Monday, June 25, 2007

Bighorn River, AB - Canada

Crescent Falls backdrop with Mikkel St. Jean making the Curtain Call - Bighorn River, Alberta.

The Bighorn River is a classic waterfall tributary of Alberta’s North Saskatchewan headwaters. In a setting amongst the raw jagged Central Canadian Rocky Mountains, the Bighorn has found away to erode itself into a deep layered gorge with 6 beauty drops within its walls. The run is heavily dependent on snow in an area commonly low in annual amounts. This usually makes for a limited window of opportunity for paddling. However, the endless thunderstorms rolling across from BC currently had this waterfall paradise pumping.

Among the usual suspects for this mission were Jordie and Jen McKenzie, Manilow, Chris McTaggart, Nelson BC local Mikkel St. Jean still waiting for levels in BC to drop; and fresh off a second descent of 100ft Johnson Falls was heavy hitter Logan Grayling complete with bloodshot eye and the savage mustache.

Logan Grayling boofs must run freefall #5

Getting to the Bighorn is easy requiring you to travel west along the David Thompson highway through Nordegg towards the Banff National Park Boundary. If you are coming from the opposite direction head north on highway 93 from Lake Louise and then head east towards Nordegg at the Saskatchewan Crossing turnoff. The Bighorn River crosses the highway through giant culverts at the end of Abraham Lake. You can camp and leave a car here and then continue back towards Nordegg looking for the Crescent Falls turnoff just down the road. The road up to Crescent Falls is only a few miles and ends at a recreation area parking lot.

Only a few steps more will put you at the brink of a 70 footer that is still waiting for someone to claim this monster for a first D. Most of us regard the problem with Crescent Falls to be all the loose sediment of sharp rock which explodes out from the boils when flows are most appealing. If ever you were going to wear a motorcycle helmet complete with visor off a big huck this would be the one. A bonus for your eyes is just beyond and another 40+ feet to go.

Curtain Call was first run by Rob Evans-Davies about a decade ago and has since seen a few more descents over the years. Again the line on this waterfall varies with water levels and this time it looked to be center left with left control.

Chris McTaggart lost the fight with his paddle shaft on Curtain Call

Beyond the second waterfall you are surrounded by deep walls on your way down to the Particle Accelerator. Here the river ramps down into a narrow slide that ends in a big hole complete with pinched exit and a scary cave on the left. At lower flows you might just get your bow up before the hole and boof. However the current level made for some impressive downtime as saftey pondered the resurfacing whereabouts of each mystery man.

Just beyond here the final 3 waterfalls lay in succession about 100 yards from each other. 10 foot Squirrel Nuts, 25 foot Freefall, and then a final 20 foot plunge into a pool. All of these are pretty much unportageable unless you like cliff jumping from twice the height of each drop. Finally a half hour of class III awaits on your way down to the takeout.

Jenny McKenzie on the final drop of the Bighorn.

To best judge the flows for the Bighorn have a look to see if any water at all is flowing through the second culvert. If there is just a bit the levels are good, none means the level is low, and lots means the river is high. Standing at the top of the two first falls will also give you an idea.

View Big Horn River (IV-V+) in a larger map

Monday, June 11, 2007

Big Timber Creek Race 2007, MT - USA

Bryce Shaw airbrace to switch - Big Timber Race -2007

The first ever Big Timber Creek Race took place over the weekend with over 30 competitors stepping up to fire off one of the steepest sections of downriver racing on the whitewater map.

Special thanks to race organizers from Headwaters Paddling Association, great sponsors, landowners in the area and everyone who came to rage down Big T any which way they could.

Pinch Runners Results:

1. Chris McTaggart
2. Mikkel St. Jean Duncan
3. Spencer Cox
4. Ira Vasgaard
5. Patrick Rodgers
6. Mark Basso
Logan Grayling
8. Bryce Shaw
9. Doug Marberg
10. Bradford MacArthur
11. Chris Baer
12. Graham Storey
13. Chris Newey
14. Todd Richey
PJ Moran
16. Cooper Brightman
17. David Binkley
18. Aaron Loft
19. Barry Bohr
20. Will Hartman
21. Matt Sylvester
22. Chad Wiebe
23. David Schroeder
24. Steve Rodgers

Gamblers Results:

1. Andy Hoover
2. Ian M
3. Jeff Lessley
4. Jeff Clark
5. Randall Cook
6. Jonas Grenz
7. Jason Matthews
8. Mike Goglin

Big Timber report from last year's mission:

In the constant search for the backyard dream run it was most excellent to come upon a classic steep creek which actually does exist within a tank of gas from the house. Like the classic slides of California, Big Timber Creek is also proof that you don't need to travel all the way to Norway to get the super slide kayaking fix.

The Pinch.

Flowing from a fairytale backdrop with a gradient of over 700ft per mile, Big Timber is certainly a short run of epic scale. The Crazy Mountians simply rise up from a portion of Montana prairie like an oasis of rocks. Our Calgary crew of 3 strode across into Montanada with high hopes of dropping into slide infested Big Tim upon arrival. However while discussing flows in Bozeman with the Garcia brothers our conversation became flooded with talk of too much water. Only the week before, high elevations in the area were still receiving snow and now all of a sudden Bozeman was back to mid 80 degree temperatures. Only a couple days before Evan and Ian had mixed results on Big Timber's lower falls at high water and were sent home with a black eye and roughed up hands.

Posted by Picasa Found some wood.

We decided to put our Big Timber anticipations on hold until later on in the week and instead headed over to the Stillwater and Boulder creek drainages. Both of these areas were also seeing a sudden purge of snowmelt but fortunately the only carnage we saw came from Joey bagging his Toyota on the back roads.

Hung up like a fresh kill....Joey Vosburgh post muffler. Posted by Picasa

On the eve of moving on from the Sawtooth Mountains and heading over to Missoula, we sat in the Columbus truck stop looking at the map and decided that Big Timber was just too close not to at least go camp at and scout the next day. In the morning we awoke at Halfmoon Campground to the sound of the water romping below our trucks. Coffees in hand, it took only a short walk up past the lower falls to commit to paddling the creek we had drove the 500 miles to claim. By local standards it was high, but indifferent to customary knowledge, we still saw plenty of eddies on the hike up and quickly began recognizing some of the drops from films and photos.

Chris Baer on the first drop.

Big Timber Creek starts off with one of its few near vertical drops on the upper section before turning into slide-pool slide for a majority of the gradient. Most of the slides are steep enough to make you forget about the abuse your creeker's hull is taking and a couple long slides put you near the euphoric state of creekboat bliss.

As our afternoon wore on we realized we weren't the fastest on the way down and a long scout of the 70 ft super-slide pinch near end began to make us wish we had brought more than a few energy bars. After running the pinch, the last few drops put us on the brink of underperformance and we decided to come back another time to run the lower falls.

Jordie MacKenzie - Lower Big T Falls July, 06

Unless you are one of the lucky Bozeman/Livingston Boaters who get to spend countless hours of worship sliding out of the Crazy Mountains during the snowmelt, hardly enough acclaim can be given to Big Timber Creek off a quick road trip. As always for those who appreciate summer in Western North America, Montana beckons……

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