange slice was portaged.
Not too many wood issues.

We recon that the level we saw earlier in the day when the MF was ~1400 was equivalent to ~3.9 on the old gage. For now, MF between 1100-1200 seems like a good level.

Maybe a little later in the season...

Hale Hanaway in the slightly more undercut Slippery Slit.

Ryan Bradley in the rejumbled Tony's Tumble.

Jon Dufay, warm and dry at the take out.

Waiting in the snow as night falls on Clearwater Creek.


Eric said...

Wow, two incredibly mediocre performances in one week! Are you sure that you're not just doing this so that you have stuff to put on your website? Although, at least you actually got outside this week...

Monk said...

Yeah, all I can say is that I'm glad to have tackled the worst of the weather in a closed boat...

How was canoeing on Sunday anyway? ;)