Venturing Out of the Valley: Riding Water on Mt. Hood’s Shoulders
It’s easy to get caught up around these parts in summer, with so much amazing hiking, swimming, fishing, boating, and much more all right here in Eastern Oregon. On the other hand, there’s amazing stuff elsewhere and any good Oregonian should get out and explore this beautiful state now and again. What and awesome state! The following story highlights of the coolest places I’ve ever been, and it’s totally within sticking distance of The Big. A couple terminology points for folks that don’t boat: portaging just means walking around a rapid/drop rather than boating it, boofing is when you take a big stroke right as you begin to fall off a drop to get your bow up and land in control. Enjoy!
Sometimes when you have your sights set on something big, it takes a few tries to get it done. Such was the case for the Salmon River Gorge. Prior to this spring, I’d hiked in and scouted Frustration twice without a boat at low flows and decided that it wouldn’t be worth it. This spring Conner and I tried to do the surgical strike (a.k.a. driving many hours, usually late at night, to get on a river, surf spot, etc. while conditions are right) but we got turned back, putting in over 10 hours in the car. On that particular occasion, Scott Baker hiked in with us, boats and all, only to find that the exit to frustration looked terrifying and impassible. We hiked our boats back down, paddled some manky class 3, and went for a swim at the takeout before the long drive home.
Needless to say, I knew I had to be there when I heard from Scott that he had a crew for a mid-week mission. I packed my gear and headed out of La Grande at 4:30 AM to meet everyone at the take out; Nico Peha, Andy McMurray, Ryan Scott, Scotty, and a couple of Nico’s friends that he cajoled into running shuttle for us. The shuttle sucks, by the way, and unless you have a driver it’s probably better to just hike up from the bottom.
After some nervous chatter and a quick hike, we found ourselves at split falls, the put-in. You come around a corner, boof under a log, drive straight into a wall, then do a slow deep water boof off a 20 footer. Amazing warm up!
This sequence shows me, then Ryan, then Nico, then Andy, shot from the top then the bottom.
After split, there’s some manky stuff that we portaged, then a couple of really fun boofs including Little Niagra. Then there’s Vanishing Falls. This one feels really intimidating, not least because you either run it or do a throw and go into a totally boxed in gorge with a 8-foot ledge that seems like it could hole you in perpetuity. Scotty was feeling the right line on this one, which the guys in the Oregon Kayaking crew ran, but the rest of us thought he was crazy. All the water basically falls 4 feet into a crack, then shoots out into the caved out landing zone and directly into a wall. Scotty went for it anyway, and didn’t make it look all that good, but came out upright and grinning.
For he complete post and more amazing photos visit: http://mthoodh2o.blogspot.com/2012/07/on-mt-hoods-shoulders-salmon-river-gorge.html