On very short notice we decided it would be great to head down and do a double run of both Twenty Mile Creek, and Spencers Creek. We decided the night before we should go for it. So we called Tam, and she was in as well. Levels were holding on the high side. Big shout out to liquid lore and five2nine for pioneering this run and providing beta – without you guys we never would have known about it or run it. Click to read more….
Our day began at 6:00 am… since this is way out of the normal halifornia range of things. We packed up, and headed to the river and arrived at roughly 11am. Levels were holding pretty well on the high side of things. So we put in and sauntered down to Upper Balls Falls.
We set camera in a few key locations, and had one of us running saftey at the bottom from their kayak in case anything went wrong. James ran first and cleaned up. A perfect line and perfect angle set the standard. I went next, and ran it equally clean. All in all, a solid drop and some high fives went down.
After the portage around the very impressive Balls Falls proper, we made our into the lower section. Some smooth sailing down some fun continous class II / III got us to the top of The Causeway. We took out to scout. This took a little time, since this rapid is pretty involved. We had some prior warning from Boydo to be catious since in highwater it gets full on. No kidding. We set the cameras rolling on tripods, then set saftey. One person by the strainer and potential pin, the other by the lower hole in case of a swim and stick.
James suited and took the first line down. After a near stick in a hole we considered insiginifcant, he proceeded to dominate the line. Good forward speed, solid boofs, and some world class skills saw him down. His words;
“Neal, that was the most full on rapid I think I have ever run. I don’t think I’ve done anything as technically demanding as this in my life. That being said, I have full confidence that you’ll style this line. Keep your forward speed up and that will see you through as long as you stay on line”
We swapped saftey duty, and I hopped in. I was 3 moves down before I made the one mistake that would then set off a very long, arduous day. I slipped up, I got caught on a boil, braced, and lost all my forward speed before the most powerful hole halfway down – the one also beside the strainer. I recovered as best I could, boofed with all my energy, but the recirc pulled me back in since I had no momentum. I knew this hole would be a beat down, and I still had the latter half of the rapid to get through. Instead of wasting my energy in a battle I knew would be mostly hopeless – I pulled my skirt. I made two laps through the hole before I managed to get myself out. A chance to poke my head out got me some air and water in one. My boat was still going for a ride. I appeared partway downstream, below the major hazards and James with the rope. Before I coudl recover I balled up and went straight through the next major hole. I resurfaced near Tam, who threw me a rope, but I was too focused on what was ahead, some rocks and potential undercut. I got my feet as high up as possible out of the water, and pushed as hard off as I could to the center with my legs and around the hazard. One more hole to ball up through. Finally, I could breathe. I stabilized myself. The meat was over, but the swim wasn’t.
After this, the river mellows into class III continuous, but a large number of strainers and lack of eddies develop. I ended up in a weak point in the current beside a strainer. The way things worked out, I managed to hold on to the log and stabalize myself with my legs and remain in position. My energy was going down rapidly. Tam and James response was fast – they were down in seconds and had a rope out to pull me in. I caught it, swung in, and collapsed from exhaustion. 60 seconds of swimming and very little time above the surface.
My boat went a few kilometers down river. My paddle remains a mystery. But what really made the differnce was
#1 – Good swimming skills. Getting myself out of the hole and staying safe out there was really important.
#2 – Swimming almost right away. I don’t always recomend this, but I knew the hole would retain a boat without a doubt and trying to get out in one piece would likely just have drained me of all energy and swimming anyway. Getting out right away at least left me with the energy and air supply to keep myself together
#3 – Good safety set up. We had our bases covered.
I did swallow a lot of water, and puked up a bunch. We thought it was best to head to a clinic to ensure that I still didn’t have water in my lungs. After we got the all clear, we headed home.